D3s to Replace D300?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mary doo, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. One of my D300s went kaput. While I will send it to Nikon, meanwhile... if it makes sense to do so, I am thinking of replacing it with a D3s.
    So, what would you do if you were me?
    • I like the DX factor for wildlife. I will be going to Africa, again, in May.
    • Will the shots be acceptably good (noise free) beyond ISO-1600?
    • Other salient factors that I should be aware of, pros and cons?
    Also, any credible likelihood that Nikon will release a replacement for the D3s or D300s soon?

    Thanks!
     
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I think the most logical approach is to get the D300S repaired. In case the repair cost is too high so that it is not worthwhile to repair or you want an additional body, I would get a D7000 at this point. It has better high-ISO results than the D300S and much better video. Construction-wise, I think it is just fine for Africa.
    The down side is that it uses a newer and better EN-EL15 battery that is not compatible with your D300S'; that also implies a different charger, and you need SD memory cards. But the D7000 takes dual memory cards.
    The D3S is wonderful for low-light conditions, but it is expensive and you lose the crop factor for wildlife. Unless you really need a D3S immediately, I wouldn't buy one in this stage of its production cycle. So far Nikon's single-digit D series DSLRs are on a 4-year production cycle. Assuming that holds, the D3's time span should be 2007 to 2011, and right now we are in 2011.
     
  3. Maybe I 'm missing something, but if you can afford a D3s, why even consider the D300s?
     
  4. Fred, DX factor is WAY better for wildlife, and the OP probably already has a DX lens setup.
    That said, if I could afford to go FX I would, but, as Shun mentions, I would NOT buy it right now, as all the FX stuff from Nikon is really due to be replaced soon.
    The repair is the smart route for now, depending on cost.
     
  5. Maybe I 'm missing something, but if you can afford a D3s, why even consider the D300s?​
    This. Get the D3s.
     
    • Will the shots be acceptably good (noise free) beyond ISO-1600?
    the D3s is amazing in low light. noise only really shows up in shadow areas past 6400, and even then, it's manageable. i have no reservations whatsoever about shooting at ISOs like 10,000 or 12,000.
    • Other salient factors that I should be aware of, pros and cons?
    well, the D3s is a big, heavy, expensive camera. one surprising con is that it has no AF-assist light. this is a stupid design flaw by nikon, since the whole point of the sensor is to shoot without flash. i've had to manual focus a few times because the AF wouldn't lock in dark situations. this really comes into play when shooting action in dim lighting. with the same lenses (24-70 and 70-200), the D300s is sometimes faster to focus than the D3s.
    also, for a big-body camera, the D3s has excellent ergonomics, but button placement is different from the D300s. its probably just as intuitive overall, but takes a little adjusting to.
    another thing about the D3s is, besides its high-ISO performance, its really really good at low ISOs too.
     
  6. "DX factor is WAY better for wildlife" - Not really or at leas not significantly anyway when comparing the D300s to the D3S, and certainly not above ISO 1600.
    Plus the D3S has faster AF, faster frame rate, larger viewfinder and numerous other features that make it a much better camera over the D300s.
    If money is not an issue, go with the D3S. Otherwise as mentioned above, the D7000 may be your best bet.
     
  7. Elliot, don't the D3S and D300S have basically the same AF module?
    And don't you see where the 1.5X crop factor would be a boon to someone who needs telephoto reach?
     
  8. I like the DX factor for wildlife. I will be going to Africa, again, in May.
    Just set the D3s to shoot DX sized frames when you desire that.
    Will the shots be acceptably good (noise free) beyond ISO-1600?
    For the D3s? Oh yes!
    Other salient factors that I should be aware of, pros and cons?
    The D3s is terrific, especially the dual cCF card slots.
    Also, any credible likelihood that Nikon will release a replacement for the D3s or D300s soon?
    I don't know about the D3s, but for all practical purposes the D300s replacement is already out. It is called the D7000.
     
