Nikon has just announced the Nikon D7100, an update to the existing Nikon D7000 camera that was released back in September of 2010. After more than two years of waiting, many DX shooters are quite anxious to see what features Nikon added to the already excellent DSLR. Many Nikon fans and existing D300/D300s owners are also probably wondering if they will soon see an update to the high-end DX line in the form of a D400 that has remained nothing more than another rumor. With today’s Nikon D7100 announcement, we can mark the death of the high-end DX line – read below on the reasons why I think we might never see a D400.
A lot has changed since digital came around in 1999. Film has always been about quality – all kinds of it, too. It was about resolving power – we have Fujichrome Velvia for that now; it was about color accuracy, which also suits the former as well as, say, Fujicolor Superia Reala; or, for those who want sharp and vivid, there‘s always the beautiful Kodak Ektar. Now, however, there’s one kind of film for all those purposes. Just as film was finally providing the quality, the age of digital sensors came. And, some think, wiped film‘s quality ambitions off the table as if it were dust. We now have one film that can do everything – low light, color accuracy or vividness, sharpness and endless manipulation possibilities. One film that fits all.
Many of our readers request detailed information on the difference between the Nikon D700 and Nikon D300/D300s DSLR cameras. They wonder why there is such a big price difference, while the cameras look almost identical and the number of megapixels is the same. In this comparison, I will be providing not only feature differences between these cameras, but also high ISO samples to explain the difference between the different types of sensors used in D700 and D300/D300s.
If you are wondering about the differences between the Nikon D300 and Nikon D300s, I highly recommend to check out my Nikon D300 vs D300s comparison. Basically, Nikon D300s is an update to the Nikon D300 with more features and speed, while the sensor remains identical. The biggest changes are: more frames per second, ability to use both SD and CompactFlash memory cards and video-recording capability up to 720p HD.
Some of the most frequently asked questions from our readers are around DX and FX format sensors. What is DX and FX? What are their differences? Which one is better and why? If you have similar questions and want to get a clear understanding about these formats and their differences, along with seeing actual image samples from both, this article is for you.
Before diving into sensor formats, it is first important to understand what a sensor is and what it does in a Digital SLR camera. It is easier to understand how sensors work by comparing them with the human eye. The lens in front of the camera essentially functions as the cornea of your eyes, gathering ambient light and passing it to the iris. The iris then expands or shrinks, controlling the amount of light that enters the retina, which functions almost exactly like a camera sensor. The retina is light-sensitive, meaning it can adjust its sensitivity based on the available light. If there is too much light, it decreases its sensitivity, while automatically increasing the sensitivity in a dim environment, so that you could see in both extremely bright and extremely dark conditions. Remember what happens when you come out of a dark place to a very bright, sunny environment and vice-versa? Either your eyes will hurt and everything will seem too bright, or you will have a hard time seeing at all – due to sensitivity of the eyes that have not yet adjusted for the new environment. The sensitivity of your eyes is just like the sensitivity of the sensor, also known as “ISO” in photography. But sensitivity comes at a price – high sensitivity levels ultimately decrease image quality, similar to when you have a hard time seeing in a very dark environment. This degradation of image quality is first visible as “grain” or “noise” in the pictures, followed by loss of detail, sharpness and color in extreme levels of sensitivity. When I say “extreme”, I mean extreme to the digital camera, not human eye. Even with all of the latest advancements in sensor technology, cameras are not even close to seeing the range of light the human eye can see in various environments.
This article is to primarily show the key differences between the Nikon D300/D300s and Canon 50D and provide information on high ISO performance above ISO 800. While there is a significant difference in both features and price between these cameras, in this Nikon D300s vs Canon 50D comparison, I will primarily focus on low-light performance between these two cameras.
Major differences between the two cameras
- Sensor Resolution – Nikon D300/D300s is 12.3 Megapixels (4288 x 2848) while Canon 50D is 15.1 Megapixels (4752 x 3168).
- Pixel Pitch – Nikon D300s is 5.49 microns and Canon 50D is 4.7 microns.
- Crop factor – All Nikon APS-C (DX) sensors have a crop factor of 1.5x, while all Canon APS-C sensors have a crop factor of 1.6x.
- Autofocus focus points – Nikon D300/D300s has the same professional autofocus system as in Nikon D3/D3s/D3x with a total of 51 focus points, while the Canon 50D has a much inferior 9 focus point system.
- ISO – Both cameras can handle up to ISO 3200 in native mode. Nikon D300/D300s can be boosted to ISO 6,400, while Canon 50D can go up to ISO 12,800.
- Wireless flash master – Nikon D300/D300s has a built-in flash that can be used as a master flash to control other Nikon flashes, while Canon 50D does not have such feature.
- Exposure compensation – Most Nikon cameras can handle -5 to +5 EV, while Canon 50D can only handle -2 to +2 EV.
- Frames per second – very similar performance between the cameras. Nikon D300 is 6 FPS, Nikon D300s is 7 FPS and Canon 50D is 6.3 FPS. With the MB-D10 battery pack both Nikon D300 and D300s can shoot 8 frames per second.
