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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.