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Gear Hands-On

Nikon D3500 Hands-On And Opinion

Today we are taking a look at the entry level standard F-mount Nikon DSLR in their line-up. This is the latest iteration in their D3000 series of cameras started in 2009.

My video on the camera.

Get the Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera through my links:
Amazon.com, BHPhotoVideo.com, Used on KEH.com, UsedPhotoPro.com, Walmart.com, and eBay.com

With lower cost DSLR we can expect certain features like FP sync not being included as well as fewer direct control dials and other buttons. For this iteration it comes with a 24.2 megapixel DX (APS-C) sensor with a sensitivity range of 100 to 25600. There is no shake reduction in the camera, but the kit lens does have VR. The standard optical viewfinder has 95% frame coverage with a 0.85x magnification. The DSLR focusing system is the 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection giving you a detection range of -1 to 19 EV, which is on the low end of focusing systems these days. The back 3 inch fixed screen on the camera doesn’t allow for any type of articulation and does not support touch control. With that, the liveview mode’s autofocus is contrast based only. The standout feature, in my opinion, is the size and ergonomic feel of the camera’s grip. It’s comfortable and should work well with larger hands. Though that’s up to personal preference and hand size. There are a ton of options out there from new to used in dedicated cameras, so I’d suggest looking at various options in this general price range. This camera does not have any standout features, though you can certainly produce nice photos with it.

I have sample photos and video clips on this unlisted YouTube video (4k video).

The D3500 in live view ‘i’ mode.

Specs:

  • 24.2 MP sensor with no stabilization (100 to 25600 ISO)
  • 1/4000th maximum shutter speed
  • 1/200th flash sync speed (doesn’t appear to have auto FP sync)
  • up to 5 fps (manual focus, shutter priority (manual), 1/250s or faster)
  • 95% coverage optical viewfinder with 0.85 magnification
  • 420 pixel RGB metering sensor
  • 11 point phase detect autofocus sensor (DSLR mode)
  • Contrast detect live-view autofocus.
  • 3 inch 7.5cm back fixed back screen with 921k dots (vga)
  • Bluetooth connectivity… (limited)
  • Battery: EN-EL14a. 1230 mah. Considering this is a standard DSLR, you should get a good number of photos per charge.

The kit lens compacts down for travel with a locking button. The bayonet mount on the lens is some type of plastic. That’s common with kit lenses these days. It has the mechanical aperture design (not electromagnetic diaphragm). You can see the physical lever on the back.

The D3500 in guided mode that’s meant to be easier for beginners.

Mode details on the camera:

  • Nikon has thinned this camera line down a lot over the years. 
  • This is an APS-C DX F-mount camera. At this level of Nikon, They don’t include the built-in autofocus motor that is needed for older film era d-type lenses. Any G-type or newer lenses will work fine. This should go without saying, but this camera has no support for the mirrorless Z-mount.
  • The viewfinder is small and dim. AF points?
  • There is a built-in flash. Important for a camera at this level. It also has a dedicated button for that. There is a hotshoe port. FP Sync?
  • The camera is designed for one-handed operation. In that respect it’s nice. 
  • My favorite aspect of the camera is the shape and feel of the hand grip. At least for my hand it’s really nice. Definitely one of the best for a camera of this class.
  • There is one adjustment dial toward the back of the camera. With only one dial for this task it makes controlling more than one aspect of the exposure triangle more effort that it would be with multiple dedicated dials.
  • The shutter button and on/off switch are Nikon’s traditional design where you can turn the camera on and press the shutter with one finger.
  • Up top there is the video record button and an exposure compensation button. For EV Comp you can use that in combination with the adjustment dial.
  • The main mode dial has a large selection of items from the guide mode and creative effects to full manual photography. 
  • The back buttons consist of a pretty standard d-pad, though it has ridges for diagonal movement. All of the buttons feel a little flat. If you memorize their positions you shouldn’t have an issue using them when the camera is up to your face.
  • This camera follows Nikon’s control scheme of having the Info button and ‘i’ button. The i button brings up a quick menu to adjust important settings like AF mode, flash, metering, and photo format. This screen changes options based on if you are in photo or video mode. In video you can adjust output mode, white balance, af mode, microphone, and related. The info button cycles between informational displays in photo and live-view/video mode. 
  • The funny thing about many cameras at this price level are more difficult to control than high-end cameras when you try to do something beside point-and-shoot mode. 
  • Ports: there is micro USB and mini HDMI. It is interesting that the camera doesn’t have the micro sized port.
  • The SD card is on the side of the camera instead of the bottom. Nice placement for easy access.
  • The tripod socket and battery are in a good spot. You shouldn’t have any issues with quick release plates.
  • The back screen is fixed and does not have touch capability. It is covered by a hard reflective material.
  • Live view is made up of old technology. No phase detect? There is a momentary switch to turn live-view on and off. 
  • You have some level of customization of the normal camera mode info screens.
  • LV has AF-S, AF-F, and MF focus modes. For AF-Area mode face-priority, wide, normal, and subject tracking.
  • AF tracking mode works as usual for recent Nikons. You select an area with the d-pad and start tracking with the ok button. 
  • There is a guided mode for beginners. Certainly a good feature for this type of camera.
  • Quiet shutter release mode. Continuous. Self timer.
  • Normal DSLR: Focus modes AF-A, AF-S, AF-C, and MF. AF areas of Single point, 3d tracking (11 points) and two others.
  • AF modes: single point, dynamic area, 3D tracking (11 points), auto area. You can set the AF area mode for photo and video separately
  • In the ISO settings you have the ability to set a minimum shutter speed. This is a useful feature for modes like aperture priority. 
  • 1080p 60 fps with two unspecified bit rates (high and low).
  • The camera can be connected to the Snapbridge app, but from what I can tell… all you get is wireless transfer and a single button remote shutter release. No live view or ability to adjust settings remotely.
  • button assignments of… AE-L AF-L button (5 options), shutter release button AE-L (on off), AF activation (enable disable)
The D3500’s sensor is visible in cleaning mode.

DSLR technology, especially on the lower end has become stagnant. The D3500 isn’t any different. Camera companies are actually removing physical features and firmware based options in an attempt to streamline these cameras. There is certainly nothing wrong with the camera and if you are interested in an entry level DSLR with a full warranty and Nikon’s latest technology, it’s an option.

Get the Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera through my links:
Amazon.com, BHPhotoVideo.com, Used on KEH.com, UsedPhotoPro.com, Walmart.com, and eBay.com

Look for the Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera through my links:
Used from KEH (black), Used from KEH (red), UsedPhotoPro.com,
Amazon.com, BHPhotoVideo.com, Walmart.com, and eBay.com