Nikon D300s review: Nikon D300s

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Incredible burst speed. Bright, easy-to-use viewfinder. Dual-card slots. Excellent image quality.

The Bad Not that much in the way of improvements over the D300. Heavy with 18-200mm kit lens.

The Bottom Line The D300s is a fast, reliable workhorse for the semi-professional or amateur photographer, and it feels great to use and makes picture taking a real pleasure. But if you don't need HD video, you might want to try the plain old D300 instead.

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In the fickle world of digital SLR photography, it's not long before a good old workhorse is led out to pasture. In the case of the top of the line Nikon DX-crop cameras (ie, smaller than full frame sensors) the grass is now being tended to by the D300s. Just 18 months on, the D300s emerges with a similar feature set to its predecessor, the D300 , but now includes such novelties as HD video recording. The D300s retails for AU$2999 as body only.

Design and features

There's a solid reassurance to the look and feel of the Nikon D300s, even if it hardly differs from the D300. Looking at the configuration, just under the shutter button rests the first of two control dials, the other at the top right of the rear panel. Buttons to toggle between shooting modes and to customise exposure compensation are all within convenient reach.

The D300 and D300s share the same 12.3-megapixel sensor, ISO sensitivity rating and 51-point AF system, of which 15 are cross-type. Dust and weather sealing is once again the norm here, plus the heft (840g) lends a particular gruffness and seniority to the shooting experience.

Dual-card slots? Put your hands up! (Credit: Nikon)

Around the back is the 3-inch 920,000-dot screen (again remaining unchanged from the older camera) as well as the AF selector dial, a host of other buttons, and a new addition of the one-touch live view button. The viewfinder still covers 100 per cent field of view and is just a pleasure to use thanks to its brightness.

At either side of the camera, things start to get a bit more exciting. There's now a dual-card slot, with provisions for shooting with SD/SDHC and Compact Flash. This can be configured in a number of ways — for the secondary slot to act as an overflow buffer, to backup the primary card, or to write RAW files to the first card and JPEGs to the second. This is a really innovative feature that will definitely prove its worth to professionals or those always wanting to make sure they have enough memory. On the other side, a rubbery flap covers the extra outlets and inputs: an external mic input, HDMI out, AV out, USB and power input. The in-built mic is only mono, but it's pleasing to see the 3.5mm jack supporting stereo audio input.

Nikon's menu system is — as with any semi-pro set up — either a love it or hate it thing. The interface takes a little getting used to, particularly in setting up custom shooting options. As for the physical dials on the body for selecting the metering mode, these are just great for quickly shifting shooting options.

The quiet shutter release, which was first seen on the D5000 , is accessible from the top rotating dial ("Q" for quiet) and prevents the mirror noise from intruding onto your low-key moments. As you keep your finger on the shutter it prevents the mirror from locking back into position, thereby reducing the loud slapping noise; however, it's not that quiet which is disappointing, but it certainly seems louder than the D5000.

Performance

Well, if there's one thing to say about the D300s, is that it's fast. Switch the dial into continuous shooting and Nikon rates the D300s at 7 frames per second — one faster than the D300. As for actual real-world performance it clocks in at around 6.8 frames per second in our tests. It takes just under 0.3 second to power on and take its first shot, and overall it doesn't make that much difference shooting in RAW or JPEG in terms of performance — the numerical difference is fairly minor. The AF system is (just like the D300 and D700) excellent, making light work of tracking and hunting for focus even in dim situations.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot Raw shot-to-shot time Shutter lag (dim light) Shutter lag (typical)
Nikon D3
0.1 
0.3 
0.6 
0.3 
Olympus E-3
1.3 
0.5 
0.8 
0.3 
Nikon D300s
0.3 
0.5 
0.7 
0.3 
Canon EOS 50D
0.2 
0.3 
0.9 
0.4 
Nikon D300
0.1 
0.5 
0.9 
0.5 

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Where to Buy

Nikon D300S

Part Number: CNETNikon D300S

Typical Price: $2,999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.