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REVIEW: Nikon D3500

NIKON D3500: A new monocoque body construction with pared-down controls makes Nikon’s latest entry-level DSLR lighter and easier to use for novice photographers. It represents good value for money, particularly for beginners and those with tight budgets, with most of the features and functions a keen photographer wants and needs (though some are difficult to access). The body and kit lens are remarkably compact and lightweight, while remaining comfortable to use. Imaging performance when shooting stills was very good for an entry-level camera.
RRP: $688 with Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55 VR lens.

Taking the 24.2-megapixel sensor and Expeed 4 processor from the two-year-old D3400 and packing it into a lightweight monocoque body similar to the D5600 has enabled Nikon to produce the D3500, an entry-level DSLR that is priced and sized to appeal to a wide audience.

The new camera boasts a straightforward mode dial that includes both automatic and semi-automatic P, A and S modes plus fully manual control selection augmented by a logical menu system.

Unfortunately, while 4K recording is almost ubiquitous in new cameras, video recording here is still limited to Full DH 1080p, although with a maximum frame rate of 50 fps for PAL system users. As is usual with DSLRs, movies can only be recorded in Live View mode, which is selected by pressing the lever on the top panel. Two ‘quality’ settings are available in Movie mode: high and normal. AF-F (Full-Time Servo AF) must be selected in the camera’s menu to ensure the lens will focus on and track subjects. The dedicated movie button on the top panel (with a red dot) is used to start and end recordings.

The fixed, 921,000-dot monitor is unchanged from the previous model, as is the pentamirror viewfinder, which provides 95 percent frame coverage with a magnification of 0.85x and an 18mm eyepoint. Dioptre adjustment ranges from -1.7 to +0.5 dioptres, which may not be enough for some potential buyers. Touch controls aren’t provided, one of the consequences of the low pricing of this camera.

With a selling price below $700 for the D3500 body plus Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55 f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, and above-average performance for shooting stills, the D3500 represents excellent value for money, particularly for beginners and those with tight budgets.

Purchasing points:
1. Small and light for a DSLR camera but well built and with a tried-and-proven sensor/processor combination that delivers excellent results. The grip moulding is slightly wider and more comfortable than the D3400’s;
2. Well-established focusing system based on Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 AF module with 11-Area phase detection and 3D tracking system;
3. Plenty of in-camera assistance for novice users, via the built-in Guide Mode, which is accessed via the mode dial and provides an easy way for novice photographers to adjust functions like shutter speed, aperture, white balance and exposure compensation without having to dive into menus or read the instruction manual. Two options are available, an ‘easy operation’ mode, which lets users select, say, ‘moving subjects’ and have the camera set key functions to match and an ‘advanced operation’ mode that provides more precise options like freeze motion (people), freeze motion (vehicles) and show water flowing. The camera will display a brief explanation of what the effect involves;
4. The pop-up GN 7 (m/ISO 100) flash supports i-TTL flash control using the 420-pixel RGB sensor and provides balanced fill-in flash with the matrix and centre-weighted average metering patterns;
5. There’s a separate memory card slot on the right hand side panel and inset LED that glows when the memory card is being used. Nice touches for an entry-level camera. The D3500 accepts UHS-I compliant SD, SDHC and SDXC cards;
6. Automatic in-camera corrections are provided in JPEG files for distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration with any lens that is fitted;
7. Continuous shooting is restricted to 5 frames/second with locked AF with shutter speeds of 1/250 second or faster. The memory buffer for JPEGs is generous at more than 100 frames, but only 14 NEF.RAW frames and six RAW+JPEG pairs;
8. Battery capacity is an impressive 1550 shots/charge.

Distributor: Nikon Australia, 1300 366 499;

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