- Movie mode – Nikon D300s can handle 720p video and Canon 50D has no video support.
- Viewfinder coverage – 100% on Nikon D300/D300s and 95% on Canon 50D (pentaprism on both).
- Weight – Canon 50D is lighter (730g) than Nikon D300/D300s (840g).
- Custom Functions – 25 on Canon 50D and 48 on Nikon D300/D300s.
- Price – Canon 50D is currently selling for $925 at B&H and Nikon D300s is $1,519.
High ISO Comparison
Let’s move on to high ISO tests for both Nikon D300s and Canon 50D. Here is what I photographed for this test:
The Nikon 70-300mm VR lens is targeted towards sports, nature and wildlife photographers that need a lightweight, versatile telephoto lens with great optics and vibration reduction technology, at an affordable price. The lens works on both Nikon FX (full-frame) and DX (cropped) sensors and has an equivalent field of view of approximately 105-450mm on DX sensors, which makes the lens particularly good for reaching distant subjects. The Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ID-ED VR lens features two “ED” (extra low dispersion) glass elements that are used in all Nikon professional lenses, providing higher contrast, lower chromatic aberration and higher resolution, due to less air bubbles and glass deformities within the glass elements. In addition, the lens sports the latest vibration reduction “VR II” technology, giving up to 4 full stops of advantage over non-VR lenses at low shutter speeds. Vibration Reduction, especially the latest VR II generation, makes this lens particularly useful for hand-held shooting while hiking and traveling. Autofocus is practically silent, thanks to the Silent Wave Motor (AF-S) within the lens.
This image of the Harris’s Hawk is so far my favorite raptor picture of the year. It is very challenging to take pictures of birds in flight and this one actually came out pretty well – the eyes are sharp and fully directed at me, which I really like in the photograph. There is one more image that is better than this one in terms of position of wings, but one of the wings got cut off from the frame (I was shooting hand-held) and it ruined the picture :(
The above image was captured with a Nikon D300 and Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S lens.
Nikon has just announced the new Nikon D300s, so I decided to post a quick comparison between the old Nikon D300 and the new Nikon D300s.
Basically, the new D300s is exactly the same camera as the D300 in terms of features, except for the following:
- D300s shoots HD movies at 720p resolution, 24 FPS with stereo audio. Maximum length is 5 minutes for 720p and 20 mins for lower video resolutions.
- D300s is slightly faster than the D300, shooting 7 FPS in Ch mode (Nikon D300 is 6 FPS). With MB-D10 battery pack, it will shoot 8 FPS.
- A new release mode “Q” (quiet shutter-release) is added to the dial right after Ch (continuous high speed).
- Dual card slots – the Nikon D300s features dual card slots to work with both CompactFlash and SD (SDHC-compliant) cards. Either card can be used as the primary card. Secondary card can be used for overflow or backup storage, or for separate storage of NEF (RAW) and JPEG images and images can be copied between cards.
- Active D-Lighting now has “Auto” and “Extra High” added. “Auto” is something expected, as both D700 and D90 have this mode. The “Extra High” is something new though.
- Nikon D300s is slightly heavier than the D300, adding 15 more grams of weight, weighing total 840g total.
- Nikon D300s has a dedicated “Lv” (LiveView) and “Info” buttons on the back of the camera.
- Nikon D300s has a virtual horizon now (D300 did not).
Along with the new Nikon D300s, Nikon released an entry-level Nikon D3000 (which replaces D60) and two updated lenses – Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 DX and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. I really don’t care about the 18-200mm lens update, since I sold mine and I’d rather be shooting with quality primes instead, but the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is definitely a worthy update that everyone has been waiting for. However, the 70-200mm price point left me scratching my head…$2,400 is too darn expensive! That’s $500 over what the current version of 70-200mm f/2.8 is selling for.
Is D300s worth the upgrade? If you already have a D300 and do not care about the video feature (which kind of sucks, since I was expecting full HD at 1080p), it is not worth the upgrade. The sensor of the new D300s is basically identical to the older D300. It is nice that the D300s has dual slots and faster frame rate, but it is nothing extraordinary.
I decided not to do another feature comparison of Nikon D300 vs D90 like I did in the D300 vs D80 review. Just type “D300 vs D90” in Google and you will find a lot of good articles on feature comparisons.
What I will concentrate on, however, is the high ISO noise comparison in a low-light environment. I ran two quick tests – one with an external flash and one without. Both tests are performed on a sturdy tripod, with timed exposure to prevent camera vibrations. Both Nikon D300 and Nikon D90 were set exactly the same way, shot in manual mode with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G at f/5.6. Exposures were exactly the same in both cameras, depending on ISO value. Shot both in RAW (Active D-Lighting off, High ISO NR Normal), then imported into Lightroom, cropped and exported with “Camera Standard” camera profile. The rest of the data is available via EXIF on the files to those who are interested in technical details.
Check out these results. What a difference, simply stunning!
Used Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens for this test. Camera default settings, exposure: 2 sec, aperture: f/5.6.
The full review of the D300 can be found here.