The internet is all a-buzz about whether the D90 is really better at high ISO settings than the D300. So I set out to see whether it's true or not. Just for good measure I threw the D700 in as well.
First things first. The images are 100% crops, no sharpening, no Noise Reduction, no nothing.
The same lens was used on each camera, the lens was the D90 kit lens, the Nikkor AF-S 18-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6. The zoom was at 105mm and the aperture was set to ƒ/5.6. Please note that this was just a quick test. All shots were hand held (and I must admit, I got some pretty sharp shots at 1/4 of second @ 105mm). The D700 has a lower resolution at the DX setting so the image looks a bit smaller.
Click on the photo to see it bigger...
At ISO 200 they're all pretty similar.
At ISO 400 there's still not much else to report.
At ISO 800 the D300 is starting to show some noise. The D90 and D700 are noise free.
At ISO 1600 the D300 is showing a fair amount of noise. The D90 is showing slight noise. The D700 not a speck of noise.
At ISO 3200 the D300 is showing quite a bit of noise, the D90 is amazingly clean for ISO 3200, but there is some noise there. The D700 is just starting to show some noise.
At ISO 6400 the D300 is pretty well unusable for practical purposes. The D90 still looks pretty good (about the same as the D300 at ISO 1600). The D700 is showing a fair amount of noise, but its not too bad.
Well, there you have it folks. The D90 actually kicks the D300's butt in ISO performance. (It's pretty damn close to the D700!)
Am I going to get rid of the D300? Nope. It's an awesome camera. The build quality and layout is strictly pro. I need that. The D90 though well built just doesn't function as good as I need it to. There's too much stuff that you have to change in the menus. I can give up a little ISO performance for the pro features of the D300.