Nikon D300 Guide to Digital SLR Photography by David Busch
Publisher: Course Technology Cengage Learning
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
I’ve been shooting Nikon cameras since 1960. When I look at the collection of buttons, dials, switches, screens and menus on Nikon’s D300 digital SLR, I wonder if I would have become a photographer back then if faced with so many choices.
All these choices are good. They let you customize the D300 to be used exactly the way you would want. And the embarrassment of riches means that one camera can do many things, for many different photographers, so that ultimately a highly sophisticated machine can be delivered more cheaply to photographers whose styles vary markedly.
Some of the choices seem really important. Do you want to set up focus so that you are better able to capture a sitting portrait subject or a flying bird? Other choices seem more trivial. Would you rather review the last image you captured by pressing on the left side or the top of a multi-selector switch?
To deal with all these choices, Nikon provides a manual of several hundred pages that explains the options that are offered with some very small, sketchy illustrations, but without explanation of which options might be better for a particular type of photographer.
David Busch set out to bring a little more clarity to the bewildering field of choices, and does a relatively good job of it. Unfortunately, that means going through each menu and selection step by step. The illustrations are larger than the manual and in color, and Busch actually makes recommendations about items to select. For example the D300 allows you to elect to have either 51 or 11 focus points available (which is different then selecting a focus point, once you’ve made the choice). My first instinct after reading the manual was to ask why everyone wouldn’t select the maximum number of focus points, but the author pointed out that 11 points is faster for selecting a focus point for large subject matter, like photographing some sports.
After going through all of the options, Busch returns to several key subjects that usually require the integration of several choices, like getting the right exposure or the best focusing for particular kinds of photography. There’s a chapter on lenses that experienced photographers can skip, but that any beginner bold enough to purchase a D300 for his first digital single lens reflex will find useful. The chapter on lighting contained a good explanation of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System that allows for an integration of electronic flash in a more useful way then ever before. I only wish Busch had been able to convey the joy of being able to dance around the subject without any kind of tether while your flashes responded. It’s easy to feel like David Hemmings with Veruschka in “Blow Up”, without all that hot continuous lighting.
The book finishes up with a quick glance at the software available for post processing, which, other than listing the names of software, really didn’t provide much help in making a choice, and then covers some maintenance issues like updating firmware and cleaning the camera’s sensor.
By its nature this is not an exciting book, since the author eschews any effort at telling us about the artistry possible with the camera, but that’s the nature of manuals. One should also note that occasionally Busch falls from grace in small ways, as when he suggests that the D300 can control up to four groups of lights in CLS, when what he probably means to say is that you can transmit your signals on four separate channels, or that four groups can be controlled if you use an external flash. These errors are small and quickly identifiable to anyone trying to use the menus. On the other hand there are a few subjects on which I would have liked to see more material, like AF Fine Tune, where a discussion of the use of targets to select the tuning would have been useful. And I was sorry the chapter on lenses didn’t mention the use of focal length to control perspective, especially since there was a set of full page illustrations that showed this so well.
All in all, this is an excellent introduction to the options that are available to photographers with the D300. Although early adopters may already have figured out most of the possibilities, there is probably still something for an experienced user to learn, and, if you’ve just picked up a D300, this is lot easier to use then the Nikon manual.