Life with a D300

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by marklcooper, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. Life with my D300.
    I'm an amateur photographer. My first and only film SLR is a Nikon FE purchased new in 1978 and used through 2008. It still is in excellent working condition, but getting film processed and printed was becoming more and more aggravating. Developing and printing at home was not an option. I purchased an Epson scanner with negative inserts in the early 2000's, but dust removal was a pain so I ended up not using it very much. I also purchased an Epson P2200 printer at the same time. I often use the printer now. I purchased my first dSLR, the D300, in 2008. I chose not to go digital until Nikon produced a camera that fit my requirements. It had to work with my old lenses. It had to have decently high ISO quality. It had to have good control placement. The command and sub-command wheels are totally natural to me. I normally shoot in Aperture Priority mode as that is what I used on my FE for 30 years. The camera had to be robust.
    I purchased my D300 on September 11, 2008 and now have 13,013 (actually 3,014 showing because the D300 rolls over at 9,999) pictures on the odometer. After reading all the reviews and threads available on I purchased the following:
    1 - Nikon D300 body only
    1 - Nikkor AF-S 17-55 f/2.8 G ED
    1 - 77mm Nikon protection filter
    1 - MB-D10 Grip
    2 - extra EN-EL3e batteries (in addition to the battery that came with the D300)
    2 - SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III CompactFlash Cards
    1 - David Busch's Nikon D300 Guide to Digital SLR Photography
    In February 2009 I purchased:
    1 - 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens
    1 - 77mm Nikon protection filter
    In December 2009 I purchased
    1 - Nikon SB-900 AF Speedlight Flash
    After reading many of the questions posted on the Nikon forum over the last 14 months or so I'd like to address some of the issues as follows.
    Picture file format
    I save RAW and JPEG Small Normal. My girlfriend uses the JPEGS as-is when she emails friends. I use the RAW when printing (up to 24" x 36") and for conversion for posting on and my web site.
    Battery Life
    The only time I do not use the battery grip is when I have my old Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI lens mounted and that does not happen often. I generally go 2 months between charges. I rotate the batteries after they are charged. My camera is set to use the grip battery first, then switch to the internal camera battery. First off, I top off the charge on the spare battery kept in my bag. When that's topped off, I pull the battery out of the grip, place it in the charger, and place the newly charged spare in the grip. Once the old 'grip' battery is charged I exchange it for the camera battery. The camera is now fully charged and ready to go. Once the old 'camera' battery is charged I place it in the bag as the spare.
    The lens normally mounted on the camera is the 17-55mm. I have 30+ years on my FE and Nikkor 50 f/2.0 and 50 f/1.4 and they all work perfectly. I feel that if I get 10 years on the 17-55mm I'll have $120/year invested in it. It was worth it to me to go all Nikon. Same thing with the 70-200mm. $180/year seems like a reasonable expenditure for a hobby purchase. I could have gone Sigma, Tokina, etc. but I'm very happy with Nikon and am lucky to be in the position to be able to afford Nikon (within reason.....I might have to take up residence in the dog house if I came home with a $6000+ 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor). Back to the 17-55mm. It truly is a wonder. Between the relatively high ISO capability of the D300 and the 2.8 max aperture on the 17-55 there has been very times where I couldn't get the shot. It's great indoors, as a candid/portrait lens, as an outdoor walk-about lens, etc. The battery grip provides balance to this lens. Granted, it is kind of large, especially with the hood mounted. I take this setup everywhere: to work, the grocery store, walking around town, the hardware store....everywhere.
    I often mount the 70-200 when we go for a walk on the farm. We have 5 (and counting) dogs that we try to walk daily on the farm. The 70-200 allows me to get in much closer than the 17-55. I can focus on individual dog movement with this lens. It's almost a macro lens. I've gotten some decent closeups of wildflowers and butterflies with this lens. Once mounted I typically carry it around for a week or two before I switch back to the 17-55. Again, I've carried it in the grocery store, hardware store, local restaurant, etc. The 70-200 is a bit large as a walk-about lens, but it's do-able.
    It is worth it to me to get a 2.8 zoom. There are very few missed or blurry shots with a 2.8. I think if someone is really serious about their photography, whether amateur or pro, they should do what it takes to invest in a 2.8 lens. Or, go for some even faster primes. I'm trying to keep my lens inventory to a minimum so I'm willing to use zooms. I've not regretted it.
    Because I have a manual focus 50mm f/1.4 AI that I really liked on my FE, I'm considering the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Manual focus and 50+ year old eyes wearing tri-focals don't always work out real well. There may be a macro in the future, but that's down the road a year or two.
