The Nikon D300s replaces the popular D300 as Nikon’s flagship DX-format DSLR, and brings HD video capture plus a host of other refinements. Is this Nikon’s most complete enthusiast DSLR yet? Our Nikon D300s review finds out...

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Nikon D300s

Noise/resolution:
Metering:
Features:
AWB Colour:
LCD viewfinder:
Dynamic Range:
Build/Handling:
Autofocus:

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Nikon D300s review

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£1,499.99

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Features

Inevitably, the D300s shares much of its specification with the now discontinued D300. However, because it is a new camera, I will still go over the key features of the D300s in full, albeit with more emphasis on the new aspects of the specification.

Nikon D300s Sensor and ISO

Key to the Nikon D300s specification is its 12.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor, which is the same unit as that fitted to the D300, and (minor tweaks notwithstanding) the D90 and D5000. Its ISO sensitivity range spans ISO 200-3200, with ‘lo’ and ‘hi’ extension settings adding ISO 100 and 6400 (equivalent) to the range. However, obviously the sensor in the D300s does something that its predecessor could not – it records video footage.

Nikon D300s Video

The video mode of the D300s has the same basic specification as the D90, allowing 720p (1280×720 pixels) HD video at 24fps, for a maximum duration of five minutes in best-quality capture mode. An in-built monoaural microphone serves to record sound for ‘grab’ clips, but for more considered video shooting the D300s also offers an option to record sound to an externally mounted stereo microphone, via a conventional audio jack.

Images and video are recorded to conventional SD or CompactFlash media, both of which have dedicated slots inside the card bay. We’ve seen dual-format card slots in DSLRs before, but one thing that makes the D300s unusual, and which will no doubt appeal to videographers, is that the D300s can be programmed to shoot video to one card bay and still images to another. This might not sound like anything to get excited about, but it makes organising the different file types much easier.

Nikon D300s Level horizon and viewfinder

Something else that has been made easier with the D300s compared to the D300 is getting a level horizon. The popular virtual horizon feature of the full-frame D3 and D700 is now included in the D300s.

Annoyingly, though, unlike the D3 and D700, the camera cannot be customised to activate the virtual horizon in the camera’s viewfinder, but only on its rear LCD screen. This disappointing omission makes the feature useful only when the D300s is used on a tripod.

However, the viewfinder on the D300s shows 100% of the image captured. This is still relatively unusual in APS-C format DSLRs, and coupled with the 100% frame coverage in Live View mode it means that with the D300s what you see on or through the camera is – literally – what you will get in the final image.

Nikon D300s Autofocus, metering and white balance

The D300s keeps the core AF, metering and white balance systems from the D300, and adopts them without any obvious tweaks or differences. These systems are linked by the innovative scene recognition system, which was introduced by the D300 and D3 in 2007 and has since been included in every DSLR in Nikon’s current line-up.

The scene recognition system serves many purposes, but all are to the same end – it links the AF, white balance and metering systems, allowing them to share information based on the analysis of the scene in front of the camera, captured in real time by a dedicated 1005-pixel CCD sensor.

The image captured by the sensor is compared to an in-built ‘library’ of representative images, and analysed according to its tonal and colour distribution. In this way, the D300s can recognise and track a subject around the AF array in ‘3D tracking’ mode, and even detect human faces, recognise landscape images, and so on. It then biases the metering and white balance systems accordingly.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. White balance and colour
  5. 5. Metering
  6. 6. Autofocus
  7. 7. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  8. 8. Dynamic range and Gamut
  9. 9. LCD, Live View and video
  10. 10. Our verdict
  11. 11. The competition
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