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Nikon D3500 Camera Review

Tested using Methodology v0.11
Updated Dec 15, 2022 at 09:47 am
Nikon D3500 Picture
7.3
Travel Photography
7.1
Landscape Photography
6.5
Sport & Wildlife Photography
2.9
Vlogging
3.1
Studio Video
2.6
Action Video

The Nikon D3500 is a simple DSLR with an APS-C sensor. First released in 2018, it's very similar to previous models in Nikon's D3000 series of beginner DSLR cameras, offering incredible ease of use and a Guide Mode that can walk beginners through the basics of photography. All in all, it's a simple and lightweight DSLR that can capture high-quality images—but you'll have to look to higher-end models or newer mirrorless cameras if you want 4k video, a super quick burst rate, or more sophisticated autofocus.

Our Verdict

7.3 Travel Photography

The Nikon D3500 is decent for travel photography. Its sensor punches above its weight, with solid image quality and good dynamic range for an entry-level APS-C camera. Battery life is fantastic, too, so it can easily last through long days on the go. It's also one of the most portable DSLRs around. That said, it's still relatively bulky compared to mirrorless alternatives, and the autofocus system is pretty basic, with focusing limited mostly to the center of the frame and unreliable tracking for fast subjects.

Pros
  • Great image quality.
  • Fantastic battery life.
  • Guide Mode for new users.
Cons
  • Basic autofocus system with limited tracking capability.
  • Plastic construction.
  • Not the most portable option.
7.1 Landscape Photography

The Nikon D3500 is alright for landscape photography. It performs fairly well for an APS-C camera, with good dynamic range to capture a wider range of highlight and shadow detail. Its noise performance is also reasonable, meaning you can shoot in trickier lighting without introducing too much noise. It's also comfortable to shoot with and quite portable for a DSLR. The camera doesn't feel especially sturdy, with cheap-feeling plastic construction. It also has a fixed screen, making it harder to get shots from lower angles.

Pros
  • Great image quality.
  • Fantastic battery life.
  • Guide Mode for new users.
Cons
  • Plastic construction.
  • Not the most portable option.
6.5 Sport & Wildlife Photography

The Nikon D3500 is okay for sports and wildlife photography. Its max continuous shooting speed is slow, making it difficult to capture clear shots of fast-moving subjects. Its autofocus system is also somewhat basic, with focus points limited to a central cluster, meaning you can't track subjects to the edges of the frame. It can also struggle to keep up with faster or more erratic subjects. On the upside, the image quality is great, and the camera has a fantastic battery life.

Pros
  • Great image quality.
  • Fantastic battery life.
  • Guide Mode for new users.
Cons
  • Basic autofocus system with limited tracking capability.
  • Plastic construction.
  • Slow burst rate.
2.9 Vlogging

The Nikon D3500 isn't meant for vlogging. Its screen is fixed, so you can't see yourself when the camera is held in a selfie position. It's also somewhat bulky, so it isn't ideal for walk-and-talk vlogs. It also can't record 4k video and has a limited autofocus system.

Pros
  • Fantastic battery life.
Cons
  • Basic autofocus system with limited tracking capability.
  • Fixed screen.
  • No 4k video.
3.1 Studio Video

The Nikon D3500 is a poor choice for studio video, though it isn't intended for this use. For one thing, it can't record in 4k, and the quality of 1080p videos isn't amazing due to the camera's limited internal recording capability. It also lacks inputs and outputs, with no microphone or headphone jacks.

Pros
  • Fantastic battery life.
Cons
  • Basic autofocus system with limited tracking capability.
  • Limited selection of inputs and outputs.
  • No 4k video.
2.6 Action Video

The Nikon D3500 isn't designed for action video. It's too big to mount on a helmet or chest rig and doesn't have any kind of water resistance. It also can't record in 4k and isn't capable of recording at high frame rates for fast action and slow-mo video.

