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Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-1

The Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2007 and June 2003. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300) and a Four Thirds (E-1) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 4.9 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D300 versus Olympus E-1
Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 4.9 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400) ISO 100-800 (100 - 3,200)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 1.8 LCD, 134k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
6 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
1000 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
147 x 114 x 74 mm, 925 g 141 x 104 x 81 mm, 738 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-1? 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.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-1
Compare D300 versus E-1 top
Comparison D300 or E-1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-1 is notably smaller (12 percent) than the Nikon D300. Moreover, the E-1 is markedly lighter (20 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 will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D300) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-1).

Concerning battery life, the D300 gets 1000 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the E-1 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D300 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
 
Olympus E-1 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699i
 
Leica Digilux 3 5.7 in 3.4 in 3.0 in 21.4 oz 750 n Sep 2006 1,499i
 
Nikon D7000 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D300S 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D60 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629i
 
Nikon D90 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Nikon D700 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Nikon D40X 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D2Xs 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
 
Nikon D80 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999i
 
Nikon D200 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
 
Nikon D2X 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Olympus E-5 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699i
 
Olympus E-3 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-330 5.5 in 3.4 in 2.8 in 22.5 oz 750 n Jan 2006 999i
 
Olympus E-300 5.8 in 3.3 in 2.5 in 22.0 oz 750 n Sep 2004 799i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-1 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the D300 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 Nikon D300 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-1 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-1 is 40 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D300 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-1 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D300 and Olympus E-1 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D300 offers a higher resolution than the E-1 (4.9MP), but the D300 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 6.78μm for the E-1). However, the D300 is a much more recent model (by 4 years and 2 months) than the E-1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D300 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D300 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-1 are 12.8 x 9.6 inches or 32.5 x 24.4 cm for good quality, 10.2 x 7.7 inches or 26 x 19.5 cm for very good quality, and 8.5 x 6.4 inches or 21.7 x 16.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D300 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-1 are ISO 100 to ISO 800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-3200.

D300 versus E-1 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
 
Olympus E-1 Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920none........
 
Leica Digilux 3 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
 
Nikon D60 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.511.456265
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659
 
Olympus E-5 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
 
Olympus E-3 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.610.557156
 
Olympus E-330 Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352none........
 
Olympus E-300 Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448none........
The D300 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-1 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D300 and the E-1 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D300 has a higher magnification than the one of the E-1 (0.63x vs 0.48x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D300, the Olympus E-1, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-1optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 n n
 
Leica Digilux 3optical n 2.5 207 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
 
Nikon D60optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Olympus E-5optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-3optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-330optical n 2.5 215 tilting n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-300optical n 1.8 134 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D300 has one, while the E-1 does not. While the built-in flash of the D300 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D300 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 D300 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-1 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-1 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D300 only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

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 Nikon D300 and Olympus E-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-1Y-----2.0---
 
Leica Digilux 3Ystereomono---2.0---
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D60Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
 
Nikon D40XY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D2XsY-----2.0---
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D2XY-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-5Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-3Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-330Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-300Y-----2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D300 and the E-1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-1 was replaced by the Olympus E-3, while the D300 was followed by the Nikon D300S. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-1? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D300:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 4.9MP) with a 61% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
  • Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.48x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 134k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1000 versus 750) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 2 months of technical progress since the E-1 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-1:

  • More compact: Is smaller (141x104mm vs 147x114mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 187g or 20 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • 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 June 2003).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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.

D300 14:04 E-1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D300 or the E-1 perform in practice. 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.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Nikon D300+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
 
Olympus E-1..+oo.. Jun 2003 1,699i
 
Leica Digilux 3.......... Sep 2006 1,499i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
 
Nikon D6080/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Jan 2008 629i
 
Nikon D90+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Nikon D70089/100+ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
 
Nikon D40X79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729i
 
Nikon D2Xs......o.. Jun 2006 4,699i
 
Nikon D80++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
 
Nikon D200+ ++ +o5/5.. Nov 2005 1,699i
 
Nikon D2X..+ +..o.. Sep 2004 4,999i
 
Olympus E-5..75/1004/5..4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699i
 
Olympus E-388/100+ +oo4/5 Oct 2007 1,699i
 
Olympus E-330..+o3.5/5.. Jan 2006 999i
 
Olympus E-300..+oo4.5/5 Sep 2004 799i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Nikon D300:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-1

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date August 2007 June 2003
    Launch Price USD 1,799 USD 1,699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    Sensor Technology CMOS CCD
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 4.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4288 x 2848 pixels 2560 x 1920 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.53 μm 6.78 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 2.19 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED TruePic
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 67 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 679 ..
    Screen Specs Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.48x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 1.8inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 134k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 6 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations150 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inno Intervalometer
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D300 Olympus E-1
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL3e BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)1000 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 114 x 74 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)
    141 x 104 x 81 mm
    (5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 925 g (32.6 oz) 738 g (26.0 oz)

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