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:
Because there is a difference in sensor resolution and crop factor, I had to move the Canon system back a little bit to compensate for the difference. The below crops are 100% crops from both cameras and they have NOT been resized in any way. The tests were performed on a sturdy tripod, with timed exposure to prevent camera vibration. Both Nikon D300s and Canon 50D were shot in manual mode. I used the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR and Canon 17-35mm f/4.0L USM lenses, both set to f/8.0 and focused between the round candle and the green tray. Shot in RAW, 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.
Considering the price difference between the two cameras, it is unfair to compare Nikon D300s versus Canon 50D. My main focus in this test was to show the difference in ISO performance between the two cameras and it is pretty clear that Nikon D300/D300s cameras handle noise levels about a stop better than Canon 50D (ISO 3200 on Nikon D300/D300s looks about the same as ISO 1600 on Canon 50D). This is expected, because of the difference in resolution and crop factor – Canon 50D has more pixels per square inch than Nikon D300/D300s and the difference in pixel pitch plays a huge role in high ISO performance. Also, Nikon D300s is a higher class camera than Canon 50D and it would be more fair to compare Nikon D300s with Canon 7D instead. Hopefully I will get my hands on a Canon 7D soon to be able to run a similar comparison.