Nikon D3500 Review

Nikon D3500 Review: Entry-level Reflex Camera With An Improved Design

Nikon is not neglecting its classic DSLR lineup either and released its entry-level camera, the Nikon D3500. Not so much has changed in the technology of the 24-megapixel camera, but very much instead has changed in the design. And Nikon has indeed made some improvements. In the Nikon product range, the Nikon D3500 logically follows the D3400. However, it is customary in this sector for at least one previous generation to remain in the range for a very long time, even if only to occupy different price points.

Pros And Cons Of The Nikon D3500


  • Good image quality up to ISO 1,600
  • Ergonomic housing
  • High battery range
  • Many help functions for beginners
  • Convenient Live View lever


  • Missing exposure bracketing function
  • No touchscreen
  • Low-performance kit lens

Although the Nikon D3500 is “only” an entry-level DSLR, it has a metal bayonet. [Photo: Nikon]

With the Nikon D3500, Nikon introduced the successor to the D3400, thus renewing its entry-level series of digital SLR cameras. Although it still uses an APS-C sensor with 24 megapixels of resolution, the Nikon D3500 has come a long way. For example, the handle has been improved and the operation has been made more straightforward. What, and if something has changed in the image quality, we found out in our test that as usual, is done in practice, and with the utilization of the test software.


Nikon D3500. [Photo: Nikon]


Nikon D3500. [Photo: Nikon]

The rough key information is (of course) unchanged, but when we dive deep into the details of the specifications a lot has changed, and there is where we are going now.

The Nikon D3500, has, like all recently introduced cameras, been given a deeper grip and therefore lies much better in the hand. The operating layout has also changed fundamentally.

The LCD monitor is now completely moved to the left edge of the housing (viewed from behind). This freed up a lot of space on the right and the cursor rocker and the other controls could be moved to the left on the rather small housing. This makes them much easier to operate. The buttons that used to sit to the left of the LCD monitor have been moved to the right, where they are distributed more evenly. The control wheels now sit horizontally and their design has become simpler.

These design elements take up some of the design elements of the recently introduced Nikon mirrorless system cameras. The front of the camera also looks more modern and straighter. The type designation, for example, is now simply printed on and does not additionally sit on a “sticker”. These may seemingly insignificant details, but as a design lover I really like the new style of Nikon!


Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR. [Photo: Nikon]



Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR. [Photo: Nikon]


Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR. [Photo: Nikon]

The battery life is also said to have improved. We didn’t find the number in the press release, and we have not tested it ourselves. It is claimed to be 1,550 photos, which should now be possible with the Nikon D3500 with the EN-EL14a according to the CIPA standard with one battery charge (the D3400 was listed with 1,200 photos).

The connection to the smartphone has also been improved: WLAN/WiFi did not include the entry-level camera, but Bluetooth is now supported in version 4.1. The SnapBridge app on the smartphone makes it easy to share photos. Again, the guide mode, which supports beginners in photography, is also part of it, as a built-in photo trainer so to speak.


The top of the camera appears tidy despite the concentration of the controls. Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR. [Photo: Nikon]


Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR and SB-500 [Photo: Nikon]

The most important hard facts of the camera are a 24.2-megapixel resolution APS-C sensor, called DX-format by Nikon. Autofocus with eleven measuring fields (one of them as a cross sensor). Up to five continuous frames per second, video only up to FullHD (no 4K) at 60 fps.

Robust metal bayonet (not usual in the entry-level class). Built-in flash with a guide number of 7.8 (at ISO 100 in manual mode) Of course the Nikon D3500 also has a TTL hot shoe and is compatible with the Nikon Creative Lighting System.

The USB connection is the meanwhile obsolete micro USB socket (I would have been happy to have a modern, now well-established USB C socket). However, the battery is charged externally in the supplied charger anyway, not internally in the camera.

The Nikon D3500 is available in stores since September 2018. They are not available individually as just the housing, but (as usual with entry-level cameras) only including the lens too. Two versions are available: with AF-P DX 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR for 539 dollars recommended retail price and alternatively with an extended zoom in the form of the AF-S DX 18-105 mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED VR for 689 dollars RRP, both lenses with image stabilizer.


Nikon D3500 with AF-P 18-55 mm VR. [Photo: Nikon]

Ergonomics and Workmanship

Ready for operation, the Nikon D3500 weighs 410 grams. Including the AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR used by us in the test, the weight increases by a good 200 grams to 610 grams. The low weight is due to the plastic housing of the camera, whereby Nikon did not do without a metal lens bayonet.

