Looking for your first digital SLR? The chances are you’ve got Canon and Nikon models on your shortlist. These two companies have been the mainstays of the DSLR market for years, offering a range of models that cater for every level of user, from complete beginner to top-end professional. Canon recently introduced a new model for entry-level market – the EOS 250D – so we compared it with Nikon’s equally novice friendly D3500 to see which one is the best buy for those just starting their DSLR journey.
Design and build
Simplicity is the order of the day with both these models, which are easy to use and well laid out. Both have a similarly uncluttered top-plate layout, with a main dial used to access key exposure modes, and feature a chunky handgrip so you can get a solid hold. There’s no weather resistant body design at this price point, but the polycarbonate shells will take a few knocks and both models feature a metal lens mount.
The Nikon is the lighter of the two. The D3500 body tips the scales at just 415g with battery and memory card, which doesn’t make it much heavier than many mirrorless models and certainly shouldn’t be a burden when carrying around for the day. The Canon is marginally heavier at 449g, but this is still relatively light and it does feature a vari-angle LCD screen whereas the screen on the Nikon is fixed. As well as offering this extra framing versatility, the EOS 250D’s screen also has more dots (1.04 million compared to 921,000 on the Nikon) and is touch sensitive too.
There’s little between the two cameras in terms of resolution. The Canon offers 24.1 megapixels, the Nikon 24.2, but both produce the same maximum file size of 6000 x 4000 pixels. The EOS 250D does have a processing advantage, using Canon’s latest DIGIC 8 processor, which enhances the spec in some key areas compared to the Nikon’s EXPEED 4 processor that has been used since the D3300, launched in 2014.
In terms of still image capture, there isn’t a huge amount to separate these two models, but there are differences. Both, for example, share a native ISO range from 100-25,600 but while this can be expanded on the Canon to 51,200, there’s no expansion available on the Nikon. Similarly, the Canon will capture 14-bit RAW files, whereas the Nikon captures RAWs in 12-bit. Theoretically, this means the Canon delivers a greater tonal and colour range.
Maximum frame rate on both models is five frames-per-second and the duo also share optical viewfinders that offer 95% coverage. When composing through the viewfinder, the Canon offers nine selectable autofocusing points to the Nikon’s 11, but switch to Live View and the Canon offers a greater level of AF sophistication. Here, the Nikon sticks with its 11 AF points, but the Canon switches to a system where up to 143 points can be chosen automatically by the camera or one of 3975 points can be user selected.
It’s a similar story with focusing sensitivity. Compose through the viewfinder and the Nikon has a marginal advantage, offering AF sensitivity down to EV-1 compared to EV-0.5 on the Canon, but switch to Live View and the Canon’s sensitivity drops to EV-4, with the Nikon’s staying at -1.
Parity is restored when it comes to shutter speed ranges – both models provide speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4000sec and flash sync at up to 1/200sec. But while the EOS 250D and D3500 both offer a Bulb setting for long exposures, only the Nikon offers the added advantage of a Time setting as well.
The more modern processor in the Canon means the EOS 250D holds a key advantage over the D3500. While the Nikon provides Full HD video at up to 60P, the Canon offers 4K capture at 25P, alongside Full HD at 60P. The provision of 4K capture may not seem all that important if you’re going to use the camera to record blogs and family occasions, but it does afford a greater amount of editing versatility, as well as superior movie quality.
The Canon also has an external microphone socket should you not want to rely on the camera’s built in microphone, but this is lacking on the Nikon. This essentially puts you at the mercy of the integral microphone on the D3500 or recording audio on a separate device.
Want to shoot and quickly share your results? You can do that with either camera. The Nikon only offers an always-on Bluetooth connection, whereas the Canon also adds Wi-Fi. Both models also offer all-day shooting capabilities without the need to recharge batteries, but the Nikon has the clear advantage. The EOS 250D is impressive, delivering approximately 1070 shots on a single charge using the viewfinder and shooting 50% with flash, but the Nikon will keep shooting for almost half as long again; around 1550 shots before recharging.
Integral flashguns are available on both cameras, with the Canon’s being marginally more powerful and both models also offer helpful features to guide users through the process of picture taking. The Nikon’s Guide Mode and the Canon’s Guided UI are much like having an instruction manual built into the camera and will help you to get better results. The Canon also features a handy Creative Assist mode which allows you to control colour, saturation and focusing point in real time before capturing a shot. The Nikon’s Effects options are similar, but don’t offer the same level of user control.
As so often is the case when comparing two similarly specified models, your choice is going to come down to which features mean the most to you.
Based purely on specification, we’d choose the Canon. We like the provision of 4K video, the superior Live View AF system and the more versatile rear LCD configuration. But the Nikon remains are perfectly capable picture taking and video making machine. If price is your primary driver, the D3500 is the better option, even if that does mean having to forego some of the latest functionality.
|Canon EOS 250D||Nikon D3500|
|Resolution||24.1 megapixels||24.2 megapixels|
|Processor||DIGIC 8||EXPEED 4|
|ISO range||100-25,600(expandable to 51,200)||100-25,600|
|Video||4K at 25P/Full HD at 60P||Full HD at 60P|
|Rear LCD||Vari angle, 1.04m dots, touchscreen||Fixed, 921k dots|
|Weight (body with battery and card)||449g||415g|
|Dimensions||122.4 x 92.6 x 69.8mm||124 x 97 x 69.5mm|