Should I buy the Nikon D3500?

Nikon’s entry-level offering offers a lot of value for less, making it a better proposition next to its rivals. From its features to its performance, let’s see what the Nikon D3500 has to offer

Should I buy Nikon D3500?
(Image credit: Nikon)

The Nikon D3500 is hardly new. Having hit the shelves at the end of 2018, it’s a little over two years old – that’s more than enough time for newer, more advanced rivals to roll out. However, this revered body from Nikon still holds lofty spots in most of the best entry-level cameras lists, which already says a lot about whether or not it’s a worthy investment.

The update to the Nikon D3400 is one of the most user-friendly DSLRs out there, boasting an intuitive menu, simple operation, and a handy Guide Mode. That triple threat user interface alone makes it ideal for the newbies to the worlds of manual photography and DSLRs. But, it’s also among the cheapest and the lightest out there, truly making it a terrific entry-level camera for beginner photographers.

Should you buy the Nikon D3500? If you’re hoping to transition from your phone camera or regular point-and-shoot to a better and more serious tool for photography, absolutely. Read on to find out exactly why.

Who Is The Nikon D3500 For?

Being an entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3500 is certainly not for experienced or more advanced users. It isn’t fitted with the latest and greatest tech in digital photography, and it’s missing a few key features that pros already deem necessary these days – like 4K shooting capabilities or an articulating display.

To give it credit, however, what it actually does, it does so well that many of its rivals are no match. That’s while keeping the price down at £419/$499 with the lens kit. Make no mistake; this is a camera for beginners, and it’s been designed as such, touting a design, user interface, and a feature set that beginner photographers – especially those who are new to the DSLR world – will appreciate. But, Nikon has executed all those things so well in the Nikon D3500 that together, they make up one incredible package that will be loved for years to come.

Rivals like the Canon EOS Rebel T100, Canon EOS Rebel T7, and the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 are hardly a match, whether it’s because they’re cheaply made or their features aren’t up to par. And, if you’re someone who wants to get away from point-and-shoot photography and actually learn the basics of the craft, the Nikon D3500 is for you.

Should I buy the Nikon D3500: Price

Should I buy Nikon D3500?

(Image credit: Nikon)

Should You Buy The Nikon D3500: Key Features

The Nikon D3500 is an APS-C camera with a 24.2MP CMOS sensor, a burst rate of 5fps, and ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 25,600. That’s pretty much on par with many of the best entry-level cameras out there, though several do have a faster burst rate.

In terms of features, there’s a reason why the Nikon D3500 has always ranked high in those best entry-level cameras lists – every single key feature on this camera, it seems, has purposefully been added in order to give newbies the best tool for learning the craft.

For one, it utilizes an optical pentamirror viewfinder. That may be cheaper than what other higher-end DSLRs use, but it does offer that natural, lag-free view, which is better for shooters who aren’t used to electronic viewfinders. For another, it has an impressively long battery life at 1,550 shots per full charge, compared to rivals who might offer only 500 shots. That’s useful for newbies as well, as such users won’t necessarily think about shelling out for an extra battery, unlike pros.

More importantly, it has intuitive menus, great easy handling, simplified controls, and even a built-in Guide Mode. It makes it effortless, therefore, for even the least camera savvy person to use the camera and familiarize its ins and outs. 

Meanwhile, those who are used to compact point-and-shoots or their camera phones will appreciate the fact that the Nikon D3500 isn’t as bulky as other DSLRs, a thoughtful detail seeing as most beginner photographers would more likely just stuff their camera in their backpack or handbag rather than get a proper camera bag. At 124 x 97 x 69.5mm and just 415g, it’s fairly compact and lightweight compared to other DSLRs. Its 18-55mm AF-P kit lens also helps keep things that way by also being lightweight as well as being retractable.

It performs brilliantly as well, shooting raw and jpeg files and producing vibrant and sharp images that are exposed well thanks to its impressively reliable and consistent metering. The fact that it’s compatible with a wide range of F-mount lenses gives it a whole lot of versatility as well, and again makes it a great affordable camera to practice photography with.

Should I buy Nikon D3500?

(Image credit: Nikon)

Should You Buy The Nikon D3500: The Downsides

Being a cheaper, entry-level camera does have its drawbacks. Sadly the Nikon D3500 doesn’t have 4K video shooting capability, which many already consider a necessary feature these days, as well as no touchscreen LCD, and no Wi-Fi. It also doesn’t have in-body image stabilization or a mic port, its screen isn’t articulating, and it only uses contrast-based autofocus instead of the faster on-sensor phase-detection AF.

Are those things huge deal-breakers? For its target audience, hardly. Yes, even point-and-shoots and smartphones these days offer 4K shooting as well as touchscreen controls, but to the Nikon D3500’s defence, it’s here to help beginner photographers to hone the craft, not to offer the latest and greatest tech. It can shoot 1080p videos at up to 60fps, which is more than enough for newbies, and pro photographers have been taking impressive images years before touchscreen LCDs ever made it to digital cameras so that feature is hardly necessary.

As for the lack of Wi-Fi, the D3500 does have Bluetooth connectivity that you can utilize to transfer images and remotely operate the camera. And even though it doesn’t have IBIS, its 18-55mm AF-P kit lens does come with Nikon’s VR (Vibration Reduction) system, which basically has the same function.

Finally, while contrast-based autofocusing is slower and this camera only has 11 AF points that are clustered in the middle of the frame, again it’s worth remembering who its target market is. Most shooters using the Nikon D3500 as their go-to camera wouldn’t even know the difference between its autofocusing and that of a higher-end camera with phase-detection autofocus and more AF points.

Should I buy Nikon D3500?

(Image credit: Nikon)

Should You Buy The Nikon D3500: Verdict

The Nikon D3500 is the ideal camera for newbie photographers. Whether you’re only starting your journey in the world of manual photography or you simply want to elevate your skills from merely just pointing at something and pressing the shutter, this camera is made for you. 

It’s not just that it has the right price point for beginners, setting you back much less than you spent on that smartphone you just upgraded to – and that’s including the lens kit. It’s also because of its design, feature set, and user-friendliness.

Simply put, the Nikon D3500 has been thoughtfully crafted with its target users in mind. The more experienced photographers might see some flaws here, especially when looking at the features it’s missing. However, even those seem to have been purposefully omitted because… well, its users hardly have any use for them. And, by leaving them out, they’re keeping the cost down, again making it ideal for those users.

Should you buy the Nikon D3500? If you’re an inexperienced shooter looking to up your photography game without spending thousands of dollars or having to spend hours trying to figure out how to use a camera, absolutely.

Liked this?

Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a tech and travel journalist, editor and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for IGN, TechRadar and Business Insider, and has contributed to Thrillist, Paste Magazine, Nylon, Fodor's and Steve's Digicams. Living mainly in California with her adorable cats, she splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world.