Nikon D300s Review
The Nikon D300s is a feature-packed digital SLR that follows up on the Nikon D300. It's a flexible, versatile camera that is great for all types of shooting conditions from portraits to action shots.
The D300s, like the D300 has a great build, and is user friendly. It's just a joy to handle and shoot with. Holding it in our hands, the D300s felt solid and powerful. The magnesium alloy body just reeks of power, and authority.
The controls are ergonomically perfect. Most buttons just have 1 function assigned to them, which simplifies things. As with the Nikon D300, there isn't a command dial for shooting modes. You now have to press and hold the mode button, and turn the thumb dial. Instead of a power switch, there's a dial around the shutter release that turns the power on and off. Twisting it clockwise turns on the screen's backlight.
The release mode dial is located to the upper left side of the D300s. Here, you can choose from several shooting modes such as single, continuous low, continuous high, etc. There's now a dedicated live view button located on the rear. There's 3 big buttons located on top of the release dial for controlling quality, ISO setting, and white balance. The rear of the D300s is pretty much unchanged.
The viewfinder for the Nikon D300s is one of the best we've seen, offering 100% field coverage. It's big, bright, and meets our needs. Autofocus is accurate and fast, with very little shutter lag. The autofocus system has a whopping 51 points, which makes it a versatile camera. 51 points may sound like too much, but remember, each point disappears from your view when it's not active. So in practice, you see much much less. With 51 points, you should have no problem shooting sports.
Shooting in live view is also a pleasant experience. Coverage is 100%, and the high resolution of the monitor provides a very crisp, bright view. The D300s offers 2 main modes for live view: handheld and tripod. However, we were disappointed to discover there isn't a live histogram.
The image quality is superb in the D300s. While the colors may appear a bit over-saturated, with vivid, punchier colors by default, you can easily lower the saturation settings if you prefer more accurate saturation. Noise profile is excellent, and we noticed no noise at all when using ISO 400 and below. It starts to become fairly obvious once you hit ISO 1600, but it still appears natural looking, and doesn't ruin the quality of your photos. At 3200, it really starts to intrude into the quality of your photos. At 6400, it worsens considerably and you can see much color noise, and a lot of softness.
One of the new features introduced in the D300s is the HD movie mode. There's nothing fancy to talk about here, we're just glad to see it introduced. As with most DSLRs, autofocusing during video isn't very easy, taking a few seconds to refocus. We recommend using manual focus when shooting videos.
However, the video quality is very good, if you can avoid wobbling. Of course, if you can't, you'll see the "jello effect". Don't expect video shooting to be revolutionary - the D300s still suffers many of the same weaknesses in video as other digital SLRs. In other words, it won't be able to replace your camcorder.
Numbers don't do justice to how quick this camera performs. Power on to first shot takes .3 seconds. Focus to shoot takes .3 seconds in good light, and .7 seconds for dim light. Shot to shot takes .4 seconds for JPEG, and .5 seconds for RAW. With the flash, it takes .9 seconds.
Continuous shooting speeds were excellent, clocking in a tad below 6 frames per second - fast enough to capture fast action sequences. Make sure you shoot using 12 bit RAW though because the speed drops to 2.5 frames per second if you use 14-bit. Overall, there's not much else to say about the D300s' performance: it's top-rate and the best in its class.
Performance suffers a tad in live view, but faster than most implementations we've seen. When using handheld mode, full autofocus shutter lag clocks in at .47 seconds with single point AF mode. When using auto-area autofocus, shutter lag goes up to .62 seconds. Tripod mode is somewhat faster, clocking in at .41 seconds.
The Nikon D300s also has dual memory card slots now. You can configure it to use whichever card you want as secondary, but only for photos. For movie, you can just have 1 primary with no secondary. So you can now backup photos after you take them. It's a useful addition that you typically see in high-end cameras, so it was nice to see Nikon add it to a mid-range digital SLR.
You can choose to buy the D300s with the body only, but there's also a kit lens with the 18-200mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR II lens. It's not a bad lens - it balances well with the Nikon D300s, but not as sharp as we'd prefer. Like all Nikon DSLRs, the D300s supports a lot of Nikkor lenses. You can pretty much use any F Mount Nikkor lens in the world with the Nikon D300s.
- 12.3 megapixels
- ISO 100, 200-3200, 6400
- 100% coverage optical viewfinder
- 3 inch LCD with 920,000 dots
- built in microphone
- Excellent performance
- Excellent image quality
- Solid, powerful build
- A few interface quirks
The D300s is a nice upgrade from the D300. It has dual memory card slots, a movie mode, a dedicated live view button, and microphone input. If there's a similar camera from Canon, it's the Canon EOS 7D. In fact, these 2 cameras have a lot in common.
If you need the extra mega-pixels, or the 1080p video, then the 7D looks more attractive, but we recommend reading reviews on the Canon EOS 7D to see which fits your preferences.
By itself though, the D300s is a superb camera and a great DSLR for the enthusiast that has money to spend, or the professional who needs a backup. If you got a set of spare Nikon lenses, I'd go with the D300s over any Canon camera.
Rating: 4.4 out of 5
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Prices last updated on: Mon, 22 May 2017 08:24:35 PDT