Magic Lantern Guides: Nikon D300

Author: Simon Stafford

Publisher: Lark Books (Sterling Publishing Co.)

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

The Nikon D300 is a complicated piece of machinery, with at least 100 top-level options for how it will work, with many sub-options. All these choices mean that one can tailor the way the camera operates precisely to one’s needs. It also means that getting exactly what’s best for you requires a lot of research. This “Magic Lantern Guide” is designed to ease the process, but if you really want to get the D300 to fit your style of shooting, it still won’t be easy.

The book starts with a general discussion and a quick start guide and then goes into detail on the various functions. There is a menu by menu review of each of the options, with the author’s recommendation for each setting. The book finishes up with chapters on resolution, flash, lenses and processing.

This book is for the person who wants to understand all the technical aspects of using the D300. For example, almost every book I’ve read on the D300 tells you how to use long exposure noise reduction, and points out that the noise reduction process take as long as the exposure. But this is the first book that told me that the noise reduction process will terminate after 109 minutes, even if the exposure is longer. I never expect to take a 110 minute exposure, but I’m certain there is someone out there for whom this information will prove useful.

I never expect to print directly from a card, but I wondered why the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) menu on my D300 was always grayed out. Stafford explained that it was because DPOF requires JPEG images, and I only shoot in the RAW/NEF format.

Stafford not only explains what each menu does and why, but gives his own reasoned recommendations. By the way, he generally recommends not using functions that can be controlled later in post processing, reasoning that one should not turn over blind control of an image to the machinery.

The book is small enough to fit into a gadget bag, but thick enough that one might not want the extra burden. To help photographers eager to lighten the load, the book includes a quick reference card that can be slipped into a wallet, although it obviously doesn’t cover everything in the book.

The book is not without faults. There are occasional typos, although none that would mislead. The photographs are all in black and white, and many of them have absolutely no relation to the topic to which they are attached, but rather seemed to be included because this is a book about photography.

The book inevitably invites comparison to the excellent “Nikon D300 Guide to Digital SLR Photography” by David D. Busch. That book includes photography instruction, with subjects like the times when long exposures might be appropriate and an excellent discussion of the use of the histogram to control exposure. It is aimed at the photographer who wants to learn how to use his D300. Many of the options are not covered in detail of Busch’s book. Stafford’s book doesn’t tell you anything about taking pictures. It presumes you know how to take pictures and just want to know how to set up your D300 to the nth degree. I don’t see the books as competitors. Decide what you want to learn, and then choose (or buy both if you are as compulsive as me.)

This post sponsored by Lensbabies.

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. This book can definitely be useful. I’m a ‘pick up and figure out how it works’ person and use the DSLR to capture family, friends during events. I moved up from a D70 to D300 recently and am going through a new learning curve to re-learn how to use the camera to do what you want. For example, for reasons I can’t figure out the ‘focus on nearest subject’ option which was present on the D70 .. is missing in the hugely more sophisticated D300. I liked this feature a lot on the D70 – it was simple and it worked but without it on the D300 I’m struggling to find an alternative. End of the day.. I just have to learn how to shoot differently. For now,… I’m experimenting with disabling the shutter button focus and using only the dedicated focus button. Meanwhile.. I’ve ended up taking a lot of fuzzy photos.

    Thus… having a D300 specific book is really useful. I’d be on a lookout for this! Thanks!

  2. This book can definitely be useful. I’m a ‘pick up and figure out how it works’ person and use the DSLR to capture family, friends during events. I moved up from a D70 to D300 recently and am going through a new learning curve to re-learn how to use the camera to do what you want. For example, for reasons I can’t figure out the ‘focus on nearest subject’ option which was present on the D70 .. is missing in the hugely more sophisticated D300. I liked this feature a lot on the D70 – it was simple and it worked but without it on the D300 I’m struggling to find an alternative. End of the day.. I just have to learn how to shoot differently. For now,… I’m experimenting with disabling the shutter button focus and using only the dedicated focus button. Meanwhile.. I’ve ended up taking a lot of fuzzy photos.

    Thus… having a D300 specific book is really useful. I’d be on a lookout for this! Thanks!

  3. I found the eBooks by Thom Hogan to be a little better than the Magic Lantern guides.

    http://bythom.com/nikond300guide.htm

  4. I found the eBooks by Thom Hogan to be a little better than the Magic Lantern guides.

    http://bythom.com/nikond300guide.htm

  5. I frankly find the manual accompanying the D300 to be well-written and very usable compared to many camera manuals I’ve seen before. I would suggest reading this free manual several times while having the camera nearby. I learn something new each time and it doesn’t cost me anything.

  6. I frankly find the manual accompanying the D300 to be well-written and very usable compared to many camera manuals I’ve seen before. I would suggest reading this free manual several times while having the camera nearby. I learn something new each time and it doesn’t cost me anything.

  7. Another problem I’ve ran into with magic lantern guides is, the one I bought, and 2 others that friends owned, all seemed to have terrible binding, and after moderate use, started to lose pages like crazy. Also, I noticed some things it was talking about and trying to demonstrate in the images were just way too small and when mixed with being in B&W made it impossible to see what they were talking about.

  8. Another problem I’ve ran into with magic lantern guides is, the one I bought, and 2 others that friends owned, all seemed to have terrible binding, and after moderate use, started to lose pages like crazy. Also, I noticed some things it was talking about and trying to demonstrate in the images were just way too small and when mixed with being in B&W made it impossible to see what they were talking about.

  9. I have found Magic Lantern guides poorly written and not useful at all. You’re much better off just reading the manual that came with your camera. I agree with the previous poster, Thom Hogan’s guides are the way to go.

  10. I have found Magic Lantern guides poorly written and not useful at all. You’re much better off just reading the manual that came with your camera. I agree with the previous poster, Thom Hogan’s guides are the way to go.

  11. I just started into the Magic …. covering Nikon speedlights. I find it very useful and containing excellent specific info–like what amperage you should look for in a NiMH AA battery. It looks like from the article here the D300 Guide is similar. I’ll probably buy it, though I may check the Hoggan book first.

  12. I just started into the Magic …. covering Nikon speedlights. I find it very useful and containing excellent specific info–like what amperage you should look for in a NiMH AA battery. It looks like from the article here the D300 Guide is similar. I’ll probably buy it, though I may check the Hoggan book first.

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