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Nikon D300S versus Nikon D3S

The Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2009 and October 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300S) and a full frame (D3S) sensor. The D300S has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the D3S 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 D300S vs Nikon D3S

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S are illustrated 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 size 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 – the D300S – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S
Compare D300S versus D3S top
Compare D300S and D3S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3S is considerably larger (49 percent) than the Nikon D300S. Moreover, the D3S is markedly heavier (32 percent) than the D300S. 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 D3S) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D300S). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D300S gets 950 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3S has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D300S, Nikon provides the MB-D10 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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 D300S» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S« 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Nikon D3100« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599- i Nikon D3100
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
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

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D300S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the D3S, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. 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 D300S features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3S 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 D300S and Nikon D3S sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Nikon D300S offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixel, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3S. 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 D3S). 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.

D300S versus D3S MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3S offers substantially better image quality than the D300S (overall score 12 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV of lower dynamic range, and 2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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 D300S» APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S« Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780Nikon D7000
Nikon D3100« » APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967Nikon D3100
Nikon D5000« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872Nikon D5000
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
Nikon D60« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.511.456265Nikon D60
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659Nikon D2X

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/24p).

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D300S and the D3S 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D300S and Nikon D3S in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

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 D300S»optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S«optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
Nikon D3100« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D3100
Nikon D5000« »optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 4000 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
Nikon D60« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D60
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
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

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D300S has one, while the D3S does not. While the build-in flash of the D300S is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The D300S writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDXC cards, while the D3S uses Compact Flash cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 D300S»YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S«Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
Nikon D7000« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
Nikon D3100« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D3100
Nikon D5000« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
Nikon D3X« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3X
Nikon D60« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D60
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D200« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2X

Both the D300S and the D3S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, while the D3S was followed by the Nikon D4.

Review summary: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S

So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D300S better than the Nikon D3S or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D300S:

  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x115mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 302g or 24 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 (65 percent cheaper at launch).


Advantages of the Nikon D3S:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4200 versus 950) out of a single battery charge.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (5 points each). 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.

D300S 05:05 D3S

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D300S and the D3S 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D300S»HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Nikon D3S«-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
Nikon D3100« »HiRec72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599- i Nikon D3100
Nikon D5000« »HiRec75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
Nikon D60« »80/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i Nikon D200
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i Nikon D2X

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring 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 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? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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