The Nikon D3500 Is Such a Toy

A photography category post without any pictures?

If you’ve seen my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m the owner of a Nikon D80. It’s a good camera, and served me well for the short amount of time that I’ve had it. However.. quite frankly, my phone is better in some aspects, and it’s just plain a little old. So I was looking at something a little more modern and up to date, and came down to two choices: the D3500 and D7000. In the end, I’ve decided on the D7000 as my next upgrade.

A Foreword on Nikon’s Numbering Scheme

Currently, one-digit cameras are the top of the line, three digits are semi-pro, and four-digits are the kinda basic level.

Of the four-digit ones, the D7xxx series is the semi-pro-ish line, D5xxx is basic, and D3xxx is entry level.

In the older and discontinued scheme, two-digit models were the slightly more basic ones, but Nikon kinda ran out of numbers.

If this doesn’t immediately tell you why I went the way I went.. well let’s keep reading.

The D80 itself

The main reason I want to upgrade: The thing is from 2006. Sure, it’s good but it’s also just… showing it’s age. I want something that doesn’t make my phone a better option half the time, is a little more flexible, and as an added bonus, can take video.

The D7000

Yes, the D7000 is still an APS-C cropped sensor (DX) not a full-frame, but all the lenses I have (access to) are DX, so it’s actually better that way. For the nerds in the room, the D7000 was announced in 2010, has a built in interval timer (timelapse, anyone?), 39 point autofocus (D80 has 11), dual SD card slots, and support for GPS and Wifi. Oh, and it’s weather sealed. Yes, it’s been superseded, but…. cost.

I can get one factory refurbished (so basically like new), for CHEAP. But then one day I was in a Best Buy for unrelated reasons, and saw the D3500 sitting on the shelf…

The D3500

The D3500 is a 2018 (!) camera, that’s heavily in the entry level space. Yes, just off megapixels, the sensor is 50% larger than the D7000. Yes, it can record 1080p60 video, and the max the D7000 can do is 1080p24. Yes, it can even do Bluetooth (but not WiFi). Yes, the rear monitor looks amazing and it’s more than just a numbers dump.

It also has the same AF arrangement as the D80 (11 points), and is just positively tiny, but… yeah there’s a few issues I have with this camera.

The first being: it’s more expensive, for me. So, what features am I getting for the extra $100? More megapixels, an aesthetically pleasing display, and 60 fps video. If I desperately need 60 fps video, I’ll buy an adapter and mount my phone on the tripod instead, it’s capable of doing that. As for megapixels, well, most of the photos I take are being resized and cropped down anyways. The D80’s sensor is a 10.2 MP 3872x2592 px, D7000 is 16.2 MP 4928x3264, and this one is… 24.2 MP 6000x4000. Realize that any pictures you see here on this site are sized down to anywhere between 1000 and 700 pixels on the X dimension, so no matter which one I go with I’m still way overkill just for a blog site. Other use cases may differ, obviously.

The better question though: what am I losing for the extra $100? First: a dual SD card slot, either to act as overflow space, or I can store raw files on one to process, and JPEGs on the other if I need to pull something real quick, I don’t need to start the entire processing kit. Customizable shooting settings. Besides the main modes of programmed auto, aperture- and shutter-priority auto, and full manual, the D3500 is equipped with a fully auto and some scenes… the D7000 is equipped with two user-defined scenes, essentially two “save slots” of sorts for the settings you just defined. The D7000 has backwards compatibility with older lenses, and the D3500 definitely does not announce it.

And the big one… just in-depth functionality. The D3xxx line is classified as beginner (something I didn’t remember when I saw it), and that camera definitely falls into the beginner space. What seems to be a lot of the deeper, fine-grained functionality was pushed aside to make room for a smaller camera, easy to follow on-screen graphics, and iPhone levels of “you don’t need to turn your brain on, it’s all right in front of you and I’ll handle it”

So, with that all said, expect an update sometime in the future about a fresh D7000 and how it’s performing. But for right now.. yeah. The D3500 is not a bad camera, and I think that’s worth repeating. It is not a bad camera. For my uses though, it doesn’t seem to be as good as it looks (literally). If you are a beginner, or want a cheap DSLR, go right ahead, it might be a good choice. Their price, new, is one of the lowest I’ve seen for cameras in 2018 and it already comes with a very capable lens. I can get cheaper, but that’s also because the ones I’m looking at are older, factory refurbished and not fully new, and are body-only, meaning if I didn’t already have a few lenses, then I’d have to buy one of those too.