I don't want a D300
Well, I do, of course. If I was offered to use one, I'd instantly say thanks and be very happy. What I mean is that I don't want to buy a D300. I had the chance to play with one for a few days just recently, and it sure is a nice camera, but...
As you might know I shoot a D200 every day, and in comparison there is no doubt that the D300 is a better camera. It's a newer generation, has more facilities, more megapixels and a lot more going for it. But I will still stay with my D200, and could even be tempted to buy one more. I will return to this in the end of this post. But first a few words on the D300. I love the display! Adore it! The 3" high-rez display is amazing and much better than the 2Â½" LCD on my D200. And it displays exposure info like on my humble D40. I always wondered why the large displays on the back of many pro DSLR's didn't display information about battery, exposure and settings. The D300 does this, and it's great. It's bright, sharp and something I'd love to see on the back of my camera.
I like the feeling of the shutter. The D300 is definitely better controlled in this respect than the D200, which is quite clunky in its feel and sound when it clicks. A good mechanical sound is something that reassures me of great engineering.
I wasn't knocked over by the AF-system. 51 auto focus points and 3D tracking... oh, yes, but the penalty is a bit of lag in the auto focus, and if I want the same reaction from the AF that my D200 has, I have to limit the number of AF-points and turn down the "intelligence" of the system, and even then I still find it a bit sluggish. I may be unfair, and it's probably better than on my D200, but it didn't blow me away.
The 2 extra megapixels weren't anything that I'd pay a lot of money for. My D200's 10 megapixels can render some amazingly sharp and detailed images. Sharpness is as much a result of good light, good glass, good dynamics in the image and not least a stable hand or a good tripod. With some decent post processing I'm sure I can match the D300 in almost all respects. I didn't have a chance to test high ISO's. The D200 isn't impressing here, and the D300 had better do a better job - it is after all a 2 year younger model.
Live view? Well, I find it clumsy and really strange to use. The live view on my compact point&shoot works a lot better with its tilt-and-swing screen and logical operation. The clicking, mirror-lifting and ambivalent double use of the shutter release confused me. I may be dumb, but I had no idea when I was focusing, lifting the mirror or releasing the shutter, and I couldn't detect whether I was watching a live view of the scene or an exposed image. I could probably learn to use it, but it's not on my most wanted list.
A D300 runs for about 1600.- US$ and a grip for about 250.-. A nice camera at a good price. But right now many photo dealers offer used and newly serviced D200's for about US$ 850.- or up to a grand including a grip. Even here in Denmark I have seen used D200's at less than half the price of a new D300 in shops. If I look for private sellers, I'd probably be able to get it for even less. The last few new D200-bodies can be had for about 1000.- US. That's a lot of camera for the money!