Nikon D300 DSLR Followup


I’ve been using the Nikon D300 digital SLR for about six months [1], and have been really enjoying it. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to use it as much as I want, but I think that kind of gripe exists for everyone!

Making the switch away from Canon was the right decision for me (see Weighing Camera Options and Buy a Camera Body, Not a Camera System). Nikon’s camera design and interface fits me much better and is therefore more fun to use.

The D300’s 51-point autofocus system continues to amaze me. I don’t think I’ve encountered any circumstances where it’s failed to achieve a positive lock, and can only think of one occasion where it seemed to be hunting. Shooting at night — such as at the Foster Farm corn maze — is always the place where autofocus on any camera is least capable, but the D300 seems to do pretty well. That said, I do typically switch to manual focus at night, especially if I’m using a wide-angle lens where focus can be less precise thanks to a larger depth-of-field.

Nikon’s color 3D matrix metering system has — in my opinion — been a significant advancement in metering technology. Under “normal” circumstances Nikon’s color matrix metering really doesn’t perform much better than anything else from any other manufacturer, but under more difficult situations (think snow, for example) it excels. I’m surprised that other manufacturers don’t have similar color-aware systems in their cameras.

The “My Menu” menu is a great idea. Basically, it’s a way to have shortcuts to the other menu options you use most, all collected in one spot. You can add to My Menu by picking “Add Items” then navigating to the option you want and hitting the “OK” button. Unfortunately and for reasons I don’t understand, not all menu options can be added to My Menu. On my camera’s My Menu I have the ISO sensitivity options: ISO sensitivity auto control and ISO sensitivity. I don’t understand why, but the other available options (Maximum sensitivity and Minimum shutter speed) can’t be added to My Menu. Being able to tune these options for your shooting conditions is what really makes the auto ISO feature excellent. However, since I can’t have shortcuts to them in My Menu, I have to navigate to the Shooting Menu, then to ISO sensitivity settings, then down to Maximum sensitivity and Minimum shutter speed.

My only other complaint about the camera has just been fixed by firmware version 1.10 (for Windows, Mac OS X). My gripe was that when using auto ISO, the minimum shutter speed could be set between 1 second and 1/250 second. The firmware update changes to allow this option to be set between 1 second and 1/4000 second! Setting the minimum shutter speed is a good way to ensure you have a hand-holdable shutter speed, for example, or a shutter speed that will freeze the action you see. When working with a lens at 300 mm, for example, the old setting of 1/250 s may not have been quite enough to get a sharp shot. Now, I can select 1/400 s, or even faster!

Nikon’s D300 has proven itself to me. It’s an excellent camera that fits my hand well, places the controls in logical locations, and produces excellent results. Highly recommended!

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