The Nikon D300 is far more revolutionary than its specifications suggest. It completely obsoletes everything that came before it, and especially sends the D200 and D2Xs to the dumpsters of digital history. The time-frame between models may have halved, but Nikon's certainly not skimped on the D300's capabilities. It features a new 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 6fps continuous shooting, a new 51 point AF system, 3in screen with VGA resolution, 100% viewfinder coverage, Live View facilities, the option of 14-bit RAW file recording, anti-dust capabilities and an HDMI port for direct connection to HDTVs.
These features are packed into tough body with excellent ergonomics, making it an ideal camera not just for high-end enthusiasts, but also as a backup body for professional photographers. I've never said this before of any other camera, but the D300 actually makes it easier to create significantly better images than with earlier cameras. * New 12.
3 effective Megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor * EXPEED image processing "concept" * Continuous shooting as fast as 8 frames/second (with the optional battery grip) * 51-point autofocus with 3D subject tracking * Huge 3-inch LCD display with 307,000 pixels (920,000 dots) with live view support * Dust reduction system * Picture Control settings let you have sets of color control settings (think Picture Styles on Canon SLRs) * Active D-Lighting lets you brighten shadows while taking photos (instead of after) * Rugged magnesium alloy body is sealed against dust and moisture * HDMI video output Nikon's D300 displaces the D200 at the top of the prosumer DX lineup, but it does not replace it. The D200 will live on. But many D200 owners might take an interest in the D300's new features. The Nikon D300's increased resolution, 14-bit A/D conversion, and a frame rate of six frames-per-second will pique their interest. The new Scene Recognition System that merges data from the AF system with data from the 1,005-point metering system for greater accuracy and better tracking will draw them closer; but it's probably the new 51-point AF system that fairly dominates the DX-sized frame and includes 15 cross-type sensors will entice them the most. The 920,000 pixel, 3-inch LCD is just gravy.
For the most part, Nikon sticks with the tried-and-true body design and interface of the D200, with its intelligently laid out controls. The dust- and weatherproof body weighs a hair over 2 pounds, and feels as solid as a little tank. The viewfinder is bigger and brighter, with 100 percent coverage. There are a few behaviors I'm not fond of, like the hard to manipulate metering dial (discussed in my more-detailed analysis of the design) and occasionally problematic AF-mode navigation (discussed below), but find the camera's operation comfortable and fluid.
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