Nikon D300 Replacement, The King is dead – long live the King!
Last week I was discussing whether the soon to be released Nikon D7200 would be the replacement of the Nikon D300.
So after taking a few days to digest the news and opinions generated by the actual release, it seems the much anticipated Nikon D400 might actually be here at last.
Except Nikon put a spanner in the works and called it the D7200. *Update 06/01/16 – Nikon releases Nikon D500 as true D300 replacement*
For those, including me, awaiting an evolution of the classic Nikon D300/D300s model I think its probably time we moved on and accepted the Nikon D7200 is ‘the evolution’ we have been waiting for.
Looking at the specs, its hard to see what else could be seriously expected. More importantly, what other features do crop body users seriously NEED over and above what the D7200 offers?
Lets look at the specs of the Nikon D7200 compared to the D300 ….
27 x 12 bit RAW
18 x 14 bit RAW
Multi-Cam 3500 II*
EV -3 to EV +19
200 to 3200
21 x 12 bit RAW
18 x 14 bit RAW
Nikon Multi-CAM 3500DX
EV -1 to EV +19
* Same as the Nikon D750
Its immediately obvious that the Nikon D7200 is vastly superior in features compared to the Nikon D300 – well lets face facts, it should be as the D300 is 8 years old.
But in reality the comparison is pointless. The Nikon D300 is still an excellent camera. It is solid, rugged and full of adequate features. But it is undeniably 8 years old. 8 years in an environment where the technology is evolving significantly every 2 years or so.
The real question is what should the Nikon D300 replacement really look like feature wise?
What could or should a Nikon D300 replacement offer?
So bearing in mind the image processor and AF System from the Pro Full Frame range of Nikon cameras have been used in the D7200, what could the D300 replacement offer over and above what the D7200 offers?
Keep to the forefront of your mind that, body only, the D7200 is less than £1000. Slowly the penny should be dropping that this it, there is no logical reason to pursue the D400 dream.
If the D400 is to come to life, what features would it need to have to justify its place in the market?
Is there anything in the Nikon Pro Full Frame range that could trickle down and make a significant improvement without taking the body into the Pro price range?
Slowly the penny should be dropping that this it, there is no logical reason to pursue the D400 dream.
One could surmise that any Nikon D300 replacement would feature some significant upgrades, but I dont see any gaps in the existing Nikon product range that would justify ‘another’ DX body on top of the D7200.
I also believe the next large steps in Nikon development will be in the FF pro range. I would be extremely surprised to see a revolutionary DX model with ground breaking features being released and those new features then being rolled out into new Full Frame pro body.
I think the main areas of concern for most photographers are –
- the camera can focus fast and accurately
- images are registered accurately by a good quality sensor
- images are processed fast and efficiently so you can carry on shooting.
From what I can see the D7200 does just that, and judging by the rave reviews of the Nikon D750 (where components for 2 of these 3 features come from), should do it very well.
A shortcoming in any of those three key areas makes the camera unsuitable for this market niche – pro-sumer, semi-pro or whatever you want to label it.
For those already with a D7100, then I agree the ‘evolution’ is somewhat less appealing. Although it could be argued the D7100s main weakness, if it had one, was the buffer. That buffer shortcoming has now been addressed with an impressive 27 consecutive 12 bit RAWs. Check out the Nikon D7100 v D7200 comparison chart for a detailed side by side comparison.
Any faster throughput begs the question as to why you NEED to machine gun any more shots out of a single burst?
It could also be argued that a step change is necessary in this market niche. Moving towards 80 or 90 focus points with added cross type AF points would be useful. Getting nearer to double digit FPS could also be useful. More fine control over the AF tracking system would be very useful. What about eye movement detection to control the AF points?
All sound very nice but two issues come to mind. Firstly, some of these features are already available in the Pro range. Secondly there will be an additional hit to the wallet.
How much extra do you want to spend? Or in reality, how much more do you NEED to spend. Once you start heading towards the £1500, £1600 or even £1700 price point you start drifting away from the niche you are serving. Nikon also risk customers dropping out of the Pro range market and going for a product, that is undeniably, extremely competent and at a fraction of the cost.
What about jumping ship to another brand instead of waiting for a D300 replacement?
Well what else is there out in the market place?
The Sony A77ii? Now this is a nice looking camera. I love the colours and ‘look’ of the images from my NEX-6, so perhaps this is a contender?
Lets quickly look at the three features mentioned above.
The A77ii does offer more focus points at 79 compared to Nikons 51.
But, is the AF module comparable? Are those 79 AF points better managed and integrated on the Sony?
The short answer is I dont think so. I havent used a Sony A77ii but looking through the myriad of opinions, I havent seen any conclusive arguments to convince me the Sony 79 are better or worse than Nikons 51.
The Canon 7D2, although not a direct comparison, has 65 AF points and importantly, all are cross type sensors compared to both the Nikons and Sonys 15 cross types. The Canon also has options to make more subtle alterations to the AF tracking of moving objects. That is definitely something worth having on your feature list – but do you want fork out another £500 for the privilege?
When looking at image processing, both the Canon and Sony cant match the low light performance of the Nikon processor.
The Sony cant match low light performance partly due to the translucent mirror arrangement which loses around 0.5 EV. In regard to the Canon 7D2 in simple terms, across the board in this price range, Canon just cant match Nikons quality in its shadow detail.
For me personally, despite the D7200 having class leading modules from the Nikon pro range in the autofocus and image processing modules, the one single over-riding factor is how Nikon have integrated the metering and focusing system.
In spot metering mode, neither the Sony or the Canon has tied the metering system to the selected AF point. If you do use spot metering with the Sony or Canon, you are tied to the central AF point.
That is a massive deal for a lot of photographers – or at least it should be. It frees up creativity in compositions out in the field and removes the need to make a creative crop in post processing.
If you are wanting to shoot sport, fast moving action such as birds in flight or aircraft at airshows, this feature seals the deal.
Again looking back at my three critical factors, rightly or wrongly, the D7200 is the only one to tick all the boxes.
It could be argued that an articulated rear screen should be fitted as standard. It could also be argued that the D7200 isnt a full metal body. I think the removal of the back focus button is a mistake (but its also gone from the D750). But on the scale of things, these are minor issues.
Looking back at the introduction I asked a serious question – what other features do crop body users seriously NEED over and above what the D7200 offers?
Hand on heart, I cant think of anything and my order has been submitted.
And for that reason the D7200 is, at last, the Nikon D300 replacement.
As I said earlier, the King is dead, long live the King!
Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your views so please leave your thoughts on the new King below.
** UPDATE **
Following on from this post I eventually purchased a Nikon D7200 – read my thoughts in this post – Nikon D7200 v D300 one month later