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Nikon's D300s

The 'S' stands for 'Speedy'

By Allan Weitz

Nikon's D300s is an update of Nikon's popular D300, and like its predecessor, the D300s contains a self-cleaning 12.3Mp DX-format CMOS sensor, a dynamic 51-point Multi-CAM3500 autofocus system, and an EXPEED image processor. It's also notably faster, and shoots 720p HD video. Is that an arched eyebrow we detect?

The 's' in the camera's name stands for 'speedy', and with a burst-rate of up to 7 frames-per-second (up to 8 fps with the optional MB-D10 battery grip) the D300s more than warrants the name change. Burst-rates aside, the D300s also has the ability to capture 720p HD video @ 24 fps with sound, and contrast-detect autofocus control when the camera is set to Tripod Mode.

If you want to go beyond the monaural sound recording abilities of the D300s, you also have the option of plugging in a variety of shoe-mounted stereo microphones for higher-fidelity sound.

Images can be captured at burst-rates up to 7 frames-per-second, or 8 frames-per-second when using the optional MB-D10 battery grip.

Still images can be composed using the camera's bright pentaprism viewfinder, or on the camera's 3" 920,000-dot LCD using the camera's 1-button Live View function. And unlike most cameras in this price range, you can view 100% of the image area through the optical viewfinder as well as the camera's LCD.

When shooting video, the LCD is used for composing, focusing and playback of your clips. The LCD is also used to display the D300s' Virtual Horizon feature, which enables you to maintain level horizon lines. This is especially handy when shooting with wider-angle optics such as Nikon's 10-24/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX , a fun piece of glass we used extensively in this road test.

Stills can be captured as RAW, 3 levels of JPEG compression, RAW plus JPEG - also in a choice JPEG compression Ė as well a TIFF. As for color space, you can choose between the basic sRGB or, for higher-fidelity needs, the wider-gamut Adobe RGB color space. Dual memory card slots enable you to record stills and video onto a choice of SD/SDHC or Type 1 CompactFlash cards.

Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds through 1/8000th-second and, like f/stops, can be set at full, half, and third-stop intervals. For studio shooters the D330s has a top flash sync speed of 1/250th-second. There's also Bulb with or without mirror-lock for longer exposures, as well as a Quiet mode for shooting in sound-sensitive environments.

Exposure modes include the usual suspects - Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual, and exposures can be established using a choice Matrix, Center-weighted, or spot metering. ISO levels range from a native ISO 200 through 3200, and can be expanded to ISO 100 & 6400 as needed.

The D300s camera body, including the chassis and mirror box, is constructed from light-but- tough magnesium-alloy, and is reinforced against moisture and dust around all openings and seams. The camera's shutter is equally up to task and should work dependably beyond 150,000 test-proven cycles.

An advanced Scene Recognition System, which works in conjunction with the camera's 1,005-pixel RGB sensor, allows for extremely accurate exposures, color, and tonal renditions, as well as iTTL flash control and color balance under a variety of shooting conditions. Another important feature found in the D300s is D-Lighting, which maintains optimum shadow and highlight details in still images.

The Nikon D300s is available as body only, or in kit form with an 18-200mm VR II zoom lens. Either way you're gonna' love it.

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