The Gadget: Nikon's D300 is a 12.3MP camera with 200-6400 (hi mode) ISO, a 3-inch LCD, 51 autofocus points and a prosumer magnesium body on the fence, but teetering more towards pro than consumer. Inside is a DX-sensor, not quite the FX sensor found in the better D3 and D700 cams. It's not directly competitive with either the cheaper 50D or the more expensive 5D from Canon.
The Price: $1799 with no lens.
Having been a Canon fan for quite some time, the D300 blew me away in 4 basic aspects. Shooting gadgets and liveblogs over a few months, it was clear that the Nikon D300, shooting to small JPGs from the hip, had a lot better time resolving white balance and the colors were more saturated (like old Fuji film) without being grotesque. Low light performance was the best I've seen yet; even less grainy in the most recent Apple liveblog than when I used the EOS 1D Mark III, with noticeably cleaner blacks. The 18-200mm kit glass was as good as they say it is for a consumer lens. The 51-point AF system is better than the 40D's, which often couldn't lock on darker objects. The LCD was easily viewable in daylight. And by far, Nikon's menu scheme is modern, whereas many competing cameras are not even close to being this easy to navigate.
I've used the D300 to shoot the most recent liveblog, as I said, and the camera did well but I think it could do better with a faster piece of glass at the 200mm mark (the VR lens I used sits at F5.6 at this focal length). Still, it performed admirably, and is my favorite DSLR to date. (Although I am playing with a D700 right now.)
I also used it to shoot the iPhone 3G in our review:
And some sailing.
Come on, let's be real, this camera deserves a real review:
I'll not claim to have plunged to the depths of what this camera can do, using in in a very specific and spontaneous way during live events and fast reviews. I've also shot at low res, and have uploaded shots with even more compression. This is not a scientific test by any means. If you're really considering this camera, I recommend reviews by DPreview, DCResource and DigitalCameraInfo (But watch out for the annoying inter-page ads on that last link.)