Nikon D3500 Review: Worth it in 2021?

This is a review guide covering the Nikon D3500.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn about:

Let’s dive in.

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In a hurry? Here’s the quick summary

Nikon D3500

Nikon’s long line of entry-level DSLRs includes the D3xxx series and the D5xxx series cameras. I have been a huge fan of both of these series.

Between these two series, Nikon has released some very popular models including the D3500 that we are going to review today.

The D3500 is a compact crop sensor DSLR because it uses a crop sensor inside it. Nikon’s crop sensors measure 23.5 x 15.6 mm. These cameras have a crop factor of 1.5x.

That means when you mount a lens onto it you get a focal length that is 1.5 times the actual.

To take an example, an 18-55mm lens when mounted on a D3500 camera will offer a focal length equal to 27 to 82.5mm (35mm equivalent).

There are both good and bad sides to that and we shall perhaps discuss that in greater detail some other time.

Getting back to the D3500, let’s first look at the pros and cons of this camera.

Pros and Cons Nikon D3500

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use interface, buttons, and dials
  • 24.2-megapixel resolution
  • No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
  • Built-in Bluetooth and SnapBridge connectivity
  • Full HD video recording
Cons
  • Limited compatibility with Nikkor D-type lenses.
  • Non-compatible with older Nikkor AI and AI-S lenses
  • Pentamirror powered viewfinder offers only 95% frame coverage
  • The built-in mic is monoaural
  • No option to plug in an external mic

Nikon D3500 Specs

Interestingly, the D3500 does not have an anti-aliasing (AA) filter.

The advantage of that is the sensor can capture a bit more detail in the photos than a sensor with an AA filter on the can.

More detail is always a good thing, except when there are fine patterns in the frame.

E.g., let’s say you are shooting fashion and the model is wearing something with micro patterns. Or perhaps the weave is too fine for the camera to pick up.

These are situations where the absence of the AA filter can produce moiré or what is commonly known as false color.

It is very difficult to remove false colors from photos and often takes a lot of time and knowledge of advanced editing techniques to be able to remove these patterns.

Nikon D3500
Nikon D3500 example image – Source

Let’s talk about the autofocusing capabilities of the D3500. AF is powered by a Multi-CAM 1000 11-point AF system.

An 11-point autofocusing mechanism isn’t the most robust or the most exciting when it comes to photographing certain subjects (birds, sports, and fast action).

Anyways, the 11-point AF system works in four different modes (three, if you don’t consider the manual mode).

You can switch to continuous-servo (C), Single Servo (S), Automatic (A), and the manual mode depending on your need.

DSLRs are increasingly pushed back by mirrorless systems. One of the most critical areas of difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless is the viewfinder.

DSLRs have optical viewfinders which are high-res and offer zero lag time, two reasons why old-timers love them.

But the problem with entry-level DSLRs is that they have a pentamirror powered viewfinder and that is less bright than the pentaprism powered viewfinders on the advanced DSLRs.

Apart from that, the viewfinder on entry-level DSLRs like the D3500 offers only 95% of the view through the lens.

And that is the real problem because sometimes when you are shooting tight compositions you want to have a clear 100% view of the scene you are attempting to shoot.

Nikon D3500
Nikon D3500 example image – Source

Not being able to see what’s there in the immediate fringe of the camera means you are probably going to capture things that you did not intend to in the first place.

Resultantly, you will have to do some cropping during post-processing.

This is where the viewfinders on premium DSLRs offer that additional advantage.

They offer a 100% view of the frame as seen by the lens and therefore there are no surprises when you sit to review your images on your computer.

Let’s also discuss the burst shooting speed of the D3500. At 5 fps it is not the quickest in the market. But is it suitable for capturing fast action?

If you ask me, personally I don’t think a camera with a fast continuous shooting speed of fewer than 7 frames is any good for shooting fast action or sports or wildlife (birds, etc.).

