Nikon D300 Digital Field Guide by J. Dennis Thomas
Published by Wiley
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
In his introduction, J. Dennis Thomas acknowledges that his book covers much of the same ground as the “D300 User’s Manual” from Nikon, but in a manner that’s easier to comprehend and more interesting to read. It seemed to me that Thomas didn’t quite reach his goal.
Part I of the book starts out with a quick tour of the camera which describes how to set the most basic functions necessary to use the D300, followed by a physical description of each of the controls on the camera. The author then follows up with a slightly longer discussion of the camera’s functions, followed by a line-by-line description of each of the camera’s menu items. In Part II, the author provides generic discussions of Nikon’s family of lenses, photography essentials like exposure and composition, the use of light, a long chapter devoted to snippets on different kinds of photography, like architectural or landscape photography, and then a chapter on viewing and editing images in-camera. There is an appendix which describes a few accessories in the broadest possible terms.
Every equipment guide has to aim at a broad range of users from beginners to professionals, although the Nikon D300 is such a sophisticated machine that it is more likely to be used by more experienced photographers. I suppose that a beginner might find new information here, but only if he didn’t want to go through the small print, black-and-white only, manual that comes with the camera. On the other hand, a lot of essential information was not discussed. For example, although the author often refers to options offered by the camera relating to the differences between the JPEG and RAW formats, he never gives a full explanation of the benefits of one format over the other. Another example is in his description of the number of focusing points available in dynamic area mode. Although he describes the difference between 9, 21 and 51 point modes (more points-duh!), he doesn’t explain why it doesn’t make sense to just use the most points for any occasion. The author doesn’t tell you that the more points you select, the slower the camera focuses because it must sample each point for changes in the scene.
There were even a few cases where Thomas included less material then the Nikon manual. He describes a menu item called “Print set (DPOF)” which did not even seem to appear on my D300’s menu! After frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with my camera, I looked in the “D300 User’s Manual” where I found that this is a menu setting that probably isn’t even available until certain other conditions have been set up. (I eventually found the item by scrolling backwards through the playback menu.)
Most of the material in part II is just too broadly brushed to be very useful. A new photographer might learn that there is such a thing as a soft box, but never learn how to use one with the D300.
Some material provided is misleading as in the image that’s included with the explanation of histograms that shows the histogram divided into five sections while the D300’s histogram is divided into four sections. In other cases, illustrations that would help one understand the discussion were not available, as in the failure to include a screen capture in the discussion of picture controls.
Although this volume may be enough for beginners who don’t want to go through the tiny print, flimsy paged “D300 User’s Manual” provided with the camera, more serious users would be better off with “David Busch’s Nikon D300 Guide to Digital SLR Photography” (even though I must acknowledge that Thomas does provide a better explanation of fine-tuning auto focus lenses).