We've provided this printable version of our review for your convenience. Please remember that your shopping clicks support this site. If you think this camera is a good choice for you, please consider returning to the link below to check prices and make a purchase via our shopping links.

Also note that this is just one of the pages from this review. Full reviews have several pages with complete analysis of the many test shots we take with each camera. Feel free to download and print them out to see how the camera will perform for you.

Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D300S/D300SA.HTM

Like this camera?
Save money online!
Prices as of 09/01/2014
Nikon D300S digital camera image
Save Money!
Nikon D300S

$1696.95



- That's the average, click to find the BEST price!

Your shopping clicks support this site, help keep the reviews coming!

Nikon D300S Performance


Timing and Performance

Generally above average speed for a compact-body pro SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~0.3 second

Time it takes for camera to turn on and take a shot.

Shutdown

~0.5 second

How long it takes to turn off.

Buffer clearing time

9.1 seconds*
after 26 LF JPEGs

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared.

See Cycle-Time table below for more buffer clearing times.

9.8/7.6 seconds*
after 17 12-bit LLC RAW frames
9.9 seconds*
after 22 14-bit LLC RAW frames
14.2/8.9 seconds*
after 19/25 14-bit Uncompressed RAW frames

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB/SanDisk Extreme Pro 16 GBs CompactFlash memory cards. (Faster times shown were with Extreme Pro card.) Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times.

Startup time is about average for a semi-pro SLR, but shutdown is slightly slow (probably due to sensor cleaning). Buffer clearing times depend on the image size and quality, burst length and how fast the card can be written to, but are generally pretty fast.

The Nikon D300S supports UDMA data transfers, so can take advantage of very fast cards like the SanDisk Extreme Pro series. Buffer clearing times aren't directly proportional to differences in card speed, but there is still a noticeable improvement. In the above examples, the SanDisk Extreme Pro card is rated at twice the data transfer speed of the Extreme IV model. The clearing time for uncompressed 14-bit RAW files improved from 14.9 to 8.2 seconds, but the buffer depth also increased from 19 to 25 shots, a not-insignificant improvement.

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.3 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

~0.3 second

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

~0.2 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is very fast, difficult to measure accurately.

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus
Single Area
(center) AF

0.225 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime).

Full Autofocus
Auto Area
(51-point) AF

0.370 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime).

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.271 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime), Auto Flash enabled.

Pre-focused

0.053 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.155 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
0.150 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "pre-focused."
Live View
Full Autofocus
Hand-Held
(Phase-Detect AF)
Live View mode
0.473 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture (with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime).

Pre-focused
Hand-Held
(Phase-Detect AF)
Live View mode

0.053 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button. (with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 prime.) A little pointless, though, see text below...

Full Autofocus
Tripod Mode
(Contrast-Detect AF)
Live View mode
2.5 seconds

(2.0 - 3.5 seconds
across several lenses)

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture with Sigma70mm f/2.8 prime. (Other results from Nikkor AF-S 12-24mm f/4 DX and 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 DX.)

Pre-focused
Tripod Mode
(Contrast-Detect AF)
Live View mode

0.419 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

The shutter lag numbers above measure time from shutter button press to image capture, with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. This largely removes the issue of differences in lens focusing speed, and measures how fast the camera can measure and act on focus information. In this metric, the Nikon D300S is a bit slower than average for a compact-body pro SLR. The D300S required 0.225 second for full AF when using Single-point (center) AF mode (our default full AF lag test), almost exactly the same as the time we measured for the D300. The D300S required 0.37 second when using the 51-point Auto-area AF mode, a bit faster than the D300's 0.42 second. When prefocused, shutter lag was only 0.053 second, just slightly faster than the D300's 0.057 second lag. Continuous and Manual focus lag times were 0.155 second and 0.150 second respectively, though, both slower than the D300's 0.056s and 0.054s for those modes.

As expected, the Nikon D300's two Live View modes add considerable delay. The "Hand-Held" mode which uses the same "mirror-down" phase-difference AF method employed when using the optical viewfinder has a full AF shutter lag of 0.47 second in Single-point AF mode, roughly double the optical viewfinder lag, but very similar to this mode on the D300, and quite a bit faster than "quick mode" (phase-detect) AF on competing Canon models in Live View mode. The "Tripod" Live View mode is much slower at 2.5 seconds, but focusing must be triggered using the AF-On button, so there's a little of the photographer's reaction time included in that figure, in pressing the shutter button once he/she hears the focus-confirmation beep. When prefocused, "Hand-Held" mode shutter lag is a very fast 53 milliseconds. (Although it deserves noting that there's little point to shooting prefocused in hand-held mode, as the viewfinder is blacked out as long as the shutter button is held down in readiness. Releasing the shutter button restores the viewfinder display, but you'll then incur the full-AF shutter lag when you go to capture the shot.) In "Tripod" mode, prefocused shooting is quite slow at 0.42 second, probably because the camera must drop and re-open the mirror to take the shot.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.

