Nikon announces D3000 and D300s, as expected

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We got a call from Nikon earlier, and they laid out for us what we know was coming: the new entry-level D3000 and prosumer D300s. We’ve known these were coming for months now, and as it turns out, the specs that were leaked a while ago were exactly on target. You’re leaking, Nikon!

So what do these things have to offer?

D3000

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Let’s start with the D3000, which is the one may people will be going for. It comes as a kit for $600, including an AF-S NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR IS lens. I trust Nikon’s kit lens way more than Canon’s (also an 18-55), so I’d advise getting the kit if you’re just starting out. Remember, though: the D3000 can only use AF-S lenses, not AF. If you’re new to the SLR world, that shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have a couple lenses your dad used to use or something, don’t expect them to work on this. Here are the D3000′s vital statistics:

10.2-megapixel CCD sensor
3″ LCD screen (230,000 pixels, about 600×400)
ISO 100-1600 (boostable to 3200, but don’t do it)
11-point autofocus (diamond pattern I believe)
3FPS burst mode
Integrated Dust Reduction System
Heavy-duty shutter (100,000 shots, very nice)

And the less critical inclusions:

Active D-lighting system
3D Color Matrix Metering II (this and the above thing are replacements for post-processing, which is both fun and rewarding, so no need for ‘em)
Stop-motion movie mode (probably fun)

It also includes a “guide mode,” which I think is good. First time users of SLR cameras will find this helpful as it walks you through taking a good picture. I’m just afraid it’s going to make users rely on onboard editing of photos, which is always a bad idea. Do yourself a favor if you get this camera, shoot in RAW and play around with your own pictures, you’ll find it way better than Nikon’s (or any other camera-maker’s) built-in software.

D300s

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This is the prosumer option. At $1800 it replaces the D300, adding a few really worthwhile features, chief among them being a usable video mode. Let’s see here:

12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor
3″ LCD (920,000 pixels, about 1280×720)
7FPS burst mode (8 with battery pack)
Video mode at 720p/24FPS (excellent)
ISO 200-3200 (expandable to 100-6400)
14-bit A/D conversion (good)
Dual card slots: SDHC and CF
51-point autofocus

All in all it sounds great. We knew these specs way back in May, but it’s good to know that none of them were made up. The dual card slots, video mode, and increased frames in burst mode are what really set it off. I know I trash DSLR movie modes because they use crappy interpolation, but at least they’re headed in the right direction. 720p is nice, and real 24p is also great to have. Note that I don’t think you can shoot at 30 frames per second even if you wanted to. It’s also got a line-in so you can have a separate sound collection device, or “microphone,” if you don’t trust the one that’s built in.

Looks like Nikon has a couple real winners here. The D3000 is a good competitor with Canon’s XSi — I don’t include the T1i because its movie mode is garbage and I don’t like the name.

The D300s is almost closing in on 5D territory at $1800, but really it’s competing with the 40D. It’s hard to make a comparison there, because it’s significantly more expensive, but I’d say if you’re going to spend over a grand on a camera, the D300s is probably more for your money. That’s just a snap judgment, though.

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