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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D300s

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D300s Review

Review Date: Jan 6, 2010

Category: Serious to Advanced Amateur

Nikon D300s

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Advanced DSLR
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Advanced DSLR

USER'S EXPERIENCE

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Nikon D300s DSLR
  • Body Cap BF-1A
  • No memory card [though I received a 2GB SanDisk SD Card, but I tested it with the Adata 16GB CF Ultra High Speed Turbo 350X]
  • LCD Monitor Cover BM-8
  • Eyepiece Cup DK-23
  • Eyepiece Cap DK-5
  • Accessory Shoe Cover BS-1
  • Shoulder Strap AN-DC4
  • Li-Ion Battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500 mAh with terminal cover
  • MH-18a Quick Charger & Power Cable
  • Interface Cables: EG-D2 A/V; UC-E4 USB
  • Instruction Manuals (English and French): Quick Guide, User's Manual
  • Software CDs: Picture Project 1.7
  • AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-85mm F3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens w/lens hood, lens cap, rear cap, and travelling bag

Like the Nikon D300 before it, the Nikon D300s DSLR is a beautifully designed camera. The magnesium alloy-based body feels solid and tough -- and heavy the first time you pick the camera up, especially if all you've been totting all year are the lightweight consumer pocket cameras. From the feel of the texture to the tactile feel of the control buttons, everything is professional grade and inspires confidence.

The optical viewfinder is large and bright, as we have come to expect on advanced level 35mm SLR cameras. Half-press the shutter release button and the Phase-Detection AF immediately snaps the image into focus. Just like that. No hunting to and fro that is so characteristic of the Contrast-Detect AF used on the point-and-shoot digital cameras.

Performance is fast and response is instant. Focusing in low-light is very fast and precise. For those who prefer to manual focus, the smooth manual zoom ring on the Nikon lens makes for fast focusing.

The extra large 3.0-in. LCD screen has a high 920,000 dots resolution and it shows in the legibility of the text and image playback. This high resolution is quickly becoming the standard for advanced level DSLRs.

You can pretty much customize the D300s to work the way you like it, and it is overwhelming at first. Even though I have used the D300 before, I had to relearn a few settings. For example, I had a hard time finding where to set Manual WB until I resorted to the User's Manual. So, do spend some time reading the User's Manual and customize the D300s to the way you like using it. Unlike what some entry-level DSLR offers, there is no AUTO mode, only the standard PASM (Program AE, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and full Manual) modes. If you are looking for an AUTO mode, the D300s is more camera than you'll want to handle.

Consider that the D300s User's Manual, at 403 pages thick, is larger and thicker than many ultra compact digicams -- that should give you an idea at the complexity of the camera you are dealing with.

Live View is slightly improved on the D300s. I set up the Nikon D300s to use Tripod Live View and was quite surprised at how usuable it is. You can magnify the screen to get a better view, though the image looks pixelated if magnified too much.

Movie mode also uses Contrast-Detect AF, though you have to press the AF-ON button to focus each time the distance to your subject changes (only available in Tripod mode; in Hand held mode, you can only focus before starting to record). The focus noise will be clearly picked up by the microphone. An alternative is to use manual AF, though you'll need to guess which way to turn the focus ring. An optional external stereo microphone can be used to avoid picking the camera sounds.

The Nikon D300s is one of the few DSLRs that actually has a MUP (Mirror UP) function. The mirror can be raised to minimize blurring caused by camera shake. Set the Release Mode Dial to MUP, frame and compose your picture, half-press the shutter release button to lock focus, then depress the shutter release button a bit more to lock the mirror up. Wait a few seconds for everything to settle down, then fully depress the shutter release button to take the picture. Of course, your camera is on a sturdy tripod, and you are using an optional remote cord to release the shutter, right, otherwise it kinds of defeat the whole purpose.

The self-timer can be set to release after 2, 5, 10 or 20 sec. and you choose the delay via a Custom Setting in the Menu (Custom Setting Menu - c Timers/AE lock - c3 Self-timer). Unfortunately only the one selected setting is then available when you switch to self-timer mode. It would have been nice to be able to use the Main command or Sub-command dial to simply dial in a desired delay time.

On my review camera, I found the Multi Selector to be finicky: it is too small, too squishy soft for my taste and the clicks do not register properly at times. Also, with Winter gloves on, I find the controls too soft; for example, I could not half-press the shutter release button with gloves on; everytime I touched the shutter button to focus the image, it resulted in a picture taken.

There is a Virtual Horizon that displays in Live View, making it very convenient to quickly level the camera.

Nikon ViewNX
Nikon ViewNX v1.40

Use TransferNX to transfer your pictures from the D300s to your PC. Use ViewNX to view and edit your pictures. You can rotate, tag, add info and show the focus point(s). You can do editing ("Quick Adjustment") such as Sharpness, Contrast, Brightness, D-Lighting, Color Booster. You can also optionally (and freely) download 2 Picture Controls: Portrait and Landscape that allow you to apply Level Adjustment and Custom Curve. On RAW files, you can apply basic Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Picture Control. For more advanced editing, you need to purchase Capture NX2.

Color Booster - Nature
Mouseover image to view Color Booster - Nature effect

The Nikon D300s is a professional-grade DSLR with full exposure flexibility and excellent image quality up to ISO 800. The 403 pages of the User's Manual give you an indication as to the complexity and versatility you can look forward to with the D300s. Anyone thinking to "move up" to a DSLR from the world of compact non-DSLR digital cameras may want to consider carefully if they are willing to invest the time and effort required to learn and thoroughly master this camera. If they are, the Nikon D300s promises to reward them with excellent images and a world of digital photography to enjoy for years to come.

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