When is a D300S Better than a D700?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by victor_chelf, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. I see some of the posts that indicate that some photographers have both a D700 and a D300S (or a D3 and a D300S). If you have a full frame camera, what are some of the main reasons that you would use a D300S? If it is to take advantage of the crop factor, couldn't you accomplish that with a teleconverter on the D700? I currently have a D70 and am ready to make the upgrade - just not totally sure which path to take. Any input is appreciated.
    Victor Chelf - Houston TX
  2. The teleconverter will cost you some lens performance, no matter how good the lens or the TC. You also give up speed, since you're thus stopping down (which also means giving up some DoF control, if you need that).

    The DX bodies also let you do certain things with smaller, lighter, less expensive lenses. Sure, I'd reach for a D700 or D3 on occasion (or very often, for some things), but since I shoot action, the D300 is a real winner, that extra stop or two of high ISO shooting not withstanding.

    Note also that the D300 and the D3/700 use the same AF module. But that module covers more of the frame on the D300 (it's concentrated more in the center of the frame on FX), which makes the D300 a bit friendlier for some types of action that way, too.

    Don't get me wrong. Both is better. But the D300(s) is no slouch! It will seem like a mammoth change from the D70.
  3. As Matt puts it - a DX camera will allow for smaller, lighter & less expensive lenses. But it all comes down to what you shoot & if you need low light.
    I shoot a lot of wildlife - especially birds. The crop factor is invaluable to me. I have a D700 which occasionally is used for wildlife - when I work in low light situations.
    So - depending upon what you photograph.... Also, the added weight of the D700 should be considered. Body alone weighs more than the D300/s
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As Matt and Lil point out, for any long telephoto work such as wildlife, DX has an advantage. The 51 AF points cover a much higher percentage of the DX frame.
    Additionally, the D300S has several (new) features that the D700 doesn't:
    • 100% viewfinder
    • Video capture
    • Dual memory cards, CF and SD
    • The D300S goes to 7 frames/sec native, the D700 is 5. Both can reach 8 frames/sec with the right battery in the MB-D10
  5. If you prefer a larger viewfinder, noticeably better high ISO performance (above ISO 1600) and use of FX lenses as they were designed to be, then the D700 is probably your best choice. If you absolutely need the dual memory card slots, the D300S is possibly a better choice.
    My testing of DX vs FX shows little difference (if any) in IQ from DX to FX (although many do not agree with this).
  6. Personally I cannot think of a single reason why one would choose a D300 over a D700 unless cost was the overriding factor. The ability to use 35mm lenses at their stated focal lengths is why I waited so long to get a DSLR. I would not waste my time with a DX camera given I have AIS lenses from 16mm to 500mm (Reflex, not AIS). If you want to utilize the "crop factor" then simply go into the menu and change it from FX to DX. And unless you shoot for SI, the difference between 5 fps and 7 fps is meaningless.
  7. Scott, did you read shun, matt and lil's posts? they listed several reasons why this is preferable.
    one might also add that the best DX lenses are less expensive than the best FX lenses in general, which is certainly a factor, unless cost is not an issue whatsoever. while i understand how film holdouts with extensive collections of older nikons might scoff at DX bodies, not everyone using DSLRs is in this boat.
    also, shooting 12mp FX in DX mode is only 5.1MP which to some might be a waste of time, since that could affect how large you can print without losing resolution.
    to the OP, upgrading to FX or a DX body might weigh heavily on your current lens selection. in general, its advisable to go FX if you a) already have a stable of FX-compatible glass or b) are willing to spend considerable additional outlay to upgrade to FX glass. IMO, it doesnt make a whole lot of sense to overspend on the body and cheap it out on the lenses.
  8. As someone who's shot wildlife on full-frame film with teles for nearly 3 decades, the DX format is very welcome. It's almost too good to be true to have an ISO 400 equivalent to Velvia in 35mm along with a 1.5X optics-free, no f/stop penalty teleconvertor. If one shoots primarily long teles, there's really no downside. Smaller gear afield, eminently more handholdable in low light. I've nearly retired my tripod with the 200-400VR (which on DX has an incredible sweet spot equivalency to FF of 300-600mm f/4.) Well, one downside, the smallish VF is something I've learned to put up with but can be something of a challenge when manually focusing.
    There's indeed a downside with certain shorter focal lengths. For table top macro work, my 105VR is tight on DX.
    Very credible ISO 1600 on my early D300, so the extreme low light capability of the D700 and D3 isn't missed much. I find myself reaching for FF only with wides.
  9. Eric, of course I read their posts, and you almost make it sound as being a "film holdout" is a negative thing. But if money is not an object, I would still recommend the D700 over the D300. And I hardly consider 5.1 MP inadequate
  10. Victor, please take a look at the following article:
    Whether you need FX or DX depends on what exactly your application is.
  11. Scott - I would love to see you out in the field when there's water in between you & a small bird. Trust me - that's a huge reason especially since so many areas where the birds & other wildlife hang out often is protected.