    Water resistance
    We have a 170+ acre farm in SE Ohio. We have a herd of cattle and a flock of sheep. We have several out-buildings in various states of dis-repair. Just recently I lost track of my D300 with SB-900 and 70-200 attached. I put the rig on a table under an open sided pavilion prior to running after a couple of escaped sheep. Got the sheep back in the fence, got sidetracked with feeding and watering. The day moved on. The next morning I went looking for my camera in the usual 1 or 2 places I normally stash it. No luck. It had rained all night. As I walked past the pavilion in the rain I had a sinking feeling. I started to recall setting the camera down the prior day. Sure enough, it was on the table. It was covered with water. It was out of the direct rain, but it still got wet from the wind-blown rain. I picked the camera up and patted it down with a dry cloth. Turned it on and it worked like a champ. Heart failure ended and I started breathing again. Whew!!!!!
    File downloads from camera to computer
    I use the USB cable supplied with the D300 and Windows Explorer to transfer files. I believe the USB jack is a more robust connection than pulling the memory card from the camera, inserting in a card reader, then re-inserting in the camera. Look at the number of contacts on the USB cable and the number of pins in the memory card slot. To me it's a no-brainer. From reading posts on about camera battery consumption on earlier models, I've come to the conclusion that the D300 just sips from the battery. Powering up the camera for a file transfer is no big deal.
    Once I've copied from the camera to the computer, I spot check to make sure the transfer went well. I then turn off the camera, disconnect the USB cable, turn on the camera, and re-format the memory card. Every time.
    Memory cards
    I chose the 8 GB SanDisk Extreme III compactFlash memory card. I purchased 2 of these with the camera. I always carry the second card in my pocket when I have the camera. Last week I was walking the farm with 5 shots on the in-camera memory card when it failed. I swapped the defective card for my spare. I lost 5 shots, but as an amateur it was not a big deal. It's going to take about 2 - 3 weeks to get a warranty replacement card from SanDisk so I ordered another card to keep on hand, just in case.
    DX vs FX
    With the results I'm getting with the DX format I see no need to go to the FX format. If FX cost the same as DX that would be another matter. At the risk of stirring up a hornet's nest, I liken todays D300 with my FE of old. I expect the FX could be compared to medium format (6 x 6, 6 x 7) of old. I printed one of my scenic photos at 24" x 36" on plain old CAD roll paper at one of my clients. It's impressive. I can't imagine how it would look if I'd used photo paper. I used an HP 130nr printer which probably doesn't show up near the top of anyone's list of photo printers.
    I'm not really a fan of flash photography, but there have been times when a flash would have improved my results. I selected the SB-900 because it can easily be set to be used as an off-camera remote with the built-in flash used as the trigger. Just turn the on-off lever to 'remote.' I'm going to be taking some environmental portraits at one of my clients to be used on their web site, so I felt I needed an off-camera flash. The SB-900 has helped my farm dog photography by eliminating some distracting shadows. When you have 5 dogs running all over the place doing dog things, you don't always get the best composition.
    In summary
    The D300 is a very, very versatile camera. It can be set to be as automatic or as manual as desired. With inflation I suspect it is comparable in cost to my 1978 vintage FE. I have no interest in taking video with my dSLR, but the D300s will still be a worthy successor to the D300.
    I hope someone finds this info useful.
    Thanks - Mark
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Well, I also bought a Nikon FE back in 1978, the year it was introduced and that is my very first Nikon camera (not counting the Nikkormat I had bought a year earlier), and I also have a D300 from late 2007.
    However, that is where the similarity ends. Between 1978 and 2007, I bought many different Nikon cameras and lenses.
  3. Very nice, Mark, and bound to be helpful for some folks that come across what you've written. It's a little spooky how similar our experiences and habits are (um, other than having that 170 acres ... grrr!). It is indeed tremendously versatile camera, and you've got some great glass to go with it. You might indeed enjoy that 30/1.4 (I know I do), or given the setting in which you wander, look at an ultra-wide in the 10-20/24 range. Huge new creative possibilities open up.

    Five dogs!
  4. Shun and Matt,
    Thanks guys. I did purchase a second FE 4 or 5 years body for B&W film. The original FE is the silver/black, now for color only. I do have a Mamiya C330f with 3 or 4 lenses. I also have a Cirro Flex TLR made long ago in Delaware Ohio, about 1 1/2 hrs from the farm.
    The farm makes it worth carrying my pager 24/7/365. We're gearing up to collect maple sap in a week or so to make some syrup.
