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Nikon D300 versus Olympus E-3

The Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2007 and October 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300) and a Four Thirds (E-3) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 10 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 Olympus E-3

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-3 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. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D300 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-3
D300 versus E-3 top view
D300 and E-3 rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-3 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Nikon D300. Moreover, the E-3 is markedly lighter (5 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D300) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-3).

Concerning battery life, the D300 gets 1000 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the E-3 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 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
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 YES 2007 1,699discont. 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 D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. 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 D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 YES 2007 4,999discont. 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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 YES 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 no 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 no 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 YES 2003 1,699discont. 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 E-3 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the D300 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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 Olympus E-3

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-3 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-3 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-3 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D300 and Olympus E-3 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D300 offers a higher resolution than the E-3 (10MP), but the D300 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 4.74μm for the E-3) due to its larger sensor. 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 E-3 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 review, the D300 provides substantially higher image quality than the E-3, with an overall score that is 11 points higher. This advantage is based on 0.5 bits higher color depth, 1.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.6 10.5 571 56
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 10800/24p 23.5 13.9 1167 80
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 D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 no 23.5 12.2 2290 81
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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.6 10.5 519 56
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.4 10.4 548 55
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 no 21.3 10.4 530 55
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.2 10.0 442 52
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920 no - - - -
Both the D300 and the E-3 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 Olympus E-3

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D300 and the E-3 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D300, the Olympus E-3, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) optical YES 2.5 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 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 D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 11.0 no 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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 YES
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.7 230 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 YES
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 3.0 no no

Both the D300 and the E-3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300 was replaced by the Nikon D300S, while the E-3 was followed by the Olympus E-5.

Review summary: Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-3

So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D300 better than the Olympus E-3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP) with a 13% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.5 EV of extra DR).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1000 versus 750) on a single battery charge.

Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-3:

  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 is the clear winner of the match-up (7 : 2 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.

D300 07:02 E-3

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 E-3 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available 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
Olympus E-3 (⇒ lft) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed 4/5 2007 1,699discont. check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. 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 D3 (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 4,999discont. 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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 75/100 4/5 - 4.5/5 2010 1,699discont. check
Olympus E-520 (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2008 699discont. check
Olympus E-30 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 71/100 HiRec 4.5/5 - 4/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 3.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed - 2003 1,699discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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