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Nikon d300 vs. d90 image quality

Bostjan Frelih , Dec 18, 2008; 12:29 p.m.

Next year I'm changing my Sony alpha system to Nikon system.
I'm thingking about d300 or d90. I mostly shoot photos on my travels, so d90 would be better idea, because it's smaller and lighter body.
I will buy probably 16-85 DX VR lens, maybe 70-300 DX VR and definetly 85 1.8 for portraits.
i tried both, d300 and d90 and d300 fits my hand perfectly, if I buy d90 I will need get use to it.
But mostly I'm interested in image quality and high ISO performance.
So what do you think, which camera has better iso performance and which has better image quality in the end.
Thanks for advices.

Responses

Dave Lee , Dec 18, 2008; 12:42 p.m.

The 16-85mm VR is a fantastic lens. The D300 is the better choice but the D90 is also excellent. High ISO performance should be the same on both cameras. Image quality is slightly better on the D300 especially if you're only going to shoot JPEGs.

Eric Arnold , Dec 18, 2008; 03:10 p.m.

according to dpreview, the biggest difference in IQ is probably that the d90 has a weaker low-pass filter, and more NR is applied at high ISO (which can give the illusion of cleaner S-to-N ratio, but actually means more smearing). but we're talking fairly minute differences here; both cameras are great at 1600 and 3200 is usable. however, there have been some reports that d90 has better dynamic range. the d300 is the better overall camera but a bit of a beast to carry, especially with the grip, so for travel, a d90 is a more sensible option.

Bahram Monshat , Dec 18, 2008; 03:11 p.m.

Bostjan,
70-300 VR is not DX.

Bruce Margolis , Dec 18, 2008; 03:19 p.m.

If you like the smaller lighter body and/or video, the D90 is the perfect choice. If you can live with a larger heavier body and live wihout video and want a stronger AF system, the D300 is the one for you. Sounds like the faster frame rate of the D300 doesn't interest you but can be handy, even when traveling.

Benjamin Majcen , Dec 18, 2008; 05:45 p.m.

Bostjan,
both cameras have similar IQ, but comparing their AF, build quality, ergonomics, ... is like comparing F100 and F90x (N90s in USA) from the film era. At that time I've bought F90x. It was a very nice camera, but I've often missed some F100's features. Now, twelve years later I decided to buy D300. The only thing I miss on D300 is the eye-piece shutter. I have no problems with carrying it together with quite bulky AF-S 17-55 f/2.8 DX Nikkor.

Robert Body , Dec 19, 2008; 03:33 a.m.

In Nov 2006, I went to a photo store to examine D80, it was $1000 at the time, vs $1700 for D200, a significant difference... and 10mpix both. I played with the D80, not bad... then I asked for the D200....... and i bought it the next day from the same store :-).
I was coming from F100 and the D200 was just the same feel, that rubber padded grip... i carry my camera in hand (no strap) at times, and D80 just wouldn't do it. It feels nicer while framing too.
D300 is more a "pro" camera which means it will last through extensive use and is not fragile. D90 I would expect to be quite like D80 in build, somewhat more fragile (to bumps and wear). I guess if I thought to keep the camera for a year, I could live with D90, but not otherwise [or if i was getting a 500mm f/4 for $8000 :-) and there wasn't enough for D300], but otherwise...... you spend so much time with the body in your hand, and for example..... a few days ago it was raining and not much but continously, and i was somewhat shielding the camera with a hat, but i had no bandana to wipe the rain with [and that bandana would have been wet everywhere], and there were water deposits on my D300 and my 17-35mm, and i wasn't concerned [just a little], but i don't think i would get away with it with D90..... one has to be more cautious.
D300 being "weather sealed" is not a ticket to abuse with rain or sand, but there are times when you just can't get the picture without stressing the camera a little --- a "pro" exposure.
I rented a Canon 500mm f/4 with a 40D plastic body and i was ok with the plastic body, because the image quality was satisfactory. But when I switched to my D300, it was a more enjoyable experience with the body, and i am a lot happier with using it day to day then i would be with D90 [using it often, day in, day out, long lenses, short, switching, carrying it].
The image quality should be quite similar between the two, it's all about the light anyway, D300 won't make you a better photographer, but it can simplify some things, and will outlast the D90. It is heavier....... something about ISO i recall reading from others, D300 might have some advantage in that. Since I am used to D300, I would prefer a full sensor D3 for significant improvement from D300/D90 ISO... the step from D90 to D300 for ISO benefit should be smaller than that... maybe.

Harvey Edelstein , Dec 19, 2008; 09:47 a.m.

Here is an unbiased machine measurement based comparison for comparing these cameras.

(link)

G. V. , Dec 19, 2008; 01:43 p.m.

The D90 is a sturdy camera and it can stand up to a fair amount of abuse; I know of one outdoor shooter who uses D80s and he doesn't baby them one bit and they haven't failed him...
Buy the camera that feels the best to you when its in your hands or you may regret your purchase... Having said that, the D300 is 1/2 pound heavier than the D90 and being a fellow traveler, that 1/2 pound does make a significant difference if you plan on carrying the camera all day long. I have always preferred lighter Nikons, beginning with a Nikkormat FT2 back in 1982. If you take decent care of your gear like I do and you don't need the features of the "pro" bodies, a D90 and equivalent Nikons will not let you down.

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