Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon D3500
Resolution: 24.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
18-55mm
(27-83mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/4000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 3.5 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.8 x 2.7 in.
(124 x 97 x 70 mm)
Weight: 21.7 oz (615 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Availability: 09/2018
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon D3500 specifications
24.20
Megapixels
Nikon F APS-C
size sensor
image of Nikon D3500
Front side of Nikon D3500 digital camera Front side of Nikon D3500 digital camera Front side of Nikon D3500 digital camera Front side of Nikon D3500 digital camera Front side of Nikon D3500 digital camera

Nikon D3500 Review -- Now Shooting!

by Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 08/30/2018

Updates:
10/18/2018: First Shots posted
10/22/2018: Performance posted

While higher-end cameras get a lot of attention, such as Nikon's recently-announced Z7 and Z6 full-frame mirrorless cameras, it remains the case that many people purchase entry-level cameras and entry-level DSLR cameras in particular. People enjoy -- and purchase in large numbers -- compact DSLR cameras with affordable price points. They offer a jumping-in point for a potential photographic passion or in some cases, even a profession, without needing to make a large initial investment.

The Nikon D3400 has filled the entry-level DSLR role for the company since September 2016 and has done so very successfully. Nikon has decided to double down on what has made that camera popular with beginners with the new Nikon D3500 by making the D3500 even more compact and enhancing its ease of use. Let's look closer at the new D3500 and see precisely what has changed.

Nikon D3500 Key Features

  • Redesigned camera body makes the D3500 Nikon's "most portable entry-level DSLR ever"
  • 12.9-ounce (365-gram) camera body weight
  • "Updated" 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Native ISO range of 100-25,600
  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 11-point autofocus
  • Live View shooting with face-detect and subject-tracking autofocus
  • Full HD video recording at up to 60 frames per second
  • Guide Mode helps new photographers learn the ropes
  • Built-in Bluetooth and Nikon SnapBridge compatibility
  • 1,550-shot battery life

Camera body & design: Most portable entry-level Nikon DSLR ever

There are a lot of similarities between the D3500 and its predecessor, the D3400, but there are some important differences when you look closer. The front grip has been redesigned, for example, following a similar design and shape to that of the D5500/D5600, and the top of the camera has been reorganized. Specifically, the D3500 has moved the top "info" button to the back, and added a Live View lever around the mode dial instead of the button on the back of the D3400.

The Nikon D3500 features a redesigned front grip, which is thinner but deeper.

When we turn our attention to the back of the camera, the differences are much more noticeable. Whereas the D3400 had five buttons vertically aligned to the left of the rear display, the D3500 has moved all but the flash button to the right of the viewfinder and LCD. We find the relocated "info" button just to the right of the viewfinder, along with AE-L/AF-L, playback, menu, "i," playback zoom in, playback zoom out, drive mode and delete buttons. There's an eight-way directional pad surrounding an OK button as well. The camera has a larger thumb grip area than the D3400 and the command dial has moved up higher on the back of the camera.

Regarding the viewfinder and rear display, the viewfinder offers approximately 95 percent horizontal and vertical frame coverage, like the D3400, so you will want to check the edges of your frame using Live View in certain situations. The viewfinder magnification is approximately 0.85x, which is about 0.57x in 35mm terms. The rear display is a 3-inch LCD with 921,000 dots. Like the D3400, the display is fixed and is not a touchscreen.

The buttons to the left of the D3400's LCD have moved to the right on the D3500.

Looking specifically at the dimensions of the D3500, it is 4.9 inches (124 millimeters) wide, 3.8 in. (97mm) tall and has a maximum depth of 2.7 in. (69.5mm). As mentioned earlier, the camera body itself, without a battery or memory card, weighs 12.9 ounces (365 grams). For reference, the D3500 is a millimeter shorter than the D3400 and six millimeters (0.2 inches) thinner at its maximum depth. The D3400 weighs 395 grams, so the D3500 is 30 grams (~1.1 ounces) lighter as well. It may not be significantly smaller, but the D3400 was already a compact DSLR camera, so the D3500 has taken that a step further.

Image sensor, shooting modes and performance

The D3500 has a DX-format (APS-C) CMOS image sensor with 24.2 million effective pixels, the same resolution as the Nikon D3400. Nikon says that the D3500 sensor is updated compared to its predecessor, although it's unclear precisely what this means as it offers the same megapixel count and ISO range -- 100 to 25,600. We lauded the D3400 for its image quality, so we expect similar or perhaps even better images from the D3500.

Regarding shooting features, the camera can record full-resolution files at up to five frames per second, which is reasonably good for an entry-level camera and the same speed as the D3400. It will be interesting to see if the D3500 offers any sort of improved buffer depths compared to its predecessor. (We'll find that out once we get a production unit into the lab.)

Metering is provided by a 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II system, and you can use matrix, center-weighted and spot metering modes, with the lattermost mode working with the selected autofocus point. The metering range is 0 to 20 EV (ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, at 20°C/68°F) when using matrix and center-weighted modes and 2 to 20 EV when using spot metering. The D3500 offers up to +/-5 stops of exposure compensation in 1/3 EV increments.