  9. Elliot, i have a D3s and a d300s. as i explained in my post above, AF is not always faster b/c the D3s has no AF-assist light.
    to the OP, a d700 would be better than a d7000 if you already have a d300s, especially when traveling, but also for shooting events with two bodies. they use the same batteries, chargers, and grips and have nearly identical button layouts. they also both can share CF cards.
    i'm not sure that a d300s+d7000 makes sense. the d7k is clearly a prosumer-spec camera, while the d300s is a pro-spec camera. it may have newer technology, but a d700 makes more sense to pair with a d300s.
    the reason to get a D3s now, as Thom Hogan has said, is that the sensor may go out of production. there's no way to know right now whether a d4, if/when it appears, will be the equal of the d3s at high-ISO. since the D3x is worse than the D3 in that regard. i personally don't feel constrained by the 12mp FF sensor at all, and plan on enjoying the camera for years to come, no matter what nikon comes up with in the future. one thing that people are starting to find out is that a lot of older lenses are outresolved by high-MP sensors. 12 is still a good benchmark, but in all likelihood, the d4 will be at least 18 mp, and possibly 20-24.
    so that would be a hidden cost of waiting for a new production model--being forced to replace a lot of lenses because older glass isnt as good on newer bodies. if you look at the price differential between the 35/2 and the 35/1.4G, this becomes apparent.
     
  10. A D3s is a very nice camera. I wish I could afford one today, but then again I don't have the immediate need. I'd expect a lot of D3s bodies will come onto the used market when the D4 is announced, and both new and used prices will drop. How that dovetails with your Africa trip is an unknown at this point.
    I agree with Shun about getting a D7000 in the interim. I think a D7000 would give you 'the DX reach' with less net depreciation than getting a new or used D3s right now, while out-performing your D300s (except for maximum possible frame rate of 5fps and AEB capability of 3-shot sequence). I really like mine, but do wish it had better AEB. The IQ is very close to being on par with my D700, and it betters the DR in some situations.
    You could always get one now, sell it when you get back from Africa, and write it off as a very cheap rental. Speaking of which, have you looked into renting a D3s or D3x and maybe a super-tele zoom (if you haven't already got one) for your trip?
    Just set the D3s to shoot DX sized frames when you desire that.​
    I'm not sure if I'd go for a 5.1 mp resolution if I had a choice, but YMMV. I'd rather shoot FF and have the extra resolution and frame room to crop in post.
     
  11. Eric/Peter, my comments are based on my hands on experience with the D3 and D300. While the D3 series and D300 series share the same AF module, the D3 has more processing power and is able to better process AF information, thereby giving faster and more accurate AF. I find the D3 to be superior to the D300 if AF speed. Many others agree (but of course not everyone). I have neither the D3S or D300s but don't believe any changes were made to the AF performance. And while the D3 has no AF assist light, I have never had trouble with AF on it even in very low light (with fast glass). For the last 5 years, years I have shot a low light event with the D3/70-200mm combo and rarely had the camera mis-focus). I have taken many tens of thousands of images though the years at this event. My client has had on several occasions during their show use black lights to light up the stage (almost black except for the reflective material they were wearing) and most of the shots are always in proper focus (see photo below).
    Ultimately Mary's budget will determine which is the best choice for her. But, there is no doubt that the D3S is the best choice at this time IF money is not an issue.
    FWIW with regard to the AF of the D7000 - it has been a few years since I handed a D300 so I can't directly compare but it appears to me that the D7000 AF speed and accuracy appears (to me) about the same as the D3. I have not used it in low lighting yet.
    Below is a shot from the event I shoot. To give you an idea how dark it was, even at ISO 6400 and at f2.8, and a shutter speed of 1/5, the photo is still on the dark side. While there is blur from movement at this shutter speed, the majority of shots I take during sequences like this are in focus.
    00YHkc-335289584.jpg
     
  12. Who is "Elliot"?
     
  13. Another advantage of DX mode on the D3/D3S is that you can shoot at 11fps. As far as the DX crop factor, above ISO 1600, I believe you still get better overall results with a full frame image cropped to DX size in spite of the lower megapixel count (at least that is what I find).
     
  14. Elliot is the other poster in this thread whose name starts with Elli.
     
  15. I would do what Shun suggests. Fix your D300s and wait for the D800 or D4. Both will have more MP, better AF, better low light capabilities and probably good video.
     
