Author: Darrell Young
Publisher: Rocky Nook/Nikonians Press
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
“Mastering the Nikon D300” is a joint effort of the publisher, Rocky Nook and Nikonians, a web site and bulletin board for about 150,000 Nikon enthusiasts. In the interest of full disclosure I have been a member of Nikonians almost since its inception in 2000.
Because Nikon’s “D300 User’s Manual” is not the easiest book to read, many users have looked for some other information that will make the use of this very sophisticated piece of machinery easier. The author presents us with a summary of the features of the D300; explores the many modes of the metering, focus, and white balance systems; explains how to use the menus to select the approximately 300 options that configure the camera; and finishes with a brief explanation of the camera’s use as a part of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS).
I certainly thought that, after reading five other books on the D300, and using the camera for over a year, there was nothing that Darrell Young could teach me. But I was wrong. It was not so much that the author provided new information, as that his style was easy to read, and placed emphasis upon subjects in a way that made me pay attention to important features that I had missed. For example, I’m almost embarrassed to say, I had never clearly distinguished between shooting menu banks and custom settings banks. Young’s organization of these two distinct functions into separate chapters made the difference clear to me and allowed me to make some changes to my D300 that have made life a lot easier.
I thought about saying that, being published more than a year after the camera was available, this book might be described as too little, too late. (I’ll return to “too little”.) It would have been good to have had this book earlier in the life cycle of my ownership. But because, despite its technical nature, it was easily accessible, I was able to go through it carefully and pick up on the use of some settings which I had either missed or not realized the importance of. It served me as a good second look at what I was doing.
The D300 book to which it bears the closest resemblance is Simon Stafford’s “Nikon D300 Magic Lantern Guide.” Both look at the technical aspects of the camera, without much concern for art or photography fundamentals. (If you want a book with a broader view, consider David Busch’s “Nikon D300 Guide to Digital SLR Photography”.) As such both are more aimed at experienced users who just want to optimize their camera for their kind of photography. Stafford seems a bit more willing to go out on a limb with recommendations, but he also seems more pedantic. Young seems to hold back just a bit on recommendations (there are some D300 features that I think are absurd and that he just tells you how to set up) but he’s clearly user-friendly.
The book is not without its faults. At the “duh!” level, the author doesn’t tell you that you access the menus by pressing the “Menu” button. When he explains that you can set up dynamic autofocus areas as 9, 21 or 51 points he doesn’t explain why more is not better (sampling more points may slow down autofocus). When he discusses the CLS system he doesn’t mention that you can solve the problem of subjects who squint from commander pre-flashes with an SG-31R IR panel as well as a much more expensive SU800.
Then there is the too little. The type in this book is so tiny that I could barely read it, even with my glasses. Come on, Rocky Nook. Make the type bigger!
Notwithstanding these petty comments, if you want a technical guide to setting up your Nikon D300, you can’t do better then this.