    Now - I do understand you have no use for the crop factor. But as someone who's out there shooting tiny birds - - And I offer this approximately 2 inch Black-necked Stilt chick as an example.... I was at a nature reserve. There's water in between me & the chick. Not only is the water in my way. There's also the fact that this is a nature preserve & if I get too close people will come after me. Now add - the chicks parents who (I know correct English is "which" but they're individuals to me) are watching me ready to attack. Even at 800mm this is 1200mm on a crop sensor. Not everyone is looking to print 5x7 prints.
    Trust me - there's reasons for a crop sensor. Maybe not for you..... But for others...
  12. Lil, the difference in IQ between a 5.1 D3/D700 crop and a 12mp full frame D3/D700 shot is so small it is basically insignificant unless you were printing posters, and even then the differences would be hard if not impossible to see at normal viewing distances, especially after post processing. While the concept of getting 'closer' with DX is a sound one, I have never found the differences of any real consequence. I have done numerous tests and always end up with the same results. I have tested the D3 against the 22mp 5D MKII with the same results.
    The sample below shows the difference between a 5.1 DX frame and the 12mp FX frame (shot with the D3 and 50mm f1.4 @ f7.1, 1/200, ISO 200, SB-400 flash. I moved back when shooting in DX mode to get the model (thanks Santa) to fill the frame in the same size and the FX frame. I did a similar test before I sold my D300 and got the same results.
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Elliot, most of us capture images with a lot of fine details and tonality. We do not use direct flash to create such high contrast to destroy details as in your examples. When there is such a serious lack of details, of course the 12MP from the D3 are wasted. There are also good reasons that serious photographers avoid the SB-400 because it lacks the veritcal bounce capability.
    Most poeple should be able to tell the difference in fine details between 6 and 12MP from typical mid-size 8x10 prints. The difference between 12 and 24MP is a lot more subtle.
  14. Technology has balanced out a bit more in the last couple of years between full frame and crops, but generally the crop bodies are still faster than full frames. Faster write speeds providing faster frames per second and smaller files providing many more shots to a full buffer. I choose my crop body for sports and my full frame for superwideangle landscapes.
  15. The sample below shows the difference between a 5.1 DX frame and the 12mp FX frame (shot with the D3 and 50mm f1.4 @ f7.1, 1/200, ISO 200, SB-400 flash. I moved back when shooting in DX mode to get the model (thanks Santa) to fill the frame in the same size and the FX frame. I did a similar test before I sold my D300 and got the same results.
    Because Santa models are known for their sensor stressing fine detail.
  16. Shun, I will be happy to post another example over the weekend per your guidelines.
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Shun, I will be happy to post another example over the weekend per your guidelines.​
    Elloit, my suggestion to you: don't bother.
  18. The ability to use 35mm lenses at their stated focal lengths
    Now that is something I really never understood. Is it THAT hard to get used to having a 35mm as standard lens, rather than a 50? Grab a 85 when you were used to a 135? Seriously, how does it make any change once you view through the viewfinder what focal length is printed on the lens barrel? Shoot medium format, and suddenly your standard lens is 80mm... It is and has always been about the tandem focal length and the size of the recording medium. So APS-C is equally valid as 35mm, I think.
    Sure, FX has some advantages to some, but this argument to me is one of the least convincing.
    Victor, I've been pondering a long time about getting a D700 next to the D300. So, my reasoning is the reverse of the question you ask, but it's equally valid: what is SO much better about FX versus DX? In other words, why would it be worth it get a FX camera in the first place? Some of the previous posters have posted some really solid arguments in favour of DX. What would for you be the big advantages to FX?
  19. Actually Wouter, I was thinking more about my 20mm Nikkor. And yes, it makes one hell of a lot of difference between a 20mm lens and a focal length converted 30mm lens.
    And Lil I own a 500mm f/8 Reflex Nikkor and essentially unlimited access to a 600nn f/4 Nikkor and TC-14, which is more than enough focal length that I need for any nature photography that I shoot.
  20. If you like small wide-angle lenses in low light, you might prefer FF. That was the main thing that pushed me up to a D700 when I might have bought a D300 -- I wanted to be able to use small lenses for 35mm @ f/2 and 24mm @ f/2.8. Of course, after getting the D700, I found a 28mm f/2.0 that I couldn't resist, which ate into some of the savings.
    There have been a few times when I would have liked to have a little extra reach, getting all 12M pixels in the crop, instead of just 5. But mostly I want wider, so the D700 is working out well.
    If you want to shoot video, then I'll bet the D300s is much better (unless you're doing stop-motion).
  21. Wouter, there are numerous advantages in using the larger format. First, you're collecting all the light projected by the lens. This means either a higher resolution image (D3X) or much better SNR (e.g. D3s). By using a DX camera, about half of the image projected by the lens is simply thrown away. To me this is horribly uneconomical. If you need the reach and do not have a long enough lens to fill the FX frame, fine; use DX, it's the best course of action in such situations. But in situations where you do not have trouble filling the frame, by using DX with a full-frame lens you've paid for something that is never recorded.In any healthy SLR setup, the cost of bodies is small compared to the cost of lenses. If you can get an FX body without violating this guideline, then it makes sense to do that IMO.