Pros
  • Fantastic battery life.
Cons
  • Plastic construction.
  • No high frame rate options.
  • No 4k video.
  • 7.3 Travel Photography
  • 7.1 Landscape Photography
  • 6.5 Sport & Wildlife Photography
  • 2.9 Vlogging
  • 3.1 Studio Video
  • 2.6 Action Video
  1. Updated Jan 24, 2023: Added text to 'Photo AF-C Tracking' and 'Photo AF-C Center Point' boxes, with minor touch-ups throughout the review for clarity.
  2. Updated Jan 23, 2023: Converted to Test Bench 0.11.
  3. Updated Dec 15, 2022: Added full text to review and rewrote existing text for clarity.
  4. Updated Sep 23, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.10.
  5. Updated Aug 16, 2022: After running into issues with RawTherapee during retesting for Test Bench 0.9, we decided to process the 'Photo RAW Dynamic Range' test scene in Lightroom instead. The test scene photo has been reuploaded.
  6. Updated Jul 29, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.9.
  7. Updated Apr 22, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.8.
  8. Updated Jan 13, 2022: Retested continuous shooting speed and corrected 'Manual Focus Assistance' field.
  9. Updated Aug 10, 2021: Corrected an input error in the '4k Rolling Shutter' field.
  10. Updated May 25, 2021: Retested 'FHD Rolling Shutter' in 'FHD Video Quality' section.
  11. Updated Feb 18, 2021: Review published.
  12. Updated Feb 16, 2021: Early access published.

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Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Nikon D3500 is only available in one color variant: 'Black', and you can see our unit's label here.

You can buy the camera in a bundle with the Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens or other lenses like the AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens, depending on the retailer. You can also buy it without a lens at all.

Let us know if you come across a different variant of this camera, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Cameras

The Nikon D3500 is a simple entry-level DSLR from 2018. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles compared to more advanced models, especially newer mirrorless cameras, meaning you won't find things like 4k video capability or even a tilting screen here. However, it has a unique 'Guide' shooting mode that can walk you through the basics of photography, making it a standout option for beginners.

If you're looking for more options, check out our recommendations for the best cameras for beginners, the best DSLR cameras, and the best cameras under $1,000.

Nikon D5600

The Nikon D5600 sits above the Nikon D3500 in Nikon's DSLR lineup. Both use a similar sensor and are compatible with the same DX lenses, but the D5600 has some extra features that make it better overall. These include a more advanced autofocus system, an articulated screen, a mic input, and more wireless connectivity options. That said, the D3500 has a longer battery life and a unique 'Guide Mode', making it a great choice for beginner photographers.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D

The Nikon D3500 is better overall than the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D. While both are entry-level cameras with some of the same limitations, the D3500 has a better sensor, resulting in slightly better overall image quality. It also has a faster max burst rate, a significantly longer battery life, and a built-in 'Guide Mode' to walk beginners through the basics of photography.

Sony α6000

While the Sony α6000 and the Nikon D3500 are both entry-level cameras, they use different camera technologies with different advantages. The Sony is an older mirrorless camera, so it's much more portable than the Nikon. It also has a quicker autofocus system, faster burst rate, and a tilting screen. The Nikon, on the other hand, is a DSLR, so it has a much better battery life, and its optical viewfinder gives you a clearer, lag-free view of your subjects. It also comes with a 'Guide Mode' to walk new users through the basics of photography.

Canon EOS Rebel T8i

The Canon EOS Rebel T8i is better overall than the Nikon D3500. It has a slightly more capable sensor, a faster max burst rate, and a more advanced autofocus system, along with extra features like 4k video capability and a fully articulated touchscreen. That said, the D3500 has a unique 'Guide Mode' to help new users grasp the basics of photography, meaning it may be preferable for absolute beginners.

Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

The Nikon D3500 is better than the Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D. Both are entry-level DSLRs with APS-C sensors, but the Nikon feels a little better constructed and has a higher-resolution sensor and better processor, resulting in better overall image quality. The D3500 also has a faster burst rate, a much longer battery life, and includes a built-in Guide Mode to walk new users through the camera's features.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
5.8
Design
Portability
Height
3.9" (9.9 cm)
Width
4.8" (12.3 cm)
Depth
3.0" (7.5 cm)
Volume
55.7 in³ (913.3 cm³)
Weight
0.93 lbs (0.42 kg)

The Nikon D3500 is relatively small and lightweight for a DSLR camera. Even among APS-C options, it's one of the most lightweight that we've tested, weighing a little less than even the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. That said, it's still bulkier than mirrorless alternatives like the Canon EOS M50 Mark II.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

The camera is reasonably well-built. It's an entry-level camera, so its plastic construction feels cheaper than higher-end models. But the dials and buttons provide good physical feedback, and the flash mechanism feels solid.

