Friday, August 28, 2015

Nikon D300 Review 2015: Comparison with Nikon D200 & D7000 series cameras.




Before I begin let me tell you this is a completely unscientific, non-technical review. If you are looking for technical reviews you can visit sites like DxO etc.

Preface

I often times speak to other photographers and obviously during the course of the discussion, it comes down to what are you shooting with and what gear you have etc etc. when I tell them I am shooting with a Nikon D200, I mean in 2015, they are like WHAT THE HOLY GUACAMOLE? Are you serious? Why don’t buy a Phase One or a Hasselblad etc etc. They see my images and are like “hmmmm yeah they are great pics bro” and I am like “yeah ok” :D Most GAS afflicted photographers, gear pimps on youtube, and camera hookers like froknowsphoto (what the hell is that name, i feel like throwing up every time i hear it :P) cant digest the fact that somebody can shoot great images with a bit older camera like the D200 or D300 and these very gear pimps and camera hookers look down on anybody who doesn’t have the latest and the greatest with a condescending attitude. Neither can they tell the difference between a Nikon D3000 image, or a Leica M9 image.  

I don’t hate new cameras. I just buy what I can afford and try to make it work to my exacting standards. 

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Story

I got this D300 a few weeks back, but couldn’t test it as I became busy with trivialities and after that had fallen sick. So having just recently recovered I decided to test the camera around the house and see how good it is compared to the very well regarded Nikon D200, which I already have.


Yes this camera came out in 2007, which is a long time ago. Even from the sensor perspective people may think its old tech, may be, but pictures from the D300 are not flat like the D7000 series, D5000 series or the D3000 of cameras. This camera is a step above them. The image quality is fittingly pro. The color and tonal depth of the D300 images is far higher than the above cameras.


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Right out of the box I was appalled at the images of the D300, I even started to think my D200 was the only contender in the ring. What I thought was a caveat of the D300 is easily correctable in the settings. For two full days I shot hundreds of pictures around the house, testing the various settings on the camera.


Till now my D200 was the parameter by which I measured every other camera. In my opinion nothing came close to match the image quality of the D200. I am saying this in 2015 about a camera that came in 2005. This is the kind of legend Nikon has built over the years. Can you say the same about any of the cameras from canon? I highly doubt it.

So coming back to the D300…after playing with a lot of settings I finally figured out the settings I needed to match the output of D200. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but I did it.   

Details

White balance is not 100% accurate on the D300, also there is an off chance of not getting colors 100% right, ofcourse that depends on the lighting conditions as well. This was not the case with the D200, no matter what I threw at it; it came out a champion with 100% accurate WB and colors, so much so that I always leave the WB in Auto 99% of the time. Having said that, I would also like to add that it is possible to get accurate results with the D300 as well, only you need to fiddle with the settings a bit.



To get a bit more dynamic range in indoor shooting setup, the Active D-Lighting needs to be on. Without it the pictures lack discernible highlights and shadows in low light conditions, but remember to switch it off if shooting in daylight or bright lighting conditions. I also bumped up the saturation and contrast a bit in indoor settings and this produced excellent colors and tones. For outdoor use I suggest the Active D-Lighting be turned off or put on low. Also it helps if you dial the brightness down a bit when not using Active D-Lighting it helps preserve the highlights to a considerable extent.

Unfortunately there are no color modes on the D300. Also the absence of ‘custom’ picture mode disappointed me a bit.

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I liked the smallish LCD on the D200 because of its clarity and color, which are very realistic, though the D300’s LCD is bigger it doesn’t seem like an improvement at all. Colors look odd on the D300’s LCD screen, but look fine on the computer screen. Images shot with the same settings on the D200 and D300 look different on the LCDs, but are fine on the computer screen, discounting a marginal difference in dynamic range and color.

It took me a while to get used to the D300’s new buttons placed in place of the old ones on the D200. The BKT button on the D200 is now ‘play’ button on the D300 and ENTER has become OK. The ‘Copyright info’ is a nice addition, which the D200 lacked.

I didn’t personally find any earth shattering difference in the dynamic range between the D200 and D300. It’s very marginal, if at all. May be 10%-15% depending on what you are shooting.

The Nikon D300 is far better than 5d mark II, 50D, 60D, 7D, 7D II. I can say this because I have shot with all these cameras and I am a working professional. The canon 7d pictures are flat without any depth or dimensionality. The Nikon D3200 makes better pics than the 7D. 

The D300 is a solid, heavy, macho camera for the real manly photographer; this camera is not for the weight complaining wimps and hipster lady boys who want light weight, fancy, mirror-less shit. There I said it. You want a light weight camera? Shame on you man, go lift some weights and grow a pair.

