Nikon D3500 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon D3500|
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.9 x 3.8 x 2.7 in.
(124 x 97 x 70 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Nikon D3500 specifications|
Much like its predecessor, the Nikon D3500 is an extremely enticing camera for beginner photographers. It has a compact design, comfortable ergonomics, fast single-shot AF and best of all, the camera's image quality is fantastic, not only for an entry-level camera but for APS-C cameras in general. The fact that you can get this kind of image quality out of a camera for under $500, with a lens included, is just shocking. It might not be the most high-performance camera nor does it have many of the latest and greatest features, but it's not designed for that. What it is is a solid, lightweight camera for beginners that's easy to use, offers excellent image quality, and doesn't break the bank.Pros
Great image quality for its class; Excellent high ISO performance for APS-C; Fast single-shot AF speeds; Compact, easy to use design; Incredible value at under $500 with lens.Cons
11-point AF system feels out-dated; Underwhelming C-AF performance; Below average viewfinder coverage accuracy; No touchscreen; Limited wireless features.Price and availability
The Nikon D3500 is 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 lists for US$499.95. The two-lens kit includes the same 18-55mm VR lens plus an AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens lists for US$849.95. Prices have dropped since the announcement, though, to around $400 for the single-lens kit and $500 for the two-lens kit.Imaging Resource rating
4.5 out of 5.0
Nikon D3500 Review
• • •
Nikon D3500 Conclusion
Excellent image quality, easy to use & a fantastic value
One manufacturer who's been very consistent in producing excellent entry-level DSLRs is Nikon. Their D3XXX-series of beginner DSLRs have a history of offering surprisingly excellent image quality, comfortable ergonomics, and a very wallet-friendly price point. The latest iteration, the Nikon D3500, continues that tradition with aplomb.
Featuring a slight redesign to its body, the D3500 is, however, not significantly different from its predecessor when you look under the hood. It uses a similar 24MP APS-C sensor, the same image processor, and the same aging 11-point AF system. On the other hand, what's downright shocking and frankly amazing, is its price. The list price of a D3500 kit with an 18-55mm lens is just $499, but at the time of publishing, the camera is further discounted at major retailers for a staggeringly low price of $396.95. That is just an insane value for a brand-new 24MP APS-C DSLR!
• • •
While higher-end cameras get a lot of attention, such as Nikon's 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 D3500 by making it even more compact and enhancing its ease of use. Let's look closer at the new D3500 and see precisely what has changed.
- 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 very compact DSLR, 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, but it offers the same megapixel count and ISO range -- 100 to 25,600, and produces very similar image quality, which is excellent for its class.
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, with very similar buffer depths. See our Performance page for details.
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 nothing has really changed in that regard.
Power, storage, ports and wireless
The D3500 uses an EN-EL14a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, the same as the 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 and geotagging. (Although the D3400 also had Bluetooth 4.1, it oddly didn't support remote control via SnapBridge.) Note that like the D3400, the D3500 does not have built-in Wi-Fi, so no live preview is available on your remote device, nor is video recording supported. And 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 D3400 versus D3500
The primary differences between the D3400 and new D3500 come in the form of design and usability. The D3500's revised control layout is 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 expect similar image quality, autofocus performance and video features.
|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 as shown above.|
Nikon D3500 pricing and availability
With shipments that started in September 2018, the Nikon D3500 is 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 lists for US$499.95, breaking the ever-important $500 price point. The two-lens kit includes the same 18-55mm VR lens plus an AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens lists for US$849.95. Prices have dropped since the announcement, though, to around $400 for the single-lens kit and $500 for the two-lens kit, which are screaming deals. However, be aware the 70-300mm lens in the two-lens bundle does not include VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization, unlike the 18-55mm kit lens.
Nikon D3500 Field Test
Another good entry-level DSLR from Nikon, but has enough changed?
While the effective resolving power stays the same at just over 24 megapixels, the D3500 does include a new image sensor. The camera continues to offer the same native ISO range of 100 to 25,600 as the D3400, but Nikon stresses that image quality is improved. Further, the D3500 is even more compact and easier to use than its predecessor, featuring a redesigned front grip and a reorganized top deck.
However, some of weaknesses of the earlier versions remain. For example, the D3500 continues to rely upon an aged 11-point autofocus system and offers only Full HD video recording. As is the case with every camera, the D3500 includes pros and cons, but like its predecessors, the D3500 continues to be a capable camera and a great value. Let's take a closer look at how the entry-level DSLR handles in the field.
Nikon D3500 Image Quality Comparison
See how D3500 IQ compares to its predecessor and rivals
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page...
Nikon D3500 Print Quality Analysis
But how does it look on paper?
The popular Nikon D3500 turns in a solid performance in the print quality department. And when you factor in the price, you're in rare territory, as there really aren't many other cameras well below $500 at the time of the writing of this analysis that can compare to the D3500 for overall image and print quality. For the price, the camera is more or less in a league of its own. Well done, once again, to Nikon.
In the Box
The D3500 retail two-lens kit (as reviewed) contains the following items:
- Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera Body
- Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens
- Nikkor AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED Lens
- EN-EL14a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
- MH-24 Quick Charger
- BF-1B Body Cap
- DK-25 Rubber Eyecup
- AN-DC3 Camera Strap
- Warranty Cards