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Nikon D300S versus Olympus E-M5 II

The Nikon D300S and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2009 and February 2015. The D300S is a DSLR, while the E-M5 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D300S) and a Four Thirds (E-M5 II) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 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 Olympus E-M5 II

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D300S and the Olympus E-M5 II is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear 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 Olympus E-M5 II
D300S versus E-M5 II top view
D300S and E-M5 II rear side
Body view (D300S on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M5 II is considerably smaller (38 percent) than the Nikon D300S. Moreover, the E-M5 II is substantially lighter (50 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-M5 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-M5 II, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the D300S gets 950 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the E-M5 II can take 310 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 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) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 YES 2009 1,799discont. check
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft) 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 YES 2009 1,699discont. check
Nikon D500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 YES 2009 5,199discont. check
Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 YES 2008 2,999discont. check
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 YES 2007 1,799discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2006 4,699discont. check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 YES 2005 1,699discont. check
Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2004 4,999discont. check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 83 mm 47 mm 390 g 320 no 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 119 mm 82 mm 46 mm 396 g 320 no 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g 360 YES 2012 1,299discont. 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 E-M5 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 39 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. 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-M5 II

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 Olympus E-M5 II a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M5 II 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-M5 II offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D300S and Olympus E-M5 II sensor measures
Sensor size

Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-M5 II offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixel, compared with 12.2 MP of the D300S. 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 3.76μm versus 5.53μm for the D300S). However, it should be noted that the E-M5 II is much more recent (by 5 years and 6 months) than the D300S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

Unlike the D300S, the E-M5 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images (40MP) by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

D300S versus E-M5 II MP
Sensor resolution

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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.0 12.5 842 73
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 D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 10800/24p 23.5 13.9 1167 80
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832 720/24p 23.5 12.0 3253 82
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 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
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60p 23.1 12.5 842 73
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 22.8 12.3 884 72
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 22.8 12.3 826 71

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the E-M5 II provides a better video resolution than the D300S. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.

Feature comparison: Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-M5 II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 II has an electronic viewfinder (2360k dots), while the D300S has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D300S and Olympus E-M5 II 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
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
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 D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 11.0 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 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
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 4000 8.0 5.8 YES
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 610 tilting YES 4000 9.0 no YES

The E-M5 II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D300S has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D300S was succeeded by the Nikon D500.

Review summary: Nikon D300S vs Olympus E-M5 II

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D300S and the Olympus E-M5 II? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Advantages of the Nikon D300S:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (950 versus 310) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in July 2009).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (15.9 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 12%.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/24p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 920k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (124x85mm vs 147x115mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 469g or 50 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the D300S launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-M5 II is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 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.

D300S 05:14 E-M5 II

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 E-M5 II in practical situations. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
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
Olympus E-M5 II (⇒ lft) HiRec 81/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest 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 D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2009 5,199discont. 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 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
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 799discont. check
Olympus E-M10 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 699discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 1,299discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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