Despite the plastic used, the housing does not look cheap. The rubber coatings on the grip and the back are neatly glued and provide an improved grip of the camera. The housing will not yield or make any noise when you grip it with your hands.

The handle is generously proportioned and there is enough room for medium-sized hands. We particularly liked the completely new design of the back, which differs significantly from the predecessor. So the rigid monitor is now on the left side and the different buttons have moved to the right side. This makes the camera feel easier to operate.

The tripod thread is in the optical axis and far enough away from the battery door. [Photo: Nikon]


The tripod thread on the bottom of the camera is located on the optical axis. The distance from the thread to the battery compartment is large enough to change a battery without having to remove the quick-release plate of a tripod. A lithium-ion battery of the type EN-EL14a serves as a power supply.

With a runtime of 1,550 images (according to the CIPA standard measuring procedure), this offers a very high endurance. However, this only applies if you do without the power-guzzling Live View function.

The built-in Bluetooth (more about this in the “equipment and features” section), on the other hand, hardly depletes the battery. Nikon has thus managed to squeeze about 350 more shots out of the Nikon D3500’s battery than was the case with the D3400. Now one could expect that the power of the flash unit was reduced to reach these consumption values.

But this is not the case. With a solid guide number of eight, the flip-up flash unit proved to be just as powerful as that of the D3400. This corresponds exactly to the guide number that Nikon states in the technical data of the camera.

The Nikon D3500 has a dedicated memory card slot in the handle. The compartment can hold a memory card with an SD form factor. Of course SDHC and SDXC memory cards are supported. It’s nice that Nikon also uses this convenient separation of the battery and memory card compartments in the entry-level segment.

The connection terminal is located on the opposite side of the memory card compartment. This is hidden under a small plastic lid and houses a mini HDMI and a micro USB interface. Unfortunately the USB interface only works with the 2.0 and not with the 3.0 protocol. This makes the “wired” transfer of data from the camera to the computer relatively slow; unfortunately, there is no USB charging function for the battery, and an external charging cradle is of course included.

A big feature of a digital SLR camera is the optical viewfinder. Here the Nikon D3500 offers only the minimum with a mirror viewfinder. The disadvantage of mirror viewfinders is that the viewfinder image is slightly darker than with pentaprisms.

The viewfinder image shows about 95 percent of the field of view, and the photographer can expect nothing big when it comes to dioptre compensation either, as this only ranges from -1.7 to +0.5 dioptres, and when using the camera with glasses, the corners already darken considerably. Also the magnification of 0.85x is not very high, especially as it is an APS-C viewfinder. Compared with a 35 mm viewfinder, the magnification is therefore only 0.57 times.

The autofocus offers only eleven measuring points, of which only the central one is designed as a high-quality cross sensor. However, the speed at which the autofocus does its work is high and on a par with the D3400. In our test, the camera focused from infinity to a distance of two meters in about a third of a second.

The basic equipment and features for DSLRs now include Live View. This is activated or deactivated with a small lever on the mode dial with one finger movement. The lever was previously found in the D5600 and its predecessors and is now entering the entry-level series. When the photographer operates the lever, the 7.5 centimeters large and immovable monitor on the back awakes. The display has a resolution of about 920,000 pixels and reaches a maximum brightness of 423 candelas per square meter, which is a bit weak especially in bright sunshine.

However, the Nikon D3500 monitor does not offer a touch function. The Live View autofocus reaches a speed of about 0.7 seconds, which is significantly faster than that of the previous model. However, Live View autofocus requires good lighting. By the way, thanks to the activatable focus magnifier, manual focusing in Live View is much more accurate than looking through the small viewfinder. Unfortunately, the photographer still has to do without a focus peaking function on the Nikon D3500.

The operation of the camera is quite simple. For an entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3500 offers quite a few controls. The Guide mode is available for beginners. In advanced mode, this explains how to master subject situations. In beginner’s mode, however, an appropriate subject program is selected to suit the selected subject type.

A little bit confusing or takes getting used to with Nikon is the distinction between the “info” and the “i” key, which have completely different tasks. The “info” button displays recording information or switches a grid in Live View to the monitor, while the “i” button calls up the quick menu. The main menu itself is sensibly divided. The submenus extend partially to some screen pages.

Equipment And Features

As the name suggests, entry-level cameras should be very beginner-friendly. This is also the case with the Nikon D3500. It has a full-automatic mode and subject programs or scene mode programs, but the number of them is limited.

