Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thoughts On D300s Replacement

Both the D300s and D700 are due to be replaced sometime in the near future, how near nobody but the marketing team at Nikon knows. Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about what Nikon will produce to follow up these very successful cameras, and today I'm going throw a few of my ideas out there. These ideas are based completely on rumors, and frankly what I would like them to be rather than any insider knowledge. Today I'm going to focus on the D300s successor.

I decided to focus on the D300s replacement, because that could very well be my next camera. I say that because unless there is a downward shift in the price of 35mm frame (FX) cameras I cannot justify buying one, no matter how much I'd like to have one. There has been a lot of talk of the D300s replacement following in the footsteps of the D2X, meaning that it would have a pro style body with a built in grip, high end batteries like the D3s and D3x. The camera will likely have a new higher resolution sensor, either the same 16MP sensor found in the D7000, or possibly a rumored 24MP sensor. I like the idea of the 16MP sensor, but 24MP sounds like a little much for APS-C. I think the camera would have a native frame rate of 9FPS, 100% viewfinder, full manual control over video and more. Overall, that does seem like an attractive package, at least until you think of the price premium Nikon would charge for such a camera. I suspect a camera like that would cost $2000 Cdn or more, I'm guessing closer to $2500. The issue I have with that is, as I noted with buying an FX body, the price would make it hard for me to justify.

If the D300s replacement does fall into the $2000+ price range I'd have to look at the D7000 as a replacement for my aging D300, which isn't overly appealing to me for several reasons. From the tests that I've seen the D7000s buffer is too small (8-10 RAW images and it is full), while I find the buffer size on the D300 to be just right for my use. Not to mention that you are stuck at 6FPS with the D7000, vs the 8FPS I get with the MB-D10 loaded with AA batteries, when it is attached to the D300. 2FPS doesn't sound like a lot, but when you are shooting action it can mean getting the shot you want, or not. Another downside to going with the D7000 would be the need to buy new memory cards, as currently I currently have 6 compact flash cards (30MB/s and 45MB/s cards). I like the idea of having dual memory card slots, but I find the price of high speed SDHC cards to be higher than the 30MB/S CF cards like the current Sandisk Ultra CF cards (Extreme III CF cards are now re-branded as Ultra).

I also don't like the idea of having fewer cross type AF points (9 vs 15), let alone having fewer points overall. I like the frame coverage of the 51 point AF system of the D300, as it allows me to get the shots I want without recomposing, which is a big deal with moving subjects like birds! I also don't like model dials like the one on the D7000, I always end up bumping the stupid dial on lower end DSLRs when I'm taking them out of my bag, thankfully the mode is switched with a button and dial rotation on the D300!

With all that being said, I hope the D300s successor has the same body type as the D200, D300 and D300s before it. First of all because the current body design is very comfortable to hold, and it is easy to change the settings I want to change quickly, but not easy to accidentally change settings I don't want to change (like the shooting mode). Having a similar button layout to the D300 would be nice as well, as the button layout on the D300 is superb. Put the 16MP sensor the D7000, with some minor tweaks to improve performance, a nice large buffer (allow 16-20 14bit RAW images) with a frame rate of 8-9FPS and you'd have a great camera. Oh by the way Nikon, please bring back the CF card slot lock, rather than the sliding pop out door, which makes the camera feel cheap! I know Nikon wont, but I can always hope right?

It would be nice if the camera had dual CF slots, rather than the odd combo of CF and SD that is found in the D300s, but I could live with the latter combination. It would be nice if the D300s replacement had at least 51 AF points (15-20 cross type), although I wouldn't mind having more if they were spread out, allowing the entire frame to be covered! I suspect it will share the new metering senor found in the D7000, but it would be nice if it was tweaked to perform more like the one in the D300. I also like the idea of having the removable grip, simply because there are times that I don't need or want the vertical grip. Such a body would likely have a price tag of $1600-1800 Cdn at introduction, a price that would be a lot easy to sallow than $2000+ Cdn. At that price it would be justifiable, and you could afford to get some new accessories if any are need, especially since the D300s replacement could use the same EN-EL15 that was introduced with the D7000. A new battery type means you'd need to budget another $150-200 for a spare battery or two when you upgrade.