The Nikon D300s was the minor refresh of the the excellent D300 that was the APS-C younger sibling of the full frame Nikon D3, a game changer back then due to the powerhouse specs that gave sports photographers worldwide an incredible camera that spits out full frame images at 9FPS or 11FPS in DX crop.

The D300s increased the FPS to 7, while still keeping the 9FPS that can be had with the optional MBD-10 battery grip with the bigger battery from the D3 (more on that later).

Ergonomics

The professional grade DSLRs from Nikon has always had the shutter release mode dial and the dial for choosing white balance, file quality and ISO on the top left of the camera. While it does not allow for one handed use of the DSLR, it does make it very clearly marked and easy to operate using gloves since you know the controls are all there.

The MBD-10 grip makes handling even more beefy. The camera is a beast of a machine and the grip makes it even more so. Once you use the grip, even large lenses balance very well in hand. Also, the build quality is incredible, it’s extremely solid and once properly screwed in feels just like a part of the original camera.

Compare that to the handling of a smartphone…. let’s just say the purpose of a smartphone is to get you that picture as fast as possible, with no thought regarding the haptics and tactile feeling of a proper camera.

Image quality

The sensor churns out 12MP photos. The raw files are easy to edit on Lightroom on a modern computer (naturally). Unfortunately, as this was before the era of Nikon sensors with incredible dynamic range, when you try to expose for the highlights, the shadow areas of the image will have noise after you try to perform recovery of the shadows. I would not recommend pushing the Lightroom slider for shadow beyond 50, even at low ISOs.

In the shot above, I was trying to get a shot of the sunset and exposed for the highlights. As you can see from the original raw file, the shadows are extremely dark. After I tried pushing the shadows, color noise was extremely apparent. For those shooting with modern sensors in cameras such as the D800 and the Z7, such shadow noise will be much more limited (Z6 shot shown below for comparison).

less noise in the Z6 shot, but there is banding in the shadows

In terms of overall image quality though, the images are more than sufficient for upload to social media. I was using the camera for casual birding, which, given that it was originally a sport focused camera, would be something up it’s alley.

From this image, you can see the luminance noise which makes the photo look grainy. I had to apply noise reduction to the breast area of the bird after brightening it to show the colors. Otherwise, I have no issues with sharing this photo on social media.

Battery Life

Nothing much to say here, except that the battery is more than enough for a full day of shooting. I would go as far as to say you can bring 2 fully charged batteries for a short trip and you can leave the charger at home. Maybe about 1000+ shots per battery without shooting video?

Value for money in 2021

So here’s the deal, if you can find a good condition unit that has not been abused for under SGD$300, I would say go for one, especially if you desire the haptics of a professional grade camera. Image wise, don’t expect to push the raw files as you would in a modern camera.

In some situations, even a smartphone made after 2018, especially flagship phones like the iPhones or the Galaxy S2x, will deliver better image quality especially in good light. In bad light, even a google pixel will deliver better performance under situations where the subject is not moving.

Conclusion, buy for the shooting experience, or if you want a camera for casual bird/sports photography. If you need good image quality in low light, look elsewhere for the money.

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