D300 review - From a Canon shooter's perspective

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by peter_berger, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. Hi. I'm a long-time Canon shooter who recently had the opportunity to spend a month with a D300 and the 17-55 f/2.8 lens. I wrote up my experiences here, in an article called "From Canon to Nikon".
    Please note I am not in any way trying to start a flame war or investigate the question of "which is better" (which is an insensible and unanswerable question, anyway). Rather, I'm trying to address the specific question: what things should someone who is switching expect to have to adjust to? What are the differences in user interface and the like that the Canon shooter should expect to confront if she or he decides to switch systems?
    I hope this can spark interesting and civil discussion on the UI and philosophical differences between the two systems. I'd be especially interested to hear from any Nikon user who has tried to switch to Canon what UI issues were particularly difficult (or conversely enjoyable) for them.
  2. I don't care about the UI, when a brand comes with a much better camera, IQ-wise. I could use to that. I would not change for a better UI.
  3. If you are complaining about the size of D300 is too big for you, I think you'd find that D90 (or D80) is a perfect camera for you. Can't help you with the 17-55mm though.
  4. I prefer good IQ and a decent UI. Why would anyone settle for less?
  5. Peter, you could also consider the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens. It's optically very similar to the Nikon, but without the silent focusing and the tank like build. I own one and love it.
  6. Nice write-up of your experience.

    Just so you know, you can reverse the exposure compensation dial so it will be more familiar to you. The control options of
    this camera are very deep and you can really fine tune it to your needs.
  7. If you find that the Nikon D300 is too heavy, add the optional MB D10 battery pack. After you lug that combination around for a few days, remove the MB D10. The camera will seem feather light.
  8. Went to a store on the weekend to handle a Canon 40D (I have been shooting Nikon since 1979 and currently have D200 and D300 cameras). The one thing I can just take from your write-up and just reverse: The most frustrating thing about switching, for a Nikon shooter, is this: everything is backwards. Everything. The most frustrating thing to me on handling the 40D were the tiny buttons - too tiny and too many of them. And all in the wrong places too. Without a manual, I couldn't figure things out - which never has been a problem for me with any Nikon. On the other hand - I am certain I could get used to a Canon - and would purchase one to have access to a lens or two that are lacking from Nikon's system.
  9. I'm sure I can get used to the 85mm f/1.2 alright. :)
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I think I can summarize Peter's review that he is so used to Canon cameras that he has a hard time getting used to the D300.

    I have been using Nikon for 30+ years and did experience a drastic change from the F4 to F5 where the control was completely re-designed. It took me no time at all to get used to the F5, but I then realized that I had a hard time going back to the F4. If I am forced to use a Canon DSLR, I am sure I'll find everything "strange" for a while.

    Some people simply adapt faster than some others. If someone else makes the same switch, their experience will likely be different from Peter's.
  11. "I don't care about the UI, when a brand comes with a much better camera, IQ-wise. I could (get) use to that. I
    would not change for a better UI."

    The next time I buy a car all I'm going to care about is if the goes faster than the current model. Never mind if
    the seat is too high/too low or if all the important knobs are all over the place.

    The camera needs to feel good in your hands. Dials and other important features need to work effortlessly.

    IQ is more or less the same across all brands in a given price range. Why wouldn't anyone prefer to use a camera
    that feels better in their hands?
  12. I used Canon FD equipment for many years. When it became impractical to continue to maintain and rely on it for important work I considered the Canon EOS lineup. But the popular bodies of that era, the A2, etc., were less than intuitive to me. Later a freelance PJ I met handed me one of his EOS-1 SLRs. It just didn't feel right in my hands.

    After handling several Nikons I decided to stick with manual focus, leaving open the possibility of adding a dSLR when the technology matured enough to be cost effective (at the time the only dSLRs were the incredibly heavy, clunky and expensive Nikon/Kodak Frankenstein monsters). The F4, F5 and F100 seemed reasonably intuitive, but I started with an F3HP and FM2N. Transitioning to the D2H was no trouble. I got my first 35mm film autofocus Nikon *after* the D2H, an N6006 as a gift from a relative. Other than a few specialized features it too was reasonably intuitive - to me.

    Before buying the D2H I gave everyone else another try: Canon, Olympus, Fuji, etc. Off the lot I actually preferred the ergonomics of the Olympus. But it didn't make sense to switch systems. Once again, the Canon 20D didn't feel right. Can't put my finger on it, just wasn't intuitive. The D70 was intuitive, but the viewfinder was just okay, nothing special. I tried a D1X, liked the interface, loved the viewfinder, decided to get the D2H at the closeout/blowout price. No regrets.