  16. I reexamined some test shots I took a few weeks ago when I first received the D7000. Its pretty much a coin toss. The D3 image is upsized. This is a very extreme crop, probably in the neighborhood of 300% or more. The D7000 is an incredible camaera. I don't believe the d300 would do as well.
    I guess my comment in the last post does not exactly hold water... its too close to call.
    (shot with the 70-200mm (V1) lens, ISO 6400, images processed with DXO software. There is a more visible difference (which favors the D3) when examining the unprocessed RAW images. I have found that overall my D7000 images need more sharpening than my D3 images, which I did not apply here, so perhaps a bit more sharpening would make the images appear indistinguishable.
    00YHlW-335299584.jpg
     
  17. i'm not sure that a d300s+d7000 makes sense. the d7k is clearly a prosumer-spec camera, while the d300s is a pro-spec camera. it may have newer technology, but a d700 makes more sense to pair with a d300s.
    I have shot extensively with bot h the D300s and the D7000. I would not underrate the D7000 based on how Nikon is labeling the cameras for marketing purposes or be snobby about the D7000 and the D3, D3s, and D3X cameras; Given my druthers I'd go with the D3s
     
  18. The D7000 would make a nice vacation camera.
     
  19. D7000 would make a nice vacation camera.​
    Quite right. Smaller and lighter than the D300 by a lot!
     
  20. Peter:
    You're confusing focal length with apparent focal length. An image of an animal shot with say a 200 mm lens from a fixed position with a DX factor camera and again with an FX factor camera would be exactly the same in terms of magnification. The one shot with the DX would "appear" to be of a longer focal length, only because the image circle is being "cropped" internally by the DX camera due to the smaller size of the sensor. This results in the subject taking up more of the frame and thereby making the subject "appear" to be closer. The angle of view and perspective of the subject would be identical as that is determined by the distance, relative to the subject and focal length of the lens. The lens is still throwing the same image each time, it has to. The only difference is what is happening inside the camera at the sensor.
     
  21. While the D3 series and D300 series share the same AF module, the D3 has more processing power and is able to better process AF information, thereby giving faster and more accurate AF. I find the D3 to be superior to the D300 if AF speed.​
    it is true that the D3s has more processing speed than the D300s. but it's simply not accurate to say it has "faster AF" since there are situations where the AF can't acquire focus as fast as the D300s w/ AF-assist light. i found this out from personal experience, shooting the same type of pics with the d3s as i have done many times with d300 and d300s: low-light concert shots. there were moments when the D3s would pause to lock focus which didn't happen with the d300s. so, an AF-assist light would be nice.
    i realize d300s-bashing is all the rage now, but IMO that camera is still pretty damn good, and would be perfect if it had d700-like high-ISO performance. i'd rather see nikon improve this on a d400 than add more megapixels, if given the choice.
    also, elliot, your example only works for blur shots. if you're shooting at 1/5 you're not going to get faces in focus in any event. and i'm not sure that pic would be publishable (way too dark), though it could make an artistic print. when i shoot events in low-light, i'm usually at a much higher shutter speed, trying to capture moving targets in focus.
    00YHno-335317684.jpg
     
  22. "The only difference is what is happening inside the camera at the sensor" - exactly.
    The DX camera denser pixel population provides in-the-file magnification, or reach of a lens longer by the crop factor, and this difference is huge for wildlife photography, as well as for prices of long lenses needed.
     
  23. Wait for the next set of camera upgrades.
     
  24. "there were moments when the D3s would pause to lock focus which didn't happen with the d300s" Eric, you need to check your setting in menu option A4 - having this set to anything but OFF would cause a pause with either camera. If you have that setting off on the D300s and on with the D3, that might explain the difference you are experiencing. Or if you have one camera set to long and one to short... If not, I have no explanation as to why your D3S would pause during AF - my D3 does not.
     
  25. Fred writes
    Peter:
    You're confusing focal length with apparent focal length.​
    No, I'm not. The DX Crop factor is an obvious advantage when shooting wildlife. When you use the DX crop mode on a D3-class camera, you are cutting down resolution. I don't want to travel all the way to Africa to shoot wildlife with a 5000-dollar camera only to shoot 5MP images. Even shooting "kid sports" (the only action I actually photograph these days), I find the DX crop factor of my D90 a tremendous boon. my 70-300 gives me pictures that get closer than an FX camera would.
    For most of us, the AF in the D300s is still fairly amazing. Same module, a few more tricks up the sleeve with the D3 for moving things, crop factor advantage with the D300s.
    We are potentially confusing the OP (or at least the topi) with too much info and a lot of mis-info. I'm seriously doubting, for instance, that an AF-assist life is going to be real helpful on an African safari.
     