    5 dogs and counting. We just bred our oldest female to a local dog that was signed over to us for placement. We now have 3 intact females and 3 intact males. We live in a 37' motorhome. You can see where the importance of the daily walks comes in.
  5. "I believe the USB jack is a more robust connection than pulling the memory card from the camera, inserting in a card reader, then re-inserting in the camera."
    This instance puts battery power to use in your camera, where a simple USB card reader works with your D300 resting in your camera bag. If Nikon designed the camera to put 'risk' into installing or removing the CF card, then the USB camera-to-computer connection would be fine.
    [My first Nikon was a second-hand Nikon F, bought in 1971.]
  6. Put your 70-200 on a D700, and you'll never pick up the D300 again. If you miss Dx, you can set 1 of 3 Fn button/command dials on the camera, to switch between Fx & Dx. At Dx, those 5.8M jumbo pixels take a very presentable picture if set for Lg/Fine. And speaking of f2.8, you are absolutely correct: there is nothing like the image from the 24-70, & 14-24 riding on the D700! Nothing like it!
    My lineage: F2Photomic...FE2...F4S...D70...D200...D700, and 35 years of Nikkors that all work on the later 2 bodies. (Also still working: the F2 & F4)
  7. Jerry - Nikon supplied the USB cable that I use on a regular basis. Why did they do that? If I was a pro photographer and filled multiple cards in a photo shoot I would be forced to change out cards. But, for my (probably typical amateur) use, the cable is the way to go. Besides, my camera is never in the's almost always close at hand ready to be used.
    Stephen - At the time I purchased my D300 I believe the D700 cost around an additional $1000 on top of the approximately $1600 I paid for the D300. Also, the 70-200 isn't the only lens in my bag. So for an additional $1500+ I could have purchased a D700 and a 24-70 FX lens along with my 70-200. I'm still limited to 24" x 36" print size. Did you try a D300 before you went with the D700?
    I have a 1/2 ton 4 x 4 farm truck. For several thousand more dollars I could have purchased a 3/4 ton 4 x 4. It's just not cost effective for me to spend the extra money to get that extra oomph that's needed on a very rare occasion. I have too many other uses for those extra dollars.
    Thanks - Mark
  8. In 1972 I bought my first F2 Photomic, a couple years later a second. In 2007 I traded them in for a D70s, then a few months later bought another D70s. Going on three years later, I know I'm moving to D300 bodies with the idea that they could very well be the last cameras I need to buy. I also have a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 because Nikon has nothing like it, and with the Dx sensor, a 16/17/18-50/55 2.8 (any one of them), I have the standard professional focal lengths of 24-200(+) covered. (As an aside, I used the same criteria when I bought the Nikon 18-135 for my snapshot lens, to have that range covered, for a reasonable price. I have to say, it's very sharp.)
  9. OPK


    glad to hear it Mark. D300 + 17-55 2.8 was the best combo I've had before switching to Canon. results was just amazing straight from camera without PP. made a mistake by selling it for D700...what finally made me repel from Nikon. but for now I'm thinking warm about D300 and much older D70s - that was something. real pleasure to work with...
  10. Jerry, CF cards can and do bend the contact pin in the camera. It happened to me and it is not easy to get it repaired. I now have a 8G card in my D300 and have never removed it. My repaired D70 still loses contact with the card from time to time.
  11. Good points made about the contact pins on the CF cards. That is why I have always left the cards in the slots (D300 / D700) and used the cable to hook up to puter for upload data. It may be a little slower but how much slower is it to try to fix a bent pin? Using the USB cable works just fine and I let LR 2.6 handle the upload from camera. Gets those raw files right in and then the fun begins...
  12. Lovely write-up, Mark. Nikon would love this kind of article.
    Your attitude towards practicality is heads and shoulders above many of us. We should learn from you.
    The part about the sealants being able to withstand an overnight rain is quite amazing. I thot it was just for light drizzles but looks like it is well above expectations.
    Thank you, Mark.
  13. Martin - I'm sorry about your experience with the D700. I'm glad you still have warm, fuzzy feelings about the D300 and D70s. Are you happy with your Canon equipment? Do you think you might switch back to Nikon sometime in the future?
    Arthur - Thanks for the kind words. The camera was not in the path of direct rain. It was under a roof, but close enough to the edge of the roof so that it got wet from blown in rain/mist. It really was more of a light drizzle on the camera. But still, the fact that the camera, lens, flash, and grip survived shows that pro/semi-pro equipment will take a beating and keep on working.