    That's pretty much it. Nothing to do with which system was superior, etc. Just the ergonomics.
  13. I think it's totally cool that two companies make cameras that are backwards from each other so much. It means that it is
    very likely that you can find a camera that will work for you from one of them... I hope that 20 years from now they both still
    have almost half the market share. I bet the companies kinda feel that way, too.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    A few years ago I had lunch (here in the US) with a collegaue who was visiting from our England office. He told me
    that he was pulled over on the freeway the night before. The problem was that he was so used to driving on the left
    side of the road that he had to keep correcting himself when driving in the US,
    and the police thought he might be drunk.
  15. To me IQ seems pretty consistent throughout Canon and Nikon throughout the various price ranges with the companies
    leap-frogging each other from time to time. The lenses are pretty similar throughout both Canon and Nikon, with a few
    exceptions here and there. The accessory options are wide throughout both systems, with minor differences here and
    there. But the cameras do not feel or operate the same way. I love the way Nikon bodies feel, and operate. I don't feel that
    way about Canon bodies. So, I chose Nikon. It was really all about the body's ease of use and comfort while shooting for
    me. And I'm not sure what else it should really be about when just about everything else is so similar between the two
  16. Every company is free to lay out the controls as they see fit. Canon in their way, and Nikon in the correct way. That view, of course, reflects the fact that I've shot with Nikon SLRs for over 25 years.
  17. Nice review! I'd have to agree about the less than ideal organisation of the menu system, except that Nikon does give you the option of creating your own menu (part of the fine tuning that Ric touched upon). Now that I've set this up I have all the important (to me) stuff together in one place in a 'logical' order, and rarely bother with the standard menus. One thing you may have missed about the AF system is another configuration option - in both 'S' and 'C' modes you can independently choose whether you want 'focus priority' (shutter only fires when focus is locked) or 'release priority' (shutter works even without a lock) - the behaviour you describe is just the default (easily changed with custom functions a1 and a2 - AF-C mode even has a 3rd intermediate option that works rather well). Reversing the directions of the various dials is another option already mentioned, but of course nothing can be done about the direction of the lens mount. Turning a lens anticlockwise to mount it has always seemed deeply wrong to me. What were Nikon thinking? It should be clockwise, as God and Ernst Leitz always intended!
  18. Peter, great review. I've been a Nikon user for the past 20 years, through the film days and now into digital. I also have a
    good friend that's been on the other side of the equipment wars being a dedicated Canon user. I can certainly appreciate
    that both offer some good attributes. I love my D300, 18-200 and just purchased the 17-55 2.8 (haven't received it yet).
    Any flaws, to me, are made up in spades in other areas. However, when playing around with some of the higher end Canon
    D-SLRs, I wish I could take a few of their features and move them onto my D300.

    Anyway, great review and I appreciate the non-slanted perspective.
  19. hey thanks for sharing, peter. a good and interesting read with very little fanboy partisanship, just honest opinions. seemed like your overall impression was quite positive.
  20. Josh, I think you're going to love the 17-55 2.8. It is stunning. Clearly as good as the L-iest "L" lens Canon has to offer.

    Richard: thanks for the tip about the menus. I'll note that in the errata for the article. Ric: likewise with the exposure
    controls. I wish I had seen that page in the manual when I started shooting!
  21. The Nikon 17-55 is a pretty heavy lens...

    Comments on the D300 --I have the setup you tested out. I have to gripe about the ergonomics of the D300 --it
    could be better. Heaviness aside, I think the grip for the fingers should be deeper and in that respect, the
    vertical grip is designed a little better. After a long day of shooting the camera is particularly tough on my thumb.

    My best friend shoots with a 5D so I can always look over the fence to see what's going on in Canon land and, I
    gotta say, I like that large scroll wheel you guys have next to the LCD. And image quality --he shoots with
    L-series lenses so everything is nice and crispy, smooth bokeh. He's the slow and methodical type and I have a
    more paparazzi (capture the moment) approach --got the battery grip because I wanted the extra FPS.

    As for features that weren't really mentioned in the article.. Active D Lighting is pretty slick, and color
    rendition that takes place in-camera can turn something really mundane into something a little more cool and
    exciting. But... you can do that with high end Canon gear too, I mean, that's not really a point of contention.
    You mentioned Nikon's creative lighting system.

    Good article.

    It's a fun camera. I don't think the learning curve is that bad. Getting used to all that stuff coming from Canon
    land --that's another story. But then, all cameras are beasts that need to be tamed :)
  22. As a current Nikon D200 user, I have definitely become partial to using the buttons on the camera body rather than the
    menu to make changes in settings. Analog switches and buttons allow me to go from one environmental extreme to the
    next with a minimum of fuss. Sometimes this really makes the difference between getting the shot or not. Canon or
    Nikon, it is inevitable that you can eventually run out of space for buttons on the body. So there will be a compromise
    between what you have to do in the menu V. what you can do directly. At this point the D200 prioritizes ease of
    adjustment of critical factors pretty well for me. There are certain functions however that are top priority for me and
    therefore I would love to see those function prioritized better on the body. Everybody can agree that F stop and Shutter
    are top priority controls. I would also like to be able to adjust ISO and white balance without using a two button
    sequence. On many of the pro-sumer cameras white balance is in the menus only, and the selections are over
    simplified. That is a real deal killer for me. As for iso, in a post film environment iso should be conceived of a as a third
    exposure control equal to F stop and shutter speed in importance. That is how I use it and the two button sequence is

    As a former assistant to commercial photographers, I don't have much sympathy for the growing pains associated with
    changing systems. I have used over a dozed different camera systems from 8X10 to the D200 and there is always a
    learning curve. In my experience, there are a lot of would be photographers out there that are unfamiliar with their
    respective camera manual. Once you know your machine, the differences become pretty small between competing
  23. Peter, Are you serious? The D300 heavy? Its the lightest Nikon I have ever owned. I am used to lugging around an F4S with M23 data back, plus an 80-200/2.8. Now thats heavy!
    My D300 and either my 18-35 or 18-200, is as light as a feather.

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