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Nikon D300S versus Olympus E-5

The Nikon D300S and the Olympus E-5 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2009 and September 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D300S) and a Four Thirds (E-5) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.2 megapixel. 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 Olympus E-5

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D300S and the Olympus E-5 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 toggle the display 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).

Snapsort Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-5
Compare D300S versus E-5 top
Compare D300S and E-5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-5 is somewhat smaller (2 percent) than the Nikon D300S. Moreover, the E-5 is markedly lighter (7 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 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 (D300S) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-5).

Concerning battery life, the D300S gets 950 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the E-5 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-5 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
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)
Nikon D300S» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i
Olympus E-5« 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D90« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299- i
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699- i
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-600« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 n Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-520« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-3« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i

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 E-5 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the D300S at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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 Olympus E-5

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D300S features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-5 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 D300S has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-5 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D300S and Olympus E-5 sensor measures

Even though the D300S has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 12.2 megapixel. This implies that the D300S has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 4.29μm for the E-5), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the E-5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the D300S, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

D300S versus E-5 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 review, the D300S provides substantially higher image quality than the E-5, with an overall score that is 14 points higher. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 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
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D300S» APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
Olympus E-5« Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Nikon D90« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959
Nikon D200« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.558364
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855
Olympus E-3« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----

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, but the E-5 provides a faster frame rate than the D300S. It can shoot movie footage at 720/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-5

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D300S and the E-5 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 Olympus E-5 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
(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
Nikon D300S»optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n
Olympus E-5«optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D90« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 4.5 Y n
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D200« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y
Olympus E-3« »optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n

Both the D300S and the E-5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, while the E-5 does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-5

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D300S better than the Olympus E-5 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D300S:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (14 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (950 versus 750) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in July 2009).

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Advantages of the Olympus E-5:

  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (720/30p versus 720/24p).
  • 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.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 1 month) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D300S emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 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.

D300S 06:04 E-5

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D300S or the E-5. 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 expert reviews are important. 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
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D300S»HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i
Olympus E-5«-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D90« »HiRecHiRec4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i
Nikon D200« »HiRecHiRecrev5/5- Nov 2005 1,699- i
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-520« »87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-3« »88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

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 do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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