Nikon D300 Review

 
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Nikon D300 Optics

Lenses
Like other Nikon SLRs, the D300 accommodates a wide range of Nikkor lenses, via the standard Nikon "F" lens mount. The D300's lens mount includes both a mechanical AF coupling for older lenses, and AF electrical contacts for the latest AF-IF or AF-S Nikkor lenses with internal focus motors. With very few exceptions, you can use the D300 with any F Mount Nikkor lens ever made.

Like the D200, the D300's lens mount includes an AI aperture ring connector, a little metal vane located just outside the lens mount flange (at about 1 o'clock), that interfaces with old AI Nikkor manual focus lenses. This engages with the aperture ring on AI-style Nikkor lenses, and lets the D300 support aperture-priority metering mode and provide manual-exposure metering with them.

See the table and notes below for detailed lens compatibility information extracted from the D300 User's Manual (courtesy of Nikon USA):


Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Optical Tests

Zoom
Excellent performance from the newly-announced 24-70mm lens.

24mm 70mm

The Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens was announced at the same time as the Nikon D300 and D3 digital SLRs were. It almost certainly won't be a "kit" lens for the D300, but we thought readers would be interested in some sample images from this latest example of Nikon's optical prowess. Along with the 14-24mm f/2.8 lens that was announced at the same time, Nikon aims to deliver prime-lens quality with zoom-lens flexibility. As of this writing, we haven't completed our DxO Analyzer evaluation of these lenses, but they certainly appear to deliver impressive quality.

With an equivalent focal length range from 36 to 105mm on the D300, the 24-70mm covers a useful range from moderate wide angle to short telephoto, with a fast, constant f/2.8 aperture. Results were very good at 24mm, with minimal corner softness and strong detail throughout the frame. Coma distortion in the trees is very low, with very little chromatic aberration visible in the corners and edges (see the CA test results below to find out why). Results are also very good at the 70mm setting as well, with no signs of visible coma distortion or chromatic aberration. All in all, a great performance from this new lens.

Distortion
Low barrel distortion at wide angle and low pincushion distortion at telephoto as well.

Barrel distortion at 24mm is 0.3%
Pincushion at 70mm is less than 0.1%

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto). The Nikon 24-70mm lens produced about 0.3% barrel distortion at full wide angle, which is much lower than average. At the 70mm telephoto end, barrel distortion was just under 0.1%; also below average. An excellent performance.

Chromatic aberration
Virtually no chromatic aberration in JPEGs, as the D300 automatically applies C.A. reduction during JPEG processing. Moderate at wide angle when shooting NEFs.

Chromatic Aberration when shooting JPEG
Wide: Extremely low,
upper left @ 200%
Wide: Extremely low,
upper right @ 200%
Tele: Extremely low,
upper left @ 200%
Tele: Extremely low,
upper right @ 200%

Chromatic aberration is extremely low, almost non existent at both wide angle and full telephoto. This isn't really a surprise though, as the D300 (and D3) remove CA while processing JPEGs. Dave reported on this when he attended the Tokyo rollout for the D300 and D3, but this is the first opportunity we've had to get hands-on with the technology, to see how well it worked.

Below are crops from RAW files converted through Adobe Camera RAW, with no CA correction applied. (Properly treating the D300's RAW files as exactly that (raw, unprocessed recordings of the actual sensor data), Nikon only applies CA correction to the camera-generated JPEGs.)


Chromatic Aberration when shooting RAW
Wide: Moderate and bright,
upper left @ 200%
Wide: Moderate and bright,
upper right @ 200%
Tele: Very low,
upper left @ 200%
Tele: Very low
upper right @ 200%

As you can see from the wide angle RAW crops above, the D300 does a very good job at removing CA from JPEGs (compare to the previous set of wide angle crops). In the uncorrected wide-angle image, the CA is pretty noticeable, but in the corrected version, the coloration is almost invisible. If you look carefully, you can see very slight tinges of color around the target elements in the corrected image, but keep in mind that these are 200% magnifications of 12-megapixel files. Depending on the pixel pitch of your monitor, this is roughly equivalent to squinting at a print roughly 100 inches (~2.6 meters) wide. Very impressive, particularly considering that the camera is figuring this all out on the fly (that is, without the benefit of any pre-recorded lens information) at up to 8 frames/second. (When shooting with the optional battery grip, maximum frame rate is 6 frames/second with the internal battery.)

As it turns out there wasn't much CA to remove from the telephoto RAW file, so the improvement is not as dramatic there.

Corner Sharpness
Minor softening in the corners of the frame with the 24-70mm lens.

Wide: Moderately soft
the corners (lower right).
Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Slightly soft in
the corners (lower left).
Tele: Sharp at center.

The Nikkor 24-70mm lens produced moderately soft corners at wide angle, with the lower right corner being the softest on our sample, but the softening didn't extend very far into the frame at all, so the net effect was really quite minimal. At full telephoto, the corners were only slightly softer than the center of the frame. Again, very good performance.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D300 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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