We’ve been recommending mirrorless cameras to entry-level shoppers for a while. As a complete, they do some issues funds SLRs do not, usually together with focus as rapidly when recording video as they do for stills. But mirrorless cameras with good built-in viewfinders can price a bit greater than a primary SLR. Nikon hopes that the low worth of its D3500 ($499.95 with 18-55mm AF-P lens) is sufficient to steer consumers away from mirrorless tech for a extra tried, true, and inexpensive product. It’s a very good entry-level digicam, and offers you a little bit of room to develop. It’s undoubtedly value a glance, particularly in the event you’re on a decent funds.
Small, Light, Capable
The D3500 is surprisingly gentle and compact for an SLR, at 3.9 by 4.9 by 2.8 inches (HWD) and simply 12.9 ounces with out a lens. The bundled AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR provides 7.2 ounces, bringing the equipment to about 1.3 kilos. It’s not fairly as svelte as our favourite entry-level mirrorless digicam, the Sony a6000, which measures 2.6 by 4.7 by 1.8 inches and weighs nearly a pound with its 16-50mm equipment lens hooked up.
In addition to the single-lens equipment, Nikon is providing the D3500 together with the aforementioned 18-55mm and the AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED for $849.95. This does not signify any financial savings, and we suggest skipping it, because the 70-300mm does not have picture stabilization, or as Nikon calls it, Vibration Reduction (VR). Spend an additional $50 and purchase the stabilized AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.4G ED VR for $400 as a substitute. You’ll discover the additional price is properly value it. VR might solely be two letters, however these are essential letters when it comes getting sharp images with a telephoto lens.
The D3500 does not break from the SLR design motif. It has a deep handgrip with the trademark Nikon pink stripe, though as an entry-level mannequin it does eschew the entrance command dial included in SLRs geared toward critical shutterbugs just like the D7500. Likewise, it omits the D7500’s screw-drive focus system, which is a priority solely to those that have an funding in Nikkor lenses with screw-drive focus actuators.
On prime, centered behind the lens mount, you may discover the pop-up flash and a scorching shoe to mount an exterior Speedlight or different accent. To the precise is the Mode Dial. It has the usual Program, Aperture, Shutter, and Manual modes, together with Scene settings to numerous sorts of pictures, a full Auto mode, a Guide mode for photographic novices, and an Effects setting for pictures with an Instagram filter look. The Live View toggle change is about on the base of the dial.
You additionally get a management dial, for altering the f-stop or shutter velocity when venturing out of Auto, together with a plus/minus button to brighten or darken photographs utilizing Exposure Value (EV) Compensation, a devoted Record button for video, and the shutter launch. The On/Off toggle change surrounds the shutter, which is the forward-most management, atop the handgrip.
Look on the digicam from the rear to see the optical viewfinder and the diopter used to regulate its focus to match your eyes. It’s a pentamirror, so it will not be as vibrant or giant to your eye because the pentaprism viewfinders present in costlier SLRs. It covers about 95 % of the picture sensor, so your images will likely be barely wider than what you see as you seize them. This generally is a good factor for novices, particularly in the event you nonetheless print and body household images.
There’s one button to the left of the viewfinder, the flash launch and energy adjustment. To the precise of the eyecup you get Info and AF-L/AE-L buttons, the latter of which might be set to lock focus or publicity.
The the rest of the rear buttons are all positioned in between the LCD and rear thumb relaxation. The Play button is on the prime, bigger than the others for straightforward entry. Below it are Menu, i, and a directional pad with a middle OK button. Finally, you get plus and minus buttons for zooming out and in of images, a Drive Mode/Self Timer button, and a Delete button.
The LCD is identical because the D3400, a 3-inch panel with 921okay dots of decision and a 170-degree viewing angle. I believe Nikon is making a mistake by not including contact assist to the D3500, as smartphones have made contact second nature when interacting with our units. You’ll have to step as much as the costlier D5600 to get contact and a tilting show.
There’s no Wi-Fi, however the D3500 does have Bluetooth for wi-fi file switch. It can switch 2MP JPG pictures to your Android or iOS gadget utilizing the Nikon SnapBridge app, a free obtain for both platform. This might be achieved routinely or on demand.
Nikon quotes a 1,550-shot battery life, though heavy use of SnapBridge will lower into that. The D3500 makes use of the identical EN-EL14a as different latest fashions within the collection. You cost the battery within the included exterior wall charger; in-camera charging is just not supported. There is a single reminiscence card slot, supporting SD, SDHC, and SDXC playing cards.