Right now my D300 is paired with the equally macho Nikkor 80-200 f2.8, I call it the ‘Big Daddy’. It’s a deadly badass combination. :D  

I have observed the 80-200 focuses faster on the D300 than the D200. May it is because the D300 has a higher torque autofocus motor in it? IDK, but looks like it.

14 bit RAW files ? yeah baby yeah.. :D


So rushing to sell off the D200? Slow down raisin bran….though the D300 is a visible improvement on the D200, it still is a very capable camera producing extra accurate skin tones, amazing colors and a spot on white balance. It is still a good idea to keep the D200 like I do. Shoot studio portraits with the D200 and sports/action with the D300.
Btw this is a favorite camera of Nikon wildlife shooters.



Upgrade path would be -> D700, D800, D3, D3s, D3x, D4, D4s.

The D7000 series is a downgrade inspite of its supposedly great sensor. Forget it.
The D300's Image quality, colors and tonal graduations are virtually indistinguishable from the CCD sensored D200. Atleast no difference on normal computer screens.

It is advisable to keep the Active D-lighting on 'low' or ‘Normal’ instead of high, if you have to use that feature at all.

I am a big fan of Nikon colors. Their color science is accurate to the dot. Nikon D200 produces colors that are close to Fuji Velvia, comparatively the D300’s colors seem to be a combination of Velvia with a slight hint of Portra. This is just my personal observation.


How is it compared to the D7000 series cameras?

Comparatively the D300 is available for peanuts these days. Around 400-450 dollars. Sometimes even less if you look around. Overall the D300 is a sturdier camera than the D7000 series of cameras. The files from D300 have a depth and dimension that is lacked in the D7000 series cameras, albeit they have a bit more dynamic range and fancier colors. But wait a second, if you have proper plugins /presets you can make your D300 files look like anything you like, say – D7000, D800, D4s or a Leica or a Leaf/Mamiya/Hasselblad etc. The D7000 series of cameras are not outdoorsy cameras, the material around the mount is plastic and these cameras are not suited for wildlife. It is at best a studio camera, but then the plasticky, orangy pinkish hue of the skin tone is a huge caveat, whereas the D300’s neutral setting gives the best skin tone, almost equal to the legendary D200. That said, I haven’t updated my D300’s firmware yet, it supposedly gives skin tones equal to the D2x. Will do very soon. Should be interesting.

Deal makers for the D300…

More accurate focusing with 51 AF points. (D7000 has 39 AF points,  that are spread in a smaller area of the frame)
·        Weather sealing + full magnesium alloy body.
·        Balances well with heavy lenses.
·        Pictures have more depth and dimension.
·        Takes CF card which is a more reliable media.

How is it compared to the D200?

After testing extensively I haven’t found too much of difference between the two cameras image quality wise. They are almost the same. Also when zooming to 100% I have found the D200 files to be cleaner than the D300 files, which have a noise pattern, yeah at base ISO when zoomed 100%. May be this micro level noise is what gives the impression of dynamic range, which really isnt. This is a non issue because nobody else does that except pixel-peeping photogs like you and me ;)

The body/build is the same, but somehow the D300 feels a tad sturdier. The autofocus motor on the D300 also seems to be sturdier with more torque than the D200. My 80-200 f2.8 focuses faster on the D300. Also the AF on button and mode button are not recessed like the D200. The LCD is bigger on the d300 but irrespective of size I like the LCD of the D200 as the colors are true on display. Pics from the D300 look a bit different on the LCD than the computer screen. Pictures from both the cameras shot with the same settings look the same on a computer screen. Virtually no difference.

D300 is better than D200 Because….

·        1.Has bigger LCD
·        2.Some buttons more outward
·        3.A bit sturdier than D200
·        4.More accurate and faster focus
·        5.51 AF points compared to 11
·        6.Higher torque autofocus motor
·        7.More shots per charge than D200

D200 is better than D300 Because....


1. Shutter sound is better on the than D200 (yeah I am a weirdo). The D300 has a clunky plop      kinda sound, whereas the D200 sounds like a machine gun comparatively. I suspect there  also may be a slight shutter lag, but I didn't test for it. 
2. Fair bit cheaper used in comparison.
3. Better LCD showing true colors. 
4. Custom Picture mode, absent on the D300.

       Final thoughts

So these are my thoughts on the Nikon D300. It may be a bit old but it kicks the ass of any new generation camera out there. I am not against new technology, I am only against consumerism. If you can’t get good pictures from your D200 or D300, I can tell for sure you ain’t going very far with a D800 or a D4s.


I will keep both my D200 and D300 and shoot with them professionally in the coming months/years. I have built my career with the D200, which I bought in 2012. Nobody complained because I am shooting with a camera in 2012, which was made in 2005. Same goes with my D300. I will continue using them till there is a really impressive D400 or atleast till I can afford the already cheap D700. I don’t have a clamoring for a D800 or a D4 as I am not shooting any Dolce and Gabbana campaigns any sooner. For whatever gigs I am getting these days, both the D200 and D300 are more than adequate. Again let me remind you, clients pay you for the pictures you make, NOT the cameras you have.

