Nikon D300 Digital Camera Image Noise Tests and Review

The Nikon D300 is a very impressive camera. Well built, well featured and with excellent image quality, this is a camera worth owning.
Nikon has been very impressive of late, with a renewed confidence and camera qualities and features that lead rather than follow, as was the case some years ago.

The Nikon D300 is a very impressive package. Solid construction, great ergonomics and image quality and excellent feature combination make this a highly desirable camera.
The most important quality of a camera is that of the images it produces. Features that address this are thus of core importance. The D300 combines a range of features that support the photographer in making choices. That is, for me, the single thing that makes the D300 a great camera, the control it gives you as a photographer.

Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

RAW (NEF) files are available on the camera test page for download.

To me, the key features impacting image quality are:

  • A low noise 12.3Mpixel image sensor
  • 200ISO to 3200ISO sensitivity (normal), with extended 100ISO and 6400ISO
  • User selectable 12 or 14-bit channel resolution so you can choose between speed and quality
  • High resolution 3 inch LCD
  • Six to eight frames per second when shooting JPEG, depending on other settings
  • Effective Live View with two modes for hand held and tripod shooting
  • A large and bright viewfinder
  • 51-point autofocusing
  • In camera multiple exposure
  • Integration of the 1005 segment RGB sensor into the AF and AE systems, as well as white balance
  • Active-D Lighting control extends dynamic range for high contrast scenes

Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

When you combine the above with a solid body, excellent ergonomics and a camera that fits the hand well you get a great shooting experience. Unlike some cameras with crippled features when using Live View, the D300 lets you continue to enjoy AF and AE options in full, and you can do all this remotely off your computer if you wish.

Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

Another great feature for event photographers and others who prefer to shoot JPEG is the ability to create custom settings with the Picture Control System, either in camera or using the Nikon software on your computer. You can then share these settings with the D3 or another D300 body for consistency between cameras. You can even share them with the new D700 full frame camera. And it has GPS support with a port to connect Nikon’s external GPS unit.

Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

So just how low noise is this camera? Well to find out we shot our usual test target in daylight and in low light so we had 15-second exposures. Below are both 100% sections from the test images and the resulting histograms.

Normal daylight short exposures
Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

15-second exposures with noise reduction turned off
Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

The histogram above shows remarkably good separation of the step wedge. In normal lighting 1600ISO is very useable, as the 100% sections below shown. Even after contrast enhancement and sharpening the image looks great.

100% Sections

800ISO
Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

1600ISO
Nikon D300 Review and image noise test
This is the RAW image and below it has been processed as I normally would (Levels and unsharp mask)
Nikon D300 Review and image noise test

3200ISO
Nikon D300 camera review and noise test
This is the RAW image and below it has been processed as I normally would (Levels and unsharp mask)
Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

I would assess the Nikon D300 as very low noise. Nikon’s work on the sensor design (keeping heat generated components away from the imaging area) as well as whatever inherent processing the Expeed processor does has clearly worked. Images are very clean from 200 to 800ISO and even the 1600ISO images are very clean. Only at 3200ISO and above does noise become a real issue. In shooting real images the image quality is even better. So in general use I would use from 200ISO to 800ISO just as I need to give the exposures I require. 1600ISO is perfect in low light and I would go to 3200ISO in a pinch. 6400ISO is too noisy for my interests in photography.

Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

Nikon D300 camera review and noise test

Nikon have done well. The current set of the D3, D300 and D700 cameras offer a great choice for the professional and serious amateur photographer. I’m assuming there will be something else out at Photokina in September to add to this, though that remains to be seen.

The D300 is a real joy to use. I encountered no issues with it at all. Very highly recommended.

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One Response to “Nikon D300 Digital Camera Image Noise Tests and Review”

  1. RobertApril 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    Your article on the D300 has once again make me decide that I will notice a drastic improvement compared to my D100 and D70 that I just sold and am ordering the D300. I am extremely anxious to use the D300. I recently took some eagle photos with my D70. Very happy with most of my results but there are some shots that I feel I would be able to crop on if they were taken with the D300. Thanks for your article, very helpful!

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