Same Focus System
The D3500 does not make any modifications to its autofocus system. It’s the identical 11-point focus module, with factors unfold far sufficient to cowl roughly half of the picture sensor. This is totally typical for an SLR on this worth vary—even shopper fashions with denser focus techniques are likely to cluster factors within the middle. There are exceptions, just like the Nikon D500, however on this worth vary you may want to have a look at a mirrorless digicam if you would like focus factors that unfold throughout the whole picture sensor.
The digicam powers on, focuses, and takes an image in as little as 0.5-second. The velocity is aided by a fast autofocus system, which is ready to lock onto a topic in simply 0.1-secod when there may be ample gentle. It does decelerate when gentle is low, however nonetheless manages 0.3-second in very dim gentle when utilizing the optical viewfinder.
Focus utilizing the rear LCD takes longer. The D3500 makes use of quick part detection focus when utilizing the viewfinder, however drops all the way down to a slower contrast-based system if you’re framing up pictures or video utilizing the Live View system. This is typical of most SLRs, and all at this worth level. Canon gives midrange fashions with quicker focus within the type of the Rebel T7i and SL2, each of which incorporate a type of part give attention to sensor, and we see quick focus in entry to midrange mirrorless fashions too. The Sony a6000 is our favourite inexpensive possibility, however you will get a bit extra, together with a contact display and 4K recording, by choosing a midrange mannequin just like the Fujifilm X-T20 or Sony a6400.
Burst capturing is accessible at a decidedly first rate 5fps with steady focus. If you shoot in Raw or Raw+JPG format you may solely have the ability to sustain the tempo for 13 or 6 photographs, respectively, earlier than the capturing buffer fills up. If you are simply utilizing the default JPG setting, nevertheless, you may get pleasure from 100 photographs at 5fps earlier than the digicam stops.
Continuous focus is not as speedy as a extra succesful Nikon SLR, just like the aforementioned D7500 or D500. In lab exams it did a very good job maintaining with transferring targets approaching the lens, however stuttered and paused when attempting to maintain a topic transferring away in crisp focus, netting some photographs that weren’t completely centered.
In the sector I had no issues maintaining with cooperative children and pets, however so long as your topic is roofed by one of many autofocus factors, I discovered it to be dependable. I placed on a pro-grade lens, the Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR ($3,599.95), for some fowl images. Hawks gliding via the air have been a giant, simple goal for the digicam to seize, however I might attain for a physique with extra autofocus factors and extra sturdy topic monitoring for quicker topics. That means spending a bit greater than $500, until you are scouring for used bargains.
Improved Image Sensor
Nikon’s shopper digicam line has lengthy provided best-in-class picture high quality. The sensors it makes use of, manufactured by Sony, play a component, as does Nikon’s picture processing. It provides the corporate a leg up in picture high quality over Canon, which makes use of its personal sensors that are usually rather less succesful than Sony chips. Other competing manufacturers, together with Fujifilm and Pentax, usually use Sony sensors as properly, which places the cameras on far more degree taking part in floor relating to picture high quality.
See How We Test Digital Cameras
The DX (APS-C) picture sensor sports activities the identical 24MP decision because the one used up to now few fashions within the collection, however Nikon says it’s up to date, and powered with a brand new picture processor. The D3400 had among the best sensors in its class, so I am not shocked to see that the enhancements are refined.
I see a bit of bit extra element at excessive ISO JPG photographs, however you may really want to have a look at images fastidiously, and at full or better magnification, to see the outcomes. If you’ve gotten a D3400, or perhaps a D3300, upgrading is not going to internet you any important enchancment in imaging. You’ll be higher off investing in a brand new lens or an exterior flash. You’ll undoubtedly want to make use of at the least the pop-up flash for indoor photographs in the event you keep on with the bundled 18-55mm lens.
Imatest reveals noise is managed via ISO 6400, although pictures are undoubtedly a bit of softer at such a excessive setting compared with the digicam’s decrease vary. Its sensor begins at ISO 100, the setting it is going to default to utilizing in vibrant gentle, which is the place we see it at its finest. Detail holds up fairly properly via ISO 1600, with no seen lack of high quality.
At ISO 3200, the JPGs begin to present a bit of little bit of smudging, however element holds up fairly properly. Images look simply pretty much as good at ISO 6400. Moving to ISO 12800 we see noise tick up above 1.5 %, and we additionally see particulars drop precipitiously. You can set the digicam as excessive as ISO 25600, however I would not suggest it when capturing in JPG format—pictures are blurry and present little or no high-quality element.
