In the D300, Nikon have created a worthy successor to the widely respected D200 professional Digital SLR camera. Wisely retaining the most valued features of its predecessor, such as the weather-sealed metal chassis and extensively backward-compatible metering, the company has added significant new capabilities to the new model while managing to avoid sacrificing anything in terms of usability or build quality.
Among its many enhancements, the D300 can boast a 12 mega pixel sensor (a 2MP improvement on the D200), better performance at high ISO settings, improved grip and casing, a "Live View" mode that allows image composition to be carried out directly in the 3" monitor, and Nikon's latest and considerably more accurate auto-focus (AF) technology.
If the D200 was a serious contender among prosumer DSLRs, the D300 more than maintains the standard, keeping pace with the directly-competing models from Canon and leaving the rest of the players in this highly competitive market well behind.
Appearance, layout and controls
At first glance, the D300 will look like an old friend to anyone familiar with Nikon's earlier DSLRs. The controls are virtually identical not just to the D200, but to almost every camera in the range.
The combination power switch/shutter release button, exposure mode and compensation buttons, and selector dial occupy their regular positions on the top right and left hand sides of the casing respectively. The options offered by these controls are similarly familiar: manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program exposure modes are selectable from the mode button, while the dial provides options for single and continuous frame shooting, self-timer, and mirror-up modes, as on previous models. This is also where you select the new "Live Mode" option.
Aside from these controls, the top of the case is dominated by a large, attractively backlit monochrome LCD screen. This displays most, though not all, of the camera's settings, including exposure mode, image size and quality, shutter speed and aperture, flash mode, battery status, exposure meter and focus setting. The remaining settings can be viewed on the main monitor when required.
The top of the camera also accommodates the serviceable if limited popup flash unit, which can function as a controller for Nikon's Creative Lighting System external flash units when these are available. The limitations of the flash aren't as severe as they might seem, since no serious photographer would rely on a pop-up flash for anything other than the most casual of shots. Besides, the D300's ability to shoot unassisted in near-darkness ensures that the built-in flash unit will only see occasional service.
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