Japanese website ASCII has published an interesting interview (Babelfish translation, Google translation) with Nikon development personal on the development of the Nikon D300, due to be released in November 2007. Here are some interesting points:

  • Targeted customers: Users of both D2X and D200. Personally I think the D300 will appeal to many current D2X users. It costs less with the body and the grip combined than the D2X, with better performances in most aspects. No doubt, many professionals will purchase the full frame D3. However many will find the DX format sufficient.
  • As a flagship DX format DSLR, the three most significant features: 100% viewfinder (need very precise alignment of viewfinder, AF system, and the sensor), durability (150K shutter life), and high shooting speed.
  • High ISO noise performance to be more than 1 stop better than D200, but this is scene dependent. It mentioned that mid tone is brightened a bit, so the images overall has a brighter look.
  • The sensor is supplied by Sony according to Nikon specification and standard. The D300 sensor performs A/D conversion within the sensor to suppress circuit noise that may be generated when the analog signals are transferred to external A/D converter in previous designs. This also allows parallel conversion to improve shooting speed.
  • The active D-lighting function achieves what post-processing does in camera. It is not just a simple tone curve manipulation, but also some localized adjustments, similar to the dodge and burn technique in Photoshop.
  • The sensor has the ability of shooting 8fps but the mechanical parts cannot keep up without the attached battery grip. Without the battery grip, the maximum frame rate drops to 6fps.
  • The mechanical parts like the AF motor are mostly the same as in D200, but the parameters are optimized to increase the shooting speed on D300.
  • The speed improvement over D200: 45ms v. 50ms shutter lag, 90ms vs. 105ms viewfinder blackout time.
  • Apparently the shutter release sounds are also improved by “the mirror balancer”, which reduces mirror bouncing. I guess we can assume less vibration caused blurring when shooting at slow shutter speed.
  • The Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who was involved in the F3/F4/F5/F6 design, is responsible for the D3 design. While the D300 was designed by in-house designers.
  • Nikon apparently listened to the complains about the durability of the D200 vertical battery grip. It is now constructed in part from magnesium alloy to increase rigidity. The grip is no longer L-shaped. Instead, it becomes flat. One battery remains in the camera and one in the grip. With D200 grip, both batteries go into the grip. It also takes several different types of battery, including AAs.
  • “3D-tracking mode”: When used in auto focus it photometrically utilizes scene recognition technique with the 1005 pixel RGB sensor and a diffraction grating to improve AF accuracy. The sensor maintains the focus by tracking the subject’s color and size. This application does not only scene recognition AF but is also is applied to auto white balance, and to background recognition in flash photography.
  • On Liveview mode: Focus using the actual picture taken by the sensor is the most accurate. In the “tripod shooting mode” of liveview, contrast AF is used to achieve focus. The interviewer asked an interesting question about why contrast AF, popular in compact digital cameras, were not used in DSLRs. The answer is that DSLR sensors cannot capture images with sufficient frame rate. Contrast AF works by doing frame by frame focus finding (maximum contrast). In DSLRs, due to the higher quality requirements, the frame rate with DSLR sensors are too slow. That makes sense that it is only available in tripod shooting mode and, most likely, for still subjects only.
  • On the dust removal: It is the first on Nikon DSLR. It has the vibration dust removal, an anti-static low pass filter with a special coating.

The simultaneous release of two flagship DSLR models D300 and D3, in DX and FX formats, are a significant achievement by Nikon. They reaffirmed the commitments to the DX format. Both formats will be continuous expanded and updated.

[Well, it took me a while to get throw the translations. If I missed anything, please let me know.]

Posted in: Digital SLR Cameras on October 30th, 2007. Trackback URI
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