That said, you may get lucky and get away with a couple of sharp images.

But that depends on how good you are as a photographer, and how you can work around the problem of low frame rate.

I have always believed in the motto – the best part of the camera is the six inches behind it.

So, if a fantastic photographer is working with the D3500, s/he will have a much better time producing great images than someone who is just starting.

My point is there is nothing wrong with the D3500 as a camera. Connectivity is important these days. Thanks to social media.

The D3500 comes with Bluetooth connectivity along SnapBridge that allows easy and seamless transfer of images from your camera to your compatible smartphone.

A 2-megapixel copy of all images you take is automatically transferred to your phone/tablet once you have it connected.

This allows you to share what you shoot with your friends and family on social media platforms.

Nikon D3500 Design

The D3500 is a right-handed user’s camera. Almost all the controls and dials of the camera are on the right-hand side of the body.

The design is very similar to the rest of the Nikon entry-level DSLRs. The back of the camera has this large 3-inch fixed LCD screen.

Nikon D3500
Nikon D3500 example image – Source

Mind you, this is not a touch screen. And also the resolution is not that high.

Even though this is a compact entry-level DSLR, and is decently built, there are indications of cost-cutting in every corner.

Evidence of the use of plastic at every corner means this is not a very well-built (structurally) camera.

Nikon D3500 Image Quality

Coming down to the most important aspect of the camera and that is the image quality.

Let me start by saying that with Nikon, regardless of the entry point you are looking at there is never an issue with the image quality.

The same goes for Sony and Canon. The colors are great out of the camera.

But then you can always switch to shooting manually, use the manual exposure and manual white balance settings and take control over the final look of your images.

Needless to say, RAW shooting allows you a lot more control because you can work with the colors, change saturation, white balance, pull details out of shadows and highlights, and do a lot more than you could if you shoot in JPEG.

Yes, a higher amount gets you advanced features like a faster processor, but the quality of sensor and image processing remains by and large the same.

There is very little to complain about. JPEGs straight out of the camera are very good.

They have a lot of detail, thanks to the absence of an AA filter which lets the camera capture a bit more detail than other cameras with similar resolution but with an AA filter.

Nikon D3500
Nikon D3500 example image – Source

Nikon D3500 Video Quality

The D3500’s video shooting specs read full-HD videos at 60 fps. That pretty much sums it up.

There is however one feature that you will like and that is face detection along with a decent tracking option.

The most challenging thing to do when shooting videos is to keep the subject in focus while tracking and both these are handled by the camera automatically.

What we are particularly not a big fan of is the monoaural mic. Nikon should have at least provided a stereo mic.

There is no option to use an external stereo mic and that for me makes the D3500 immediately a no-go for vlogging and serious video work.

Yes, you can still do family videos and videos of travels and stuff, but I wouldn’t recommend the D3500 for shooting vlogs or anything professional-level.

Nikon D3500 Overall Performance

Overall performance of the D3500 is more than satisfactory. So long as entry-level DSLRs are concerned the D3500 is a powerful tool in the right hands.

Yes, there are limitations, such as the slower frame rate and the lack of a stereo mic or the fact that the LCD screen does not have touch properties nor can it swivel, but the one thing that the D3500 does and does well, is shoot great stills.

I don’t there will be any doubts about the D3500’s ability to shoot great still photos.

Starting this is a great camera to master the skills of RAW shooting, basic compositional aspects of photography, and get a good understanding of exposure.

The 11-point AF system is decent. Yes, there are better AF systems in the market, but you have to remember that you are getting what you are paying for.

All in all, we are happy with the D3500 and can recommend it to anyone looking for an entry-level DSLR to get started in photography.

Concluding Remarks

We hope you enjoyed this review guide on the Nikon D3500.

Consider everything we’ve reviewed as to whether this is the right camera for you!

Also, check out the full list of 18 Best Lenses for Nikon D3500.

Have fun, good luck, and keep photographing!

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