I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a D300s, and I thought I’d share some of my impressions of this formidable camera. Please notice that I said “impressions” and not “review.” I am not, repeat not, a qualified camera reviewer.
I just, you know, shoot assignments and sell pitchers for a living. So what I can give you is a working photographer’s brief take on the camera. For a quick lineup of what’s cool about the D300s and different than the D300 (or the D90). Hit the jump. If I’ve left anything out, I’m sure you’ll let me have it know!
1. Even better high ISO. They don’t mention this in the literature, but it’s pretty much a given that each new generation of camera has better high ISO noise-abating algorithms (or whatever the hell they are). To me, the ISO 1600 files from this camera look really nice, like 800 or better on its predecessors. Maybe no D700 or D3, but the best high ISO performance of any DX camera I’ve handled.
Remember, I’m a Kodachrome 200 survivor, so my noise standards may be different that yours, but with this camera I can stay happily in DX-land till the cows come home (even if they come home in very low light).
2. Even better video. The video feature is really starting to become a viable tool, and not just a quirky novelty. It’s easier to focus the D300s, you can change focus while shooting (in the tripod mode), the focus is smoother and more sure. The picture quality is marvelous.
Yes, it still has the “jello-ey” look if you shake the camera or shoot stationary scenes from a moving platform (hint for the solution? Don’t shake the camera or shoot stationary scenes from a moving platform!). Remember, it’s still not a full featured camcorder, but, damn, it’s getting close.
And oh that bokeh with your fast Nikkors! Yes, that is the thing that makes these video DSLRs the darlings of DV-using documentarians everywhere. It’s funny that most still photographers are pretty blase about video-enabled DSLRs, but the DV video community is absolutely over the moon about them because the bigger chips and wide lens array give them looks they could never achieve with anything short of a $30,000 camera. One man’s meat is the other man’s foie gras, I guess.
3. Excellent, but not perfect, audio. The 300s has a nice mic jack, and an ability to adjust the sensitivity of your external, or the camera’s built-in, mic. I tested it using my Sennheiser MKE-400 baby shotgun mic and it produces a much better sound than the built-in.
But, and I’m still experimenting so this is a conditional finding, whether the mic is in the hot shoe, or out on a boom stand close to the subject, there is, what the audio geeks call, a highish “noise floor.”
This particular “noise floor” sounds like a veeeerrrrry, very faint outboard motor waaaaaaaaay in the distance, like something you might hear underwater when you’re snorkeling (I know, an obscure, but I assure you, a very accurate description of the almost imperceptible sound); or (less descriptive but more accessible) the faint hum of a near-silent air conditioner a few rooms away.
It’s like you’re hearing the very, very faint, low hum of the camera’s innards working (of course there are no moving parts….at least I think there are no moving parts. So this is probably some kind of electronic noise or interference).
It’s not terrible, or even noticeable, in street shooting or any similar type of noisy environment, But if you were shooting a video interview in a quiet room (one of my test situations), I’d double cover it with a digital audio recorder like the Olympus LS-10 as well. I cleaned up my interview test clips simply by running them through Soundsoap 2. And that’s another way to go.
Since I am not an audio or video expert (then why, you might be asking yourself, am I reading this!), I expect that when this camera hits the streets and gets into the hands of video documentarians, they will come up with a better fix that might involve the use of a different mic, or a pre-amp setup like the Beachtek or something like that. So my findings and fixes are strictly preliminary.
As I said, “impressions,” not “review.” And remember, “totally unqualified.” It says so, right in my resume on Craigslist!
4. Two card slots, CF and SD—Wow is this nice. You can split them up (i.e. Jpeg on one, Raw the other, stills on one, movies on the other), or use one as backup, or overflow, for the other.
5. Virtual horizon—-Level horizon-impaired people of the world (charter member right here) unite! The virtual horizon feature, once available only to those high-falutin’ FX types, helps you get straight. You no longer have to worry about losing those overpriced hot shoe bubble levels…why, if I had the $30 or so for every one of those I’ve lost and replaced, I’d be Donald Trump! Very cool feature.
6. Copyright embedding. –We’ve had “Image Comment” for a while as a place to bury our copyright notice, but this feature puts it where it belongs in the IPTC scheme of things. No more worries if you forget to add a copyright notice in your captions…like that famous oven, with this, you set it, and forget it! Orphan Works Act be damned!
7. You can bracket your Active D lighting. That Active D lighting is the cool “fill” feature that helps your jpegs handle high contrast. There’s a setting now where you can bracket the strength of the effect, and pick the most pleasing version after the fact. This will be useful to JPEG shooters, for sure.
Well, that’s it so far. This camera is going to cause me heartache, because I promised Peggy that I wouldn’t be upgrading any camera gear for the foreseeable future, and then this cupcake walks into my life. (Cue up The Godfather III soundtrack… prepare to channel Pacino, and here goes….)
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Really, Peggy, it’s Nikon’s fault!