Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Respect for the Nikon D300/D300S - Fine Cameras for Right Now!

Barring surprise announcements from Nikon, it seems that 2011 will bring no new DSLRs. I hope I'm wrong. However, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan took its toll on production of the semi-pro and pro lines for various reasons. Now the massive flooding in Thailand has obliterated much of Nikon's production there. We may see new DSLR announcements in 2011 but it is highly improbable that we'll see a DSLR actually released for sale any time soon. Times are tough for Nikon right now!

When disasters prevent new cameras from appearing, we are forced to look again at the older models. The holiday season is a big buying time for camera equipment. What are the best choices for photographers?

Today I want to talk briefly about the Nikon D300 and D300S cameras. Many people are still buying the D300S camera new today and will throughout the upcoming holiday season. Preowned D300 bodies trade constantly on places like eBay and Amazon.com.

Nikon D300S with AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens

The D300/D300S is a great camera, not too big, not too small, and built like a tank. I once dropped a D300S from shoulder height down a flight of stairs while shooting a graduation ceremony. It bounced down three wooden stairs and landed on a tile floor (the entire audience gasped). It had an SB-900 Speedlight attached and an AF-S 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. I literally picked it up and continued shooting. I'm not recommending that you throw your camera down stairs but I am happy to know that it can take serious accidental abuse and keep on working.  I'm still using that same camera/flash/lens today. It has never developed any problems. I had to send the 16-85mm lens off to Nikon to fix because it developed a focus problem after the fall. The flash suffered no ill effects. The camera keeps on ticking. In fact, it only has a rub spot on the memory card door as proof of the accident. Tough build, if you ask me!

I have shot nearly 15,000 images with my D300S since I bought it in late 2009, and before that around 13,000 shots with a D300. I have no intentions of getting rid of my current D300S. It is a powerful camera and a bit like a good friend. We've been through many events together and hopefully many more to come. 12 megapixels are plenty for 99% of what I shoot.

The image quality from the D300S is simply great. Even at higher ISOs it does very well.  Here is a shot of a river jumper I took at 800 ISO. Tell me where the noise is. Not much to be seen. I couldn't have done this with my D2X without greater noise. Even at 1600 ISO the D300S performs very well, with low noise.

Jumping in the water, at 800 ISO
At low ISO (100–400) the camera performs like there's no tomorrow. I've carried this camera all over the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway, Hunting Island, and Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, USA. Look at some of these shots:

Tremont in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA
Sunrise on Hunting Island, South Carolina, USA
Campfire on Hunting Island, South Carolina, USA

I've used this camera to capture the events in my life for the last couple of years, and will for years longer. It just fits well in my hand. I remember when 12 megapixels was only a dream. Honestly, that is plenty of pixels for the majority of us. Only people shooting for large wall-mounted portraits or that need serious cropping capability might need more. For 95% of us 12 megapixels is just the right amount.

The camera does well as a portrait shooter too. Look at a couple of portraits from my D300S and an AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens:

Little Sweetums Baby Girl with two teefees
Young lady with a lei

Why am I talking about the Nikon D300S today?  Well, in our excitement to buy new camera toys, we sometimes overlook proven technology that can provide exactly what we really need—if we don't listen to the constant background drone of "buy the latest thing, and buy it now!"  A New D300S has a great price, excellent features, a good video mode, and accepts all your Nikkors. Just look at this cool camera for a couple of pictures:

D300S back, showing its 3 inch LCD monitor with VGA resolution

The ultimate in coolness, a Nikon D300S with an AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm VR lens

I'm not telling you to never buy another new Nikon. I'm sure I'll fall into the slobbering masses when the D400, D800, and D4 is released. I, too, suffer from NAS (Nikon Acquisition Syndrome). For now, though, My D300S is my friend.  Here are a couple of videos I took when I attended the PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York a few days ago, handheld, with my D300S and its AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens:

Times Square at Night

View from Empire State Building at Night 

Get your D300S and go shoot. The future will take care of itself. Right now, the D300S is the Nikon DX flagship camera. Celebrate its time. Go capture some memories!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

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