Cycle Time (shot-to-shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
Single AF point, Focus Priority
0.48 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
Release Priority
0.21 second
Time per shot, averaged over 16 shots. (Buffer depth.)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
Manual Focus
0.19 second
Time per shot, averaged over 16 shots. (Buffer depth.)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
Continuous AF
0.15 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots. (Buffer depth; this test done with SanDisk Extreme Pro CF card.)

Single Shot mode
12-bit Lossless Compressed (LLC) RAW, Single AF, Release Priority

0.48 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
12-bit Lossless Compressed RAW
Release Priority
0.22 second
Time per shot, averaged over 16 shots. (Buffer depth.)

Single Shot mode
12-bit LLC RAW + LF JPEG

0.47 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Single Shot mode
14-bit LLC RAW

0.42 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

No
(YES with flash)

Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.14 second
(7.10 fps);
26 frames total;
9.1 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over the buffer length of 26 shots, then slows to an average of 0.41 second (2.45 fps) for subsequent shots, with 17% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Continuous mode
12-bit RAW

Lossless Compressed:
0.14 second
(7.11 fps);
17 frames total;
9.8 seconds to clear*

0.14 second for the first 17 frames, then slows to an average of 0.61 second (1.64 fps) for subsequent shots, with 31% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Compressed:
0.14 second
(6.99 fps);
20 frames total;
9.9 seconds to clear*

0.14 second for the first 20 frames, then slows to an average of 0.58 second (1.72 fps) for subsequent shots, with 34% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Uncompressed:
0.14 second
(7.11 fps);
17 frames total;
13.3 seconds to clear*

0.14 second
(7.11 fps);
17 frames total;
7.6 seconds to clear**
0.14 second for the first 17 frames, then slows to an average of 0.80 second (1.26 fps) for subsequent shots, with 45% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

**Same speed and buffer depth with SanDisk Extreme Pro card, but clears in 7.6 seconds, and post-fill capture rate is 0.48 second (2.09 fps) with 43% variation.

Continuous mode
12-bit RAW + LF JPEG

Lossless Compressed:
0.14 second
(7.11 fps;
15 frames total;
14.3 seconds to clear*

0.14 second for the first 15 frames, then slows to an average of 1.06 seconds (0.94 fps) for subsequent shots, with 56% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW

Lossless Compressed:
0.374 second
(2.67 fps);
22 frames total;
9.9 seconds to clear*

0.37 second for the first 22 frames, then slows to an average of 0.67 second (1.49 fps) for subsequent shots, with 50% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Compressed:
0.377 second
(2.65 fps);
30 frames total;
11.2 seconds to clear*

0.38 second for the first 30 frames, then slows to an average of 0.60 second (1.67 fps) for subsequent shots, with 19% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Uncompressed:
0.377 second
(2.65 fps);
19 frames total;
14.2 seconds to clear*

0.377 second
(2.65 fps);
25 frames total;
9.3 seconds to clear**

0.38 second for the first 19 frames, then slows to an average of 1.05 seconds (0.95 fps) for subsequent shots, with 44% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

**Same speed with SanDisk Extreme Pro card, but buffer depth of 25 frames, then clears in 9.3 seconds, and post-fill capture rate is 0.60 second (1.67 fps) with 38% variation.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW + LF JPEG

Lossless Compressed:
0.38 second (2.65 frames per second);
17 frames total;
15.9 seconds to clear*

0.38 second for the first 17 frames, then slows to an average of 1.13 seconds (0.88 fps) for subsequent shots, with 5% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Flash recycling

1.7 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

* Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme IV 8GB CompactFlash memory card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and other settings such as Advanced D-Lighting or NR can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

** Additional buffer clearing times for 12- and 14-bit uncompressed RAW files also measured with SanDisk Extreme Pro 16 GB CompactFlash memory card, showing faster clearing times and faster post-buffer-fill capture

Shot-to-shot cycle times were a little slower than the D300, at 0.48 second for Large/Fine JPEGs or 12-bit lossless compressed RAWs, and 0.47 second for 12-bit lossless compressed RAW + Large/Fine JPEGs, all with a single AF point selected, and the camera set to focus priority. (The D300 managed 0.39 seconds for all three modes.) When set to release priority, times improved to 0.21 - 0.22 second, while in manual focus, the minimum cycle time decreased to 0.19 second. Continuous mode for Large/Fine JPEGs and 12-bit RAWs was very fast though, ranging from 7 to 7.1 frames-per-second, depending on the mode. This is about one frame-per-second faster than the D300 (without the optional battery grip). Like the D300, though, the Nikon D300S slowed significantly in 14-bit RAW mode, dropping to about 2.7 frames per second. Buffer depths were quite good. Some were better than the D300 (14-bit RAW), some worse (LF JPEG), and some about the same (12-bit RAW). The flash takes 1.7 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is pretty fast.

