Nikon has a fine pedigree of producing excellent cameras for the beginner photographer. The brand’s range of entry-level models has grown over the years and newcomers to photography have a decent choice to pick from. Two of the most popular models are the slightly older D3300, which was released back in 2014 and the newer D3500, which was brought to market in 2018. The two cameras do share a number of features, but there’s also a number of key differences, so let’s dig a little deeper into the specifications to see which camera is right for your photography.
Design and build:
Both cameras are DSLRs and boast a decent form factor that offers a good size handgrip for a comfortable hold. At the heart of each camera is a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. Both sensors feature no Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter, which should result in sharper images at the increased risk of moire. Both cameras use the tried and tested standard Nikon F mount, meaning there is no shortage of lenses to pick from, both from Nikon and from third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron. Because both cameras use the APS-C sensor, they can accept both DX and FX (crop sensor and full-frame) lenses.
Both cameras feature a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor.
Both cameras feature fixed 3-inch LCDs and optical viewfinders, but there are a couple of differences to the exterior of the cameras. Look at the cameras from the top down and from the back you’ll see a slightly different layout. The D3500 has a full additional command dial on the top plate, rather than the D3300’s integrated wheel on the rear of the body, which will speed up operation when, say, working in Manual mode for example. However, this full command dial sees the disappearance of the Info button, which is on the top of the D3300. At the rear of the cameras, the button configuration has been moved around too, with buttons that were left of the LCD on the D3300 transitioning across to be right of the LCD on the D3500. Both cameras record stills and video to a single SD card, and there is little difference in the weight specifications, with the D3300 tipping the scales at 410g and the D3500 slightly lighter at 365g.
Both models share an 11-point AF system and can shoot a maximum of 5 frames per second, which isn’t as fast as a mid-level consumer camera such as the Nikon D500 (capable of 10 FPS) but should be fine for basic action sequences.
Both cameras feature a 24-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor, which produces a max file of 6000×4000 pixels and this is plenty to make prints up to A3 in size, which is a decent enough return for an entry-level camera. You can shoot in both JPEG and RAW file formats with the D3300 and D3500, with the RAW (.NEF) files allowing for a high degree of editing tolerance in RAW conversion software such as Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.
One key difference between the two cameras is that the D3500 has a higher native ISO over the D3300 (25600 vs 12800), and this will give an advantage to D3500 users who want to shoot scenes in low light conditions. Both cameras feature a dust reduction system, which should improve image quality and prevent speckles and dust particles appearing in your images which will, in turn, cost you more time in post-processing removing all the dust with the Clone tool.
The D3500 features better connectivity features, including Bluetooth.
There’s good news for photographers who may also wish to capture the odd bit of video too because both the D3300 and D3500 shoot Full HD footage up to 60p. This means that the footage can also be used at half speed to create a slow motion effect. Both cameras feature a built-in monaural microphone to capture audio with your video but, rather interestingly, the older D3300 is the only DSLR out of the two that features an external microphone port.
This will enable D3300 users to capture enhanced audio with something like a shotgun or radio microphone. D3500 users wishing to capture enhanced audio will have to take an audio feed from an external mic and record it to a dictaphone – not impossible, but a little more inconvenient.
Extra features and verdict:
While the Nikon D3300 and D3500 share many features, which should be expected as they are from the same brand and model line-up, there are also some important differences to note. For example, the newer D3500 is much more efficient as it can offer double the amount of shots between charges (1550 v 700). While battery capacity isn’t the sexiest spec to talk about, it could be majorly important to a photographer who is looking for a camera to take on their travels – particularly somewhere remote where there may not be regularly access to power points to recharge the battery. What’s more, the D3500 also includes superior connectivity features; with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which is missing from the older D3300. This allows the D3500 to be triggered using a smart device and for images to be transferred to the smart device and uploaded to the internet while out in the field.
Both cameras offer impressive value for money and are solid buys, developed and built on the back Nikon’s years of experience – plus, as both use the F mount there’s no shortage of lens options out there. Either camera would be a perfect addition to the kit bag of a beginner photographer, but it’s clear the newer D3500 has a edge over the older D3200. The longer battery life, increased ISO range and better connectivity features are all important factors that today’s consumers look out for when selecting their first camera, or when trading up from a compact or bridge camera. The D3500 is a hugely impressive entry-level DSLR that also shines when stood up to its Canon rivals too.
|Nikon D3500||Nikon D3300|
|Resolution||24-megapixel APS-C||24-megapixel APS-C|
|Burst rate||5 FPS||5 FPS|
|Video||Full HD 60p||Full HD 60p|
|External mic port|