Al, You are taking this poll in a forum full of people who are used to the feel of D200's and 300's--I'm not surprised at the results. When the numbers are fairly similar, build quality and feel will win out.
Either, just so long as something arrives. Like any good tool, I expect either would start to teach me how (best?) to use it in pretty short order. So, add one vote to each candidate's tally for me, please.
I just did a shoot tonight with both D90 and D300. The D90 took 3 times as many photos as the D300 just by virtue of being lighter and less a danger to itself and to me on top of a ladder (as well as climbing up AND climbing down). As things fell out, I ended up using the same lens on each. It was a 12-person singing group shot at night in a church and I would have given my eye teeth to be able to shoot with a D700 or some equivalent FX follow-on, mainly for the wider field of view. With four speedlights shooting at reduced power, volume of light was definitely not an issue (all shots taken at LO 0.3).
For me, what's missing from Nikon's recent camera releases is a DX body with the high ISO, dynamic range, and pixel density of the D7000/D800, with the speed, build, and handling of the D300s. The D800e is just about my wet dream landscape camera, but since I also shoot birds, which inevitably require cropping anyway, I want a fast, high-res crop camera to complement the D800e that uses the same battery.
D400 16MP DX with 8fps would be just fine with me, but I'm getting the feeling that would have come out last year or not at all.
My guess as to why we don't have that D3200 sensor in a D400 body is that the Expeed3 doesn't have enough data throughput to 6-8fps with that many pixels. This might be what's delaying the D400-like DX camera - sensor density is no longer the gating factor, data processing is. The data throughput of these devices is truly mind-boggling.
The proposed D9000 above would be 10.6MP in DX crop mode, similar to D200. That's not bad, and would double as a solid backup landscape camera, but to get me interested it would need to be smoking fast. I'm talking 8-10fps in DX crop mode. Add 9fps in DX crop mode and that's my camera.
To quote Larry: ". . . I also shoot birds, which inevitably require cropping anyway, I want a fast, high-res crop camera to complement the D800e . . . D400 16MP DX with 8fps would be just fine with me . . . sensor density is no longer the gating factor, data processing is . . . double as a landscape camera . . ."
That just about perfictly discribes my wants. In August we are off to the mid coast of BC to the Great Bear Rainforest for 8 days on a 100’ schooner. This means photos of aquatic (hopefully only on the surface), deep dark forests, morning mists, bright glacier backed fiords, plus mammals and birds; a little of everything on a once in a life time trip. This means I want a D400 as detailed by Larry or maybe a D800e which mught be too much for my skill level. I would prefer to stay DX for the physically smaller size & weight as well as the format.
I can't choose. Think the D400 option would win for me, but by a very small margin.
Call me crazy, I would imagine a very solid demand for both options.
Nikon needs to refresh the D300s, it has been due for a while now. Having said that, I think that an entry level FX camera is also a need Nikon needs to address. We might see both this year if there is any truth to the latest rumors.
>-1-2 stops better noise than D300s when downsampled to >identical output sizes
The above is going to be critical for me too. I am not dying for 24mp in a DX sensor except that as you mention, assuming the 24mp allows me to down-size to the equivalent (12mp) display size I was going to use on my D300, then yes we may gain about .75 a stop of noise performance in that alone. We are clearly seeing this kind of advantage in the D800 downsizing that produces a very good high ISO finished image.
Couple that megapixel-gained .75 stop with perhaps a further .75 stop advantage in low light sensor improvements due to improved technology since the D300/300S sensor which after all is almost 6 years old now and we could have a very versatile D400! Even if I over estimate the two factors above and they added up to a full stop improvement that would be very welcome. And if they combine to give us 1.5-stop, that is a huge impact to the real-world results the camera would deliver.
On three different occasions going from one camera to another I have experienced a 1.5 stop advantage and in each case that is a HUGE advantage in the camera output. I have experienced this going D200 to D300, D300 to D700, and D700 to D4 and each time it allows better choices when out shooting (faster shutter speeds or smaller apertures) and better resulting photos.
I do believe that 24Mp is all about marketing. But the D3200 already has it. I haven't heard the rumors about the D9000. There are a lot of rumors about the D7100. I don't think that's in the works since the D3200 is already out, and in stores.
Any think there might be a D7200 along the lines of the D9000 mentioned on here? Any chance for a follow on to the D7000 that has an articulated monitor? I have a D5100, and a D7000. Do NOT like the controls that you have to give up to get the articulated monitor. All I can ever see in those monitors is a reflection of me, and that ain't pretty.