Four scene mode programs can be found directly on the mode dial, three additional ones are hidden in the guide mode. The pictorial effects, in turn, occupy a place of their own; here one can let off steam creatively in a non-photographic sense. Photographic creativity can be found in the semi-automatic and manual modes, which give the photographer unlimited control over exposure time, aperture, ISO sensitivity, and other settings.

You can feel some scarcity in the features included: as with the D3400, there is neither an HDR nor a panorama mode, not even exposure series can be taken to create your own HDR photos on the computer. We also painfully missed a mirror lock-up function that would reduce shocks when shooting from a tripod and an anti-glare function that would give an impression of the depth of field before shooting. Actually, these are important standard functions that distinguish a DSLR. After all, there is a continuous shooting function with five images per second and the possibility to save images in RAW data format.

The Nikon D3500’s built-in pop-up flash pops up automatically when needed. In the creative programs, however, you have to press the flash button first. When pressed while the flash is open, it serves as the flash mode button. Here, the photographer can choose whether he or she wants, for example, long-term sync or a preflash to reduce red-eye. Even a flash exposure correction is possible and, unusually for an entry-level camera, even a manual flash output control in as many as six steps is possible. Thanks to the hot shoe, it is also possible to use center contact and TTL system flash units.

With the continuous shooting function, the camera delivers exactly what Nikon promises, namely five frames per second. A maximum of 100 images can be shot in a row. The Nikon D3500 also cuts a fine figure when shooting in raw format. Here, however, the camera only manages to maintain the speed for about three seconds, and then the speed is reduced to 2.9 frames per second. From this, it can be concluded that the Nikon D3500 has a small buffer memory, but is quite fast when writing data.


The AF-P 18-55 mm VR lens is brought into the working position by a release mechanism. [Photo: Nikon]


On the right side is the connection terminal with the HDMI and USB-2 interface. [Photo: Nikon]


Unfortunately, the Nikon D3500 records videos either in HD or Full HD resolution at up to 60 frames per second, 4K resolution is not supported. For electronic image stabilization, however, the image detail is significantly reduced, which can be displayed in advance in the Live View if desired.

The sound is only recorded in mono, there is no microphone connection. The autofocus tracking in the video works quite well. However, this is much better with an AF-P lens than with an AF-S lens that is not optimized for contrast autofocus.

Once the photos have been taken, the Nikon D3500 provides the photographer with a veritable cornucopia of editing options. Besides an integrated raw data converter, the camera offers lens corrections, special effects, and more. Of course, things like cropping the photo, reducing, and subsequently increasing the depths with Active-D-Lighting are not missing. Even videos can be shortened at the beginning and end.

The Snapbridge function was introduced by Nikon a few years ago and can be found in almost all camera models today. The app did not have a good reputation until recently. The coupling of the cameras with the app was too complicated and bumpy. But this came to an end with the release of the Snapbridge app in version 2.52 for iOS and 2.51 for Android. Snapbridge usually consists of the tandem WLAN and Bluetooth. The Nikon D3500, however, as with the D3400, the WLAN function has been omitted.

Only the Bluetooth function is available. The permanent Bluetooth connection is able to transfer photos in the background (and even when the camera is “switched off”) in low resolution to a smart device. In addition, the camera can use the Bluetooth connection to tap the geocoordinates of the smartphone in a clearly very energy-saving way in order to save them in the EXIF data of the images.

Setting up the connection between camera and smartphone is quite simple (I tested it with a Samsung S20 again for one of the updates of this article in June 2020). You only need to download and install the Snapbridge app from the Apple or Android store. To establish a connection, the Bluetooth function in the camera must be activated. The app then guides the photographer through the few steps up to the connection.

Bluetooth is very economical in energy consumption, but the speed is also rather low, so that only a remote release function without a live view is possible. In addition, the photographer can have an almost two-megapixel image automatically transferred to the smartphone in under ten seconds. However, raw data and videos cannot be transferred because they are too large. The images can be manually transferred in full resolution, but this takes several minutes per image.


The back of the camera has been designed so that the controls are on the right side and the monitor is on the far left. [Photo: Nikon]


The location data transfer works perfectly and the Bluetooth connection is established automatically when the camera and smartphone are within range of each other. Due to the low power consumption, you can safely leave the function on during the day, but you should switch it off if you are not going to use the camera for a long time, as it remains active even when the camera is turned off.

Image Quality Of The Nikon D3500

We have tested the Nikon D3500 with the lens AF-P 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6G VR. The AF-P lens has a plastic bayonet, but is well made and a bit more compact than normal 18-55s due to the retractable mechanism during transport.

