Nikon D300 Review

 
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Nikon D300 Performance


Timing and Performance

Average to above average speed for a moderately-priced pro SLR these days.

Startup/Shutdown
Power on
to first shot
0.3 second
Time it takes for camera to turn on. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
Shutdown
0.3 second
How long it takes to turn off. (Very fast, difficult to measure.)
(Timings with 266x CF Card)
Buffer clearing time
Large Fine JPEG
12 seconds
(after 37 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 note about memory card speeds at bottom of cycle time table below.)
Buffer clearing time
Small Basic JPEG
1 second
(after 20 SB JPEGs)
Buffer clearing time
14-bit RAW

(uncompressed)
24 seconds
(after 16 RAW frames)

Startup time is average for a semi-pro SLR. Buffer clearing time depends on the image size and quality, burst length and the speed of memory card used.

 

Mode switching
Play to Record,
first shot
0.1 second
Time until first shot is captured.
Record to play
0.5 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 quite fast.

 

Shutter response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus
Single-point AF
Optical Viewfinder
0.227 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder, in Single-point AF mode (center), with Sigma 70mm f.2.8 EX DG Macro lens.
Full Autofocus
Auto-Area AF
Optical Viewfinder
0.419 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder, in Auto-Area AF mode, with Sigma 70mm f.2.8 EX DG Macro lens.
Full Autofocus
Single-point AF
iTTL flash enabled
Optical Viewfinder
0.278 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture using optical viewfinder, built-in flash in iTTL mode enabled.
Full Autofocus
Single-point AF
Live View
Hand-Held Mode
0.465 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View "Hand-Held" (phase-detect) mode.
Full Autofocus
Auto-Area AF
Live View
Hand-Held Mode
0.621 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View "Hand-Held" (phase-detect) mode.
Full Autofocus
Live View
Tripod Mode
n/a
When using Live View "Tripod" (contrast-detect) mode, autofocus is performed using the AF-On button.
Prefocused
Optical Viewfinder
0.057 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.
Prefocused
Live View
Hand-Held Mode
0.055 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, using Live View "Hand-Held" (phase-detect) mode.
Prefocused
Live View
Tripod Mode
0.419 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using Live View "Tripod" (contrast-detect) mode. Autofocus is performed using the AF-On button, and is not included in this number.
Continuous AF
Release Priority
Optical Viewfinder
0.056 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.054 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

In terms of the D300's ability to determine that it's properly focused when shooting the same target multiple times, its speed is a bit below average for a semi-pro model. The D300 required about 0.23 second for full AF when using Single-point (center) AF mode (our default full AF lag test), and 0.42 second when using the 51-point Auto-area AF mode. When prefocused, in release priority continuous mode or manually focused, shutter lag was very fast though, at only 57, 56, and 54 milliseconds respectively.

The D300's two Live View modes add considerable delay, but are faster than some other implementations we've tested recently. The "Hand-Held" mode which uses the same "mirror-down" phase difference AF method employed when using the optical viewfinder has full AF shutter lag of 0.47 second in Single-point AF mode, roughly double the optical viewfinder lag. Switching to Auto-area AF, that figure increases to 0.62 second. The "Tripod" Live View mode is a bit faster at 0.42 second, but focusing is performed separately using the AF-On button, so focusing time is not included in that figure. When prefocused, "Hand-Held" mode shutter lag is a very fast 55 milliseconds.

 

Cycle time (shot to shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Single Shot mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Single Shot mode
12-bit RAW (lossless) + LF JPEG
0.39 second
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots.
Early shutter
penalty?
No
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
0.16 second
(6.12 frames/sec);
37 frames total;
12 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 37 shots.
Continuous mode
Small Basic JPEG
0.16 second
(6.12 frames/sec);
>20 frames total;
1 second to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, or buffer depth, whichever came first.
Continuous mode
12-bit RAW
Lossless Compressed
0.16 second
(6.11 frames/sec);
17 frames total;
17 seconds to clear
(Compression doesn't affect frame rate. Lossless compression doesn't help buffer capacity though (at least with the hard-to-compress target we use for timing measurements.)

Time per shot, averaged over 17 shots.

Continuous mode
12-bit RAW
Compressed
0.16 second
(6.12 frames/sec);
19 frames total;
17 seconds to clear
(Lossy RAW compression helps buffer capacity slightly)

Time per shot, averaged over 19 shots.

