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Nikon D3500 Camera Review

Tested using Methodology v0.10
Reviewed Feb 18, 2021 at 09:43 am
Nikon D3500 Picture
6.9
Travel Photography
6.8
Landscape Photography
6.2
Sport & Wildlife Photography
2.9
Vlogging
3.1
Studio Video
2.6
Action Video
Body Type
DSLR
Mirrorless
No
Sensor Size
APS-C
Tested Lens
Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

The Nikon D3500 is a simple APS-C DSLR camera. It offers great image quality and feels decently comfortable to use. Depending on the settings you use, it should also have sufficient battery life for long shooting sessions. Unfortunately, its autofocus system isn't particularly effective in still photography or video, and it isn't capable of shooting in 4k. It also doesn't feel particularly sturdy, and its fixed screen makes it difficult to record content from unusual angles or when the camera is facing you.

Our Verdict

6.9 Travel Photography

The Nikon D3500 is decent for travel photography. Images are sharp and relatively low in graininess even at relatively high ISO levels, and its wide shutter speed range should suit both long-exposure photography as well as still images of moving subjects. That said, its autofocus system struggles to maintain focus on faces and moving objects, and its slightly bulky design can make it a challenge to carry around for extended periods.

Pros
  • Impressive image quality.
  • Very good battery performance.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance in photography and FHD video.
  • Plasticky, bulky construction.
6.8 Landscape Photography

The Nikon D3500 is decent for landscape photography. You should be able to take images in dark locations by bumping up camera ISO without having to worry too much about visual noise. It's also decently comfortable to use, and while its screen can't be rotated or pivoted, it is fairly sharp and reasonably bright, allowing you to see it under direct sunlight. That said, the camera doesn't feel especially sturdy, with a cheap-feeling plastic construction.

Pros
  • Impressive image quality.
Cons
  • Plasticky, bulky construction.
6.2 Sport & Wildlife Photography

The Nikon D3500 is passable for sport and wildlife photography. Its maximum continuous shooting speed is quite slow, which can make it difficult to capture clear, distinct images of fast-moving subjects. Its autofocus system can also struggle with tracking and maintaining focus on moving objects and faces. Fortunately, depending on your usage patterns, you should be able to use the camera for extended periods without running out of battery, and images should be fairly free of noise even at high ISO levels.

Pros
  • Impressive image quality.
  • Very good battery performance.
  • Wide shutter speed range.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance in photography and FHD video.
  • Plasticky, bulky construction.
  • Slow continuous shooting speed.
2.9 Vlogging

The Nikon D3500 is a bad option 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, which can make it a challenge to carry around for long recording sessions. It also can't record 4k video and has an autofocus system that delivers terrible face-tracking performance in FHD. That said, its video stabilization capability is good overall.

Pros
  • Impressive video stabilization performance.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance in photography and FHD video.
  • Plasticky, bulky construction.
  • Fixed screen.
3.1 Studio Video

The Nikon D3500 is a poor choice for studio video. It can't record in 4k, and videos recorded in FHD are slightly noisy and could be sharper. Its autofocus system also does a bad job of maintaining focus on moving objects and faces. It's lacking in inputs and outputs, with no microphone or headphone jacks. Thankfully, its menu system is easy to understand.

Pros
  • Very good battery performance.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance in photography and FHD video.
  • Limited selection of inputs and outputs.
2.6 Action Video

The Nikon D3500 isn't designed for action video. It's too big to be mounted on a helmet or chest rig and isn't rated as being weather-sealed, though we don't currently test for this. It also can't record in 4k and isn't capable of recording at high frame rates in FHD for generating smooth slow-motion video. That said, it does do a great job of reducing camera shake in handheld footage.

