Nikon Worries

My Nikon D300 gave up on Saturday, while I was photographing a march by Egyptians in London. It happened when the camera got a little knock as I was climbing down from a box on the street. Nothing significant, but it fell around six inches and bumped the side of it.

There was no obvious extra external damage, and I thought if anything I had damaged the lens, as when I tried to focus the 18-105 which was on the camera it hunted around a bit before coming to a halt decidedly out of focus.  I put the camera back in my bag and continued working with the D700 and 16-35mm, and hardly noticed the lack of anything longer the rest of the day. If it had been working there would of course have been pictures I would have made with it, but I’m not sure my photography really suffered. I suppose I could have continued working on it in manual focus, but really the viewfinder just isn’t good enough for that.

The next day I put another lens on the D300 body and found it too failed to focus, while the 18-105 seemed to be working fine on the D700. It was the body and not the lens that had a problem, and it was one that made it more or less unusable.

I spent a couple of days wondering what to do. The D300 has seen better days, and has been knocked around quite a bit. I did a check on the shutter count (on-line by loading one of the .NEF files I did make with it on Saturday to My Shutter as I automatically strip some less essential Exif data from my jpegs, and the software I have currently installed on my new computer doesn’t read it from raw files) and found it was at around 158500, more than the rated life of 150000. The screen on the top plate has been broken since early summer and much of the rubber on the body is peeling. The top speeds no longer work properly, as I found when photographing swans in July, and I’ve been suffering more recently from the occasional exposure with half the picture covered in nasty coloured lines and the odd image that has an ‘unexpected end of file‘ or gives the annoyling vague Lightroom message ‘there was an error working with this photo.’* All in all it’s in rather a mess, and I shudder to think how much it might cost to get it fixed.

The D300 cost me £969 in April 2008, so it is coming up to 4 years old and it has seen reasonably intense use in that time. That works out at around 0.61p per exposure for the body, which has not been repaired or serviced in that time, so I wouldn’t feel bad about ditching it now. The sensible thing would probably be to get an estimate for repair and then sell it secondhand, but so far I’ve just wasted a lot of time thinking about its replacement.

Everyone on the web seems to have been expecting Nikon to announce a replacement for the D700 for some time – with very strong rumours in recent weeks that the D800 might emerge from under wraps at the end of this month, although these are now being discounted. New products have been held up and the supply of cameras and lenses seriously affected by the flooding at Nikon’s factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, where all DX SLRs have been made since 2009, along with most of the DX zoom lenses, although the FX D800 will presumably be made elsewhere, probably at the Sendai Japan factory which earlier this year was closed until the end of March following the 11th March earthquake and tsunami.  But in any case it seems likely that it will be very expensive – I’ve seen a figure of $3600 mentioned. And if the strong rumour of it being 36Mp turn out to be true, I’m not sure I need it.

Nikon’s direct replacement of the D300, the D300s, offered few advantages. Better to get my old D300 fixed than go for that. Its replacement is also overdue and was once expected about now. At the moment the most attractive of the available Nikons to me seems to be the D7000, with slightly better image quality in low light than the D300 and some other minor advantages. As usual, the review I found most worth reading comes from Thom Hogan. It’s also just a bit smaller, lighter and cheaper. I came close to spending around £830 on one yesterday.

But today, while thinking about writing this piece, I had another play around with the ailing D300, trying it out on manual focus and in the two autofocus modes, verifying the lens still made the right noises for VR and so on. And suddenly it just started working again, as if something had somehow fallen back into place, and I was looking at a sharp image in the viewfinder (though a rather boring one.) I took a few images with brick walls in them and things seem to be pretty sharp. So perhaps I’ll give the D300 another chance until the next time it falls to pieces. By then Nikon might have their  new models out.


© 2011, Peter Marshall
Lightroom refused to work with this D300 raw file, but Irfanview had no problems and Photoshop finished the job.
Halloween in London, 2011.

* ‘There was an error working with this file’ and other error messages may simply be Adobe software being very picky about the files that it will open – and perhaps might be replaced at least in some cases by the message ‘Lightroom couldn’t be arsed to open this file.’

You may still be able to get a usable image from the file – as with the picture above – using other software, such as Irfanview, free for non-commercial use to extract to a high quality jpeg and then adjusting that in Photoshop. And even if you can’t extract the image from the RAW data, the included jpeg (used for displaying the image on the camera screen) may still be ok, although these are usually ‘basic’ quality and sometimes smaller than full size. You can download the free IJFR – Instant JPEG From RAW Free Utility from Michael Tapes’s RawWorkflow site – register there to be sent the download link. It’s a handy way to very quickly generate a whole set of jpegs from any set of RAW files.

2 Responses to “Nikon Worries”

  1. ChrisL says:

    Condolences, which it seems are a little previous, are offered. My D2H has developed the well known shutter fault but it can be worked around, for now. A similar dilemma but I thought the D7000 although well specified (two card slots and a focus motor on my list) it just doesn’t feel as well built as the D2.
    Anyway I wanted to add the link which shows, at the moment, the £830 is not a bad price but can be beaten.

  2. Hi Chris, thanks for your thoughts.

    I found a slightly lower price than the one you link to, I think on e-bay, but was rather doubtful about buying a camera from the dealer concerned who did not have a very good record. I’d also prefer to get a camera that is not a ‘grey’ import, just in case things go wrong while it is under guarantee. So £830 was around the lowest price from companies that I would be prepared to trust.

    I doubt it will be as well built as the D2, but the review I link to is reasonably complimentary on that aspect, and it sounds as if it will be about as well built as the D300.

    But the D300 I think behaved perfectly today while I was photographing the Nov 30 events.

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