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Nikon D300 versus Nikon D3

The Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were announced in August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The D300 has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the D3 provides 12.1 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D300 and the Nikon D3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D300 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3
D300 versus D3 top view
D300 and D3 rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3 is considerably larger (50 percent) than the Nikon D300. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (41 percent) than the D300. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D3) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D300). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D300 gets 1000 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the D3 can take 4300 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D300 (⇒ rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 YES 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 YES 2007 4,499discont. check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 YES 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 YES 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 no 2006 999discont. check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 YES 2005 1,699discont. check
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 YES 2004 4,999discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D300 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 64 percent) than the D3, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

Sensor comparison: Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D300 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Nikon D300 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

D300 versus D3 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3 offers substantially better image quality than the D300 (overall score 14 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D300 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 12.0 679 67
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.7 11.7 1078 71
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/30p 24.7 13.1 2965 89
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 10800/24p 23.5 13.9 1167 80
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.5 12.2 787 70
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2303 80
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.7 12.5 977 73
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.2 10.9 489 59
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.1 11.2 524 61
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.3 11.5 583 64
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 10.9 476 59
Both the D300 and the D3 offer Live View, so that they make it possible to use the rear screen for framing. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison: Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D300 and the D3 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D300 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 7.0 12 no
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 4.5 17 no
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 235 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no

Both the D300 and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300 was replaced by the Nikon D300S, while the D3 was followed by the Nikon D4.

Review summary: Nikon D300 vs Nikon D3

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D300 better than the Nikon D3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Nikon D300:

  • More compact: Is smaller (147x114mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 375g or 29 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (64 percent cheaper at launch).

Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (14 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4300 versus 1000) out of a single battery charge.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3 comes out slightly ahead of the D300 (5 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D300 04:05 D3

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D300 and the D3 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D300 (⇒ rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D3 (⇒ lft) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2007 4,499discont. check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 - 4.5/5 2012 5,999discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D300S (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec 82/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 Rec HiRec reviewed 4.5/5 4.5/5 2006 999discont. check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed 5/5 - 2005 1,699discont. check
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,999discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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