D300 - Initial observations

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by simon_hickie|1, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. Summary first - it's a class and a half above the D80 and well worth the extra. It means that the user is much
    more in charge of the camera, rather than the other way round - which is the way I like it.

    The biggie for me is metering. Bottom line - much much better than the D80. For identical scenes with the
    focusing point over a neutral tone, the D300 exposes between 1/3 to 2/3 stop darker than the D80 and does not
    blow the highlights like the D80 does in the same scene. This tends to reinforce the conventional wisdom of
    dialing in -0.7ev on the D80.

    More dedicated buttons = less menu fiddling = faster operation - with the caveat that the D80 menu system is
    easier to find one's way around than the D300's in my opinion

    Picture controls work great: I can set up different options for portrait, landscape, indoor etc. Neutral,
    saturation +1, auto contrast, brightness 0, ADL = off is returning some nice results.

    The extra weight is not an issue: an Op-Tech strap takes a lot of the strain; the build makes the D50 & D80 seem
    very plasticky in comparison.

    Focusing speed not dramatically better than the D80, but those 51 focusing points make composition much easier -
    much less focus & recompose now.

    So the good news is that the D300 allows the user to concentrate much more on image making rather than worrying
    about whether the camera is going to do something silly that you don't expect. In other words, it doesn't get in
    the way - which is all one can really ask of a camera!

    More comparisons to follow when I've looked at sharpness, noise, colour and tone.
     
  2. Simon, it will be nice to see some comparison test shots when you get a chance. Yeah, you're gonna love this camera.
     
  3. Simon, Your observations are appreciated and valued. Is there a reason you created another thread rather than continue your previous - I purchased a D300? Are we to expect a third - Here are pictures thread? :) Passion is imperative, community is essential to the human psyche. Please do not misunderstand me- the two threads are just confusing to me personally. FWIW.
     
  4. Simon,

    Glad you like the new camera. When you get the chance I'd be very interested to know what the matrix meter does
    when ADL is off and the contrast is so high that shadows and highlights can't both be accommodated on the
    histogram - for example into the light with a bright sky and white clouds visible. Does it:

    1. Preserve the shadows and blow the highlights.

    2. Preserve the highlights and allow the shadows to block up.

    3. Compromise with a bit of each.

    My D40 definitely does the first and it's not very affected by what's under the focus spot. It must have been a
    design decision to do this since the dark shadows always seem to sit very precisely on the extreme left of the
    histogram. With less contrasty light the shadows tend to move up towards the centre of the histogram and the
    highlights down and I'm pretty happy with this aspect. The blown highlights usually only occur when the contrast
    is too high for the camera to manage the whole tonal range.

    Thanks,

    Richard
     
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Ed, I think it is safe to say that Simon is excited about the D300. We should all cut him some slack.

    Simon, not sure whether you use (exposure) bracketing or not. A minor problem on the D300 is the lack of a dedicated BKT button, and a number of people have unintentionally switched on bracketing.
     
  6. Shun, I agree - That is why I put a smiley :) To repeat - Passion is imperative, community is essential to the human psyche. I do not want to, nor did I intend to squelch the passion, I do want to see photos; however I do think upon further thought, would you want to see two threads for everyone who purchases a D300? Simon let us see photos of your experience! :) PS Shun, I have observed your comments for 6 months, and your lucid comments have improved my photographic decisions. Thank you.
     
  7. Please notice people are still responding to the original thread and we have bifurcated the thought with no interaction within the original thread. Just an attempt at a positive housekeeping thought . . . Now OFF to hone the craft and passion with a D200 and a Fugi S3 Pro @ Getteysburg PA . . . :) Simon NO disrespect intended. We ALL know what it feels like to enjoy a new purchase!
     
  8. I've been thinking lately of moving from the D80 to the D300 too, which is a little crazy I know. The D80 is a great camera in its own right. More than likely I would keep my D80 because I'm not sure I could part with it. However, I was surprised about the lack of a bracket button since my D80 has it. Does that mean you have to go through a menu to turn the function on and off? If so, is there any way around it? It just seems strange that Nikon would make a more expensive camera less convenient, at least for this one function. I've learned to use the bracket feature a lot.
     
  9. I'm pretty new to DSLR speak so maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean by a "bracket button" but the function
    button on the front of the D300 can be programmed so you can press it and use the two dials to setup exposure
    bracketing.

