A companion to begin your photographic journey

The Nikon D3500 is a venerable DSLR model that is still right as a beginner’s tool

By Anirban Bagchi

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Published: Tue 21 Nov 2023, 10:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Nov 2023, 10:26 PM

The Nikon 3500 D-SLR is my shooter of choice – and in the time that I’ve had it, it has proven two points: The first is that my desire to be a great photographer is inversely proportional to my talent for the art; and the second that you do not need great equipment to take great pictures… but it helps!

Now, the picture accompanying this review could have been a beautiful, vibrant sunrise or sunset, an action shot from a local game or an urban wildlife portrait of a bird in mid-flight with the Dubai skyline as a backdrop – all of which I have attempted at various times – with the caption “Shot with the Nikon 3500”. But alas, such masterpieces have eluded me. That’s no fault of the camera, though, just of the dummy wielding it.


If you’re in the market for a camera that will make you look like a professional photographer without actually having a clue about aperture, shutter speed or ISO, then the Nikon D3500 is your ticket to photographic fame. In my journey with the snapper so far, it’s been a roller-coaster of hits and misses – with even a few photos that I personally consider my “masterpieces”, however unfit for public display they may be, or however unintentionally they may have been shot.

Dummy-proof


The first thing that surprises you about the D3500 is its user-friendly design. It’s so dummy-proof that even someone like me, who is as good a photographer as Henri Cartier-Bresson was a cricketer, managed to figure it out without consulting the manual.

The buttons are laid out with the simplicity of a toddler’s colouring book, making navigation a breeze. In fact, I accidentally discovered the ‘burst mode’ while trying to change the battery – who knew capturing 50 identical shots of the neighbourhood cat’s disinterested face at a speed of five frames per second could be so entertaining?

If you’re tired of lugging around a heavy camera, the D3500 is here to save your shoulders. This thing is so lightweight that it’s like holding a cloud with a lens, and I actually had to check whether I forgot to attach the 18-55mm standard kit lens the first time I picked it up.

Another impressive aspect about the D3500 is its battery life. I’ve on occasions taken more shots than a Hollywood paparazzo on Oscar night, and the battery just keeps on going. Forget the fear of missing out; with the D3500, you won’t miss a single moment – unless you blink, of course.

The best feature of the D3500 is the Auto mode, at least for beginners. It transforms the device into a point-a-shoot camera, much like your mobile phone, with all the technicalities and creative aspects of the light, exposure, etc. being handled by the camera, leaving you free to just frame your composition. There are also pre-set action, portrait, macro and other modes that tweak the settings automatically to suit these conditions, letting you unshackle your creativity worry free.

As you learn and require more control, however, the camera keeps meeting your needs. There’s aperture and shutter priority settings which take care of one aspect of the shooting, leaving you to control the rest. And if and when you finally feel you’ve mastered everything, you can jog the selection dial to M, the position that gives you full manual control over every aspect of the picture, including setting the ISO speed from 100 to 25,600.

If you’re at my stage of photographic excellence, then this mode will give you mixed results, but it at least takes away any excuse for failures and tells you who the idiot taking the picture is – you, not the camera.

But I’ve seldom ventured out of the pre-set modes, most specifically the auto. Just turn the selection dial to the green icon and you can leave the camera to utilise its 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor. Now, at a time when even basic mobile phone cameras offer 40Mp resolutions, the D3500’s 24Mp may seem ancient. But this is an entry level DSLR and with Nikon’s optics and systems, those 24Mps look way more than adequate and there is absolutely no mobile phone camera that can hold a candle to the D3500 in picture clarity.

Slow autofocus

Where the D3500 can be beat, though, by its more upmarket and sophisticated competition, is in its autofocus. While the camera is a marvel for point-and-shoot enthusiasts on terms of ease of use, its autofocus system sometimes feels like it didn’t get the memo. For beginners with unsteady hands, trying to capture a moving subject can be like trying to nail jelly to a wall – frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful. I’ve got more blurry action shots than a UFO sighting. If your passion is photographing sprinting cheetahs or F1 cars at the Yas Marina circuit, you may need to graduate to a more expensive model quickly.

The D3500 also claims to offer Full HD 1080/60p video shooting capability, but the results do not appear to match up to the claim. Again, for anything more than short clips, you’ll need to look at a higher price point. Speaking of expense, the D3500 is available with the standard 18-55mm lens at Dh2,350, which is good value for money if you’re a beginner.

In conclusion, the Nikon D3500 is a delightful romp into the world of photography for beginners and casual shooters alike. Its quirks add to the charm, and the results are surprisingly impressive. Now if only I had the eye of a Cartier-Bresson to go with it!

Nikon D3500 DSLR

Hits:

- Light weight

- Simple and easy to use

- Pre-set and auto modes

Misses:

- Slow autofocus

- Inadequate video mode

Price:

Dh2,350

Rating: 3.5 stars



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