My Nikon D300 is my photographic workhouse. It is my weapon of choice when I am doing photography with a purpose.
I bought this camera 4 years and 3 months ago when I replaced my Nikon D80 and we’ve been through a lot together. I upgraded because I wanted a bit more resolution and a bit more dynamic range for my images, but also because after years of shooting with 70’s and 80’s film cameras I wanted something that was closer to that feel. Something big and solid with switched and dials I could learn to operate without thinking.
The D300 didn’t disappoint. Built like a tank with a great sensor and a vast array of controls that removed any reliance on software menus in order to change settings.
While I have a moderately sized collection of Nikon lenses, this camera has spent most of it’s life with either a 12-24mm f4 super-wide zoom, or 80-200 f2.8 fast telephoto lens on. I sold my mid-range lens on with my D80 as I was generally always shooting at the wide or long end, and rarely in the middle, so it seemed like a logical thing to do.
I think it is important to buy into a camera that is better than you are to start with. My D300 has been my ‘do anything’ camera and this has lead to a lot of experimentation to try and get the best out of it. With this camera I learned the basics of flash photography, I experimented with HDR photography, I go generally quite good at focus tracking and panning to give my motorsport images a sense of movement. When I look back over the last 4 years worth of images in Lightroom I can see a nice progression as I grew into the capability of this camera.
This post is a retrospective on my time with the D300 as i’m thinking about moving onwards and upwards. No camera gets worse with age, but I think we are still in the early phase of digital photography and so the technology norm moves quite fast. Four years down the line I’m still shooting with the D300, but my experiences with it are now measured against that of shooting film with an Nikon F4 (solid handling and BIG viewfinder) or medium format Bronica ETRSi (massive resolution), or shooting digital with my Fuji X100 (which laughs heartily in the face of high ISO noise).
Again I find myself wishing for more than my DSLR can deliver. Particularly dynamic range after shooting and scanning black & white film again and getting used to images with real velvety tonal depth that I can work with.
The next step depends on how brave I am feeling, but we all know it’s probably going to be a Nikon D800, so I should probably stop trying to convince myself that a D600 will be enough camera for me. I’ll be buying something to get me through the next 4 years, so I need to invest wisely.
As they say, go big or go home.
I thought i’d post a few significant images from my D300 adventures. The above being perhaps the most iconic image of them all. I had a three day working visit to San Francisco but managed to get a few hours free before the flight home. I wasn’t going to go all that way without taking a camera and while the D300 is not exactly pocket sized it’s worth it when quality counts and you can’t go back for a second try.
I managed to lightly drop it on the sidewalk as well, but it shrugged that off with barely a scratch.
The next image is from my love affair with HDR photography, which coincided with a trip to Berlin. I think my D300 was set on 3-shot exposure bracketing and high speed burst for several months continually during that phase. My Lightroom catalogue from that phase is full of under/correct/over exposed triplicate images that were then processed in Photomatix to generate HDR images.
I tried to be subtle, and on the most part I was. I got some great shots from Berlin as the architectural mixes of old and new, such as the parliament building above, lent themselves to the HDR ‘look’.
I guess I shot like that to overcome the lack of dynamic range of digital sensors, I certainly notice that my Fuji X100 gives much better range now without the faffing about afterwards!
I use a big old 80-200mm f2.8 lens on my D300. There are many reasons for this, some of which are motivational because after lugging that thing around I’m pretty sure that I am pretty focused on making it count!
Puffins have been on my subject wish list for a long time and this image was the result of me lugging the right gear on a long boat trip in the pouring rain. My D300 gets used in all weathers and manages to keep going, so when I finally got to photograph a subject on my wish list I wasn’t about to let a bit of the North Atlantic falling on my head get in the way.
Very happy with the results, although the price ended up being a full service and rebuild of my 80-200mm lens as this wet weather foray (added to the many, many before it) lead to a nice bloom of fungus behind the front glass element. A price gladly paid as this lens will soon be found hanging off whatever body I replace the D300 with.
So that is my D300. A constant companion as I try to be a ‘proper’ photographer.