I’ve owned my Nikon D90 for a a year and a half now. I purchased it the week it was released and I’ve never looked back. I don’t use it for video quite that often, as it is my main camera body. I still stand behind my belief that the D90 is Nikon’s best DX format camera body to date. Yes, I put it above the D300s.
The D90 just plain rocks at high ISO settings. Yesterday, my daughter wanted to celebrate her 7th birthday at Corvette Diner in San Diego. Since I’ve got f/2.8 Sigma glass, I mounted the 24-70mm and left the flash at home. Sure, the D90 has a built-in pop up flash but I only use that to trigger a flash via CLS or if I want to take a REALLY bad photo of someone.
The light level inside was low enough that I was at f/2.8, 1/40th, ISO 3200 almost the entire time. My files came out of the camera very usable, but I opted for a little Luminance Noise Reduction in Lightroom 3 Beta 2. In Lightroom 2, I would have used Nik’s Dfine 2 plugin but LR3 Beta 2 is so much better at noise reduction that I didn’t bother.
So Why Not A D300s?
For many reasons really. The D300s is great, don’t get me wrong. But the sensor performance isn’t quite as good as the D90 and there isn’t a whole lot to be gained from the D300s. Here’s a little Q and A:
Q: Doesn’t the D300s flash sync at 1/250th and the D90 at 1/200th?
A: Yes, but you want to know how much of a difference that’s going to make? Almost none. Most studio strobes won’t sync as fast as 1/200th anyway so it’s really a waste. The D90 is capable of Auto FP High Speed Sync if using CLS, so I can flash sync at 1/4000th of a second on the D90 if I really needed to.
Q: Doesn’t the D300s have a faster max shutter speed?
A: Yes, the D300s has a max shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. The D90′s is 1/4000th of a second. Do you know what that translates into? One. Stop. Of. Light. That’s it. If I need to drop exposure by 1 stop, I’ll stop down my aperture or lower my ISO.
Q: Does the D90 have an external audio input like the D300s?
A: No, it doesn’t. But guess what – it’s not needed! Most pro filmmakers are using something called a Double System which involves using their HD-DSLR and an external audio recording device. They sync the two together in post production. Even a simple $150.00 external recording device like the Zoom H2 can dramatically improve the audio quality of your video work.
Q: Does the D90 have weather sealing like the D300s?
A: No, it sure doesn’t. However, if I’m out shooting in conditions in which weather sealing would be necessary I’ll be using rain gear. Even if I was shooting a D3s which has the best weather sealing – I wouldn’t leave it uncovered. Getting caught in a rainstorm doesn’t mean the end of your D90 as I have read mean stories about folks shooting in pouring rain with their D90 camera bodies.
Q: Can you call yourself a “pro” and still shoot with a D90?
A: Absolutely! What camera you shoot with makes no difference as to whether or not you’re a pro photographer. It’s not about the gear folks.
The above are some of the most common questions that arise as to why one should upgrade to the D300s from the D90. Personally, I feel that the next logical step up in camera bodies is the D700. Having the full frame sensor and better high ISO performance will make a significant difference in image quality. If you still want the video capability, then the D3s is your ticket. I haven’t tested it personally, but I hear that Nikon has improved on the rolling shutter issue while using the D-Movie mode with the D3s. I’ve seen video that proves that the issue is still VERY much a factor with the D300s – another reason not to spend the money on that camera body.