Most of the recent Nikon news has been about the Z series of mirrorless bodies and lenses. That said, Nikon is not ignoring the entry level marketplace and has announced the D3500.
The camera is an upgrade and replacement for the existing D3400. It has a new 24.2 megapixel sensor using the DX crop layout. It can shoot at up to 5 frames per second continuous and also shoots 1080p video at up to 60p and has a native ISO range of 100 to 25600.
Images can shot in 12 bit RAW or JPEG up to quality level Fine and are stored on an SD type card in the camera's single card slot. Battery life is CIPA estimated at 1550 shots on a charge from the EN-EL14a battery.
Modes include full AUTO, Program, Aperture Preferred, Shutter Speed Preferred, Manual and variety of SCENE modes including Auto, Auto No Flash, Child, Closeup, Landscape, Portrait, Night Portrait, Sports and a number of special effects modes.
The camera has a built in popup flash that syncs at 1/200 and can work with Nikon and Nikon compatible speed lights. It can mount most Nikon F mount lenses, but be aware that some lenses will not provide full automation.
There are 11 AF points and AF works from -1 EV to +19 EV. As an instructor, I find showing new buyers how to chase AF points all over the place confuses them, so the lower AF point count is not troubling at all as there are sufficient point selection options.
The audience for this camera is a buyer who wants the quality of a larger sensor and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, but who wants the simplicity and usability of a point and shoot camera.
The body is very small, and fits most people's hands easily. It is not cluttered with unneeded or unwanted "program me" buttons and the biggest change from my perspective is the reduced back panel.
You see that all the controls except for flash are now on the right side of the back. Common functions are clearly labeled and the user is not going to have to go spelunking in the menu system to do the things that they are most likely looking to do. While some might call this purely cosmetic, I am saying it is a big jump in usability and will help differentiate the D3500 from competitive offerings. The LCD is nice and large at 3 inches diagonally, Note that this display does not swivel out or tilt.
Nikon intelligently makes the point that the sensor is 15x larger than what is found on the typical smartphone, and when we see that one could buy the camera and base lens for LESS than the cost of a typical smartphone, I credit Nikon for making the point, although it will require some selling to get the point fully across.
The top deck layout is similarly uncluttered so the target buyer will be able to find all the controls easily without having to dive into menus or hold down buttons while twisting dials for basic functions. Build the strap connections into the body eliminates the annoyance of studs and D Rings always being in the way. When looking top down we see how narrow the camera extends left of the pentaprism. This is a smart move toward size reduction where the traditional wide style was only there to emulate old bodies needing space for a film canister.
The camera is clearly built to hit a price target, so lamenting some features is kind of silly when one considers the anticipated value for price. There are a couple of things that may be a concern, but pragmatically, I doubt that they are showstoppers for the target market.
- The maximum video clip length at high quality is 20 minutes
- No headphone jack
- Fastest shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second
- USB port is still only USB 2
- Not weather sealed
I noted that the USB port is only USB 2. I think that not including USB 3 on any camera built since 2016 is a cheap act on the part of manufacturers because a lot of buyers will want to download their images via the supplied cable and not buy a card reader or may not have a computer with a built in card reader.
There is an HDMI out so you can play back on a television or direct video to an external recorder. I doubt that the target buyer is going to use an external display or recorder, but being able to show your images on the hotel TV while traveling or to friends and family without having to huddle around a small computer screen is a real advantage and all it will take is the cost of an HDMI connection cable.
The camera is targeted at the smartphone user, and includes Nikon's wireless connectivity system called Snapbridge. Nikon took a lot of deserved flack initially because the first iterations of Snapbridge were truly awful. That's unfortunate because it painted Snapbridge with a very wide brush despite the reality that significant changes were made towards the end of 2017 that addressed the concerns and made Snapbridge not just ok, but really really good. So if someone says this is a bad choice because Snapbridge sucks, be aware that they have not likely tried it in a long time.
Comments and Pricing
The D3500 will ship in September 2018 with an MSRP of $569.95 CAD body only or MSRP of $699.95 CAD for the body and 18-55 VR zoom lens.
This is a very solid price point and keeps the cost of getting started in real photography well under a thousand dollars, even after adding a couple of memory cards, a polarizing filter and a lens hood, which is sadly not included in the kit. This should be a very successful product for the 2018 holiday season.
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