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Nikon D300S vs 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 megapixels, whereas the D3S provides 12.1 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D300S VS Nikon D3S
Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
720/24p Video 720/24p Video
ISO 200-3200 (100-6400) ISO 200-12800 (100-102400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 920k dots 3.0" LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
7 shutter flaps per second 11 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
950 shots per battery charge4200 shots per battery charge
147 x 115 x 81 mm, 938 g 160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S? 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

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.

Size Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S
Compare D300S versus D3S top
Comparison D300S or 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 compare the optics available 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 built 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)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D300S» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Nikon D3S« 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199iNikon D3S
 
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499iNikon D5
 
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 iNikon D500
 
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999iNikon D4
 
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499iNikon D7000
 
Nikon D3100« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599iNikon D3100
 
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999iNikon D3X
 
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629iNikon D60
 
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999iNikon D700
 
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999iNikon D3
 
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699iNikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699iNikon D200
 
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999iNikon D2X
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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

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 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3S. This megapixels 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.

The Nikon D300S 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 Nikon D3S are ISO 200 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-102400.

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 4032none24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
 
Nikon D60 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.511.456265Nikon D60
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081Nikon D3
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659Nikon 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

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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), but the viewfinder of the D3S has a higher magnification than the one of the D300S (0.70x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. 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.

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
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D5optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n Nikon D500
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D4
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D3100
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
 
Nikon D60optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D60
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D3
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 1/8000s 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 built-in flash of the D300S is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S both have 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 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.

 

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 D300S and Nikon D3S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D3SYstereonone--mini2.0---Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D5YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---Nikon D4
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D3100
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D3XYnonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D3X
 
Nikon D60Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D60
 
Nikon D700Ynonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3Ynonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D3
 
Nikon D300Ynonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2XsYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D200Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2XYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D2X

It is notable that the D300S has a microphone port, which is missing on the D3S. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

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

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. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

Review summary

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).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.63x).
  • 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 D3S comes out slightly ahead of the D300S (6 : 5 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. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D300S 05:06 D3S

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D3S 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance 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.

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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Nikon D3S..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199iNikon D3S
 
Nikon D5..89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499iNikon D5
 
Nikon D500+ +91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 iNikon D500
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999iNikon D4
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499iNikon D7000
 
Nikon D3100+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599iNikon D3100
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D3X..86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999iNikon D3X
 
Nikon D6080/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Jan 2008 629iNikon D60
 
Nikon D70089/100+ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999iNikon D700
 
Nikon D3..+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999iNikon D3
 
Nikon D300+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs......o.. Jun 2006 4,699iNikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D200+ ++ +o5/5.. Nov 2005 1,699iNikon D200
 
Nikon D2X..+ +..o.. Sep 2004 4,999iNikon D2X
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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.

Nikon D300S:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3S:
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 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.

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    Specifications: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D3S

    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 D300S Nikon D3S
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date July 2009 October 2009
    Launch Price USD 1799 USD 5199
    Sensor Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4288 x 2848 pixels 4256 x 2832 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.53 μm 8.43 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 1.40 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 200-3200 ISO 200-12800 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-6400 ISO 100-102400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 70 82
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.2 12.0
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 787 3253
    Screen Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 7 shutter flaps/s 11 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations300 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDXC cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D3S
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL3e EN-EL4a
    Battery Life (CIPA)950 shots per charge4200 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 115 x 81 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
    160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    Camera Weight 938 g (33.1 oz) 1240 g (43.7 oz)

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