Cheers and Happy clicking 

Hey would you also like to have a look at the D200 review?? Here you go:

http://subliminalwhispers.blogspot.in/2014/07/nikon-d200-review-2014-some-new.html

Here is a story of how I sold off and bought back my beloved Sony a200 DSLR

http://subliminalwhispers.blogspot.in/2015/10/sony-a200-review-2015-or-how-i-got-my.html

-Viisshnu-

9 comments:

Unknown said...

HI....
I have been reading your post about the d200 and found very interesting information as well as inspirational.
My D7000 died some weeks ago due to a shutter issue. The repair cost would be around the same as a D200 with low shutter counts plus a couple of batteries and a 35mm 1.8G. OR I could find a D300 an thats it.
My main body is a D600 which I uses for low light situations and need a DX camera as a backup for day light use, mainly some local car racing and events. As I shoot mainly at ISO 100 to 400 in those conditions I now have to make the decision wether purchase the d200 or d300.
I have used yhe 11 AF system of the d200 in a D90 I used to have and found not so quick for tracking moving objects but I think with pre focusing or focus trap I could manage to use it on the race track.
Any experience shooting sports or cars with the D200?

best regards and excellent blog!

Viisshnu said...

Thank you for your kind words brother I am glad the article was helpful to you. I am a big fan of the CCD sensor cameras from Nikon. I have also recently acquired a D70s and I am doing paid assignments with it in 2015.

The D7000 is not a robust camera by any means. I did rather buy a robust old model than a flimsy plastic newer model.
Its not late brother, cut your loses and sell off the D7000 for whatever you can get and put that money into a D200 or D300.

The D300 is a far better camera than the D7000 any given day.

I catch your drift. You want a cheap DX backup body for daylight use and ISO is not a criteria.

The D200 is not an action camera with its measly 11 AF points that being said its not far behind in focus acquisition. If you are planning to do focus trap you could go for something like a D2Hs or a D2Xs, which are both extraordinary cameras, both have 11 AF points. D2Hs has 8fps, which you may know already. If you dont want to do focus trap and dont want to be bothered, the D300 is an excellent bet. Its 51 AF points are truly top notch. Focus acquisition is faster than D200 and the autofocus motor is also more robust than the D200. All this means faster and more accurate focus.

If you ask me between a D200 or a D300, I would suggest a D300. Its allround the best camera Nikon has ever made.

Personally I wouldnt do focus trap with D200. I'd rather go for the D300 if it is the races or some other fast action photography.

I personally dont have any experience shooting fast action like races with the D200. I dont think its the right camera for that kind of jobs. Except that the D200 is as good as the D300.

Off the record...my Sony a200 beats both the D200 and D300 in autofocus speed...its like some kind of sonic speed. Instant. It does not have the faster fps or 51 autofocus points but its really really fast. I use the sony from time to time. I have written a review of it here on the blog. Read it and take an informed decision on your purchases.

Hope this was helpful.


Sergio Otarola said...

Thanks for you complete answer!
I think I would stick with a Nikon body as I have several lenses in F mount. Moving to Sony will mean spend more money.
Anyway, thanks for your advices.

cheers!

Viisshnu said...

Its a wise decision to stick with the Nikon brother, as you have lenses for it already. No need to move to sony ofcourse. I am more of an experimental guy so I try to buy different cameras, throw some strange lenses with adapters and see what happens. I mostly use the Sony a200 as my "fun" camera. For ocassions where I dont need Nikon Kit. Anyways good luck with the purchase and happy clicking. Cheers.

Sergio Otarola said...

Hi...

after some search I could get a nice D300 with less than 7K shots at a very good price. So far, I can only praise the accuracy of the AF system as well as the good construction quality. It makes feel my previous D7000 like a toy. Very happy with the new purchase. Cheers!

Viisshnu said...

Sergio Otarola good luck bro..

Viisshnu said...

D300 with less than 7k shutters is like butter and sugar :) yeah bro D7000 is a toy. I personally feel the D300 is solid even for the next 10 years. why ? people still cant tell the difference between a Nikon D1 image and a D7000 image. With a camera like the D300 all your bases are covered :) Cheers bro

Sergio Otarola said...

Just a quick update on the D300. Last week I went to a local race car event, nothing fancy, just small cars but anyways a good opportunity to test the D300. Paired with a Tamron 70-300mm VC it worked really well. The AF is really top notch. Camera really feels and act as a solid performer.

Viisshnu said...

Thats great news brother. Unless someone is shooting NASCAR or FormulaOne, D300 is plenty enough for the ingenuous photographer. Have fun with your kickass camera. Like I always say, think like a Ninja, strike like a panther. Cheers and happy clicking :)

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