Design
Body
Body Type
DSLR
Water Resistance
No
Mirrorless
No
Rugged
No
Hot Shoe
Yes
Customizable Button
No
Command Dial
1
Tripod Mount
Yes
Lens Mount
F Mount
Built-In Flash
Yes
Design
In The Box

  • Nikon D3500 camera
  • Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • Lens cap
  • Rear lens cover
  • Sensor cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • 1x Nikon EN-EL14a battery
  • Battery charger
  • User manual

7.0
Design
Ergonomics & Comfort
Hand Grip: Small Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Medium Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Large Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Extra-Large Hand
Yes

The Nikon D3500 feels fairly comfortable in the hand and will be suitable for most hand sizes. The handgrip is nice and textured, with a fair amount of room. There aren't many dedicated dials or buttons, which makes sense for beginners, but makes it harder to adjust settings on the fly if you're shooting in manual mode.

Design
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Type
Optical
Advertised Coverage
95%
Advertised Resolution
N/A
Advertised Magnification
0.85

The optical viewfinder is fairly large. The rubber on the eyecup is decently comfortable, too.

3.2
Design
Screen
Screen Articulation Type
No Articulation (Fixed Screen)
Screen Max Brightness
470 cd/m²
Advertised Resolution
0.92 million dots
Size
3.0" (7.6 cm)
Touchscreen
No

The camera uses a fixed screen, which makes it harder to shoot from different angles. It also lacks touch capability, meaning you have to navigate the menu and adjust settings using the D-pad and buttons. The screen doesn't get especially bright, which makes it harder to review your images on sunny days.

8.5
Design
Menu System
Guide Mode
Yes
App Name
Nikon SnapBridge

The camera's menu is simple and easy to use thanks to the camera's more basic feature set. Unfortunately, the screen isn't touch-capable, so you have to navigate settings using the physical controls. Still, the settings are relatively limited, so it isn't a complicated experience. There aren't many customization options, either, which isn't surprising given the camera's limited controls. All in all, it's very well-suited to beginners but may be too limited for advanced users.

not tested
Design
Built-In Lens
Maximum Aperture
No built-in lens
Max Aperture (Full-Frame Equivalent)
N/A
Minimum Focal Length
N/A
Maximum Focal Length
N/A
Max Focal Length (Full-Frame Equivalent)
N/A
Optical Image Stabilization
No
Luminance
N/A
Light Falloff
N/A
Design
Sensor
Sensor Type
CMOS
Advertised Effective Pixels
24.2 MP
Sensor Size
APS-C
Processor
EXPEED 4
Extended ISO Minimum
N/A
Native ISO Minimum (Base ISO)
100
Native ISO Maximum
25,600
Tested Firmware
1.0
7.9
Design
Battery
Battery Type
Nikon EN-EL14a
USB Charging
No
Use When Charging
No
Advertised Battery Life In Photo
1,550 photos
Tested Battery Life In Video
120 min

Battery life in photos is fantastic. While CIPA ratings are to be taken with a grain of salt when compared to real-world usage, they give a good indication of how different cameras perform relative to one another. The Nikon D3500 lasts longer than a higher-end entry-level model like the Nikon D5600; however, it's still shorter than high-end models like the Nikon D780 or even some competitors like the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. Still, it's miles ahead of mirrorless alternatives.

Video battery life is also excellent, lasting for roughly two hours of continuous 1080p video recording.

Photo General
Photo General
Photo Features
JPEG File Format
Yes
Raw File Format
NEF
Shutter
Electronic and Mechanical
Slowest Shutter Speed
30 s
Fastest Shutter Speed
1/4,000 s
Silent Shooting
Yes
HDR
No
Time Lapse
No
4.8
Photo General
Photo Shooting Speed
Low Speed Continuous
N/A
High Speed Continuous
5 fps
Silent Shooting Continuous
N/A
Raw Buffer Size
8 Photos
JPEG Buffer Size
100 Photos
Buffer Empty Time
3 s

Continuous shooting is very limited. Its max burst rate isn't very quick and only has one speed option. Its photo buffer also isn't very large, especially when shooting in RAW, but thankfully it's very quick to empty once full.

