d300s

If you're looking to upgrade from a bargain-basement DSLR, the D300S is a superb choice. Absolute beginners might be out of their depth (there's no "green square" mode, for instance), but for someone beginning to build up some technical and creative experience the D300S offers a huge amount of power and flexibility.

We liked:

It's very fast to operate and offers the fastest continuous-shooting mode this side of £3,000. It's the perfect stepping stone between an amateur and professional DSLR. It's more expensive than the Canon 50D, but it's also faster and, to our hands, more solid, besides offering 720p video recording.

If you already have a top-end amateur DSLR things are less clear-cut.

There's also the minor consideration of the price: £1,500 for the D300S with its reasonable 16-85mm VR lens is a bargain. Compare it, for instance, with the D700, which costs nearly two thousand pounds body-only – and you'll need to spend around half as much again to get a lens good enough to withstand the exacting quality of the full-frame sensor.

We disliked:

In terms of absolute image quality the D300S doesn't offer much improvement over older models such as the Nikon D200 or D300. Its noise performance is good, but not as good as full-frame cameras such as the D700 or Canon 5D MK II. But it will probably be faster than your current body and the inclusion of HD video recording is something we think you'll grow to love.

Final verdict:

The bottom line is that we loved taking pictures with the D300S. Quite apart from image quality, it's so quick to use and adjust that you'll hardly ever miss a shot. The build-quality is extraordinary and the inclusion of (admittedly limited) HD video recording is a sleeper feature that grows on you over time. The deceptively good value is the icing on the cake.

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