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30th July 2009
A hands-on preview of the new Nikon D300s and D3000
by Ian Burley
6160: A hands-on preview of the new Nikon D300s and D3000

Two new DSLRs and two new lenses strengthen the Nikon DSLR line up

Nikon has announced two new DSLRs and two new lenses. The D3000 becomes the new entry-level model, replacing the D60, while the popular mid-range D300 gets updated to the D300s. For lenses, and celebrating the 50th year of the Nikon F-mount, the best selling Nikon 18-200 super zoom gets updated, and the FX 70-200 f/2.8 pro zoom for full frame bodies has been completely redesigned. The 70-200 f/2.8 will start to ship in November, while the two DSLRs and the new 18-200 will be available from the end of August.

Meanwhile, Nikon UK reported that its overall business has grown by 14 percent this year, despite the economic recession. Much of this success is attributed to the D300, which has been the best selling DSLR in Europe in its price category for several months this year. It would appear that Nikon continues to keep Canon on its nose in the DSLR league tables. However, there was a word of caution in that DSLR sales have started to lag behind last year for the first time.

Following is a distillation of what Nikon highlighted about the new bodies and lenses at the official press launch. Plus, we have a gallery of pictures taken at the launch event of the D300s and the D3000. Unfortunately, examples of the new lenses weren't available to look at.

Nikon D3000

You can read the official Nikon D3000 press release, with specifications, here on DPNow, for the D3000. But to summarise, the D3000 is a development of the recently launched D5000, with a further enhancement to address first-time DSLR buyers. The obvious difference between the D5000 and the D3000 is that the latter does not have the former's articulating LCD screen. Much of the rest of the specification is the same, with 11 AF points, plus a 10 megapixel DX sensor. Nikon has worked hard to make the D3000 appeal to users who aren't necessarily photography experts. The menu system has an extra large font, and there is copious context-sensitive Guide mode help to enable users to find and exploit basic DSLR image quality modes. A particular feature is in-camera editing facilities that mean you can knock images into shape without the need for downloading to a computer first. One of the notable effects available is turns scenes into what look like miniatures by selectively blurring the top and bottom of the image. You have to see it, but it works remarkably well. Overall, the D3000 looks like a more than deserving successor to the D60 at the DSLR entry-level.

Nikon D300s

We also have the Nikon D300s press release and specifications available on the D300s for you. Externally, the 12.3 megapixel D300s looks very similar to the original D300. Much of the basic internal specification is the same, too, but there are some notable enhancements. A good move has been the incorporation of a dedicated live view mode button. Implementing live view in the D300 was not a simple process. The D300s now sports video recording, including a 720 HD resolution mode, at 24 frames per second. Recordings are limited to 5 minutes, maximum, because that's how long it takes to fill 2GB of storage and the motion JPEG AVI format Nikon uses is limited to 2GB. Although the D300s only has a mono microphone built in, there is a socket for an external stereo microphone and you can control the input level from the camera menus. Tripod Mode contrast detect autofocus now works during movie recordings.

Another update to the D300s is the inclusion of a Nikon D3 and D700-style virtual horizon that uses gyros to help you ensure the camera is level. Dual memory slots are now featured, so you can use both SD and Compact Flash cards. As with the D300, the D300s is a rugged metal alloy body with moisture and dust sealing. Maximum shooting rate is up to 8 frames per second if you use the optional battery grip. The D300s pop-up flash now has wider coverage for more extreme wide angle lenses up to 16mm focal length.

On paper, there is little doubt that the D300s has benefited from some great enhancements and should make an already very desirable camera in the form of the D300 even more so.

Lenses

We have the official press releases for the new Nikon DX 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 and the new FX 70-200 f/2.8, but to summarise, the new 18-200 benefits from the latest iteration Nikon's Vibration Reduction in-lens image stabilisation system, VRII. Users of the original 18-200 may have experienced the phenomenon of the lens extending all by itself, and this has been addressed with a lock provision for when the lens is not being used.Two ED and three aspheric elements in the optical design are employed to control distortion and aberrations.

The new 70-200 f/2.8 is a complete redesign. The lens it replaces had five ED elements, but the new 70-200 has no less than seven. Nano Crystal coating is used, and VRII image stabilisation is employed. 9 iris blades are used to achieve a near perfect circular aperture to ensure excellent defocus characteristics.

Image gallery from the London press launch

Now go to page 2 to view some shots of the D300s and the D3000 taken at the UK product launch event.

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A hands-on preview of the new Nikon D300s and D3000

Ian A hands-on preview of the new Nikon D300s and D3000
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