First Look: Nikon D300

By Shawn Soni 

Let’s just start by saying that Nikon will be giving Canon (and anyone else) more than just a run for their money with the new D300. Aimed at the prosumer market, this camera is well designed and has a feature set that Nikon Digital shooters have been looking for since Julia Roberts was shooting that digital Nikon* in the movie “Stepmom.”  

Best new features, quick look:
 

ISO The biggie. For some reason, Nikon decided to name the lowest and higest ISO settings like EV intervals, thus there is LO .3 .7 and 1.0, which roughly correspond to ISO 100-160, according to the manual, and Hi .3 .7 and 1.0, which boost the sensitivity to ISO 4000-6400. No matter what Nikon calls them, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom still seems to assign a numbered ISO value that a person can understand. The noise evident at the higher ISO settings is phenomenally reduced thanks to the new Advanced Noise Reduction technology Nikon has incorporated into the sensor and seems to be paying big dividends.

The image above demonstrates the impressive high-ISO noise handling from the Nikon D300. Exposure: 1/50 second at 5.6, ISO 800. (Click for larger view saved for Web at Quality 65 in Adobe Photoshop CS3) ©2007 Shawn Soni

Exposure: 1/80 second at f/5.6, ISO 1600 with the Nikon D300. (Click for larger view saved for Web at Quality 65 in Adobe Photoshop CS3) ©2007 Shawn Soni

Exposure: 1/125 second at f/5.6, ISO 2500 with the Nikon D300. (Click for larger view saved for Web at Quality 65 in Adobe Photoshop CS3) ©2007 Shawn Soni


The screen
No one who views the screen will be unimpressed, at 3 inches it ranks with the biggest in its class and the detail and color is excellent.  

Live View Nikon has joined the manufacturers who are offering a Live View feature to allow image composition without using the viewfinder. The applications for this feature are myriad, and it's great being able to compose from camera positions that would be awkward with your eye to the viewfinder. Live View is easy to access once you get used to the protocol for working it, a sort of double-click on the shutter release.

Menus More and better. Nikon has improved on the D200 menu system, allowing more choices and better control of camera customization. For instance, when shooting with non-CPU lenses, each lens can have its own saved setting, so that it’s only a matter of selecting 1, 2, etc. instead of dialing in the lens each time.

Focusing More focus points, and faster focusing deliver a better ability to track and compose than the D200 offered. The camera allows selection of up to 51 focus points, making composition much more flexible.

Overall, the Nikon D300 is a winner. If you couldn’t bear to be parted from your D200, you’ll have a hard time not putting the D300 under your pillow at night so it’ll be right there when you start your day.

 

*The camera shown in "Stepmom" was a Nikon E2/E2s, the result of a 1995 collaboration between Nikon and Fujifilm. The Nikon logo is on the front of the viewfinder and the body has a FUJIX logo.

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Comments (2)

Paul:

Why is PPA doing this? Is this a first look? First, this isn't exactly marketed at prosumers. Technically it's a professional camera as defined by Nikon. The LO-.3, .7, 1.0 settings have corresponding to ISO 100, 125 and 160 have been explained by Nikon engineers and reported elsewhere. You should go find it, but don't post you have no idea why. ISO 200 is the base ISO. Nikon engineering is staying true to the characteristics of the sensor by defining it as such. No discussion of what level of noise reduction was used, whether it was in camera or post, JPG or RAW. This all makes a difference. To not mention that when you have basically free space because it's web based is a dis-service.

I expect better from PPA.

Right now it's looking like my annual dues will be better spent on other things if PPA doesn't step up their content. You don't need quantity of content, you need quality. That lacks and it should be embarrassing to you.

Yes, in fact, this is a "first look" as labeled and is not intended to be a full review. Because of the lead time required for reviews to appear in the paper magazine, the full review of the Nikon D300 will not appear for another month.

This is a quick look from an enthusiastic owner of the Nikon D300, Shawn Soni. The purpose of the "first look" is to be able to give readers a more timely, if brief, report on some of the notable features of the camera, including a look at the high-ISO performance. You can click any image and get a large view to see how well the Advanced Noise Reduction technology works.

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