Nikon D300s Preview

Back in August 2007, when Nikon simultaneously announced the nikon_d3, and nikon_d300, it was quite surprising how feature-pack the D300 was. For the first time Nikon’s top-of-the-line AF module (the Multi-CAM 3500) debuts on a “prosumer” SLR, and the D300 has very respectable high-ISO results at 1600 and even 3200. Additionally, in conjunction with the MB-D10 battery grip, the D300 can achieve 8 fps and use the D2/D3 family’s EN-EL4a batteries so that it is an excellent sports camera also. Moreover, back then the large 3" high-resolution LCD and live view were both brand new features. Since the D300 was considerably superior to even the D2X/D2Xs, value for the former flag-ship models sank like a rock in the used market. In merely months the D2X/D2Xs went from a $4000+ new DSLR to the mid $1000 range in the used market.

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Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D300s available in a few different options. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

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New Features on the D300s

The D300 was so ahead of its time at a moderate cost that now almost two years later, it is still a very popular, start-of-the-art DSLR. Clearly Nikon has a tough act to follow to improve the D300 further. Instead of introducing a totally new D400, Nikon has made some moderate improvements on this new D300s to make it an even better DSLR:

  • One of the most important improvements on the D300s is having dual memory card slots (one CF and one SD on the D300s), previously available only on the flagship D3 and D3X models (on the D3 family cameras, both card slots are CF). For those photographers who regularly capture once-in-a-lifetime images such as wedding and news, having the ability to record images simultaneously on two cards effectively eliminates any concern about losing images due to memory card failures. Additionally, being compatible with both CF and SD, the D300s can conveniently serve as the backup for a D3 or D700 or can also use the same cards along with the D90, D80, etc. However, unlike the D300, the D300s is no longer compatible with the thicker Type II CF cards, including microdrives.
  • Similar to many other new DSLRs from the last year, the D300s can also capture HD video: 24 fps, 720p movie clips. The video mode uses Contrast-detect auto focus anywhere in the frame and can use an external stereo microphone.
  • Native frame rate with only the internal EN-EL3e battery goes up to 7 fps from 6 on the D300. With the external battery pack the MB-D10 and EN-EL4/EN-EL4a or 8AA batteries, it remains at 8 fps.
  • Virtual horizon, a feature previously available on FX-format DSLRs only.
  • Dedicated buttons to activate live view and camera settings info. A new Quiet Shutter Release mode and Active-D Lighting bracketing options.
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Conclusion

Clearly the new capabilities on the D300s further improve this excellent DX-format DSLR. Apparently the sensor and image-processing electronics are largely the same as those on the D300. Therefore, we can expect similar very good high-ISO results that are about a stop below the D3 and D700. Personally, I am glad that Nikon does not increase the pixel count. 12MP is sufficient for a lot of applications and denser pixels will likely increase noise.

One feature I would like to see is a swivel LCD similar to the one on the D5000. A swivel LCD is very convenient for holding the camera overhead using live view or placing the camera close to the ground for low-angle landscape and macro photography.

Photo.net will review the new Nikon D300s once it becomes available. In the meantime, you can find our D300 review here: http://www.photo.net/equipment/nikon/D300/D300-review.

Official Nikon D300s Press Release

MELVILLE, N.Y. (July 30, 2009) — Today, Nikon announced the D300s digital SLR, combining professional-level performance with agility and enhanced D-Movie capabilities to deliver a new benchmark for creative versatility. Engineered to leverage proven Nikon technologies, including a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and 51-point autofocus system; the addition of HD video capture; and faster 7 frame-per-second (fps) continuous shooting, the Nikon D300s balances form factor, performance, versatility and reliability for serious photo enthusiasts and professionals.

