Hands on with the Canon 50D and Nikon D300 – Peter Gregg


Even though both the Canon 50D and the Nikon D300 cameras have rumors floating out there for eminent updates, they are still the darlings of Nikon users and Canon users around the world.

I thought a direct head to head would be a fun exercise to do with these cameras. Yes, we could see a Nikon D400 sometime this year as well as a Canon 60D or 70D and info on these future bodies hit my screen like clockwork throughout the month.

Of course there is always a target to my “interviewing’ a camera. First we get acquainted, just wrestle around a little bit and then I get to the low blow questions like “Can you focus?”, “What do you look like in the dark at ISO 1600 and at 16×24 print size?”, and finally – “CAN YOU FOCUS??” I break them down and they finally spill their guts.

First thing I did with both cameras is fine tune the lens I am going to use with the fine tune feature both of them sport. Since I own and run both Canon and Nikon gear I picked the 50mm lens for each camera as basic tests, and then what I had on hand for some neighborhood shots.

A few basic comments though, both cameras feel good in my hands and both feel responsive. I still like the Canon menu system better than the Nikon menu system, there is something about a drop down menu that works better in my mind than a left to right menu system. Not really an issue though, so both are okay it just easier for me to use the Canon system.

There is a LOT more stuff in the Nikon menu choices than in the Canon menu choices. Canon has a theology of giving you a lot less for their lower cameras and Nikon has clobbered Canon there for quite a few years now. Canon doesn’t budge much though and so they still have just the beginnings of a full feature set in comparison.

The Nikon D300 though can be configured in so many ways it can boggle your mind. For feature set, configurability and plain choices you can make – this section goes to Nikon by a mile.

Writing speed to the card feels very similar between the 50D and the D300. Both cleared out their buffers quickly, and the Canon 50D is pumping out 15.1 megapixel files! Nice work Canon.

Okay, here we go, I grabbed each camera and walked over to a statue in our house that gives problems to almost every camera and is just plain hard for cameras to get a focus lock on. the statue is in a room with no outside light and the fixtures/lamps in the room don’t move so the statue is a built in test subject of mine for a few years now.

Right off the bat I shot 3 pictures in a row, first with the 50D and then with the D300. I didn’t even look at the back LCD to see what was happening – I wanted to be surprised. And yes, I was surprised :)

The first three pictures out of the Canon 50D are straight out of Lightroom and saved 100 percent sections of the pictures – no changes or resizing, this is what you would get at home if you did this yourself:

Canon’s 50D first three shots – let’s see what they look like:

Shot #1:
Shot #2:
Shot #3:

I didn’t do anything differently than if Chuck Westfall would have been standing next me carefully watching over my shoulder . . .

Now I put the Canon down on the table next to me and grabbed the Nikon D300 and fired off 3 shots. I should say a couple of things here. I focused in on the statue and fired a picture, then I focused in across the room and then aimed again at the statue and took a picture. I did this for both cameras, and the reason is not to let the focus system “settle in” on a good or bad focus. Each focus was a fresh start for both cameras.

Nikon D300′s very first 3 shots:

Shot #1:
Shot #2:
Shot #3:

Not much to say there right :) Hello, are you awake????? There’s a pretty big difference there – what happened Canon?

Okay, on to the next little stuffed animal that gives cameras a hard time to focus. It has a stealth like quality like the statue to digital focus systems and tells me how good focus abilities can do. Anyone can focus out in the sunlight, it’s family time, and for professionals it’s low-light time that needs to be explored.

Canon 50D shot #1
Canon 50D shot #2
Canon 50D shot #3
Nikon D300 Shot #1
Nikon D300 Shot #2
Nikon D300 Shot #3

That was better between both cameras. it matters because this is the type of obstacles you will be running into no matter what camera you are using and people should know how their camera works and how it will respond. Some say stuffed animals, statues, and cereal box pictures are silly – but if you are getting paid for your work or are a high end hobbyist, your “practice” and exploration shots should be done ahead of the hot firing range where the pictures WILL matter.

Boys playing football.

I remember when a little one on one football in the yard was a fun thing to do. The boys next door were doing just that so I took the 2 bodies went outside and took a few shots.

Full shot from the 50D and fully processed in Lightroom by me:
100 percent crop – not processed or altered:

Actually that is very good and add the fact that it’s 15.1 megapixels, it will make a great print.

Same shot in the reverse play at 100 percent – unaltered 50D:

Is that soft or is it me???

Just so you don’t think the 50D can’t deliver, a little guy was left out and just watching the bigger guys playing and I grabbed a face shot:

100 percent crop:

The Canon can be quite sharp, the D300 is on target more often. Both cameras are usable you just have to work them differently (take more shots with the Canon).

A just for fun shot – D300 in motion:
D300 full size image:
100 percent unaltered hand crop:
100 percent unaltered Face crop:

In conclusion:

I printed a 16×24 print, fully processed from each camera. Separately they each look fantastic. When put together side by side you can see the added resolution from the 50D makes a difference. Is it a big enough difference to make me more drawn to the 50D ? I would have to honestly say yes. The problem though is the sharpness the D300 gives in a larger majority of it’s pictures. The print from the D300 is excellent enough even at 12 megapixels compared to the 15 megapixels of the 50D for me to choose the D300 as the winner in this comparison exercise.

Bottom line is if I had to buy only one or the other, I would easily choose the D300. This doesn’t make the 50D a bad camera, in fact it is quite a hot selling camera, but that would be my choice and recommendation. I can’t wait to see what Nikon does with the rumored D400 camera. Canon is also rumored to be coming up with a brand new focus system and as Canon has shocked and awed in the past, I eagerly await to see what happens there too.

Speaking of buying the Canon 50D or the Nikon D300, I was graciously loaned both camera bodies from Roberts Imaging demo department. Dawn set it up for me and she is a real sweetheart to work with. Let me giver her and Roberts Imaging a plug here as they bent over backwards to help me get the cameras here to use for this article and I want to send out a big thanks to them, and also let you know you can call Dawn and she will be glad to help folks buy equipment. The information is:

Dawn Boarman 

I know they have great prices but also have great solid service from real people like Dawn and all the crew over at Roberts.

Happy shooting and see you online,
Peter Gregg

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave A Comment...