Continuous mode
12-bit RAW
Uncompressed
0.16 second
(6.13 frames/sec);
17 frames total;
21 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 17 shots.
Continuous mode
12-bit RAW (Lossless) + LF JPEG
0.16 second
(6.11 frames/sec);
15 frames total;
20 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 15 shots.
Continuous mode
14-bit RAW
Lossless compressed
0.38 second
(2.66 frames/sec)
;
18 frames total;
17 seconds to clear
(14-bit RAW greatly slows the continuous-mode frame rate.)

Time per shot, averaged over 18 shots.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW
Compressed
0.38 second
(2.67 frames/sec);
23 frames total;
19 seconds to clear
(In our tests at least, lossy compression helped buffer capacity more in 14-bit mode than in 12-bit. (Oddly, compressed 14-bit capacity was higher than 12-bit.))

Time per shot, averaged over 23 shots.

Continuous mode
14-bit RAW
Uncompressed
0.38 second
(2.66 frames/sec);
16 frames total;
24 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 16 shots.
Continuous mode
14-bit RAW (Lossless) + LF JPEG
0.38 second
(2.66 frames/sec);
15 frames total;
18 seconds to clear
Time per shot, averaged over 15 shots.
Flash recycling
3.2 seconds
Flash at maximum output.
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a Kingston 266x Ultimate CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance, with higher ISOs generally increasing JPEG cycle times and reducing burst performance.

Single-shot cycle time performance is about average for a semi-pro SLR model, at about 0.4 second between shots in any JPEG quality or RAW mode. Continuous mode is very fast when shooting JPEG or 12-bit RAW files, at 6.1 frames per second (actually slightly faster than Nikon's spec of 6 fps), but slows to 2.7 frames per second when shooting 14-bit RAW. (So avoid 14-bit mode if you need the highest frame rates.) We didn't have the optional battery grip for the D300, so couldn't test the 8 fps maximum speed Nikon claims with it. Buffer depth in large/fine JPEG mode was 37 frames, and varied between 16 and 23 frames in RAW mode, depending on what bit depth and compression was used for the NEF files.

With the very difficult-to-compress target we use for measuring buffer capacity, lossless RAW compression had little or no effect on buffer capacity, but lossy compression helped some in 12-bit mode, quite a bit in 14-bit. (But lossy compression seems to defeat the whole purpose of a RAW file, in our opinion.) Flash recycling after a full power shot is fast at 3.2 seconds, which is quite good, especially considering how powerful the flash is.

Like other recent pro-level SLRs, the Nikon D300 makes good use of very fast memory cards. We don't have specific numbers to publish here, but did note that slower cards definitely led to longer buffer-clearing times.

 

Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0
8,765 KBytes/sec
Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-770=USB 2.0 Low;
More than 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were extremely fast, fast enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery

Excellent battery life for an SLR lithium-ion design.

Test Conditions
Number of Shots
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
(CIPA standard)
1,000
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery,
Live View
n/a

The Nikon D300 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 1,000 shots per charge using the optical viewfinder is well above average for an SLR, and the optional MB-D10 battery pack with an EN-EL4a battery doubles shooting capacity to 2,000 shots. Unfortunately, Nikon does not seem to publish battery life results for when Live View mode is used, but it's a safe bet that it's considerably shorter. (Again, we don't have specific measurements, but did notice that the battery seemed to use up its charge much more rapidly when we were shooting in Live View mode. - And the remaining-capacity indicator would often dip noticeably when we switched Live View mode.)

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of on fully-charged battery, 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 D300 stores its photos on CompactFlash memory cards, and no card is included with the camera. The chart below shows how many images can be stored on a 2GB card at each size/quality setting. Notes: JPEG compression set to Optimal Quality, UC = uncompressed, C = compressed.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
2GB Memory Card
Fine Normal Basic
14-bit
RAW
(UC)
14-bit
RAW
(C)
12-bit
RAW
(UC)
12-bit
RAW
(C)
4,288 x 2,848
Images
(Avg size)
180
11.4 MB
358
5.7 MB
708
2.9 MB
73
28 MB
109
18.7 MB
96
21.3 MB
131
15.6 MB
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 6:1 13:1 0.8:1 1.1:1 0.9:1 1.2:1
3,216 x 2,136
Images
(Avg size)
317
6.4 MB
621
3.3 MB
1,268
1.6 MB
- - - -
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 6:1 13:1 - - - -
2,144 x 1,424
Images
(Avg size)
708
2.9 MB
1,440
1.4 MB
2,644
775 KB
- - - -
Approx.
Comp.
3:1 6:1 12:1 - - - -

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity CompactFlash. You should probably consider at least a 2GB card, if not a 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, especially if you plan on doing a lot of RAW 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.)

 

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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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