Canon SX520 vs Nikon D300S
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Nikon D300S are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2014 and July 2009. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the D300S is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and an APS-C (D300S) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Nikon D300S? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon SX520 and the Nikon D300S. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D300S is considerably larger (72 percent) than the Canon SX520. It is noteworthy in this context that the D300S is splash and dust-proof, while the SX520 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX520 has a lens built in, whereas the D300S is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D300S and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon SX520||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||441 g||210||n||Jul 2014||399|
|2.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|3.||Canon SX540||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||442 g||205||n||Jan 2016||399|
|4.||Canon SX530||120 mm||82 mm||92 mm||442 g||210||n||Jan 2015||429|
|5.||Canon SX710||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||230||n||Jan 2015||349|
|6.||Canon SX700||113 mm||66 mm||35 mm||269 g||250||n||Feb 2014||349|
|7.||Canon SX60||128 mm||93 mm||114 mm||650 g||340||n||Sep 2014||549|
|8.||Canon T5||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||480 g||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|9.||Canon SX510||104 mm||70 mm||80 mm||349 g||250||n||Aug 2013||249|
|10.||Nikon B600||122 mm||82 mm||99 mm||500 g||280||n||Jan 2019||349|
|11.||Nikon D500||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||860 g||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|14.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|15.||Nikon D200||147 mm||113 mm||74 mm||920 g||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
|16.||Sony HX90V||102 mm||58 mm||36 mm||245 g||360||n||Apr 2015||429|
|17.||Sony H200||123 mm||83 mm||87 mm||530 g||240||n||Jan 2013||249|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SX520 was launched at a lower price than the D300S, despite having a lens built in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX520 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D300S an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D300S is 1232 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.5. The sensor in the SX520 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D300S offers a 3:2 aspect.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon SX520 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 12.2 MP of the Nikon D300S. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 1.33μm versus 5.53μm for the D300S). However, it should be noted that the SX520 is much more recent (by 5 years) than the D300S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX520 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Canon SX520 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX520 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D300S are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D300S are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|13.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the SX520 provides a higher video resolution than the D300S. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D300S has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX520 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX520 and Nikon D300S along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
One feature that is present on the D300S, but is missing on the SX520 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D300S has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The SX520 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D300S uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D300S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX520 only has one slot.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and Nikon D300S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
It is notable that the D300S has a microphone port, which can help to improve the quality of audio recordings by attaching an external microphone. The SX520 does not feature such a mic input.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D300S (unlike the SX520) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the SX520 and the D300S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, while the SX520 was followed by the Canon SX530. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon SX520 better than the Nikon D300S or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.9 vs 12.2MP) with a 12% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D300S requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x82mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D300S).
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years of technical progress since the D300S launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D300S:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
- Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 461k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 1.6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 210) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in July 2009).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300S is the clear winner of the contest (19 : 9 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX520 and the Nikon D300S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX520 or the D300S. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Canon SX520||..||+||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Jul 2014||399|
|2.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|3.||Canon SX540||..||..||..||..||..||Jan 2016||399|
|4.||Canon SX530||..||+ +||..||4/5||4/5||Jan 2015||429|
|5.||Canon SX710||..||+||..||4/5||3.5/5||Jan 2015||349|
|6.||Canon SX700||..||+ +||..||4/5||4/5||Feb 2014||349|
|7.||Canon SX60||3/5||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||549|
|8.||Canon T5||3/5||+||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|9.||Canon SX510||..||+ +||..||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2013||249|
|10.||Nikon B600||..||+||..||3.5/5||3/5||Jan 2019||349|
|11.||Nikon D500||5/5||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|12.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|13.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|14.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|15.||Nikon D200||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|16.||Sony HX90V||4/5||+ +||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2015||429|
|17.||Sony H200||..||..||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Jan 2013||249|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon SX520 vs Nikon D300S
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||24-1008mm f/3.4-6||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||July 2014||July 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 399||USD 1,799|
|Sensor Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|Sensor Format||1/2.3" Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||6.17 x 4.55 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||28.0735 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||7.7 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.9 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4608 x 3456 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.33 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||56.73 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4+||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||70|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||787|
|Screen Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||461k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||1.6 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon SX520||Nikon D300S|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||210 shots per charge||950 shots per charge|
120 x 82 x 92 mm
(4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
147 x 115 x 81 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||441 g (15.6 oz)||938 g (33.1 oz)|
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