    --Wade
     
  10. No worries Ed. Anyway, here are some preliminary test results - with pictures! All shot with the 50mm f1.8, hand held, sat down with arms braced on arms of chair. NR turned off where possible. I should have used a tripod, but rain was threatening, so speed was important. Some adjustments for white balance. All images sized to 4288 wide (the D80 & D50 images upsized in NX2). As an aside, the auto white balance exposes 'greener' on the D50 and is even greener at the same colour temperature (5500) as the other cameras. I also played around with ADL. Definitely more noise with it set to High or Normal, but not much difference with it set to Low. Also, when set to Low, exposure reduced by 1/3rd stop. I think it was 2/3 stop when set to Normal. Anyway, here are the samples.
    00QWnr-64691884.jpg
     
  11. Next image
    00QWo1-64691984.jpg
     
  12. Next image - D300 ISO 1600
    00QWo6-64692284.jpg
     
  13. D80 ISO 200 crop
    00QWoB-64692484.jpg
     
  14. I mean D80. Next is the D80 at ISO 1600
    00QWoD-64692584.jpg
     
  15. D50 ISO 200 next
    00QWoF-64692784.jpg
     
  16. Finally, D50 ISO 1600
    00QWoL-64692884.jpg
     
  17. The interesting thing for me is the D80 result at ISO 1600. Yes, there's less noise than one might expect, but there's also less detail. The upsized D50 images hold up surprisingly well. Overall, while there are clear differences, each camera delivers at its respective price point - and the D50 does spectacularly well. I'm guessing the D40 performs on a par with the D50.
     
  18. Richard, when we get some more sun, I'll have a go at the scenario you suggest.
     
  19. One more picture. This time, I've taken the ISO 1600 D300 image and applied 30% noise reduction in NX2 (sharpness = 9). Colour noise has gone, but there's still good detail.
     
  20. Here's the image...
    00QWpe-64705584.jpg
     
  21. Very interesting, Simon. You have me considering the D300, giving up my D80, and keeping my D70, which despite the
    awful viewfinder, effortlessly produces very pleasing JPEG images right out of the camera.

    Anxiously awaiting further analysis.
     
  22. Thanks for those Simon.

    There are several interesting points.

    I think this is the first time I've seen an upsized 6 MP photograph directly compared with a 12 MP one. I pulled
    the images out and compared them side by side. AT ISO 200 I can see that the D300 is a little sharper than the
    D50 with the D80 much like the D300 - much as one would expect. On my monitor these will be 46 inch prints so
    the D50 seems pretty good.

    I thought that the D50 ISO 200 shots looked denser than the D80 and D300 ones and this is confirmed by the
    histograms. I see from the EXIF data that the D80 and D300 have the same exposure but the D50 received 1/3 stop
    less so the difference in density is probably explained. Interesting too that on this scene the D80 and D300 are
    metering identically.

    At ISO 1600 there is the same difference in exposure but this time I see a shift in colour balance towards blue
    for both D80 and D300 but less shift for the D50. This seems odd - does anyone else see that I wonder?

    At ISO 1600 I would have expected the D50 to look rather better relative to the D80 than it does but this may
    possibly be explained by the reduced exposure and also by the upsizing will tend to make the individual noisy
    pixels larger and the noise perhaps more prominent. But then again most other comparisons I've seen are on noise
    reduced in camera JPEGs and these aren't noise reduced.
     
  23. Thanks Richard. Below is the upsized D50 ISO 1600 image where I applied NX2 noise reduction BEFORE upsizing. A much better result I think. To follow shortly will be some D300 shots where I check out the metering in high dynamic range situations.
    00QXKA-64899584.jpg
     
  24. Here is the higher dynamic range test. D300, Tamron 17-50mm, 27mm setting, 1/640th, f11, ISO 200, ADL = off, PIC = Neutral, auto contrast, saturation +1. Focusing point was top right of leftmost tree. Matrix metering, no exposure compensation. RAW file converted in NX2. I see very nice tonal gradations in the clouds. The trees were backlit.
    00QXKv-64905584.jpg
     
  25. That's pretty impressive although the large area of sky may have helped prevent overexposure.

    What would have happened do you think with something like this, which was also backlit:

    http://www.photo.net/photo/7477178

    I had to set compensation of -1.3 on the D40 shooting JPEG and later recovered the foreground with a contrast
    mask. (The exposure is rather long because of a polarising filter).
     