If the photographer wants to take pictures with the set for a maximum of DIN A4, he will get enough sharpness from the center of the picture to the edge. The edge darkening is clearly visible in all focal length ranges with the aperture open but can be reduced by two steps by closing the aperture.

The distortion is strongly barrel-shaped in the wide-angle with 3.5 percent. With increasing focal length the barrel distortion decreases and in the telephoto range there is a minimal pincushion distortion. Color fringes can only be seen in the wide-angle, but they are very clear especially at the edge of the image.

The resolution of the lens in combination with the camera is good and so the combination reaches its highest resolution at aperture F8 in wide-angle with 57 line pairs per millimeter in the center and about 51 at the image edge. Further than F16, however, one should not fade down, because here diffraction reduces the resolution considerably. As with the D3400, disturbing sharpness artifacts are virtually non-existent and are well below ten percent. The resolution is sufficient for images beyond DIN A3 size.


Fortunately, the Nikon D3500’s battery and memory card compartments are separate. [Photo: Nikon]


The signal-to-noise ratio is within the acceptable range up to ISO 800 and only slightly below it at ISO 1,600. Image noise only shows up slightly from ISO 6.400 and does not increase too much even up to ISO 25.600. These are only brightness noise, color noise plays practically no role.

Although noise reduction does cause some loss of detail as ISO sensitivity increases, this is not critical up to ISO 1,600. Above that, the images become softer, but this only becomes clearly visible from ISO 6.400 on, as, at ISO 3.200, sufficient details are still preserved with small reductions. The dynamic range reaches slightly more than ten f-stops from ISO 100 to 800.

The steep tonal value curve ensures a crisp, high-contrast image impression. The initial tonal range is okay and is uncritical up to ISO 1.600, up to this point over 160 of 256 possible brightness gradations are displayed. However, the strong difference between the color channels is noticeable, especially red and blue show clearly less fine brightness gradations than the green and brightness channel.

The color accuracy is tolerable on average, but some colors show much greater deviations. The pictures should look subjectively beautiful, but show less exact colors. Above all, the saturation is slightly increased for green tones, more strongly for red tones and particularly strongly for violet tones. Cyan, on the other hand, shows a clearly directionally saturated blue-shifted color, which in the end creates a bright blue sky, while colorful flowers of flowers shine brightly and the grass looks fresh.

The color richness itself is very good. Up to ISO 200, over four million colors are differentiated, up to ISO 6,400 over two million colors.

Conclusion: Is The Nikon D3500 Worth It?

The Nikon D3500 is a camera that leaves behind a dichotomous impression. It offers good equipment and advanced features, but differs only slightly from its predecessor, the D3400.

Even if the changes are only minor, they are well thought out and make sense, such as the improved handle, the optimized back and the Live View lever.

But the higher energy efficiency should also suit the photographer, as he can take more pictures in practice. It’s a pity that a 4K video function is missing, but it’s manageable with an entry-level camera.

The lack of a panorama and bracketing function is much less incomprehensible. To compensate, so to speak, there are many helpful functions in the camera as well as extensive post-processing options directly in the camera.

In terms of image quality, nothing has changed compared to the predecessor.

The resolution of the Nikon D3500 is easily sufficient to expose images to A3 or larger, and sections of made images can also be easily cut out. The image noise is kept within limits, only from ISO 1.600 on photos become less detailed.

All in all, the Nikon D3500 is a slightly improved D3400, but to speak of a brand new camera would be exaggerating.

Specifications For The Nikon D3500

Manufacturer Nikon
Model Nikon D3500
Sensor CMOS APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5) 24.8 megapixels (physical) 24.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3.9 µm
Resolution (max.) 4.496 x 3.000 (3:2)
Video (max.) 1.920 x 1,080 60p
Lens Nikon AF-P 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6G DX VR (zoom lens)
SLR viewfinder Mirror viewfinder, 95 percent image field coverage, 0.85x magnification (sensor-related), 0.57x magnification (KB equivalent), 18 mm eye relief, dioptre correction from -1.7 to 0.5 DPT, fixed focusing screen
Monitor 3,0″
Resolution 921.000 pixels
AV connector HDMI output Mini (Type C)
Fully automatic yes
Scene mode automatic
Scene modes 7
Automatic programming yes
Program shift yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
Manually yes
Bulb Long Term Exposure yes
HDR function
Panorama function no
Exposure metering Matrix/multi-field measurement (420 fields), center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement
fastest shutter speed 1/4.000 s
Flash built-in flash
Synchronous time 1/200 s
Flash connection Hot shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
GPS external, permanent smartphone connection
Remote release yes, infrared shutter release
Interval recording
Storage medium
automatically ISO 100-1,600
manually ISO 100-25,600
White balance
automatically yes
manual measuring yes
Kelvin input
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields 111 Cross sensors 10 Line sensors
Speed Phase AF: 0.27 s to 0.29 s – Live View AF: 0.74 s to 0.78 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions 124 x 97 x 70 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 415 g (housing only )610 g (with lens)
Tripod thread on the optical axis
Zoom adjustment manually on the lens
Battery life Not available
– = “not applicable” or “not available

This test of the Nikon D3500 with Nikon AF-P 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6G DX VR was made with DXOMARK Analyzer.

