Monday, September 1, 2008
Does Your Camera Have An Evil Twin?
What’s in a camera’s DNA? We’ll show you the features and technologies that have trickled down from the top-end models to the popular sweet-spot cameras.
These are fraternal, not identical, “twins.” The D3 is Nikon’s top-of-the-line model, its first full-frame D-SLR and its best D-SLR ever in terms of image quality and performance. The D300 is Nikon’s top intermediate model, selling for about one-third the price of the D3. Yet the D300 shares many features with the D3, including excellent autofocusing and metering systems, EXPEED image processing (optimizes image quality and operating speed), your choice of 12- or 14-bit A/D conversion with 16-bit internal processing, a high-res, 920,000-dot, 3.0-inch LCD monitor with both Handheld and Tripod Live-View modes, Picture Controls that let you choose and fine-tune different “looks,” Active D-Lighting (which improves highlight and shadow detail), rugged construction and more. The D300 even includes a couple of features the D3 doesn’t have: Nikon’s first self-cleaning sensor unit (a great boon when one changes lenses in the field frequently) and a built-in flash. And the D300 even has a few more megapixels: 12.3 vs. 12.1.
The D3 can shoot 12.1-megapixel full-frame images at 9 fps and 5.1-megapixel DX-format images at 11 fps, while the D300 shoots its 12.3-megapixel DX-format images at up to 6 fps. The D300 provides ISOs up to 6400, with excellent image quality for each speed, but the D3 goes all the way to ISO 25,600, with even better image quality at each speed. The D3 starts up a little faster (0.12 seconds vs. 0.13 seconds), has slots for two CompactFlash cards and is even more ruggedly built.
Bottom Line: Both cameras are excellent outdoor D-SLRs, with the D3 providing better image quality, a full-frame sensor and faster shooting capability at a cost of more bulk and purchase price. Obviously, the D3, with its full-frame sensor and much larger pixels, is an outstanding all-around camera, but the D300, which produces 12.3-megapixel images with a 1.6x focal-length factor, shares many of the D3’s technology and features at a fraction of the price. The D300 also is an excellent choice for shy wildlife and birds (when you crop the 12.1-megapixel D3 images down to the same DX-format framing, they’re only 5.1 megapixels).
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