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Nikon D300S versus Nikon D3S

The Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, 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. 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 side – the D300S – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

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

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.

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 D300S (⇒ rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 YES 2009 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 D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 YES 2014 6,499discont. 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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 YES 2008 7,999discont. 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 D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 YES 2006 4,699discont. 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 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras 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

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). 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 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 D300S (⇒ rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.5 12.2 787 70
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.0 11.7 854 66
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.0 14.0 1324 83
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 1080/60p 24.4 13.3 3074 89
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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 24.7 13.7 1992 88
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 D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.1 12.0 679 67
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.2 10.9 489 59
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

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/24p).

Feature comparison: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D300S and Nikon D3S 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 D300S (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 7.0 12 no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 no no
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no no
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 5.0 no 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 D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no 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 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? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D300S or the Nikon D3S – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Nikon D300S:

  • 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).

Arguments in favor 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.
  • 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 (4 points each). 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.

D300S 04:04 D3S

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D300S or the D3S handle or perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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 D300S (⇒ rgt) 90/100 HiRec 82/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,799discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 93/100 HiRec 84/100 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,699discont. check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 91/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 6,499discont. 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 D3X (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 4/5 5/5 5/5 2008 7,999discont. 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 D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2006 4,699discont. 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 assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 add information on that model to the database.

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