Difference in D300, D300s, D90

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by nathan_hoefert, Apr 8, 2010.

  1. I am trying to find out if really spending that extra money is worth some of the perks as in, should I wait till Nikon announces a new camera to the series so that prices go down. Is the $400 difference in between the Nikon D90 and D300s worth those extra spendings. Thanks for anyone's input.
  2. This depends on what you shoot. The main reasons to go for the D300s instead of the D90 are:

    1) Much better AF system
    2) Higher frame rate
    3) More rugged/weatherized build
    4) Externalized physical controls (less menu diving)
    5) Dual memory card slots - for redundancy, and/or for separating video storage from stills

    Actual image quality is essentially identical - but if the D90's AF is too slow and you miss the shot, the quality of the image doesn't matter.

    So, this depends on what you shoot, and how. Portraits? Sports? Landscapes?
  3. Well I shoot more on the portrait, landscape, nightlife side of things.
  4. I'm not sure where you'd be shopping from, but at B&H Photo the D300s costs roughly twice as much as the D90 (US $1,529.95 vs. $776.95).
    Professional travel photographer Bob Krist uses D90 bodies. From his writings, I believe the closest thing he's ever used to a pro-level DSLR was the D200.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    There are a few more subtle differences:
    • On the D90, the only option for RAW is lossy compressed, no uncompressed RAW. On the D300/D300S, you can also shoot uncompressed RAW or lossless compressed.
    • On the D300/D300S you have the option to shoot 14-bit RAW but the frame rate drops to 2.5 frames/sec. On the D90 there is only 12-bit RAW.
    • The D90 has pre-set scene modes; some people call them beginner modes. The D300/D300S does not have that feature.
    For portrait and landscape, the D90 should be fine. For any night or indoor photography, the D300/D300S' superior AF under dim light may play a role.
    I should point out that in real-life shooting conditions, the difference between uncompressed and compressed RAW as well as 12 vs. 14 bit is very subtle.
  6. Image quality is not identical between D90 and D300, according to dpreview.com (see their D90 review). D90 is slightly less sharp than D300, but many can not tell the difference in real world shooting situations. I bought the D300 as an upgrade from the D80, and I never looked back. The controls are much better, the build is better, and I prefer the handling of the D300. I also feel I can rely on the Compact Flash card more than the comparatively flimsy SD cards, which I've seen fall apart after extensive use in the field. D300s has dual card slots, an improvement over the D300. To me it depends if you can sacrifice features and image quality for weight savings. For me it's too much of a compromise, I'll carry the extra weight.
  7. Another difference is the D300's ability to meter and autoexpose using older AI and AIS manual focus lenses, whereas the D90 meter shuts off when a non-CPU lens is mounted. True, it's possible to chimp, check the histogram, and manually adjust exposure, but that's not as fast or convenient as having a meter and autoexposure. That will be completely irrelevant to some users, but it could be the main deciding factor for others.
  8. I own both the D90 and D300, bought used. They are both great cameras. If a person's main interest is in family photos and vacation snaps, the D90 could be perfect. For those who want to push the envelope and/or use older AI lenses, or brave the elements, the D300 may be a better choice. The photo quality is pretty much the same to my ancient eyes. they have the same fabulous LCD. I like the added weight of the D300 to help dampen my old age tremors.
    I paid about $600 for the D90 (had 3,000 shutter activations) which turned out to be a gray market camera, which doesn't concern me. A little less than twice that amount for a low mileage D300. I will keep them both.
    BTW, my camera repair guru prefers the SD cards over Compact Flash, because he feels the the tiny wires that go into the CF are prone to being bent.
    I have no way of knowing the inclinations of the average photo net reader and poster, but based on reading a zillion posts over the years, I would guestimate that the average photo.netter is more techno-geek than happy snapper.
    With either camera, I would recommend an SB 600 flash, use bounce and a diffuser, and let the cameras do their magic, which seems to be flawless for my casual use. I try to avoid the in-camera flash.
    I would love to have a D700, especially at the wide end, but I can't justify the large delta in cost, and I can't get past the concept that all digital cameras will in time be throwaway items, unlike the F series Nikons and the Leica Ms (film).
  9. I've used both D90 and D300s extensively and they're quite different cameras. The number of focus points on the D300s has allowed me to grab photos that just weren't going to happen on the D90. The ISO/WB/QUAL buttons on top allow you to move much quicker through settings. The aperture preview is in a useful place on the D300 compared to the D90.
    The body of the D300s is tougher than the D90 and in outdoor adventure photography, that can make a difference. However, I do like the D90 for being a lighter body for exactly the same reason. My D300s functioned perfectly at -45 deg (no wind chill). Not sure about the D90.
    Switching shooting modes (single, continuous, timer et al) is done by a dial on the D300s rather than a button+wheel on the D90. The D300s has external mic input, the D90 doesn't. The D300s has manual, single and continuous focus on a switch rather than in an LCD menu.
    The focus area selector on the D300s is great. The D90 doesn't have one. It's in a menu. The AF-L / AE-L is on a button surrounded by the exposure control dial on the D300s. Missing on the D90.
    Once you learn the D300s, you can adjust to changing conditions far quicker than the D90. That's why pro cameras have so many more switches than relying on menus.
    I wish Nikon kept the door latch of the D300 on the D300s, though.
  10. I never had the D300s, but I did have 2 x D90 and before 2 x D300. At first I was very happy with the D300, but after I switched, I understand the D300 has a lot of "overkill" that sometimes even got in my way with taking pictures. I know change settings in the D90 3 x faster than with the D300, simply because there where to many options and buttons.
    The superior focus system of the D300 never really helped me; I shot some sports and never had a problem with the D90.
    Although the D300 has the option of 14 bit, I could never see the difference and according to DXOmark, the sensor of the D90 is even more sensitive! I may be going out on a limb here, but I shot a lot of photo's here in the hard light of Portugal and I really believe I got much better sunsets with the D90.
    Everything is relative as usual. But I just can't justify the higher price of the D300(s) for what it offers more.
    Just my 2 cents.
    PS: I read somewhere about a pro wedding photographer who only uses 2 D90's....
  11. I am a little mystified by Bertram's assertion that changing the behavior on the D90 is three times faster than on the D300. Anything that involves clicking your way through a menu, instead of simply pressing a single-purpose, clearly labeled button isn't faster, really.