Pros
  • Impressive video stabilization performance.
Cons
  • Plasticky, bulky construction.
  • Incapable of recording at high frame rates in FHD.
  • 6.9 Travel Photography
  • 6.8 Landscape Photography
  • 6.2 Sport & Wildlife Photography
  • 2.9 Vlogging
  • 3.1 Studio Video
  • 2.6 Action Video
  1. Updated Sep 23, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.10.
  2. 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.
  3. Updated Jul 29, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.9.
  4. Updated Apr 22, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.8.
  5. Updated Jan 13, 2022: Retested continuous shooting speed and corrected 'Manual Focus Assistance' field.
  6. Updated Aug 10, 2021: Corrected an input error in the '4k Rolling Shutter' field.
  7. Updated May 25, 2021: Retested 'FHD Rolling Shutter' in 'FHD Video Quality' section.
  8. Updated Feb 18, 2021: Review published.
  9. Updated Feb 16, 2021: Early access published.

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)
Weight With Lens
1.35 lbs (0.61 kg)
6.5
Design
Build Quality

  • Body is made of plastic
  • Buttons provide okay physical feedback
  • Flash mechanism feels reasonably solid
  • Collapsible lens needs to be retracted before storing the camera
  • Input/output compartment is covered by a rubber flap
  • Screen doesn't tilt or articulate, so you can't see it when the camera is pointed at you

Design
Body
Water Resistance
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 mirrorless camera
  • Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • Lens cover
  • Lens cap
  • 1x Nikon EN-EL14a battery
  • Shoulder strap
  • Sensor cap
  • 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

  • Rubber eyecup around the viewfinder feels relatively comfortable
  • Hand grip should accommodate a wide variety of hand sizes, without fingers getting pinched between the body and lens
  • Textured handgrip provides a secure hold
  • Can't adjust ISO without looking at the screen due to the lack of a dedicated control input
  • Screen interface isn't touch-sensitive and is fixed in place

Design
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Type
Optical
Advertised Coverage
95%
Advertised Resolution
N/A
Advertised Magnification
0.85
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
8.5
Design
Menu System
Guide Mode
Yes
App Name
Nikon SnapBridge

  • Menu is easy to use due to the camera's limited feature set and can be navigated via physical controls
  • Video recording options are merged with still shooting functions due to the lack of dedicated recording mode
  • Very few menu customization options

6.6
Design
Lens
Lens Type
Interchangeable
Maximum Aperture
3.5 - 5.6
Max Aperture (Full-Frame Equivalent)
f/5.4
Minimum Focal Length
18 mm
Maximum Focal Length
55 mm
Max Focal Length (Full-Frame Equivalent)
84 mm
Optical Image Stabilization
Yes
Luminance
75.6%
Light Falloff
52.3%
Design
Sensor
Sensor Type
CMOS
Advertised Effective Pixels
24.2 MP
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
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

Update 01/13/2022: In keeping with our current test methodology, we've retested shooting speed to get a rounded-up value for shooting speed.

5.6
Photo General
Photo Autofocus
Object Tracking Success Rate
61%
Face Tracking Success Rate
40%
Face Detection Distance
120" (305 cm)
Eye Detection
No
Advertised Coverage
N/A
Advertised Focus Points
11

Update 01/13/2022: This camera does include a manual focus assistance feature to help when using manual focus. Pressing the magnify button in Live View zooms in on the image to help you ensure your subject is in focus. We've corrected the 'Manual Focus Assistance' field to show 'Yes'.

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

Update 08/10/2021: Corrected an input error in the '4k Rolling Shutter' field. We've updated it to show 'N/A' since this camera doesn't record 4k video.

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

Update 05/25/2021: Reevaluated 'FHD Rolling Shutter' test. The score has been changed.

7.0
Full HD Video
FHD Video Rolling Shutter Effect
FHD Rolling Shutter
4.0°
Storage And Connectivity
Storage And Connectivity
Storage
Card 1 Slot
SD Card UHS-I
Card 2 Slot
No 2nd Card Slot
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

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Nikon D3500 is only available in one color variant: 'Black', and you can see its label here. We tested it in conjunction with the Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, though other F-mount lenses can be purchased with it, like the AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED lens. It can also be purchased without a lens at all. However, we haven't tested its performance in any other configuration.

Let us know if you come across a different variant of this camera in the discussions so that we can update our review.

Discussions