  26. The D7000 isn't really a replacement for the D300s; the AF point coverage is smaller, the speed is lower, the body is so small that some controls are difficult to use (in particular, the AF-ON function in vertical orientation), and many accessories are incompatible (i.e. memory cards, batteries, chargers, and remote releases). Finally, the user interfaces are very different. I know the D7000 is a great camera but really I have to question why the buyer has to buy a bunch of incompatible accessories while staying within the same brand. Clearly, Nikon is trying to hide the real price of the product in the accessories and by doing so they show contempt for customers' needs (imagine that you're traveling with both an FX and a DX camera). Where is the benefit of having a compact camera body if it is too small to fit hands on properly, and if the weight savings are more than offset by the necessary backup batteries, remote release, charger etc. that you cannot share between the cameras you have.
    Anyway, to the OP's question. I think the D3s makes sense as a purchase if you have need to shoot action in low light situations and if you normally have the lens needed for your shot without having to crop from FX framing (do not believe those who claim the 5MP image is anything remotely comparable in detail to an actual DX sensor capture (10-16MP). When a good lens is used and proper technique, there is a considerable difference in detail at or near base ISO). While the D4 will no doubt be better than the D3s, it will take some time to become available, the price will be higher, and while you're waiting for the D300s to be repaired you probably need a camera. The D7000 is a possibility with improvements over the D300s (such as no mirror down-up in LV mode, video, more pixels etc.), but ask yourself if you want to lose the instinctive ability to use the camera (if you type blind what happens when you use a keyboard with a different language?) and carry all those incompatible accessories?
     
  27. Peter, not to split hairs, but you do not get any closer with a DX camera Vs an FX - 300mm is 300mm on both cameras - what you get is more pixels for the same sized images, 12mp with the D90 vs 5mp with the D3 when the D3 is shot in DX mode. And unless you need to crop a lot or make prints larger than 12 x 18, it really doesn't make much of a difference if any as far as picture quality goes. 5mp is certainly ample for an 8 x 10, and in my opinion, a great 12 x 18 when properly processed and up-sized.
    Ilkka, you may be right that at base ISO, there is an advantage to a DX sensor over a FX sensor. I have never done the test at low ISO. (I forgot to add to my sample comparison photos above but the D3 image was shot in DX mode, so the comparison crop is between a 16mp D7000 crop vs a 5mp D3 crop.)
     
  28. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Please keep in mind that Mary is a nature photographer and she is going to Africa again in May.
    My experience with Africa wildlife safaris is that you don't necessarily need to use very high ISO. I haven't been there for a while, but in the old days with 35mm film, I rarely felt that I needed more than ISO 400. I am sure modern digital technology can help break some new grounds, but IMO ISO 800 to 1600 should be sufficient, and you can usually add some flash. Otherwise, under very dim and dull light, you are not going to get great images anyway. Unlike various indoor events, we don't need crazy ISO 12800 from the D3S on safaris.
    Meanwhile, plenty of leading wildlife photographers who use Nikon prefer the DX format for the additional reach. Frans Lanting is a good example. When I took his senimar a couple of years ago, I brought a loaner D3X with me, but Lanting himself was using a D300, the top DX camera at the time.
    So until Nikon updates the D300/D300S series, hopefully within 2011, the best choice for a new DX body right now should be the D7000. As usual, I put my money where my mouth is. The three cameras I currently use are the D700, D300, and D7000.
    Concerning the D7000's EN-EL15 battery, it has protected, semi-hidden electronic contacts similar to those on the EL-EL4 batteries for the D2 and D3 bodies. The EN-EL3 family batteries have widely exposed electronic contacts and are not as safe. I expect the EN-EL15 will completely replace the EN-EL3e on all future mid-size Nikon DSLRs. In other words, the EN-EL15 is a lot more future proof.
     
  29. To those who regret the fact that the D3s lacks an autofocus assist light: As I recently learned after asking the question in this thread, the SU-800 commander can be used as an excellent assist light without commanding any external flashes.
     