  26. Hi Richard. I think it would have nailed the exposure spot on. The image below had the green bird box in the centre as the focusing point. Matrix metering again. The highlights are retained well. On the D80 in identical lighting, composition, metering mode and focusing point, the exposure was 2/3 stop more, resulting in blown highlights on the washing and on the bench - and I don't think it was a particularly 'difficult' scene. Even with only just over a hundred test shots under my belt, I feel that the results are well worth the investment. The metering is such that I can be pretty confident that the camera is going to do its best to get both ends of the histogram in the right place. For really wide dynamic range landscapes, I'm sure I'll need to use ND grad filters, but I feel that the days of fiddling with exposure compensation for what seems like every shot are over.
    00QXRP-64941684.jpg
     
  27. Very many thanks for all the help Simon.

    I guess now I'll wait and see what the anticipated D90 does, though I have a nasty feeling it's going to be more
    like the D40 than the D300 in the metering department.
     
  28. Actually, I just looked at the histogram for "birdbox, washing and bench." It shows the shadows sitting nicely on
    the left end of the histogram and a spike on the right which is almost certainly the sky. I'm sure the D40 would
    have done exactly the same in this situation.

    On the D80 would the shadows have moved up from the left hand end do you think? As you reckon it gave 2/3 stop
    more then I guess the answer must be is yes. If so it is much worse than the D40.
     
  29. I like the naming of the image! As it happens I have the D80 version here. Notice how the detail has been lost on the bench. The histogram is well spread, but clearly blows at the white end. We could also be seeing greater dynamic range effects at play here too.
    00QXtj-65109584.jpg
     
  30. Actually this happens with D80 JPG's but in a RAW file you'll find plenty of detail in the bench. I disliked the D80's habit of "matrix spot metering". In other words, the focus point was biased higher than the rest of the image. If you shot a dark brown building with a bright sky above, the sky above would be blown to smithereens and the dark brown building would be light brown. A horrible defect in the metering. Yes, the D80 metering, like the D50 (which the D80 was designed to be an upgrade path from, as the D200 was designed as the upgrade path from the D70 series), was more point and shoot than SLR.
     
  31. I've shot about 2,000 shots so far on the D300 and it is overexposing by 1/3 to 1ev in a lot of outdoor landscape situations, rarely underexposing if it's done it even once. More of an issue obviously if you're shooting jpeg versus RAW, and a big deal if you're shooting jpeg in a fast-changing photo j or sports situation. To me it's a lot easier to check the histogram and simply dial down the exposure compensation than it is to change metering mode and play that game. It's usually the case with sports where you're shooting jpeg instead of RAW that the light doesn't change /that/ much from one camera pointing to another on the field, where this is going to be a major issue. And even when the jpeg is slightly blown out, it's not so much of an issue with this camera as with the D70/80 because the image quality is just plain better.

    The bottom line with the D300 is that a lot of things are just a *little* better which adds up to a lot, and a 10% better treatment of shadows and highlights is a huge difference as anyone who is experienced knows. All this jabber is a non-issue if you're a hobbyist shooting RAW all the time since you're going to have a helluva time getting beyond this thing's EV range in ordinary shooting.
     
  32. In the D80 shot of the bench above, on my screen (recently calibrated) the bench has plenty of detail abd no blown highlights that I can see,

    I have 5,000 clicks on my D300 and although I shoot raw most of the time, my jpegs haven't shown any tendency toward overexposure except when using very wide lenses on bright days. Then switching metering from matrix to averaging cures the problem.
     
  33. Hi Wayne. On the D80 shot, areas of the bench max out at 255,255,255 as do parts of the white pillowcase. In the same places on the D300 shot, all colour values are less than 255,255,255.
     
  34. Yes, the D80 shot is clearly blown in several places. I've been trying to reconcile the differences between the two but with little success. The D80 version has received 2/3 stop more exposure and yet the shadows are still similarly placed on the left of the histogram whereas I'd have expected them to have moved up to the right. I think the D80 midtones look brighter as one would expect. According to the EXIF data both are normal contrast (tone) so maybe as Simon says above it's down to increased dynamic range in the D300 with perhaps a difference in default tone curves.
     
  35. Jake, Nikon overexposes whenever there is green in the photo. That's been true since I began noticing it with my N70, the first camera I owned with Matrix metering. My D300 meters perfectly in most every situation so far (with only a little more than 5,000 clicks on the body).
     
  36. you can pick up brand new D200 from B&H for $999.00 its a great camera, i have both D200 & D300 not much diference
     
  37. Interesting point Dave. I'll have to dig out the F70 to see how it behaves.
     

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