More superior photographers will need to take into consideration capturing in Raw, and whereas the D3500 is an entry-level mannequin, some execs and extra critical fanatics might take a look at it as an inexpensive backup to their higher-end Nikons. It does not assist full, uncompressed 14-bit Raw seize—the D7500 is the lowest-end mannequin with that function—however the D3500’s 12-bit Raw output nonetheless permits for a variety of publicity and colour adjustment, with out detriment to a photograph.
Raw images additionally maintain up higher at excessive ISOs. We see glorious high quality via ISO 1600, simply as we did with JPGs, however as a substitute of noise discount blurring away particulars at larger settings, Raw photographers will cope with a little bit of added grain. At ISO 3200 and 6400 the grain is heavier, however does not detract from pictures. It’s extra of a problem at ISO 12800, however I might nonetheless really feel snug utilizing the setting. The impact is analogous, however extra intense, at ISO 25600.
Basic 1080p Video
The D3500 does not report in 4K high quality. You can get small motion cameras that work in 4K for much less cash, however if you would like 4K and an APS-C picture sensor, anticipate to pay nearer to $1,000. There is nothing mistaken with the standard of the D3500’s footage—it helps 24, 25, 30, 50, or 60fps at 1080p, and may shoot at 50 or 60fps at 720p.
Autofocus is not as quick when recording video as it’s when capturing stills. The D3500 is a bit of sluggish to answer modifications within the scene, even when set to AF-F (full-time focus) for motion pictures. The distinction focus system is guilty, though it is a bit of bit faster right here than in older fashions. The AF-P lens, which contains a motor that is designed to focus extra easily and quietly for video use, can also be a assist right here.
The D3500 is a high-quality selection for fast household video clips and residential motion pictures. But I would not suggest utilizing it for something past that. Pros and video fanatics now demand 4K, and have all the time demanded a microphone enter. Also keep in mind there is not any in-body stabilization, so in the event you use a lens with out VR, your footage will undergo. If you need a extra trendy, succesful digicam for video, think about the Sony a6400 or Fujifilm X-T20 for 4K. If you need to keep on with an SLR, the Canon T7i and SL2 are higher 1080p video cameras.
Less Expensive, Equally Appealing
Nikon did not make a whole lot of modifications to the D3500. While the corporate says it has an up to date sensor and picture processor, we do not see dramatic enchancment in check pictures. But so far as picture high quality goes, simply pretty much as good because the D3400 is simply high-quality—the digicam can go toe to toe with pricier fashions relating to its picture sensor.
There are different areas the place the anticipated entry-level corners are lower. The D3500 is in no way climate sealed, however no interchangeable lens digicam at this worth is. Likewise, it omits some helpful options, like a tilting display and contact assist, in favor of worth and design.
It’s powerful to argue with the logic of the D3500 at its asking worth, particularly when you think about a lens is included. It’s many instances higher than Canon’s low-cost starter mannequin, the EOS Rebel T7, which is outfitted with some very outdated tech, to the purpose the place it may well’t interact autofocus whereas recording a video clip.
Mirrorless options supply a bit extra capabilty, but in addition are likely to run a bit larger in worth. Despite being in manufacturing for what looks as if an eternity, the Sony a6000 (launched in 2014) stays on sale, usually for round $100 to $150 greater than the D3500, and will get you a extra sturdy autofocus system, a tilting LCD, and 11fps burst capturing.
If you need 4K, you may have to spend much more. The Fujiiflm X-T20 ($799 with 16-50mm zoom) and Sony a6400 ($999 with 16-50mm zoom) are our present prime suggestions within the midrange mirrorless area. You may spend a bit extra on a distinct SLR. The Nikon D5600 will maintain you in the identical lens and accent system, and provides higher autofocus and a vari-angle contact LCD for round $800 with the identical zoom (however does go on sale sometimes). The Canon T7i is our Editors’ Choice amongst midrange SLRs. It’s priced at $899 with an 18-55mm zoom, however has been round lengthy sufficient that you will additionally discover it for much less.
The D3500 is a high-quality entry-level digicam, particularly to be used at dwelling. It has loads of automated options for household historians who care extra about preserving recollections than studying the ins and outs of f-stops, and in addition has the Guide Mode for individuals who need to take some inventive management, however aren’t fairly positive find out how to get the look they need from a photograph. Other cameras do extra, however in addition they price extra.