I’m buying the D300s because of the video capability – or what Nikon calls D-Movie mode – Nikon has really paid attention to what its customers want according to the latest Nikon camera announcement.
The D300S is a new DSLR that as a camera, will fill the pro-sumer niche. It’s not quite a D3 or D700, it’s DX not an FX camera, but it’s still photo capabilities are simply amazing. It includes many of the features found on Nikon’s most advanced pro bodies. So as a backup to a D3 or a D700 it’s very viable. For the emerging pro who can’t justify buying a D3 or D700, it’s a great choice. But throw in video and everything changes.
I don’t need the D300s as a still camera. I have several D3 bodies. I played with the D90 for video, not as a backup camera. While I appreciated video on the D90, it had no separate audio input, no autofocus and no control over the creative side of video capture. You couldn’t control depth of field. For me, that made the D90 pretty useless in the long run as a video camera.
With the 300S, Nikon is signaling that it is very serious about video/DSLR hybrids. The camera shoots 720 P HD video at 24 fps! Using “Tripod Mode” you can control the depth of field with a selectable aperture of up to f/.16. Nikon has included a mono mic along with an external stereo mic jack. While it’s just a 3.5 mini plug, using adapters this allows for attachment of professional audio capture devices. While the gain control isn’t fully manual (that’s what I’d prefer) it does have an auto, high, medium or low setting which should allow for enough control over audio capture in the field to make the video useful. And Nikon has added the same sort of contrast-based auto focus found on the Panasonic GH1. This means that in static situations, you’ll be able to autofocus easily. Contrast-based autofocus systems aren’t designed for fast moving situations, but it beats no autofocus.
I am also glad to see a dual card slot on this camera. That will make video transfer easier. There’s also some minimal in-camera video editing (trimming) for those who want it.
Discreet audio and the ability to apply creative control allowing for shallow depth of field make this a still camera with serious video chops.
At $1800 it’s not cheap, but given the price of similar cameras like the Panasonic GH1, the superior capabilities of the D300s on the still side make the D300s a solid choice. Of course, this entire post is based on sample images, sample video, testimonials from shooters who represent Nikon and press releases. Will the camera actually perform? Time will tell and so will I when I post my review later this year.
If you want Nikon’s take on the D300s here it is – http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/microsite/d300s/en/