The D300s retains the photographer-friendly features of the critically acclaimed D300, while enhancing speed, versatility, and agility of the DX-format for a wide variety of photographers, including advanced enthusiasts, wedding shooters and photojournalists. The D300s can record HD video clips and high fidelity audio with an external stereo microphone input, offering users a D-SLR with full multimedia capabilities. Dual card slots afford users the ability to seamlessly record stills and video to one CompactFlash (CF) and one Secure Digital (SD) card separately, while one-button Live View, a new Quiet Shutter Release mode and Active D-Lighting bracketing help users to capture stunning images like never before.
“Today’s photographer demands excellence and value from high-performance digital SLRs—and the Nikon D300s delivers,” said Edward Fasano, general manager for Marketing, SLR System Products at Nikon, Inc. “It’s no secret that more photographers need to gather multimedia content. In addition to proven technologies, such as the 51-point autofocus (AF) system and 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, we are more than confident that the D300s’ HD movie mode, along with a host of additional performance enhancements, will broaden the appeal of the camera to those seeking exceptional still image quality and video versatility.”

The Benchmark of Speed, Performance and Reliability

Whether on the front lines of spot news or behind the scenes at a spring wedding, users of the D300s can record HD video clips at 720p resolution with a smooth cinematic 24 fps rate. In addition, the D300s also records high fidelity audio—either with the convenient built-in microphone or by using the external stereo microphone input. Photographers can trim video length on the fly and apply Picture Controls to video, modifying the tone and color. Additionally, users can autofocus while recording video, using contrast detect AF, and do so while composing on the D300s’ bright three-inch 920,000-dot LCD screen.
Nikon’s applauded AF system, with 51 high density focus points, performs even faster and more accurately on the new D300s. The Multi-CAM 3500DX AF module uses 15 cross type sensors to provide unparalleled focus performance across the frame. The D300s offers multiple focus modes, including single-point AF mode, and a dynamic-area AF mode, where users can select from nine, 21 or 51 AF points with 3D tracking. Additionally, the added Face Detection System lets users instantly zoom in on a human face in playback mode on the high-resolution LCD monitor to check critical focus.

The Nikon exclusive and newly-accelerated Scene Recognition System (SRS) further refines Nikon’s AF performance and light metering. In conjunction with the 3D Color Matrix Metering II system, the SRS uses precise color and brightness information from the 1,005-pixel RGB sensor to propel AF, auto exposure, i-TTL flash control and auto white balance to unprecedented accuracy.

The renowned 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor in the D300s delivers extraordinary image quality and low noise throughout the entire ISO sensitivity range from 200 to 3200 (Lo-1 at 100 and 6400 at Hi-1). The D300s captures image data using 14 bit A/D conversion, processed through a 16-bit pipeline for optimal performance, resulting in images with sharp details and smooth tonal gradations.

The D300s also incorporates Nikon’s exclusive EXPEED image processing. EXPEED image processing uses an accumulation of sophisticated Nikon intelligence and technologies to ensure impeccable quality for both still images and movies, while also achieving high-speed processing and low power consumption. When using the included EN-EL3e Li-Ion rechargeable battery, photographers can achieve as many as 950 shots under normal shooting conditions. The optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10 extends shooting comfort and supports three types of batteries: R6/AA-size batteries, along with Nikon’s Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e and the EN-EL4a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery. It combines added stability with extended shooting of up to 2,950 shots per charge and enables faster high-speed continuous shooting at up to
8 fps.

The reinforced magnesium alloy body is lightweight, ruggedly constructed and comprehensively sealed and gasketed against the elements at key points, and the shutter has been proven to a demanding 150,000 cycles. Additionally, the D300s employs the Integrated Dust Reduction System countermeasures that combat the accumulation of image-degrading particles on the optical low-pass filter.

