Even though it has been on the market for over three years, the Nikon D3500 is still our top selection for the best DSLR camera for beginners. It even holds its own against some of the most formidable competitors for the title of best DSLR camera overall.
Why so? Although this is somewhat because of the absence of fresh competitors, as most camera manufacturers have already discontinued production of new DSLRs, it is also because of the D3500 masters the fundamentals in a manner that very few other cameras have been able to accomplish.
To begin, it possesses all three of the significant benefits of DSLRs over their mirrorless counterparts: excellent battery life, wonderful handling, and a reasonable price.
The latter is due in part to the fact that the D3500 utilizes an optical viewfinder, as opposed to the electronic viewfinders (EVFs) found on mirrorless competitors, and in part to its vast array of native lenses is no longer sufficiently fresh to warrant high price tags. Because of this, the Nikon D3500 is considered one of the most excellent low-cost cameras that money can buy.
Although the D3500’s age works to its advantage in terms of pricing, it does mean that it is missing several functions that are common in more recent cameras. The first disadvantage is that it does not support 4K video capture, which is currently the industry standard for most new cameras. However, if you are OK with the 1080p resolution of the camera (or if you are not very interested in the video), this should not be a significant issue for you.
Nikon D3500 Features
The Nikon D3500 and the older Nikon D3400 have an effective pixel count of 24.2 megapixels, but the D3500 uses a newer sensor. A closer look at the specifications reveals that the total pixel count on the D3500’s sensor is 24.78 megapixels, while the total pixel count on the D3400’s sensor is 24.72 megapixels.
In addition to helping to enhance picture quality, the APS-C-sized sensor found in the D3500 (typical for an entry-level DSLR and far more significant than the sensors used in the vast majority of small cameras) also eliminates the need for an optical low-pass filter.
The D3500 has an ISO sensitivity range of 100-25,600, which is likewise reasonably large, but it does not improve upon the content offered by the D3400.
Unfortunately, the D3500 only supports Full HD video capture, as practically other mirrorless cameras (and even smartphones) can now record 4K video. The D3500, on the other hand, can record at a smooth 60/50p, 30/25p, and 24p, and there are other choices for recording at a lesser resolution. This is one of the few positive aspects of the camera.
Nikon D3500 Build Quality
Although not many changes were made to the Nikon D3500’s specifications compared to those of the D3400, the camera’s design went through some revisions, and the aesthetics of the current model are more closely aligned with those of the Nikon D5600.
The most noticeable difference when picking up the D3500 is that the grip has been beefed up to provide a more robust feel. The more oversized grip makes the camera easier to hold securely in hand and improves the camera’s overall balance, which is especially helpful when working with longer and heavier lenses.
The wider handgrip on the D3500 has not resulted in the camera being heavier than the D3400. Nikon has shaved off 30 grams of the D3500’s weight, bringing it to a total of 415 grams with the battery fitted. The D3500 now measures 124 mm in height, 97 mm in width, and 69.5 mm in depth after Nikon trimmed the camera’s depth by 6 mm.
Nikon D3500 Autofocus
The autofocus mechanism found in the D3500 is identical to the one found in the D3400 (and the D3300, for that matter).
The autofocus system is the same 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 AF system that covers a large viewfinder area in a diamond configuration. Additionally, this system features a couple more AF points than Canon’s closest competitor, the EOS Rebel T7 (known as the EOS 2000D outside the US).
When coupled with the kit lens AF-P 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and given that your subject is not located on the outside edges of the frame, the autofocus mechanism will perform an excellent job of locking onto stationary subjects. Focusing will inevitably become somewhat slower in low light. In these conditions, we would use the central AF point more, taking advantage of its enhanced cross-type sensitivity. Focusing is quiet and, in good light, friendly and brisk; however, it will inevitably slow down a little bit.
Nikon D3500 Performance
The Nikon D3500 is not a good camera for individuals who want to capture a lot of action because it only has a burst shooting speed of 5 frames per second (fps). It is faster than the slow three frames per second of the EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D. However, similar mirrorless cameras, like the Fujifilm X-T30, can shoot faster if speed is a primary concern. However, except for sports and other activities involving fast-moving action, it should be enough for most shooting circumstances, even those involving racing dogs.
In our tests, the metering on the D3500 functioned quite well, providing constant exposures for most scenes and avoiding overexposing the primarily dark subjects. Suppose you do find that you need to dial in compensation. In that case, you can do it quickly and easily thanks to the dedicated exposure compensation button on the camera’s top plate. This button works in conjunction with the rear command dial.
Nikon D3500 Image Quality
The excellent 24.2-megapixel sensor that the Nikon D3500 has is another one of its strengths. It is possible to record photos that are extremely rich in detail since there is no optical low-pass filter placed in front of the sensor. The results can rival those produced by cameras that cost much more than twice as much.
