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Nikon D300 versus Olympus E-3

The Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-3 are two digital cameras that were announced, 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. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 side – the D300 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

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

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 would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D300» 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-3« 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D90« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299- i Nikon D90
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X
Olympus E-5« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-30« » 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
Olympus E-520« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Olympus E-510« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1

Any camera purchase 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-3 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: Nikon D300 vs Olympus E-3

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 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"). 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D300» APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Olympus E-3« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780Nikon D7000
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
Nikon D60« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.511.456265Nikon D60
Nikon D90« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773Nikon D90
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663Nikon D40X
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461Nikon D80
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659Nikon D2X
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
Olympus E-30« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.453055Olympus E-30
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
Olympus E-510« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
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

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D300 and Olympus E-3 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
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D300»optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Olympus E-3«optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
Nikon D60« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D60
Nikon D90« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 4.5 Y n Nikon D90
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D40X
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
Nikon D200« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2X
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-30
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
Olympus E-510« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Olympus E-1

One feature that differentiates the E-3 and the D300 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-3 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D300 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

The D300 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-3 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D300 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Nikon D300»Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
Olympus E-3«Y-----2.0---Olympus E-3
Nikon D7000« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
Nikon D60« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D60
Nikon D90« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D90
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700
Nikon D40X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D40X
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D80« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D80
Nikon D200« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2X
Olympus E-5« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Olympus E-5
Olympus E-30« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-30
Olympus E-520« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-520
Olympus E-510« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« »Y-----2.0---Olympus E-1

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 what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D300 better than the Olympus E-3 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages 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.

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Arguments in favor of 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.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300 is the clear winner of the match-up (7 : 3 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 07:03 E-3

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-3 handle or perform in practice. 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 hands-on reviews by experts 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D300»HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-3«88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D60« »80/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D90« »HiRecHiRec4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Nikon D90
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D40X« »79/100HiRec4/5rev4/5 Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D80« »RecHiRecrev4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-30« »-71/1004.5/5-4/5 Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
Olympus E-520« »87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Olympus E-510« »89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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 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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