    If you plan on using the camera with some frequency, the week (if that?) it takes to become accustomed to having the dedicated controls is time very well spent.
  12. Matt, just try the difference to change from normal to Liveview with both camera's: with the D300 you have to push down a button, while you change the bigger dial around it, same if you want to change to remote or self-timer.
    With the D90 you simply press the Liveview button. Also, the D90 has the info button to go through a lot of things to change real quick. True: the D300 has more dedicated buttons, but if that really simplifies things is up to the user.
    But which buttons do you think are lacking on the D90 but are on the D300?
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    All Nikon DSLRs with the video capture feature have a dedicated live view button. Therefore, the D90 and D300S have it (so do the D3S and D5000), but the D300, D700, D3, and D3X do not have it.
  14. I've used Nikon DSLR cameras with CF cards since 2005 and never once bent any pins, so I don't think that is any consideration at all. The extra shot buffer the D300 has over the D90 is also a great benefit, not to mention the tremendous benefit of metering with AI and AIS lenses.
  15. If you are just gong to use your camera for general use than go for the D90. You won't find much if any difference in IQ.
    Good glass is more important so if you are not shooting serious sport or wildlife or taking your camera out in the rain; spend your cash on better lenses.
    The D300 or D300s are complex and not beginners cameras. They are well suited for semi pro or advanced use .
    For sport and wildlife photography the D300 AF system and frame rate are vastly superior. If you are into serious sport and wildlife; you will need expensive and fast AFS lenses to get the benefit of the focusing setup.
    Another point on dual memory cards; I actually prefer using SD HC cards I have had too many problems with bent pins on card readers and CF Card Failures. SD looks mire reliable; so I usually use CF for stills and backup images to SD as I have 32GB SDHC for this purpose (and for Video Capture)
  16. For portrait, nightlife and landscapes, I think the D90 is a sound choice, and the price difference can better be used on other things (fast lenses, flash, tripod). Sure the D300(s) is better in quite some things (already stated enough), but to my idea they do not come into play for what for your types of photography much. CF versus SD only matters if you already have a pile of cards. Both designs have weak points and strong points.
    However, you may prefer handling of one body over the other, and that could make a rather serious difference; I've owned the D300 side by side with a D80 for a while, and for me there were different enough. The D300 is heavier and somewhat bulkier; some like, some dislike. So before taking a final decision, I would recommend you try to hold them once and feel before you spend the cash. If a camera feels to heavy, it will not be as fun as it could be to work with - and that would be a serious waste of money.
  17. Great thread! I currently own a D70 (yes.. ;-) ) and so I'm just in the process of weighting pros and cons, just like you. I've got one new point and a question:
    New point: the "Q"uiet mode of the D300s is of great interest to me because I often shoot in concerts. For hard rock it doesn't matter much, but a camera in a chamber music concert could definitely benefit from the Q mode... :)
