The Nikon D3500 is an entry level DSLR camera. It comes with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G kit lens. This is one of Nikon’s most popular DSLR cameras because of its features, image quality, and affordable price.
The Nikon D3500 has a 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm APS-C sensor. All entry level DSLR cameras have this sensor size or smaller. APS-C sensors aren’t that small, so you can expect better higher ISO noise performance than micro four thirds cameras, point-and-shoots, and bridge cameras.
The ISO range of this camera goes from a base value of 100 to a high end of 25,600. For the size of the sensor, this range is more than enough. I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near the highest value of 25,600, as the amount of noise would make the resulting image very grainy. It can be usable up to 6400 in certain scenarios where some grain is acceptable.
Nikon’s D3500 boasts a 24.2 MP sensor. That many megapixels, which result in a 6,000×4,000 image, provide more than enough resolution. For reference, most computer monitors are 1920×1080.
This camera comes with a kit lens, the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G. It comes equipped with Nikon Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization. This means your photos will still come out sharp at lower shutter speeds and your videos won’t be so shaky.
The P in AF-P stands for pulse motor, which is a stepping motor which provides smoother and quieter autofocus than older drive AF systems. For photos, this autofocus system is fast and very accurate. More times than not, you will snap photos with perfect focus. There is a different AF system for video, which is not so sterling. I’ll talk about that more in the video section.
Image quality with this lens is actually pretty great. For the price of the system, you can take some great photos. The aperture range is what you would expect for a camera this price. f/3.5 isn’t going to make for the creamiest bokeh or result in strikingly detailed low light shots, but it works well for most situations. Indoor use of this lens without flash or extra lighting will be subpar, but again, that’s to be expected. No camera at this price point will be great indoor or in low light photography out of the box.
Nikon has a robust, high quality, high value lens lineup. That means when you buy this camera, you have a huge selection of lenses to choose from to take the camera to the next level. The most important part of your camera setup is the lens, and Nikon has a bunch of great ones. You’ll want to buy more lenses before upgrading the camera body.
The following video demonstrates the image quality of the D3500 with the kit lens.
The Nikon D3500 packs quite the video punch for its highly affordable price tag. It offers 1080/60, 50, 30, 25, and 24p, so you won’t be wanting for more video options. Only avid action videographers will be wanting more than the 60fps Full HD video offered by this camera.
There is no 4k video, but most people don’t have 4k monitors anyway. Most mobile streaming is also done at 1920×1080 or below.
The camera’s focus isn’t as fast as one would want for video with lots of moving subjects but works great for still subjects. If you do take videos of moving subjects, you’ll find your D3500 searching for focus quite a bit. It won’t be unwatchable video, but it won’t be great either.
It’s important to note that when recording at 1080/60p, the camera can only record for 20 minutes straight. If you’re looking for a camera specifically for video, this might not be the best candidate. See my recommendations for the Best Cameras for Vlogging.
The D3500 has both an LCD screen and electronic view finder (EVF). The EVF is where you put your eye to see what the camera sees. The LCD screen on the back of the camera is 3in and has 921k dots. You won’t be wanting for more resolution there. It’s not touch screen and isn’t articulatable. The menu buttons are easy to use, but something about having a touch screen is just nice. Not having a touchscreen doesn’t drastically hurt the usability, but again, it is nice. It’s hard to complain for how affordable this camera is.
The design of the D3500 is great. It feels solid enough and has the classic DSLR look to it. The grip is very deep and makes the camera feel great to hold for even those with larger hands. There’s a hot shoe capable of accepting accessories like speedlights, and it has threading for tripods and gimbals. There isn’t a microphone jack, so you’ll be stuck with the onboard mic for video.
Battery life on this camera is great. Nikon states you can expect 1,550 shots on a single charge. One of the advantages of DSLRs. Nikon does offer extra batteries (Amazon), though they are somewhat expensive at around $40.
The button layout is simple and easy to use. The menu system is straightforward as well. The camera is simple to use. The dials make sense and the symbols are easy to read and understand. All you need to do to start taking pictures is pop the battery and an SD card in, turn it on, and press the shutter button.
This camera has a Guide Mode. In guide mode, the camera takes you through everything step by step in an easy to navigate menu. If you’re concerned about understanding all the buttons and dials, guide mode makes this camera so easy to use that worry will melt away.
With a 24.2 MP sensor and a decent kit lens, you can expect good performance. The dynamic range is great and colors are vivid. Sharpness is superb. Nikon is all about still images and this camera is proof of that. If you haven’t already, check out the video above to see how great image quality can be with this camera.
For under $400, this camera is a fantastic buy. Nikon does not disappoint with image quality at all, but video leaves a little to be desired. There is a huge lineup of quality lenses that will expand the reach of the 24.2 MP sensor and let you be satisfied with this camera for years. It’s light, the battery last forever, and it’s easy to use. This camera is a great value.