This is not a review. A review implies proper testing protocol and methodology. For that, we are going to have to wait for the professional reviewers. These are merely my observations after a week of putting a couple of hundred compressed NEF test shots through my D300, processed in Lightroom.
It is such a pleasure to use the D300. It is highly customizable, even more so than the D200. Even the over-under exposure indicator can be switched around, something that Canon shooters coming over to the Nikon camp will appreciate.
The viewfinder is clean and the 51-point autofocus system works well. Very well. Confidence in your equipment is a large part of the game, and the D300 brings it.
Tested with all noise reduction off, 12-bit RAW images at ISO 800 are very clean, and at ISO 1600 still impressive and very usable. It shows significantly less noise than my D200. How much less? I can’t really tell you, but to me, it’s a significant improvement over the D200 and I’m very happy with it.
The D300 Matrix Meter works differently from my old D200. Initially, I thought that my D300 meter was more sensitive, resulting in slightly ‘hot’ highlights under high contrast lighting (Active D-Lighting Off). However, I now suspect that it is the new Scene Recognition System at work, allowing the highlights to go slightly ‘hot’ to preserve shadow detail. That’s fine, as long as it is consistent and predictable, but I need a little more time with this to be sure.
My last big niggle with the D200 was battery life. I haven’t tested this yet because I’m still on my first battery! But others are reporting significant improvements over the battery life of the D200, as much as double.
It’s going to be tough for Nikon to beat the D300. It may well be Nikon’s last DX format pro-spec camera. Only the future will tell...