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Nikon D300S vs D90

The Nikon D300S and the Nikon D90 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in July 2009 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.2 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D300S versus Nikon D90
Nikon D300S Nikon D90
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
720/24p Video 720/24p Video
ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400) ISO 200-3,200 (200 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
7 shutter flaps per second 4.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
950 shots per battery charge850 shots per battery charge
147 x 115 x 81 mm, 938 g 132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D90? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D90. 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D300S vs Nikon D90
Compare D300S versus D90 top
Comparison D300S or D90 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is notably smaller (20 percent) than the Nikon D300S. Moreover, the D90 is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the D300S. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D300S is splash and dust resistant, while the D90 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
2.
 
Nikon D90 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299i
3.
 
Canon 7D 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699i
4.
 
Canon 40D 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
5.
 
Nikon D500 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i
6.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
7.
 
Nikon D3100 124 mm 96 mm 75 mm 505 g 550 n Aug 2010 599i
8.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
9.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599i
10.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749i
11.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
12.
 
Nikon D300 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D80 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999i
14.
 
Nikon D200 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision 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 D90 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 28 percent) than the D300S, 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D300S and Nikon D90 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12.2 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the D300S and the D90 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the D300S is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the D90, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

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 D90 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.

D300S versus D90 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
2.
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
3.
 
Canon 7D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
4.
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
5.
 
Nikon D500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
6.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
7.
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
8.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
9.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
10.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
11.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
12.
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967
13.
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461
14.
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/24p).

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D300S and the D90 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 viewfinder in the D300S offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D90 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D300S and Nikon D90 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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
1.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
2.
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n
3.
 
Canon 7Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
5.
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
6.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
7.
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
8.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
9.
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
10.
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
11.
 
Nikon D700optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n

The Nikon D300S has 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 D90 uses SDHC cards. The D300S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D90 only has one slot.

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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 D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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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
1.
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 7DYmono-Y-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
5.
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
6.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo---mini2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Nikon D700Y----mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D300Y----mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D80Y-----2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D200Y-----2.0---

It is notable that the D300S has a microphone port, which is missing on the D90. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D300S (unlike the D90) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the D300S and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the D300S was followed by the Nikon D500. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Nikon D300S better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D300S:

  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (950 versus 850) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 11 months after the D90).


Advantages of the Nikon D90:

  • More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 147x115mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 235g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (28 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300S is the clear winner of the match-up (10 : 4 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 10:04 D90

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D300S and the Nikon D90 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D300S and the D90 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
2.
 
Nikon D90..+ ++ +4/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
3.
 
Canon 7D5/5+ +84/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699i
4.
 
Canon 40D..+ ++ +4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
5.
 
Nikon D5005/5+ +91/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i
6.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
7.
 
Nikon D31005/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599i
8.
 
Nikon D3S5/5..89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
9.
 
Nikon D3000..+72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
10.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
11.
 
Nikon D700..89/100+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
12.
 
Nikon D300..+ ++ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799i
13.
 
Nikon D80..++ +o4.5/5 Aug 2006 999i
14.
 
Nikon D200..+ ++ +o.. Nov 2005 1,699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Nikon D300S:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D90:
Check Ebay offers

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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Nikon D300S vs Nikon D90

    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 D90
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date July 2009 August 2008
    Launch Price USD 1,799 USD 1,299
    Sensor Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D90
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4288 x 2848 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.53 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 3.28 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 6,400 ISO 200 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 70 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.5 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.2 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 787 977
    Screen Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D90
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D90
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 7 shutter flaps/s 4.5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inno Intervalometer
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D300S Nikon D90
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    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 D90
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type EN-EL3e EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)950 shots per charge850 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 147 x 115 x 81 mm
    (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
    132 x 103 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 938 g (33.1 oz) 703 g (24.8 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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