  14. "Jerry - Nikon supplied the USB cable that I use on a regular basis. Why did they do that? If I was a pro photographer and filled multiple cards in a photo shoot I would be forced to change out cards. But, for my (probably typical amateur) use, the cable is the way to go. Besides, my camera is never in the's almost always close at hand ready to be used."
    Nikon also supplies a CD with the D300 camera. Does that mean you have to carry it (the CD) with you every time you use your camera? The USB cable (my guess) is for the time you need to transfer images and are not going forth to take additional images. If you plan on keeping your camera at the ready , each time you hook up to your computer -- you camera is tied up and not ready to use . Is it?
    Of course, it is up to you how you use your equipment. I hope you have the best of luck shooting in the months ahead...
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    CF cards can bend the contact pin in the camera, but that is very rare and it happens mainly when people use cheap CF cards that are slightly out of spec or there is durt in the pin holes on the card. I have been using Sandisk and Lexar memory cards since 2002; I insert cards into my DSLRs frequently without ever coming even close to bending anything. To me, it is a totally unnecssary worry.
  16. Many reviewers of camera equipment do the usual performance, UI and street testings. But, so far, I have not seen testings resulting from a 3 months or 6 months usage, like that of car magazine. That would report more of the issues and pleasant surprises from day to day use.
    Perhaps, we can blame it on the shorter and shorter development cycle for DSLRs.
  17. Mark
    A very thoughtfull and well written appraisal I actually came from a Nikon FM and FM2 which I used professionally for many years and I feel the D300 is the latest incarnation of that camera and well up to the rigours of hard work. The 17-55 is superb and takes the place of my old 35 F2, the only thing I differ with is the 70-200 I think it is overrated and for what a new one cost I have a 300 2.8AF a 180 2.8 AF and a manual focus 85mm 1.4 albeit these are all well used but they suit me and I feel the 70-200 is overrated. The other thing is the extra battery grip I wish someone could justify it I have one for my D200 and just think it is a nuisance.
    As to the poster that states once you use the the D700 you'll never pick up a D300 again that sort of nonsense drives me nuts. I feel there are lot of beginner and casual photographers out there with thousands of dollars of camera equipment they don't need because someone on a blog or forum makes a careless statement that they take to heart.
  18. Reading your nice review has me wondering how well you adapted to the complicated life of DSLR's and and their too many buttons and menus? (Not to mention the learning curve of Photoshop, Lightroom etc) Though I'm shooting my digital with a Canon 5D I'm a Nikon guy at heart and just picked up a beautiful mark free FM3a so I can shoot simple now and then.
  19. Steve - Thank you. I feel my grip helps balance the large lenses. With my 17-55 I support the complete camera/lens assembly with my left hand on the zoom ring. My right hand steadies the rig. I just now swapped for the 70-200. Again, I pretty much support with my left hand on the zoom ring while my right hand steadies everything. I'm right handed. I had the SB-900 attached for my tests.
    I just pulled off the grip and held the D300 w/17-55 attached. The palm of my right hand dangles off in space without the grip. For me, the grip attached provides a more ergonomic 'grip' and thus better control of the camera. I do rotate the camera into portrait mode a decent amount and I appreciate the duplicate controls.
    With regards to pulling the memory card or using the USB cable, I don't really worry about it either way. It's just easier for me to use the cable. I do feel that pulling the memory card every time to download pics does increase the potential for failure. I do use SanDisk cards and one did fail recently.
    If I went the card reader route, it would have a USB cable so I'd plug it into the USP port on my laptop. Then pull the card from the camera. Insert the card in the reader. Dump the pics. Pull the card from the reader. Insert the card in the camera. Format the card. Disconnect the reader from the laptop. With the cable, plug one end into laptop. Plug other end into camera. Dump pics. Disconnect cable at both ends. Format card. Fewer movements. Fewer connections and disconnections. Fewer chances for something to go wrong. Granted, the USB port on the camera can go bad.
  20. " how well you adapted to the complicated life of DSLR's and and their too many buttons and menus? (Not to mention the learning curve of Photoshop, Lightroom etc)"
    Like the author of this thread I started with an all mechanical Nikon F and a Gossen Super Pilot light meter, shot
    Tri-x, developed in D-76 (1:1) and printed on Kodabromide in Dektol. I still have the manual for the F that consists of I think 30 pages of instruction. Thom Hogan's secondary manual must be close to 600 pages and quick search on Photoshop in Amazon turns up 4,500 titles. So it is a bit more complex but that complexity is managed and learned one chunk at a time as needed.
