Nikon's D300 is a good-quality, semi pro/enthusiast dSLR camera.

The Nikon D300 is built like a tank and, like the Canon EOS 40D, has two LCDs – a high-resolution 3in screen dominating the rear and a second narrower display window up top to allow adjustment of key shooting options in seconds.

A dedicated mode button used with a command dial falls readily under the thumb and cuts down the need for a separate mode wheel. The result is that the Nikon D300's layout feel less cluttered than some.

Featuring an image-processing system also found in the higher-end Nikon D3, with a flick of the on/off dial that surrounds the main shutter release you can be up and shooting in less than a second (officially 0.13 sec), with a 45ms shutter lag and the optical viewfinder pleasingly large and clear for composing shots.

Continuous shooting of up to six frames per second is offered and, like the other units here, you can choose to capture images as Jpeg or RAW. Our review sample came with an adequate 17-55mm 1:2.8 G ED DX zoom lens. If you're not already a Nikon user, you'll have to budget extra for; if you can stretch to a VR (Vibration Reduction) lens, so much the better.

The Nikon D300 is also lightning fast in determining critical focus, with a whopping 51 autofocus points and Live View offering further creative flexibility, though in low light without flash we missed the built-in back- up of an image stabilisation system to avoid the occasional soft shot. White balance, however, is accurate – due in part to Nikon's new 'scene recognition' system.

With enough illumination or a steady surface to rest on, the Nikon D300 delivers naturalistically coloured, pin-sharp images that really jump off the screen.

OUR VERDICT

While pictures are stunning, there's no getting away from the fact that while to a professional the Nikon D300 is a budget buy, to the average consumer it's a wallet-battering investment. Still, you get what you pay for and, having also taken the D300 along to a studio shoot as part of our test, we can vouch that its results and workhorse-like reliability. Simply superb.