The Nikon D3500 is a popular entry-level camera, which replaces the previous Nikon D3400. If you are a novice photographer there are many features that will appeal, with 24 Megapixels, an APS-C CMOS sensor, and a useful Guide Mode.
With so many similarly priced DSLR’s on the market, it can be hard to know which is the best option for you. To help you find the ideal camera, we have compiled this comprehensive Nikon D3500 review.
Nikon D3500 – Key Specifications
- Impressive 1,550 shot battery life
- Useful ‘Guide’ mode for novice photographers
- A 24.2Mp APS-C CMOS sensor
- A 100-25,600 ISO sensitivity range
- Uses the Nikon F lens mount
- A 3.0-inch 921,000 dot display
- An 11-point autofocus
- Offers Bluetooth connectivity
- 5fps burst shooting
Nikon D3500 – An Overview
The Nikon D3500 has been around for a few years now, but it is still one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners. With an affordable price, great handling, and a brilliant battery, it is no surprise that the Nikon D3500 has proved to be such a popular choice.
Naturally, as an entry-level camera, there are some drawbacks where Nikon has cut back on features to lower the cost, such as the lack of 4K video functionality and the absence of a touchscreen menu. However, as a novice photographer, these features may not be as important to you.
The most obvious change to the Nikon D3500 is the overall design, and it is clear that Nikon has overhauled the older model to bring the D3500 more in line with the D5600 in terms of aesthetics. The camera is smaller, lighter and the controls are more streamlined, to create a modern, comfortable DSLR.
The actual specification of the D3500 has changed very little from the previous D3400. For example, the Nikon D3500 retains the same pixel count as the older Nikon D3400, however, it does benefit from a newer APS-C sensor. This particular sensor removes the optical low-pass filter, which does offer a noticeable improvement to image quality.
Build & Handling
This is a very comfortable DSLR to use, thanks to the substantial grip which helps to balance longer and heavier lenses. Despite the larger grip, Nikon has actually reduced the weight of the camera by 30g compared to the previous model.
The controls are streamlined, with the mode dial switch allowing users to quickly activate Live View mode. This is ideal for photographers which prefer to use the rear camera display instead of the viewfinder.
Next to this is a command dial, which is fully exposed to allow settings such as aperture and shutter speed to be easily adjusted to suit your chosen mode. There is also a useful exposure compensation control, which will provide further fine-tuning when required.
To the rear of the Nikon D3500 is a screen that is almost flush with the edge of the camera body. In the previous D3400, five buttons filled this space, however, in the new model, these have been moved to the multi-directional control pad to create a larger rear display. There is still a dedicated flash button which is positioned to the left and an info button to the right.
The most useful design feature in our opinion is the Guide mode, which is designed to provide assistance to novice users. The button acts as an alternative option to the main DSLR menus so that beginners can quickly capture a shot without having to figure out the best options. To help you improve your capabilities, there is a useful ‘i’ button, which will explain the various camera features.
If you owned the older Nikon D3400, you will notice that the Fn button has been removed. Previously, this enabled sensitivity to be adjusted quickly, however, this has moved to the internal menu options. However, for first-time users, we are sure that you will quickly become familiar with the various easy to reach controls. The streamlined design provides just enough controls, without feeling too daunting. Although, as you become more familiar with photography, you may find that the menu options feel a little slow.
You May Also Like: Nikon D850 Review
The autofocus if the D3500 remains unchanged from previous models, which is fine for users which are focusing on static objects. The 11-point CAM 1000 autofocus system uses a diamond layout to cover most of the viewfinder successfully.
When combined with the VR kit lens, this DSLR will do a good job of locking onto an object, providing it is not situated close to the edge of the frame.
In good light, you will find the focusing to be quiet, quick, and accurate, however, as with most cameras, it will slow down in poor light.
To combat any issues, we recommend using the central autofocus point which will allow you to take advantage of the cross-style sensitivity. In addition, there is an assistance lamp which will help in very low light levels. We would recommend turning it off when it is not needed, as it can be distracting.
If the subject is moving it can be difficult for the autofocus to track, as the 11 autofocus points are spread a little too thinly. To avoid losing your subject, you will need to ensure that it remains prominent in the frame. However, for an entry-level DSLR, this is not an uncommon problem.
If you prefer using the rear display, you will need to change to the Live View focus option. It is possible to focus, however, the speed is comparably slower than mirrorless cameras. The obvious lack of a touchscreen is also very clear, as it can take some time to focus the area when using the multi-directional pad.
The Nikon D3500 Performance
The Nikon D3500 is not an ideal option for those who like to shoot a lot of quick shots, as the burst shooting speed is just 5fpd.
It is not quite the slowest, however, there are other DSLRs which prioritise shoot speeds. Aside from this issue, the Nikon D3500 is an ideal option for most novice photography styles.
In terms of exposure, the D3500 performs well with consistent exposure in most areas, even subjects that are very dark.
This is largely because of the addition of the compensation button, which is designed to work alongside the rear commands for quick and easy exposure control.
In addition, the automatic white balance is also very efficient. It works particularly well in areas with artificial lighting, although you will lose some warmth in the images.
The actual viewfinder is clear and provides impressive colour accuracy, despite its modest resolution. There are more expensive cameras that swap the LCD screen in favour of clearer images; however, this camera is fine for quick image viewing with shots reproduced accurately.
There is no WiFi connectivity, so to wirelessly send images you will need to download the Nikon SnapBridge app. The app is available on iOS and Android and will provide a simple way to transfer images.
The battery life is something that really sets the D3500 apart from competitors, with a life of up to 1,550 shots. This is much better than many similarly priced DSLRs, which often offer in the region of 300 shots.
The Nikon D3500 offers brilliant image quality for an entry-level camera, thanks to the 24.2MP sensor and the removal of the optical low-pass filter.
When combined with a great lens, the detail of the images captured would rival cameras which are far more expensive. For example, it is possible to underexpose images to around 3.5EV stops, whilst still recovering shadow detail and avoiding image noise.
Kit Lens Options
To make the most of the impressive 24.2MP sensor, it is likely that you will want to invest in some kit lenses. There are a variety of Nikon lenses available, so you are sure to find options that suit your budget and shooting style. The ‘VR’ version for the Nikon S3500 is a great option for those on a budget and it will offer a noticeable reduction in vibrations.
Our Verdict on the Nikon D3500
If you are simply looking for a DSLR that will allow you to take your first steps into the world of photography, we have no doubts that the Nikon D3500 is one of the best options available today.
The excellent battery life, great quality images, and easy-to-use menus will guide you to great shots. However, the entry-level price does mean that you will not benefit from features such as touchscreen controls, 4K video, and WiFi connectivity.
“Outshine the ordinary” with the Nikon D3500.
Where can I buy the Nikon D3500?
You can buy the Nikon D3500 below from Amazon using our affiliate link. Or you can check out our article comparing all of the best DSLR’s for filmmakers, providing you with an overview of what each one offers. Hopefully that can help you decide on your next camera.
*Note, there are a couple of Amazon affiliate links here, these go a long way to supporting the maintenance of our iFilmThings website.
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