Just prior to publishing this review, we received samples of the SanDisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash card, rated for 90 MB/sec read and write speeds using the UDMA 6 protocol (twice the speed of the Extreme IV model we'd previously been using to measure buffer clearing times). We ran a couple of tests recording uncompressed RAW files, to see what effect the faster card had on clearing times, and were impressed that it improved clearing times by 35-57%. The few seconds difference won't make a lot of difference to many users of the D300S, but anyone concerned about maximum image throughput will definitely find UDMA 6 cards worth the extra cost.

The Nikon D300S has both CF and SD card slots: If you have two cards loaded simultaneously, you can configure them in a variety of different ways, using the SD card as a backup, as an overflow, or just to receive JPEG images. We didn't test all the permutations and combinations of this configuration, but did run a few tests to see how buffer clearing speed varied between the two card types. Here's a little table, comparing results with two different CF cards with those from two different SD cards:

Nikon D300S CF vs SD card speed
Card Type/Model Buffer clearing,
Uncompressed 14-bit RAW
CF, SanDisk Extreme IV
14.2s
CF, SanDisk Extreme Pro
8.9s
SD, SanDisk Extreme III, Class 6
26s
SD, PhotoFast Class 10
48s

As you can see, CF cards are pretty dramatically faster than SD cards, and new UDMA 6 cards like the SanDisk Extreme Pro line are quite a bit quicker than even very fast cards of the immediately prior generation. On the SD side, we tried both a SanDisk Class 6 card, and a card rated for Class 10 performance from the relatively new vendor Photofast. The Class 10 PhotoFast card came in quite a bit slower than the Class 6 SanDisk Extreme III with this camera. The PhotoFast SD might well be a Class 10 card, but it's important to note that the "Class" rating system refers to minimum guaranteed transfer rate, not peak throughputs. As such, it has more relevance to video recording than flushing still images from a memory buffer. (In separate tests of PhotoFast high-speed CF cards, we've been pleased to see them coming close to the performance of high-end cards from SanDisk and Lexar, yet selling at considerably lower prices: We'll try to do a memory-card roundup at some point, to shed a little light on cost vs performance figures there.)

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

7,413 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, downloads are quite speedy.

Bottom line, the Nikon D300S is a very responsive camera overall, but autofocus speeds are slightly slow for a compact-body pro-level SLR. While continuous mode speeds when shooting JPEGs or 12-bit RAWs were very fast, switching to 14-bit RAW slows cycle times quite a bit, so you'll need to avoid 14-bit mode for fast action shots.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life for a lithium-ion design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Optical Viewfinder,
(CIPA standard)
950
Live View LCD,
(CIPA standard)
Unknown

The Nikon D300S uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Battery life is excellent with the optical viewfinder, but if you plan to use Live View or shoot movies much, you'll definitely want to have a spare battery to bring along.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on either a fresh set of disposable batteries or a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Nikon Nikon D300S accepts CompactFlash and SD/SDHC memory cards. No card is included with the camera.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
2GB Memory Card
Fine Normal Basic
14-bit
RAW
(LLC)
12-bit
RAW
(LLC)
TIFF
4,288 x 2,848
Images
(Avg size)
186
11.0 MB
328
5.9 MB
734
2.8 MB
76
26.9 MB
98
20.9 MB
52
39.4 MB
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 6:1 13:1 0.8:1 0.9:1 0.9:1
3,216 x 2,136
Images
(Avg size)
370
5.5 MB
644
3.2 MB
1,436
1.4 MB
- - -
Approx.
Comp.
4:1 7:1 14:1 - - -
2,144 x 1,424
Images
(Avg size)
734
2.8 MB
1,264
1.6 MB
2,604
788 KB
- - -
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 6:1 12:1 - - -

The numbers in the table above reflect using the Optimal Quality setting for the D300S' JPEG compression: Using the Size Priority option will increase the number of images that can be stored, at some cost in image quality. We strongly recommend buying a large capacity CompactFlash or SDHC card. You should probably consider at least a 2GB card, if not a 4GB or 8GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, especially if you plan on doing a lot of RAW or HD movie shooting. (Check the shopping link above, cards are cheap these days, so there's no reason to skimp -- But do consider faster cards for this camera, to reduce buffer clearing times.)