Nikon D300 digital SLR camera
Is the new Nikon D300 evolutionary or revolutionary?
By Robert Jensen
Nikon hit the photographic community with a big one/two punch late last year announcing two new DSLR cameras, the D300 and the new full frame sensored D3. Both cameras deliver 12.3 megapixels with surprisingly similar characteristics. The D300, which I'll be writing about here is the cheaper of the two coming in at a list price of $1,799 compared to the D3's $4999.
Before the D300 started shipping people didn't know if the new camera was going to be more evolutionary or revolutionary in its features. It turns out to be a bit of both. Nikon was almost coy about letting out information on the camera and samples of the camera's output were as scarce as Trekkers at a Hells Angels get together. I had to wait a long time to get a sample camera from Nikon but last week it was delivered along with Nikon's also hard-to-get 18~200 VR zoom lens and a SB-800 strobe unit.
Modern digital cameras are more computer than what most of us old-timers consider a camera. They capture the analog signal (light) and convert it into digital data that can be manipulated by the camera in any number of ways depending on settings and/or further changed by software such as Photoshop, Capture One, Aperture or Nikon's own Capture NX (which will be included with the D300 for a short time).
What's good about this is that every 18 months (sometimes less) the processors and other chips used in computers and cameras become faster and able to do more or add new features for the same or less money. Enter Nikon's latest, the D300. The D300 is the almost twin of its bigger brother the D3, the main differences being the size of the sensor and beefiness of the body. Other than advantages in sensor noise and detail the larger sensor offers, the D3 Nikon designed the two cameras output to be very similar in appearance.
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So what's evolutionary about the D300? First off, the D300 outputs cleaner, more color accurate, images than any other Nikon to date (excepting the D3 of course). The images the D300 produces, even at ISO 3,200, have very low noise levels, among the very best I've ever seen. The D300 has the state of the art 3D Color Matrix Metering II which uses 1005 pixels to meter the scene in color. Nikon introduced this technology back in the 90s with the F5 (and it still hasn't been equaled). I have several professional photographer friends who swear it gives them the most reliable metering they've ever gotten built into a camera.
Shutter speeds haven't changed from other Nikons with the exception of the flash sync, which now goes up to 1/320 sec with regular strobes - and as high as 1/8000 sec in FP mode with compatible strobes like the Nikon SB-800. The D300 uses Nikon's iTTL flash metering, which has been around for awhile now but is still state-of-the-art. Auto-focus sensor count has gone up - there are now 51 sensors arranged around a good chunk of the screen real estate with 15 of the more accurate cross-type sensors arranged around the center section of the screen. Getting all this data off the imaging sensor at high frame rates required Nikon to develop what it calls Expeed signal processing. Basically it uses multiple channels to download and sports faster processor speeds. It sounds easier for me to say it than it was for Nikon techs to develop the technology.
The D300 offers even better construction and sealing against the elements, of which the D200 was the revolutionary camera in this department, so this goes in the evolutionary column for the D300. New but not really revolutionary is Nikon's Scene Recognition System, part of what gives the D300 perhaps THE best auto white balancing feature ever put into a camera. It also helps with exposure and auto focus. Also new is the Picture Control System, a much improved take on the old Color Modes where you have Standard, Neutral,Vivid, and Monochrome settings that are further enhanced with sub-controls over sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation, and tone, all of which can be saved as a Custom setting.
|Model: Mason Marconi Click for full view.|