However, to get the most out of this sensor, you need to consider purchasing a lens that is not the 18-55mm VR lens that comes with the camera. However, you do not need to invest a fortune to do so: When paired with the D3500, Nikon’s AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G (opens in new tab) is an outstanding choice for a lens, and it won’t cost you more than £200 / $200.
Photographs may be a touch soft at the edges if you’re going to shoot with the 18-55mm VR lens. However, this isn’t exclusive to Nikon’s packaged lens; comparable optics from other companies give the quality on par with what you’d get with the bundled lens from Nikon.
Nikon D3500 Specs
|Lens Mount||Nikon F|
|Sensor Resolution||Actual: 24.7 Megapixel|
Effective: 24.2 Megapixel (6000 x 4000)
|Sensor Type||23.5 x 15.6 mm (APS-C) CMOS|
|Capture Type||Stills & Video|
|Shutter Type||Electronic Shutter|
|Shutter Speed||1/4000 to 30 Seconds|
|Bulb/Time Mode||Bulb Mode, Time Mode|
100 to 12,800 (Extended: 100 to 25,600)
|Metering Method||Center-Weighted Average, Matrix, Spot|
|Exposure Modes||Aperture Priority, Auto, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority|
|Exposure Compensation||-5 to +5 EV (1/3 EV Steps)|
|Metering Range||0 to 20 EV|
|White Balance||Presets: Auto, Cloudy, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade|
|Continuous Shooting||Up to 5 fps at 24.2 MP|
Still Image Capture
|Image Sizes||3:2 JPEG|
6000 x 4000
4496 x 3000
2992 x 2000
|Image File Format||JPEG, Raw|
|Internal Recording Modes||MOV|
1920 x 1080p at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
1280 x 720 at 50/59.94 fps
|External Recording Modes||HDMI|
1920 x 1080p at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
1280 x 720 at 50/59.94 fps
|Recording Limit||Up to 30 Minutes|
|Built-In Microphone Type||Mono|
|Audio Recording||LPCM Audio|
|Media/Memory Card Slot||Single Slot: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I)|
|Video I/O||1 x Mini-HDMI Output|
|Other I/O||1 x Micro-USB (USB 2.0) Output|
|Global Positioning (GPS, GLONASS, etc.)||None|
|Display Type||Fixed LCD|
|Eye Point||18 mm|
|Diopter Adjustment||-1.7 to +0.5|
|Focus Type||Auto and Manual Focus|
|Focus Mode||Automatic, Continuous-Servo AF, Manual Focus, Single-Servo AF|
|Autofocus Points||Phase Detection: 11|
|Autofocus Sensitivity||-1 to +19 EV|
|Flash Modes||Auto, Auto/Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Rear Curtain/Slow Sync, Rear Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync/Red-Eye Reduction|
|Maximum Sync Speed||1/200 Second|
|Flash Compensation||-3 to +1 EV (1/3 EV Steps)|
|Dedicated Flash System||iTTL|
|External Flash Connection||Hot Shoe|
|Operating Temperature||32 to 104°F / 0 to 40°C|
|Battery Type||1 x EN-EL14A Rechargeable Lithium-Ion, 7.2 VDC, 1230 mAh|
|Tripod Mounting Thread||1 x 1/4″-20 Female (Bottom)|
|Accessory Mount||1 x Hot Shoe Mount|
|Material of Construction||Polycarbonate|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||4.9 x 3.8 x 2.7″ / 124 x 97 x 69.5 mm|
|Weight||12.88 oz / 365 g|
|Focal Length||18 to 55mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 27 to 82.5mm)|
|Maximum Aperture||f/3.5 to 5.6|
|Minimum Aperture||f/22 to 38|
|Angle of View||76° to 28° 50′|
|Minimum Focus Distance||9.84″ / 25 cm|
|Optical Design||12 Elements in 9 Groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||7, Rounded|
|Filter Size||55 mm (Front)|
|Dimensions (ø x L)||2.54 x 2.46″ / 64.5 x 62.5 mm|
|Weight||7.23 oz / 205 g|
|Package Weight||2.6 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||10 x 7 x 5″|
Nikon D3500 Verdict
Even though it’s been out for over three years, the Nikon D3500 is still the finest single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) on the market for novice photographers who want to experiment with creative manual photography using a more conventional camera configuration. The D3500 now also provides exceptional value in addition to its rock-solid foundation of excellent image quality, user-friendly menus, and great battery life.
It is also essential to consider mirrorless competitors, particularly if you require a touchscreen or can record in 4K. However, Nikon’s entry-level DSLR continues to be a strong advocate for the format by providing a level of handling and value that mirrorless cameras have difficulty matching.