World Class Versatility

With the D300s, Nikon introduces the ability to bracket Active D-Lighting (ADL). By localizing tone control, ADL restores shadow and highlight detail typically lost in high contrast situations, such as backlit subjects or while outdoors with strong sunlight. ADL bracketing provides users with the ability to bracket up to five frames of ADL strength to help ensure perfect contrast throughout the frame, putting an end to the guesswork behind the shot with a bride’s intricate white dress and a groom’s tuxedo in the same frame, for example.
Additionally, the D300s features two memory card slots—one CF and one SD, used simultaneously in a variety of configurations to match users’ preferences. Among the many options available, stills and video can record to separate cards or slots can be assigned for JPEG and RAW recording. The D300s offers “overflow” or “backup” modes, and when shooting D-Movie clips, it allows you to select the slot containing the card with the most available capacity. Users can also copy and paste files between cards.
Also added to the D300s is a Quiet Shutter Release mode, which substantially reduces the sound of the mirror while shooting. Quickly accessed by selecting “Q” on the release mode dial, this feature is ideal for the photographer who wishes to remain unobtrusive.
To further expand versatility, users have the ability to fine tune their images using Nikon’s Picture Controls to adjust sharpening, brightness, contrast and color hue. The D300s offers users four presets including Standard, Neutral, Vivid and Monochrome; while Landscape and Portrait settings can be downloaded from the Nikon website. While the D300s offers a versatile built-in flash with wider coverage for a 16mm lens, the camera is also compatible with Nikon’s Creative Lighting System and is capable of controlling up to two groups of remote units as a master / commander for Advanced Wireless Lighting.

System Expandability

In addition to compatibility with more than 60 NIKKOR lenses and a broad array of system accessories, the D300s will also perform well with the recently announced
AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II and the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 ED VR II lenses.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the Nikon D300s available in a few different options. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

  • nikon_d300s
  • nikon_d300s-kit

More

Original text ©2009 Shun Cheung.

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    • Thanks for the "first look" Shun. Not enough new on the camera to make me want one over the D-300. Duel cards is a great idea, but why SD & CF? Hmmm?
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    • The dual card and video will be useful to me . I've held off buying a D300 as a second body since Nikons D90 was announced. I hoped the video was going to included in the next version. Its such a shame that Nikon didn't add a tilting screen. Is the D300 video quality same as D90? Will I be able to use Sandisk extreme type CF cards?
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    • so there is no difference between the image quality of the D300 as compared to the new D300s? No improvement in ISO?
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    • " a swivel LCD similar to the one on the D5000. A swivel LCD is very convenient for holding the camera overhead using live view or placing the camera close to the ground for low-angle landscape and macro photography." Totally agree. I was hoping that after the introduction of D5000, all dSLRs above D5000 should get this very useful feature but the D300s did not. It is really disappointing.
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    • While I also would like to see the swivel screen for low camera shots, (Like haveing the waist level finder for my F2 or Hasselblad...) I also believe it would be hard to make on durable enough for a 'pro' body. It is one thing to put it on a body that will be in the closet in 2 years, but that may not be the case with a D300...
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    • Need to get another D300 soon, as I'm having more focusing problems with my D70s. When will the cost on the D300 start going down, I wonder??? Not much price difference between the two models at this point. The video capture on D300s is nice, but may be still early in the 'DSLR 'video game' to get it now, unless you can really put it to use for your PJ job for instance. Steve (shoppix)
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    • What exactly are the CF cards that WILL work on 300s? Will my CF cards from D200 work? What about Extreme III cards?
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    • The best in every respect. No camera for beginners, however. A real complex tool and I can hardly imagin what should be improved in coming models. Top AF, top noise performance (this video well present it: Nikon D300s review video ), top jpg out of the box, 12 MP by far enough and thanks Nikon for giving us the best picture quality and not more MP! Bought it with the 18-200 VR II, which is also great for its range. You can configure the D300s perfectly for your needs. I really think if I need to shoot RAW any longer. Had other brands before and this is an almost unbelivable step up for me. Top flash performance and I never miss a shot!

      Problems

      I am not sure so far if the exposure out of the box is not a little bit too bright for my taste, but it is correct according to the histogram. Only a minor point. You can configure your own picture styles. You need some time to understand a new cam (my experience: at least 2000 picures in all conditions).

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