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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D300 DSLR

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D300 DSLR Review

Review Date: May 5, 2008

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Nikon D300

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008 - Advanced DSLR
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2008 - Advanced DSLR

IMAGE QUALITY

The Nikon D300 DSLR has 12.3 megapixel resolution on a newly-developed APS-sized (23.6 x 15.8mm) CMOS image sensor. Light sensitivity ranges from ISO 200 to ISO 3200. Sensitivity can be further adjusted to Lo 1 for ISO 100 equivalent and Hi 1 for IS0 6400 equivalent. Advanced noise reduction function operates at ISO 800 and higher settings to minimize chroma noise.

The Nikon D300 has excellent image quality (including excellent low-light performance) up to ISO 800 with plenty of details preserved.

11x Optical Zoom
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6
Wide-angle 27mm (equiv.) Tele 300mm (equiv.)
Wide-angle 18mm
(27mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 200mm
(300mm, 35mm equivalent)

One of the advantage of a DSLR is the ability to use interchangeable lenses suited for specific jobs. We used the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor lens for this review (27-300mm, 35mm equivalent).

"Macro"
Macro
200mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/160 sec., F6.3, ISO Auto (200)
Sharpened in Photoshop Elements

The actual macro capability is a function of the lens you use, and the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens we used allows us to focus only as close as 50 cm (20 in.). This does not provide coverage of a small enough area for what we generally call "macro." I find that I obtain best results using "tele macro."

If you are into macro photography, check out the 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor lens which features a silent wave motor and Vibration Reduction technology that Nikon claims allows photographers to shoot hand-held at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than otherwise possible.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 200
ISO 200
ISO 250 ISO 320
ISO 250 ISO 320
ISO 400 ISO 500
ISO 400 ISO 500
ISO 640 ISO 800
ISO 640 ISO 800
ISO 1000 ISO 1250
ISO 1000 ISO 1250
ISO 1600 ISO 2000
ISO 1600 ISO 2000
ISO 2500 ISO 3200
ISO 2500 ISO 3200
ISO H03 ISO H07
ISO H03 [ISO 3200 +0.3EV = ISO 4000] ISO H07 [ISO 3200 +0.7EV = ISO 5000]
ISO H10 ISO L03
ISO H10 [ISO 3200 +1.0EV = ISO 6400] ISO L03 [ISO 200 -0.3EV = ISO 160]
ISO L07 ISO L10
ISO L07 [ISO 200 -0.7EV = ISO 125] ISO L10 [ISO 200 -1.0EV = ISO 100]

The Nikon D300 has 13 ISO settings going from ISO 200 to ISO 3200. You can "boost" to 3 more higher ISO settings dubbed "HI + 0.3," "HI + 0.7," and "HI + 1.0," corresponding to ISO 4000-6400. You can also step down to ISO settings of "LO - 0.3," "LO - 0.7," and "LO - 1.0," corresponding to ISO 160, 125 and 100, useful when it is too bright and you need to use a smaller ISO than 200. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds. At ISO 200 to 400, noise is under control and detail is preserved. Noise is also low up to ISO 800 with good detail preservation. Noise starts to show from ISO 1600 upward. The boosted ISOs are very noisy with detail loss. ISO 100-160 are also very good but Nikon warns that contrast is lower.

Chromatic Aberrations
CA

The D300 has automatic lateral CA reduction built into its firmware. It reduces it if you are using JPEG and save the correction analysis in metadata if you are using RAW. However, as the above JPEG picture shows, you can still find purple fringing in extremely high-contrast shots. The corner delimited by the red square at centre, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows some purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed

Long Shutter Speed

18mm, Manual, Multi-Pattern, 30 sec., F6.3, ISO 200
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Long Exposure NR ON
Active D-Lighting OFF
using the VR 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6 G lens

The Nikon D300 allows the use of a long shutter speed of up to 30 sec. in Manual and Shutter-Priority modes (plus Bulb in Manual mode), therefore allowing night photography. Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds. When you set Noise Reduction to ON in the menu (Shooting Menu - Long Exp. NR - ON and Shooting Menu - High ISO NR - ON), the Nikon D300 has special noise reduction algorithm that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds at 1/2 sec. and longer and you'll notice a longer processing time (approx. twice as long) before the next picture can be taken.

To test this noise reduction algorithm, I decide to take a low-light indoors shot. To obtain a long exposure, I turn off all the lights in the room and turn on a light in a facing room. With the subject lighted only by a sliver of this incident light, the camera needs an exposure of 30 sec. at F6.3. Even at this long shutter speed, the Nikon D300's noise reduction works great.

The AF is very responsive and images snap quickly into focus. There is a dedicated AF Illuminator to aid in focusing. The pop-up flash is quite powerful, and a hot shoe accepts external speedlights.

HistogramRGB Histograms

The Nikon D300 does not incorporate a live histogram. In Playback mode, press the Multi-Selector up/down and you can view a Histogram as well as RGB Histograms.

The decision to reduce mostly chroma noise, while preserving as much luminance detail as possible, yields high quality high ISO images. Where noise is present, it has a film-like appearance which is more acceptable to photographers than if fine detail were smudged. The image quality of the Nikon D300 up to ISO 800 is simply excellent with details preserved in both shadows and highlights.

The pictures in the Nikon D300 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 4,288 x 2,848 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version). Any of the 800x600 image that is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name. Original images are never adjusted.

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery
Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery
Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery
Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery Nikon D300 Photo Gallery

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