One of the less obvious upgrades to the D300s is a boost to processor speed, with a corresponding slight improvement in the D300’s already class-leading performance. It still starts up almost instantly, and in single-shot mode it can focus and take pictures pretty much as fast as you can press the shutter button. The improvement comes in the continuous shooting mode, which has accelerated from six frames a second to seven, or eight if the optional EH5 battery pack is used.
The D300 was particularly notable for its outstanding battery duration. The D300s has the same battery, a large 1500mAh EN-EL3e rechargeable Li-ion pack. However the D300s has heavier power requirements than the D300, with live view and video recording putting an additional load on the battery. Starting from a full charge I shot around 300 photos and about 10 minutes of video while testing the camera over the course of a week, and that took the battery indicator down to its last bar. That’s still very good performance by most standards, but if you plan to use the video mode a lot you might want to invest in a spare battery.
The D300s also inherits all of the D300’s superb image quality, including its exceptionally good high-ISO noise control. As you’ll see from the accompanying sample shots it can produce good printable results at 1600 ISO, and even at the extended maximum 6400 ISO is still produces shots that look good at smaller sizes. At more normal settings the image quality is fantastic, with reliably accurate exposure, excellent colour reproduction, and even good dynamic range. The D300s has Active D-Lighting tone control to boost dynamic range in high contrast shots, and I think this may have also been slightly improved, because it seems to be slightly better at preserving highlight detail than I remember.
I’m also very impressed with the recent AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5 – 5.6G ED DX VR zoom lens that was supplied with my review camera. It’s the first time I’ve used this particular lens, and it performs exceptionally well, far better than most standard kit lenses. Detail and contrast are excellent, and it is sharp right across the frame at all focal lengths. Unfortunately its “Silent Wave” focus motor, while nice and fast, isn’t as silent as all that, and can clearly be heard on the soundtrack in video mode.
While the second card slot and slightly improved performance are welcome upgrades to an already brilliant camera, the new video recording mode and live monitor view are a bit disappointing compared to other premium models. The D300s is still utterly superb and one of the best DSLRs on the market, but don’t trade in your D300 just yet.