Brief assessment


  • Good image quality up to ISO 1,600
  • Ergonomic housing
  • High battery range
  • Many help functions for beginners
  • Convenient Live View lever


  • Missing exposure bracketing function
  • No touchscreen
  • Low-performance kit lens

Nikon D3500 Datasheet


Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5) 24.8 megapixels (physical) and 24.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3.9 µm
Photo resolution
4.496 x 3.000 pixels (3:2)
4.240 x 2.832 pixels (3:2)
2.992 x 2.000 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard (version 2), IPTC
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 50 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 50 p
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)
Audio format (video) PCM


Lens mount
Nikon F


Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors, one cross sensor and 10 line sensors, autofocus operating range from -1 EV to 19 EV, contrast autofocus
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AFL function, AF assist light (LED), Focus magnifier

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (mirror viewfinder) (95 % image coverage), 18 mm interpupillary distance with 0.85x magnification (0.6x KB equivalent), dioptre compensation (-1.7 to +0.5 DPT)
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 921,000 pixels, viewing angle 170°, brightness adjustable


Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 420 fields, spot measurement (measurement over 3 % of the image field)
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic) 1/4,000 to 30 s (Manual) Bulb function
Exposure control Fully automatic, Program automatic (with program shift), Shutter automatic, Aperture automatic, Manual
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with a step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 1,600 (automatic) ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, infrared release
Scene modes Children, Landscape, Night portrait, Close up, Portrait, Sports/action, and 1 additional scene mode
Picture effects High Key, Low Key, Miniature effect, Pop color, Selective color, Toy camera, Blue tint, Color drawing, High/Low key, Pop, Selective color, Skylight, Tone separation, Warm tone, 3 additional picture effects
White balance Automatic, Clouds, Sun, Fine Tuning, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent with 7 presets, Tungsten light, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 5.0 frames/s at the highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with an interval of 2 or 5 s, special features: additional 5 and 10 seconds lead time, optional 1 to 9 pictures.
Recording functions AEL function, AFL function, live histogram

Flashgun Of The Nikon D3500

Flash built-in flash (flip-up) Flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/200 s
Flash code Guide number 8 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, manual flash output (6 levels), red-eye reduction, flash exposure correction from -3.0 EV to +1.0 EV

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
GPS function GPS external (permanent smartphone connection)
Microphone Mono
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL14a (Lithium-ion (Li-Ion), 7.3 V, 1,230 mAh) 1,550 images according to CIPA standard Nikon EH-5B power supply
Playback functions Red-eye retouching, video editing, cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight/shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier, image index, slide show function, zoom out
Voice memo Voice Memo (PCM format)
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation, noise reduction
Special functions Grid fade-in, Orientation sensor, Live View
Connections Data interfaces: Bluetooth, USB USB type: USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Mini (Type C) Audio input: no Audio output: no
Supported direct printing methods DPOF, PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″ in the optical axis
Special features and miscellaneous Real-time noise
reduction30p and 60p frame rates are available in NTSC video mode Simultaneous
recording of JPEG and RAW/NEF image files is possible D Lighting technology for in-camera compensation between light and dark image areas Picture parameter presets Guide function explains the optimal recording settings ISO 100-25,600 for film recordingSnapbridge function (limited) – Dust removal reference image (requires Capture NX-D) Lens correction in image processing

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 124 x 97 x 70 mm
Weight 415 g (ready for operation)


standard accessory Nikon AN-DC3 storage accessories Nikon
BF-1B (case cover)
Nikon DK-25 (eyecup)
Nikon EN-EL14a special battery Nikon
MH-24 charger for special batteries
additional accessories Nikon AS-15 Adapter Flash AccessoriesNikon
EH-5B Power SupplyNikon
EP-5A Battery Case Adapter CableNikon
ML-L3 IR (Infrared Remote Control)
Nikon ML-L4 (Infrared Remote Control)


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