If I had to pick my favourite camera from last year, it would probably be the Nikon D300 digital SLR which I reviewed last February. Not only did it score a perfect 10/10 and a well-deserved Editor's Choice award, it was also my choice for Digital SLR of the Year in our glittering star-studded TrustedReviews Awards 2008. I wasn't alone in this opinion; the D300 also won TIPA and DIWA Gold awards last year. The bad news is that the D300 is no longer in production, and the last of the remaining stock is selling out fast. The good news however is that Nikon has replaced it with an updated version, the D300s. So will the new model be winning an award this year?
Updating a camera as good as the Nikon D300 was always going to be something of a problem. It got so many things right that almost any change would be a detraction rather than an improvement. Obviously recognising a golden goose when they see one, Nikon has wisely avoided any drastic changes to the D300 design, just adding a couple of new features to keep the D300s up to date with its rivals. The main addition is the HD video recording mode borrowed from the D90. Less obvious improvements include a second memory card slot for SD/SDHC cards, and a slight boost to the continuous shooting speed.
The overall design of the camera has remained almost entirely unchanged. It still has the same exceptionally tough rubber-coated magnesium alloy body, although to accommodate the second card slot the hatch covering them has been redesigned. The D300 had a strong weather-sealed card hatch with a secure latch and a separate release lever. The D300s has a simple slide-open hatch which is a bit less fiddly, but also isn't as strong. The hatch hinge is definitely the weakest part of the body, and also doesn't look as though it has the same degree of weather resistance as the old hatch.
The second card slot itself is well implemented however, with menu options to set either the CompactFlash card or the SD card as the primary. The secondary card can be used for overflow storage, for backup, or for JPEG files while the Raw files go the the primary. Video recordings can also be saved to either card slot.
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