    As a simple example, how often do you need to set the self timer so you can get into a picture? Not often, probably so when I do need to do it on some rare occasion finding the menu item to adjust the amount of delay time drives me nuts. On an F it is the tiny dedicated lever that you swing down. Simple and easy.
    But I would never want to return to the good old days because they were simply too confining. The D-300 is an entire platform that can take you into virtually any realm of photography. So to a minor extent I miss the simple days, but to a greater extent I much prefer the wide flexibility of the D300. Flexibility always comes at some cost of complexity and usability but the Nikon designers have done a remarkable job of balancing these competing demands.
    One thing that I have come to appreciate is that there are often features that people complain about (video is a favorite target). My view is ignore it, don't use it or buy a different camera, or brand. I've often looked at the menu items and scoffed thinking, "Who the Hell needs and auto bracket with 5 stops in BOTH directions around the correct exposure. You'd have to be a complete moron to not be able to get the correct exposure within one stop".
    Then I shot a solar eclipse last July and was very happy to set my auto bracket to the above setting so I could choose which exposure(s) best expressed the glory of the eclipse. So those "extra" features that you think are useless just may useful to you in the future because you really can't predict your needs with full certainty.
  21. Michael F.- depending on how you look at it I haven't adapted very well. About February of 2009 I switched out of full auto mode into Aperture Priority. This was after using the camera for about 6 months. I have yet to fiddle with WB. So now it's basically Aperture setting and film speed ala FE.
    Most folks on would probably laugh at my 'workflow.' I fill my memory card. Dump all to C:\D300\2010\unfiled. When I get ambitious, I then move pics to C:\D300\2010\Farm scenic, C:\D300\2010\Clark Hardware, etc. I browse the JPEGs with Microsoft Photo Viewer. If I see something I'd like to print, put on my web site, or submit to Wednesday Pic, I write the file name down. I open the NEF in the free Nikon View NX and do a straight conversion to JPEG. Then I open the JPEG with Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (recommended by Lex Jenkins and others on PN, a $40 download). I crop if desired (not often). I resize to 700 pixels wide for PN, 1024 wide for my web site, or up to 24" x 36" for printing. I then do Corel's 'one step photo fix' and save. Nothing fancy.
  22. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that the D300 will be remembered as a classic Nikon. I truly do not see a reason for me to 'upgrade' to a newer model.
    This photo was taken at our local coffee shop. A local was giving a slide presentation. The lights were off except the front 1/3 of the shop. The settings shown below the photo are as stated by View NX.
  23. Here's another, but of the presenter at the coffee shop.
    D300 17-55 26mm ISO 2500 1/4s f/4 w/SB-900 Rear Curtain Slow sync, flash mode: optional(?), AA, 0EV, with wide flash adapter.
    I did not use one step photo fix, just 'sharpen more'
  24. Nice job, Mark... thorough and thoughtul write-up.

    For the record, the camera that finally convinced me to go digital was the D300. I was very close to buying one when the D700 was announced... and I decided to wait and get it. I am quite happy with it; never had a problem with anything, and it actually allowed me to learn about digital photography (like you, I had purchased a scanner and a decent printer, but scanning slides was long and kinda boring to me).

    As for learning the camera... not too difficult; once you have figured out the "photographic" side (how to operate and change values in aperture and shutterspeed, work exposure compensation and bracketing), the added variables like white balance, file size and color settings aren't too complex. I'd recommend that you explore them whenever you want to spend a quiet winter evening (after walking your dogs, that is) at home.

    Thanks for posting about your experience with the D300!
  25. A good writeup. I switched the focusing screen in my D300 some 6 months ago to a custom cut K3 type and now manual focusing works as it should. The stock screen is just impossible to focus accurately manually.
    In all except macro shooting a D700 would suit me better, but the price premium over the D300 is such that I've never seriously considered switching, would just lose too much money that way, so I'm waiting what Nikon comes out in the future. BTW my subjects are a bit different -- mostly cityscapes, landscapes and macro, with some portraits and candids thrown in and I mostly use primes.
  26. Mark,
    Thanks for the nice article. I too own a D300 and have really enjoyed it. When I purchased mine, it was an upgrade from the D50, which I had purchased about a year prior. While certainly not the jump from the FE to the D300, it was a significant jump in benefits for me. I don't anticipate a move up anytime soon, but I doubt I'll be as restrained as you were before upgrading. While the new camera's offer many improvements in technology, for the majority of the amateur photographers out their, it's a want versus a need. Then again, my wife would probably say the same about my move to the D300.
    Enjoy the camera and try to keep it out of the rain ;>)

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