5.1
Photo General
Photo AF-C Tracking
Autofocus Tracking Shots
Perfect Focus Hit Rate
39%
Usable Focus Hit Rate
45%

The Nikon D3500 has a relatively rudimentary autofocus system overall. It's fairly limited as far as coverage goes, with just 11 focus points clustered around the center of the frame. That's especially limited compared to more intermediate models like the Nikon D5600, which has 39 detection points, and even more so compared to mirrorless alternatives, which typically have AF coverage across most of the frame. That said, for an entry-level model, it isn't bad, especially with slower subjects, but it can struggle to keep up with fast-moving or erratic subjects.

The results were achieved using the viewfinder rather than Live View. When shooting through the viewfinder, the camera uses Nikon's '3D Tracking', which uses information from the scene and predictive algorithms to track a selected subject as they move across the frame. We found viewfinder autofocusing to be generally quicker and more accurate than in Live View.

9.0
Photo General
Photo AF-C Center Point
Autofocus Center Point Shots
Perfect Focus Hit Rate
87%
Usable Focus Hit Rate
100%

Despite having a more limited tracking feature, the autofocus is still very effective when using the center focus point. Overall, the AF is quick and reliable and works very well for still subjects as well as subjects moving at a moderate pace, though it doesn't always nail the focus with quicker subjects.

8.0
Photo General
Photo Image Stabilization
Minimum Shutter Speed Achieved
1/10 s
In-Body Image Stabilization
No

There's no in-body sensor stabilization on this camera, but you can use optically stabilized lenses, which use what Nikon calls 'VR' or vibration reduction. Depending on the lens, focal length, and how steady your hands are, you can get stable shots at very slow shutter speeds with this camera.

Photo Image Quality
7.6
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Dynamic Range
Dynamic Range At Base ISO
9.8 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/500s Exposure Time
8.3 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/2000s Exposure Time
6.9 f-stops
Dynamic Range At 1/4000s Exposure Time
6.1 f-stops

The dynamic range is good. It's on par with other entry-level DSLRs with APS-C sensors, though it falls short of newer mirrorless models like the Nikon Z 50. Still, you can capture a fairly wide range of highlight and shadow detail, especially in scenarios where you have more available light.

7.4
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Sharpness
Vertical Edge MTF50 At Base ISO
1,646 LW/PH
Horizontal Edge MTF50 At Base ISO
1,648 LW/PH

The Nikon D3500 has a 24.2-megapixel sensor that does a decent job resolving fine detail, though it isn't as sharp and detailed when you punch in as newer mirrorless cameras like the Nikon Z 50.

6.6
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Noise
RAW SNR 18% At Base ISO
39.11 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 200
37.38 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 400
35.06 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 800
32.41 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 1600
28.74 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 3200
25.71 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 6400
22.43 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 12800
18.6 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 25600
14.45 dB
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 51200
N/A

RAW noise handling is okay. It's a bit worse than peers like the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 or the step-above Nikon D5600, especially when there's less available light and you have to use higher ISO settings. However, it's still quite good for an APS-C camera when using low to moderate ISOs.

7.9
Photo Image Quality
Photo JPEG Noise
SNR 18% At Base ISO
38.38 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 800
36.32 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 3200
32.14 dB

JPEGs are processed quite well. There isn't too much noise at moderate ISO settings, though, of course, noise is hard to avoid in very low light.

