Hang on to your D300

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of relatively new D300s being put up for sale by their owners. I can only speculate that it’s because of Nikon’s newer bodies: The D700 and the soon to be released D90. Is there any reason to hang on to your D300? Well, Nikon’s given us some great cameras and choosing one over another is not easy. Here’s my take on Nikon’s D700 vs. D300 vs. D90 considerations.

D300 vs. D700
If you want full-frame, well, then the D300 is never going to cut it. The full-frame advantages of the FX sensor are the high sensitivity and extremely low noise combined to give you the ultimate in image quality. ISO ranges previously unheard of (like ISO 6,400) are being used regularly. There is a wide range of older AI-S and AF (non-DX) lenses available, and the D700 will allow you to use those lenses at the focal lengths they were designed for. If you’re a commercial, product, fashion, wedding, fine art or landscape photographer, the D700 is probably for you. Add on the optional MB-D10 battery pack, and the D700 makes a pretty decent sports shooter as well. Pick your lenses carefully though; lenses like the new AF-S 70-200mm VR that were rated excellent on DX sensors are showing slight problems with vignetting and loss of corner sharpness on Full-Frame FX sensors.

Tsataan girl with reindeer, Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia. Nikon D300, 10.5mm, 1/500, f/11, ISO200.

I sold off all my old Nikkors when I made my brief and unsuccessful switch to Canon and I’ve since gotten used to the DX lenses. Where I feel the D300 wins out is with Nikon’s DX lens lineup. For expedition and travel photography, the Nikkor 18-200mm VR is unmatched for its versatility and quality, and there’s no full-frame equivalent. I also have the 10.5mm fisheye and 12-24mm wide-angle zoom. Both these lenses cover my wide-angle requirements. On the long end, my 80-400mm VR gives me (with the 1.5 crop factor of the DX sensor) an effective 120-600mm f/4.5-5.6 lens in a small, lightweight and relatively cheap package. Nikon doesn’t make a lens that would give you the equivalent on a Full-Frame camera. The best part of this deal is that the small DX sensor only sees the center of the 80-400mm lens, and avoids the softer corners that would show up on an FX sensor.

Michael Phelps ripping it up during training. Nikon D300, 80-400mm at 400mm, 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 400.

My choice: D300 (for now)
I will be moving over to the Full-Frame FX format. The D700 is the right choice for a lot of people, just not for me right now. At the moment, the D300 is more versatile for shooters like me who need a rugged, dependable camera, and who don’t need the image quality of an FX sensor and can take advantage of the DX sensor by using a few DX wide-angle and FX telephoto lenses to cover a wide range of focal lengths. I’m hanging on to my D300.

Coming up next: D300 vs. D90

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