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    May I remind everybody that the OP's question is: "When is a D300S Better than a D700?" And some of us gave the exact answer to that question. E.g., the D300S has a 100% viewfinder (more like 98% based on my meanurement) while the D700 is more like 89% in terms of area based on my meansurement.
    Otherwise, there are tons of threads on general FX vs. DX already. There is no point to turn this thread into another one.
  23. The D300 has the 100% viewfinder, the D700 has 90%, a HUGE mistake on Nikon's part and it was a contributing factor in my decision to sell my D700 and buy a D300 again. At ISO 200 I prefer the image quality from the D300 over the D700, the D300 appears to have not such a strong anti-alias filter as the D700 (yes, I am a pixel-peeper). The D300 feels better in my hand, the D700 is pretty chunky. The D300s has video, the D700 does not. The D700 however does have amazing high ISO capability. I found ISO 6400 perfectly usable in most cases, whereas the D300 at ISO 3200 is just OK. Overall they are both excellent cameras.
  24. Just to be sure: I was not doubting the advantages of FX, I am aware of them. For some FX is the way to go, but for some DX carries more advantages. That's all, I did not mean to start a DX versus FX debate.
    But when comparing a D700 versus the D300(s), it is to me a valid question: what does FX bring you that makes the D700 worth the extra money, and are those advantages real to your use? It's a question that needs to be answered individually, because we all have different needs and expectations.
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    When I bought my D700 last year, I also bought two lenses: the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S and 24mm/f3.5 PC-E. The 24mm is mainly for capturing architecture and landscape images. For example, the wildlife flower image I posted to this week's Wednesday thread was captured with the D700 and the PC-E tilted: http://static.photo.net/attachments/bboard/00V/00VGdC-201113684.jpg
    If you use DX, there is simply no wide lenses such as those. You can mount the 24mm PC-E onto a D300S, but it is not nearly wide enough for the type of architecture and landscape I shoot. I have also tested Nikon's 12-24mm/f4 DX and 10-24mm DX. On the wide end, their center performance is fine, but the edges are weak. (I haven't tested Sigma and Tokina DX-equivalent wides myself.) But to get quality wides and super wides, the 17-35mm/f2.8, 14-24mm/f2.8, 24mm PC-E on FX will give noticeably better results. I am sure some of the Zeiss ZF super wide lenses are excellent too, but I haven't used them myself.
    In my recent cruise to the Antarctic, I brought 3 bodies: D700, D300S and D300. For 3 weeks we had (almost) daily landings where you hike to some of the best wildlife locations in the world. Of course every time I took the 200-400mm/f4 and 70-200mm/f2.8; needless to say the weight adds up quickly. Therefore, each day I had to decide whether I should take the D700 or D300S or both. For example, if the target animals were larger so that I didn't need as much reach or there were landscape opportunities that I wanted to use the 17-35, I took the D700. When I needed reach or there were video opportunities, I took the D300S. When the hike was short like 30 minutes, I might take both since I could deal with the weight. Sometimes we had cruises on Zodiac landing boats, and I just took the D300S with the 18-200mm "travel lens" for some casual shots. There is simply no such "travel lens" for FX. To save weight, I left my MB-D10 vertical grip at home. Therefore, the native 7 frames/sec from the D300S came in very handy for birds in flight, etc.
    During that trip, I captured about 9000 images in 3 weeks. LightRoom makes it easy to tell how much from each camera I used: about 4000 from the D700 and 5000 from the D300S. The D300 was there mainly as a backup, and I captured a grand total of 6 images with it. LightRoom also indicates that over 6000 out of the 9000 images were captured with the 200-400mm/f4. Given that it was mainly a wildlife trip, those statistics are very much expected. You can find a small selection of images from that trip here: http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=255284 In each image I specified which camera and lens were used. There are more on my web site.
    In other words, I managed to take advantage of both the D700 and D300S under different circumstances. As long as you are open minded, I think there is room for both FX and DX, just like I used to shoot 35mm film and medium-format film. I know this is a long answer, but hopefully it directly addresses the OP's question.
    Here is a short video clip I captured with the D300S: http://vimeo.com/8022055
  26. tmb


    There are some perks to using DX sensor as have been pointed out here. I upgraded to FX about a year ago, but still have DX lenses I'm unwilling to part with (e.g. 10.5mm, which is an AMAZING fish eye). Also, in relatively good light conditions I like to take DX for a ride with my other lenses such (e.g. 80-200 2.8) and take advantage of the crop. The camera is also lighter, so sometimes it's more convenient. I also tend to use it for projects such as time-lapses, etc where camera is more likely to be exposed to more abuse and result in less expensive repairs (knock on wood..)

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