Photo Image Quality
Test Scene Pictures Download
JPEG Picture At Base ISO Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 400 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 800 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 1600 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 3200 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 6400 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 12800 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 25600 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 51200 N/A
RAW Picture At Base ISO Download
RAW Picture At ISO 400 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 800 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 1600 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 3200 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 6400 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 12800 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 25600 Download
RAW Picture At ISO 51200 N/A
Pictures Sample Gallery
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Skate Park Picture
JPEG Skate Park Picture Download
RAW Skate Park Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Polish Church Picture
JPEG Polish Church Picture Download
RAW Polish Church Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Studio Picture
JPEG Studio Picture Download
RAW Studio Picture Download
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Stairway Picture
JPEG Stairway Picture Download
RAW Stairway Picture Download
Video General
Video General
Video Features
Full HD Video
Yes
4k Video
No
6k Video
No
Clean HDMI Output
No
Advertised Max Chroma Sampling Over HDMI
Not Advertised
Advertised Max Bit Depth Over HDMI
N/A
Log Picture Profile
No
Recording Light
No
Video General
Audio
Audio Test Sample
Audio Recording
Mono
Microphone Level Display
Yes
Video General
Video File Format And Compression
MP4 H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
No
MP4 H.265 / HEVC
No
MOV H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Yes
MOV H.265 / HEVC
No
AVCHD H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
No
All-I Compression
No
4k Video
0
4k Video
4k Video Frame Rate
240 fps In 4k
No
120 fps In 4k
No
60 fps In 4k
No
30 fps In 4k
No
24 fps In 4k
No
4k Crop At Max Available fps
N/A
0
4k Video
4k Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In 4k
N/A
Bitrate Minimum In 4k
N/A
Chroma Sampling In 4k
No
Bit Depth In 4k
N/A
Record Time Limit In 4k
0 min
Overheat Recording Interruptions in 4k
N/A
0
4k Video
4k Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In 4k
0
Face Tracking In 4k
0
Face Detection In 4k
N/A
Eye Detection In 4k
N/A
0
4k Video
4k Video Quality
Low Light Capability In 4k
0
Test Scene Extract In 4k
0
not tested
4k Video
4k Video Rolling Shutter Effect
4k Rolling Shutter
N/A
Full HD Video
8.5
Full HD Video
FHD Video Frame Rate
240 fps In FHD
No
120 fps In FHD
No
60 fps In FHD
Yes
30 fps In FHD
Yes
24 fps In FHD
Yes
FHD Crop At Max Available fps
1 x

This camera can record 1080p video at up to 60 fps, so you can create 2x slow-motion video or record smooth fast action.

6.9
Full HD Video
FHD Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In FHD
35 Mbps
Bitrate Minimum In FHD
10 Mbps
Chroma Sampling In FHD
4:2:0
Bit Depth In FHD
8 Bit
Record Time Limit in FHD
20 min

Internal recording capability is just okay relative to newer mirrorless cameras. The max recording time is somewhat short, and bit rates are low, resulting in lower-quality video.

3.5
Full HD Video
FHD Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In FHD
5.7
Face Tracking In FHD
0.7
Face Detection In FHD
Yes
Eye Detection In FHD
No

The autofocus performs poorly in video mode. It isn't very good at tracking moving subjects and struggles to keep up with them. That said, it's an entry-level DSLR, so this isn't the camera's forte and isn't out of the ordinary.

5.7
Full HD Video
FHD Video Quality
Low Light Capability In FHD
6.0
Test Scene Extract In FHD
5.4

Video quality isn't great, resulting in videos lacking in sharpness and detail. That said, it does a passable job in low light. Details are still muddy, and you'll see some noise, but it isn't bad relative to a camera like the Canon EOS Rebel SL3.

7.0
Full HD Video
FHD Video Rolling Shutter Effect
FHD Rolling Shutter
4.0°

There isn't too much rolling shutter effect when panning the camera, though you'll still notice some skewing or distortion when moving the camera very quickly.

Storage And Connectivity
Storage And Connectivity
Storage
Card 1 Slot
SD Card UHS-I
Card 2 Slot
No 2nd Card Slot

There's only a single SD card slot, but it's well-placed on the side of the camera, making it easy to switch out cards when you have the camera on a tripod.

4.8
Storage And Connectivity
Inputs / Outputs
USB
Micro USB
HDMI
Mini (Type C)
Headphones
No
Microphone
No Microphone input
Wi-Fi
No
Bluetooth
Yes

Inputs and outputs are limited to a micro USB port for charging and file transfers and an HDMI Mini port to connect the camera to an external display.

Discussions