Regarding autofocus, the D3500 uses the same 11-point (1 cross-type) phase-detect autofocus system as the D3400 which supports auto area AF and spot AF modes while offering AF-S, AF-C and AF-A drive modes. The autofocus detection range is -1 to 19 EV. In Live View mode the D3500 uses contrast detection, you can select an autofocus point from across the frame, and the camera offers face-detect and subject-tracking functionality.

A large aspect of the D3500 is its ease of use. If you'd like to learn about shooting modes such as aperture priority, shutter speed priority and manual mode, or how to shoot certain subjects, you can do so via the D3500's User Guide feature. When you would prefer the camera to choose your settings for you, there are numerous scene modes available. The scene modes include: Auto, Auto (flash off), child, close-up, landscape, night portrait, portrait, sports and a special effects mode (night vision; super vivid; pop; photo illustration; toy camera effect; miniature effect; selective color; silhouette; high key; low key). The camera also offers in-camera raw processing as well as Active D-Lighting control (but simply gives you "on" and "off" options, rather than different "strength" setting like there are on certain more expensive Nikon cameras).

As expected, the D3500 has a built-in flash in addition to its hot shoe, and Nikon's Creative Lighting System (CLS) is supported. Like its predecessor, the camera has a maximum flash sync speed of 1/200s, and flash modes include Auto, Auto slow sync, Auto slow sync with red-eye reduction, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill-flash, Rear-curtain sync, Rear-curtain with slow sync, Red-eye reduction, Red-eye reduction with slow sync, Slow sync and Off. Flash compensation can be adjusted from -3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3 EV. The pop-up flash has a Guide Number of 7 meters or 22 feet at ISO 100 in TTL auto mode, or 8m/26 ft. manual flash mode at full power.

Video: No changes with respect to video features

While there may not be many cameras at this price point offering 4K UHD video recording, it is nonetheless disappointing that the D3500 tops out at just Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution when it comes to video. The camera can record 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and has different maximum recording times per clip depending on video quality. When shooting at normal quality, you can record for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. At the highest quality, the maximum clip length is 20 minutes. The D3500 records in .MOV format using H.264/MPEG-4 video compression. The camera features a built-in monaural microphone and speaker but does not have audio inputs or outputs.

On the plus side, the D3500 ships with Nikon's newest AF-P zoom kit lenses, which offer improved autofocus performance during video recording, including good speeds as well as smoother and quieter autofocus. We lamented the D3400's mediocre video features in our review of that camera, and it appears that nothing has changed in that regard.

Power, storage, ports and wireless

The D3500 uses an EN-EL14a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, the same as the Nikon D3400. However, the D3500 is now CIPA-rated for an even more generous 1,550 shots whereas the D3400 was rated for 1,200 shots. A dedicated battery charger is included in the bundle as in-camera charging is not supported. Storage is provided via an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot with support for UHS-I and Eye-Fi types.

The D3500 has built-in Bluetooth 4.1, which works with Nikon SnapBridge, Nikon's smartphone connectivity system. The app allows for immediate 2-megapixel image transfer for sharing via always-on Bluetooth, as well as remote control. (Although the D3400 also had Bluetooth 4.1, it oddly didn't support remote control via SnapBridge.) Now that remote triggering via Bluetooth is possible, the D3500 has ditched the infrared remote support of its predecessor. The camera continues to include a Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Micro-B port and a Mini HDMI Type-C terminal.

Nikon D3500 pricing and availability

Slated to be available in September, the Nikon D3500 will be sold in single-lens and two-lens kits. The single-lens kit includes the camera body and AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens and will be available for $499.95 USD, breaking the ever-important $500 price point. The two-lens kit will include the same 18-55mm VR lens plus an AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens for $849.95 USD.

The Nikon D3500 is available in two kits: one which includes an AF-P 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens and another which adds a non-stabilized AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens. (The stabilized VR version is shown above.)

Nikon D3400 versus Nikon D3500 and our initial thoughts

The primary differences between the D3400 and new D3500 come in the form of design and usability. The D3500's revised control layout is said to be more user-friendly, and the camera has the same slimmed-down monocoque body and grip design as the D5600, which means it fits nicely into the hand while still managing to be slightly smaller than its predecessor.

The D3500 is also rated for longer battery life and it lacks infrared remote support in lieu of Nikon SnapBridge remote triggering functionality. However, much else has remained the same between the D3400 and the D3500, so you should expect similar image quality, autofocus performance and video features.

The Nikon D3500, with its single-lens kit coming in at just under $500, represents an affordable entry into the world of DSLRs for beginner photographers. Although we only briefly saw and held a prototype unit, the camera did feel quite nice in the hand with its revised design and controls. As for performance and image quality, we can't yet say, but as mentioned we assume that much of the D3500's performance will be similar to the D3400. We enjoyed working with the D3400 back in 2016, so we're looking forward to seeing how this updated version fares in the lab and in the real world.

 

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