The best cheap SLR cameras

The entry-level Nikon is divided into two groups. The D3xxx like this one (the D3500 being the latest model in the range), which offer an affordable and comfortable entry door into the world of SLR cameras, and the D5xxx like the D5600 you will find further, more optimized for those looking for a little more features and better creative control over their shots.

Still, the Nikon D3500 DSLR camera is one of the best entry-level models of the moment. Released at the end of 2018, it compiles all the reasons for the success of this range, bringing, as always, some welcome improvements.


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On the design side, this time, the D3500 moves a little away from its predecessor, to get closer to the ergonomics of the D5600. Compact (415 gr) and solid despite its plastic finishes, it has a protruding grip that greatly facilitates handling. Obviously, with such a light body, any objective that we fix on it seems monstrous and unbalance a little the whole. This remains unusual, and not unpleasant.

What is certain is that the D3500 is intended for beginners in the world of SLR. Indeed, this is seen on several levels. This can be rather negative, as the fact that it is impossible to customize any control of the device (what users often look for with SLR). But it can also be good, as the presence of a mode “Guide”, very practical to help you in your first steps.

On the performance side, the optical viewfinder is based on a model of penta-mirrors running in entry-level models. This is not the best possible design, because the viewfinder is a bit narrow and only covers 95% of the field of action. It is kind of a shame.

The screen is a comfortable size and good color, but it is neither touch nor adjustable, which is quite common in this price range, but can frustrate some.

Regarding the connection, we find ourselves in something quite minimalist: the device has an SD card and a micro-USB charging port (it is amazing not to see USB-C on a device if recent). The microphone port, it is not found, which is really a shame given the quality of video capture, the D3500 can still record in Full HD up to 60 fps (not 4K, however).

There is still no WiFi on the horizon: it will be necessary to be satisfied with the Bluetooth connection to the dedicated SnapBridge application. One can nevertheless argue that it is an economical solution on the level of the battery.

The big highlight of the D3500, however, is its responsiveness. The quality of its autofocus is worthy of a more expensive model.

But now let’s talk about image quality (I guess it’s also an important factor for you!). The Nikon D3500 supports an APS-C CMOS size sensor, like many entry-level SLRs, and the 24 MPs are pretty well used. If you opt for the kit with lens that I propose here , you will obtain very satisfactory results, but it is advisable to opt for a more powerful objective if you really want to exploit all the possibilities of the sensor (the Naked case is also available , but it is, at the time of writing these lines, almost the same price as the kit with objective).


Meanwhile, the image quality is perfect up to ISO 400. It is only from 800 ISO that the result deteriorates a little, but it remains quite manageable up to 1600 ISO. Beyond that, I do not recommend you, even if you can go up to 25600 ISO.

And autonomy in all this? On this criterion, the D3500 further improves performance compared to the D3400 , which already had a commendable result. If many SLR cameras revolve around a range of 1000 shots, the D3500 reaches 1550 shots here!

In short, if you want my opinion on the Nikon D3400 (I understand that you were there for that), I think it offers excellent performance for its price, ample enough for anyone trying to get their hands with a SLR camera. His body, small and light, has under the hood. And its compatibility with about two decades of Nikon lenses can really have fun and discover the SLR.

A professional or a seasoned user may feel a little limited by this camera that is not completely flawless, but an amateur will undoubtedly find his account.