Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Choose your ideal camera for photographing birds and other wildlife
The D300 offers superb image quality up through ISO 3200 (and surprisingly good quality at ISO 6400), due, in part, to its 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, Nikon’s EXPEED image processing, 14-bit NEF (RAW) output and excellent noise control. Its major advantage over the full-frame D3 and D700 as a wildlife camera is its 1.5x focal-length factor—while all three are 12-megapixel cameras, the D3 and D700 images shrink to 5.1 megapixels when cropped to DX (APS-C) format.
Extremely quick (0.13-second startup, 45ms shutter lag), the D300 can shoot up to 6 fps (8 fps with the optional MB-D10 battery pack) and has an excellent 3D Focus Tracking AF system that can keep up. The rugged, magnesium-alloy body features weather and dust sealing and a 150,000-cycle shutter, yet is considerably lighter and less bulky than top-of-the-line pro models.
Active D-Lighting applies real-time highlight and shadow correction to provide better detail from bright highlights and dark areas, which is handy when shooting in harsh light. The high-resolution, 920,000-dot LCD monitor features two Live-View modes: Tripod mode is ideal for wildlife “portraits,” while Handheld mode uses the camera’s standard phase-detection AF and can handle action.
The D300 includes a built-in flash unit (ISO 100/GN 39, in feet), handy for filling shadows in close-by subjects and for macro work. Nikon long has been known for its excellent external flash system, and the D300 provides all the latest features, including i-TTL operation and comprehensive wireless off-camera control.
The D300 also incorporates Nikon’s first self-cleaning sensor unit, utilizing four different resonance frequencies to keep dust off the sensor assembly and your images spot-free.
Nikon offers more than 50 lenses, including quite a few ideal for wildlife. Among them are the 300mm ƒ/2.8, 400mm ƒ/2.8, 500mm ƒ/4 and 600mm ƒ/4 primes and the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 and 200-400mm ƒ/4 zooms, all with effective built-in Vibration Reduction, and all but the 80-400mm with super-smooth AF-S focusing motors. There are also 1.4x, 1.7x and 2x AF teleconverters.
Predecessors: D200, D100
Cool Factor: Excellent image quality and low noise at higher ISOs
Sensor: 12.3-megapixel CMOS, 1.5x
Stabilization: VR lenses
Max. Shooting Rate: 6 fps
Anti-Dust: High-frequency vibrations
ISO Range: 100-6400
Longest Current Lens: 600mm
Estimated Street Price: $1,650
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