  30. Elliot says
    Peter, not to split hairs, but you do not get any closer with a DX camera Vs an FX - 300mm is 300mm on both cameras - what you get is more pixels for the same sized images, 12mp with the D90 vs 5mp with the D3 when the D3 is shot in DX mode. And unless you need to crop a lot or make prints larger than 12 x 18, it really doesn't make much of a difference if any as far as picture quality goes. 5mp is certainly ample for an 8 x 10, and in my opinion, a great 12 x 18 when properly processed and up-sized.​
    Gee, Elliot, I used the term "crop factor". I never said the focal length changes. I totally know how it works... So... let's split hairs...
    What I mean is... Take two DX images using the long end of a xx - 300 zoom, one on a D3 or D3s in "DX crop mode" and the other on a D300s. Both have a similar field of view to 450mm (not so long when shooting wildlife in Africa, is it). Let's say you have to crop in 50%. What's left on the D300 is perfectly printable perhaps. The D3 will have a VERY low res and might not be usable, and the camera cost 3 times as much. Wrong tool for the job, imho.
    Too much discussion about the issue. Mary probably knows what she needs, based on her EXCELLENT photography skills (NICE work, Mary. I like it). That's probably why she's bowed out of this increasingly ridiculous conversation.
     
  31. Peter Hamm [​IMG], Feb 24, 2011; 03:10 p.m.........."Fred, DX factor is WAY better for wildlife........"
    How so? DoF control is always a problem with DX, and shallow depth of field is very important in wildlife photography. A high quality 2x converter, like my Nikon TC-300, coupled with my 300mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 AIS Nikkors are a far better setup for photographing nature than dealing with the lousy DoF control with DX.
     
  32. Duplicate post, please disregard. I have no idea why it does this sometimes!​
     
  33. Here are some high ISO (25600-102400) images of wildlife in Africa, shot with the D3s:
    http://nikongear.com/smf/index.php?topic=31224.0
    Ann says these were shot after sunset. I find these images have a gentle quality to the light.
     
  34. Thank you folks, for the active discussions, which are helpful toward reaching a decision of sitting tight and sending this backup to the factory. I would prefer to have two compatible cameras, and the D300/D300s are doing their jobs nicely. I learned a few things about the D3s' shortcomings, too, through your discussions, and the probability of an upcoming replacement.
    I will be off to both Kenya and Tanzania in late May through June. This time to look at the possibility of leading tours to Africa next year, beginning with these two countries. I love Africa and I won't mind going there again and again.
     
  35. "Nikon TC-300, coupled with my 300mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 AIS Nikkors are a far better setup for photographing nature" - with your great lenses you do not need a DX camera.
    However, DX crop factor of 1.5 value is always optically better solution than any 2X tele converter.
     
  36. The D7000 isn't really a replacement for the D300s; the AF point coverage is smaller, the speed is lower, the body is so small that some controls are difficult to use (in particular, the AF-ON function in vertical orientation), and many accessories are incompatible (i.e. memory cards, batteries, chargers, and remote releases). Finally, the user interfaces are very different. I know the D7000 is a great camera but really I have to question why the buyer has to buy a bunch of incompatible accessories while staying within the same brand.​
    Bingo. Couldn't agree more, Ilkka.
     
  37. Ilkka. I did a quick comparison shot between the D7000 and D3 (DX sized image) and indeed you are correct - at low ISO the advantage is to the D7000. It is not huge but it is there when looking at the images under magnification.
     
  38. "there were moments when the D3s would pause to lock focus which didn't happen with the d300s" Eric, you need to check your setting in menu option A4 - having this set to anything but OFF would cause a pause with either camera. If you have that setting off on the D300s and on with the D3, that might explain the difference you are experiencing. Or if you have one camera set to long and one to short... If not, I have no explanation as to why your D3S would pause during AF - my D3 does not.​
    a-ha...yes, it was set to '3.' i have reset to 'off'. wish i had seen this last night before shooting a concert where the artist was moving around a lot. it was kind of driving me crazy, i was missing shots at 1/250, which got me wondering whether something was wrong with my lenses. that's what i get for not bothering to read the D3s manual. interestingly, A4 was also set to 'medium' in the d300s, so i'm again left with the AF-assist light as being the only majorly differing factor in the focus speed between the two cameras. this really only happens in low light, but i'm guessing focus lock is perhaps a smidgen more finicky on the D3s. anyway, we'll see if this makes a difference in the future.
    thanks, elliot!
    00YIrY-335979584.jpg
     

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