    Question. Richard wrote: "Another difference is the D300's ability to meter and autoexpose using older AI and AIS manual focus lenses". I just bought two wonderful Samyang lenses, a 85mm f/1.4 and a 8mm fish-eye. I love them. I'm having a lot of fun with them; and they were cheap (in price but they have robust builds). Problem is they are both entirely manual: no possible auto-focus and no light metering, at least on my D70. I got accustomed to that: with digital cameras where you can try several times, it is not so much of a problem, but it takes time to try 3 or 4 pictures in order to get the right exposure. I am developing some tricks (like trying on an object before the actual subject comes :) ), but it would be really nice to have at least an auto exposure. But those lenses are not Nikon, they are not AI or AIS or else. My question is: could exposure be done automatically with Samyang lenses as well? And would it work on D300s? on D90? Ok that's three questions, sorry.
    Thanks for your help. And thanks for a very nice and insightful forum.
  18. Christophe, the Samyangs should be Ai designs (without rabbit ears), and allow metering on the D300/D300s (I considered the 85 f/1.4, so I checked for that since I like the metering to work). The D90 does not do metering with Ai/AiS lenses, so also not with the Samyangs (identical to the D70 in that respect).
  19. First, @Christophe: great! your courage to manual focus on the D70 is impressive :) I have a D70s (which gets rare use nowadays), and while I loved it (and loved the incredibly sharp output!), it now looks like tunnel vision to me. I can only MF reliably on the D700.
    My girlfriend has a D90 (I owned and sold one), and I own also a Fuji S5Pro and a D700; Point is: the D90 is a great camera. Nikon did nothing wrong with that, and that testifies why it's still so highly regarded. As an example: as sturdier as the bigger bodies are, I hate D200/300/700 wheel for WB/ISO/QUAL, find it crazy to have to push a button, roll a dial just to switch to live view, for instance.
    To be honest, and weighing money, it's the best proposition now, cost vs price. It's dirt cheap. Sure, D300/D300s is better (but only in specialistic items), but I for one, am sure that I wouldn't be able to tell two raws apart, and a D300 is almost 2x expensive.
    The real bonus with it? To me, it would be AF adjustments... Metering with Ai lenses is instead useful mainly on FF bodies: it's tough, and at least straining, to manual focus a fast lens with a small viewfinder. Sometimes, even the D700 one is not enough too (and that explains why people using mainly manual lenses resort to split prism screens).
    Last: weight. I love my D700 viewfinder (I'd use the Fuji otherwise, which has higher DR than the full frame!), so that's why I carry it. If it hadn't that viewfinder, I would have sold it already, as the thing is heavy, even with a tiny 50 1.8.
    So, I would go either D90, or D700 (and discover the magic old AI glass... but that's another story! ;-)
    My opinion, for what it's worth :)
  20. I have both a D90 and a D300s. Both are great cameras, but I hands down prefer the D300s. The controls are easy to access and I find myself adjusting to the shot rather than taking a chance with current settings. I do find the AF is much better on the D300s for kids and sports. I often use AF-C and the D300s will AF lock before firing giving me a higher keeper rate.

    Is the D300s worth the extra money? I guess that depends. I'm glad a bought one, but I got the D90 refurbished at less than half the cost. Good luck, you really can't go wrong with either!
  21. Thanks Wouter and Jeffrey for your nice answers. I reckon that my Samyang lenses should work ok with the D300/s but not with the D90.. so now it will only be a matter of $€$€.. ;-). Or maybe I could wait for a soon-to-come D90 successor.. we'll see. Thanks again.

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