Nikon D300, a DX format powerhouse

Nikon has announced its new 12.3MP digital SLR that's slated to hit stores this November for about $1800.

Nikon's new 12.3MP D300 dSLR.

Just in case the announcement of the pro-level D3 isn't enough for you, Nikon has also announced a big brother for its D200 called the D300. The D300 will sport a 12.3MP DX format (24x16mm) CMOS sensor, 3-inch 920,000-dot (307,000-pixel) LCD, and sensitivity of ISO 200 to ISO 3,200 with a Hi-1 mode that extends that to an equivalent to ISO 6,400 and a Lo-1 mode that extends down to ISO 100. Many of the D300's features are the same as the ones found in the D3. For example, the D300 has the same pair of Live View modes for framing with the LCD instead of the optical viewfinder, Nikon's new Expeed image processor, the same 51-point AF system that works with the cameras 1,005-pixel metering system for Scene Recognition and AF tracking, a Virtual Horizon indicator, and selectable 12- or 14-bit output. Plus, it has the Picture Control System that lets you tweak the output of your JPEGs in various ways and save the settings to a CF card so you can load them into a second D300 or D3 body. You'll also find an array of Nikon's D-Lighting features that let you tweak things like image tone and exposure as you shoot, or afterwards in the camera.

Click for Nikon D300 slideshow

The D300 doesn't include all the power that you'll get with the D3. For example, the D300's carbon fiber/kevlar shutter is rated to 150,000 cycles instead of the D3's 300,000 cycle shutter, it has only one CF card slot, and its burst rate can't match that of its larger cousin. Still, it's no slouch in the burst department. Nikon says that the D300 will be able to shoot up to 100 Large/Normal JPEGs at up to 6fps out of the box with the included Li-ion rechargeable battery, or up to 8fps if you opt for the MB-D10 Multi-Power battery pack/vertical grip, which lets you run the camera on AA-batteries or a pair of proprietary rechargeables. That means that if the manufacturer's claims pan out, the D300 won't be able to keep up with Canon's D40 out of the box, but should surpass it if you use the battery grip. Strangely, Nikon includes a Self-Cleaning sensor on the D300, but doesn't on the higher-end D3. I guess they assume that the pros will be more careful when swapping lenses.

It's hard to pit the D300 against a specific Canon counterpart, though most people will likely compare it to the 40D, which is closest in price, at only a few hundred dollars less than the Nikon. According to Nikon, the D300 will be available this November for about $1800 (body only). Here's a quick comparison of some of the features of the D300 as compared to the D200 and the 40D...

  D200 D300 40D
Sensor 10-megapixel CCD 12.3-megapixel CMOS 10.1-megapixel CMOS
A/D conversion 12-bit 14-bit 14-bit
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 3200
Focal-length multiplier 1.5X 1.5X 1.6X
Continuous shooting 5 fps
37 JPEG/22 raw
6 fps
100 JPEG
75 JPEG/17 raw
Viewfinder 95% coverage
0.94X magnification
100% coverage
0.94X magnification
95% coverage
0.95X magnification
Autofocus 11-pt AF
single cross-type in center
51-pt AF
15 cross-type in center to f/5.6
9-pt AF
all cross-type to f/5.6
Live View No Yes Yes
LCD size 2.5 inches 3 inches 3 inches
Shutter durability 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles