It’s been some time since I decided to tell myself ‘time to get serious’ in photography. I started out with a used Olympus PEN-1 camera, a gift from my lovely aunt. I was a total noob back then, (though I’m still learning right now). Right before my trip to New Zealand for Working Holiday, I decided it’s time for an upgrade. For my budget, a Nikon D3300 is all I could afford. I was told it’s good enough for travel photography. Here comes the real thing, how good are Nikon D3300 or D3500 for travel photography?
It’s been almost three years I’ve owned this camera. And even though the idea of changing the camera came across my mind multiple times, I didn’t. There are a couple of things I discovered while learning to take heavenly photos.
This camera is capable of doing most of the things I wanted to, the problem is whether I know how to do it or not.
It’s amazing to discover how good is this entry-level camera along the journey of self-teaching. Combined with Adobe Lightroom, I actually produced many photos that I’m proud of.
Alright, let’s hop on the real topics before you ‘duh’ at me.
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Things You Should Know About Nikon D3500
Let’s talk about the features ay? Like a camera nerds do. I’m not going to go into details. It’s travel blog you’re reading, not a tech blog.
It’s a DX-format DSLR
Generally, there are two kinds of DSLR out there, one being FX and another one, DX. Nikon D3300 belongs to the latter group, but what does that mean?
Generally, FX-format captures a larger field of view compared to DX-format DSLR, 1.5 times to be exact. Which means that from a fixed distance, the picture you capture with FX-format DSLR will be 1.5 times larger than that from DX-format DSLR.
A photo shot with a 50mm lens on a DX-format DSLR will be the same as the photo shot with a 75mm lens on FX-format DSLR. Still doesn’t make sense? See the photo below.
Due to the compromising field of view, DX-format cameras are cheaper, lighter and more compact. Same goes for the lens, which is cheaper and lighter than FX-format lenses.
That explains why entry-level DSLR cameras are mostly DX-format. It’s WAY cheaper than FX-format DSLR camera and is perfect for testing the water before putting your whole foot into the pool of photography.
Bonus information: DX-format lenses can be mounted onto FX-format cameras, but not the opposite. However, if you do that, the portion of projection will be smaller, as if you’re shooting with a DX-format camera.
A rough comparison of price between DX-format and FX-format cameras? The cheapest Nikon DX-format DSLR, D3500 would be around $450 with the kit lens, while the cheapest Nikon FX-format DSLR, D610 would be around $1500 without a kit lens (body only).
The Kit Lens
A kit lens is a lens that came along with the camera upon your purchase. For Nikon D3300, it’s 18-55mm F3.5-5.6G VR II lens.
“What are all the numbers? I hate numbers…”
Well, for the 18-55mm part, it’s the focal length of the lens. 18mm has wider angle compared to 55mm. That means you zoom in from 18mm to 55mm. Note that the camera still promises great photo quality no matter how much you zoom with your lens (not digitally), unlike most phones in the market.
The aperture of the lens is F3.5-5.6G. Imagine the lens being a human eye. The wider the aperture (the lower value, which in this case, F3.5), the wider you open your eye. At 18mm, the wider aperture is F3.5 while at 55mm, the widest aperture is F5.6.
The wider the aperture, the higher the depth of field. Which means when the aperture is wider (lower value), the background in the photo tends to be blurrier than narrower aperture (higher value). This is great for portraits and close-up shots.
To be honest, F3.5 is not that enough if you really want a great portrait shot with great depth of field. Choices would be purchasing another lens with a wider aperture like F2.2 or F1.8. But for landscapes, the lens will do a decent job.
The VR stands for Vibration Reduction. It’s known as Image Stabilization for Canon though, both are the same. As the name suggests, it reduces the vibrations caused while you take the photo. For example, your shaky hands.
Editor’s Note: Check out this post if you’re visiting New Zealand soon!
Comparing D3300 and D3500
Nikon D3500 and D3300 shared very similar specs despite the two-generation gap. They feature 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor, 1920×1080 video resolution, 5 fps continuous shooting, and both can hit up to ISO 25600.
Both of them have a built-in flash for night photography and low-light environment.
Face Detection Focus
Both cameras did a great job when it comes to recognizing human faces. That way you do not need to frustrate yourself about camera focusing on the background instead of your girlfriend’s face.
No Environment Sealings
These cameras are not the best choices when traveling to tough environments. With no environment sealings, your camera might get damaged from the heavy rain. The being said, I’ve taken photos with my D3300 in midst of light rain and there are no problems at all.
Being able to take RAW images are important for photographers who rely on post-processing software. What’re the RAW images? Well if you compare RAW and JPEG image, a RAW image would be the raw chicken you see in Walmart and a JPEG image is the drumsticks in KFC. RAW images are unprocessed images, which are great for its versatility and details for post-processing.
Both Nikon D3500 and D3300 feature external flash shoe, Optical Viewfinders, 24MP maximum resolution, and 921k dots LCD Screen Resolution.
Both do not feature Built-in Image Stabilization, articulating screen and AE Bracketings.
The Battery Life
Nikon has been doing a great job at improving the already-great battery life. I am pretty satisfied with the battery life of Nikon D3300 but guess what, D3500 has DOUBLE the battery life of Nikon D3300.
You heard it right. A fully-charged battery for Nikon D3300 is capable of taking 700 shots, but Nikon D3500 can reach 1550 shots. Pretty amazing, right?
Nikon D3500 weighted 365g while D3300 weighted 430g, making D3500 65g lighter than the predecessor.
This feature has been around since Nikon D3400 was announced. There’s no Bluetooth feature in Nikon D3300 but there’s one for D3500.
Smartphone Remote Control
Now that’s some cool stuff. Technology has allowed a smartphone to act as a remote control for Nikon D3500. Back in the days, you’ll need to buy a separate remote control for D3300.
The Body Design
While Nikon D3400 is pretty similar D3300, D3500 is a little different. The new D3500 looked more like D5600, with deeper hand grip and a new layout for buttons on the back.
Pros and Cons
Great For Portraits
If you take a lot of portraits during your travel, I would say a Nikon D3500 would be enough. Switching to a better lens with a wider aperture would be a perfect option.
Sharp Images with Kit Lens
Images captured using kit lens are usually better than expectations. Nikon did a great job when it comes to this.
“Nah… ‘kid’ lens is for kids…”
You never know until you try it yourself.
The Cheap Price Tag
I would say Nikon D3500 would be the perfect entry-level DSLR for all beginners. Comparing the similar entry-level DSLR cameras between Nikon and Canon, the price sounds more appealing for Nikon D3500 (around $500).
So far, this camera never gave me any problems, and I had no complaints. Not much, actually…
Quick Auto Focus for Kit Lens
Nikon did an amazing job for the kit lens. The speed of the autofocus is quick, smooth and accurate. Unlike the F1.8 Nikon lens that I bought, which took a little longer to focus and a little noisier.
Long Battery Life
Nikon D3300 is capable of capturing 700 shots spanning multiple hours. I once went camping without my charger for 3 days. By the time I got home, I had 2/3 battery life left despite taking hundreds of photos. Impressive, huh? And something more impressive, Nikon D3500 captures 1550 shots in one-go!
Small and Light
Travel is all about packing like a minimalist for some. In that case, Nikon D3500 did a great job because it’s probably one of the smallest DSLR cameras out there.
Bad for Astrophotography
People have been arguing that it’s all about skills and lens when it comes to capturing the Milky Way above your head. Most parts of it are true but DX-format cameras are really a no-no for astrophotography. The angle of view is small unless you get yourself a fish-eye lens.
It’s kinda uncool with no touchscreen feature. I’m worried that someday when the buttons went broken, it’s game over. No touchscreen also means that you will have to use the buttons to move your single-focus point, which sometimes can be really frustrating.
Why I Love My Nikon D3300
It has been with me for several years to wherever I went. I had some relationships with it now. So…
Okay, I know you don’t want to hear that.
My Nikon D3300 has been doing a great job when it comes to landscape photos. If you notice at all, I love taking landscape scenery photos. While the results could be better with an FX-format DSLR, I’m willing to compromise.
This camera did a great job when it comes to portrait and daily photography too. It gets even better when I switched my lens to a more suitable one.
Most of my photos are taken with my kit lens. With a little post-processing with Adobe Lightroom, I’m still kinda proud of the end products.
I’ve been thinking about upgrading after all these years, but that’s not my priority yet… And FX-format DSLR could be dreadfully expensive.
Lens You Should Consider Buying
Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Lens
I mentioned that the kit lens is not suitable for portrait photos. This lens will fix the problem. I own one and is extremely satisfied with it. The images taken are super sharp as well. Click here for more details!
Tokina AT-X Pro 11-16mm F2.8 Lens
I’ve mentioned the cons when it comes to astrophotography. Of course, the kit lens can capture the Milky Way too, but it’s not wide angle enough for me. Plus, the image is only good enough for Instagram. Because if you’re viewing the photo in your laptop, you’ll see that the stars have tails due to long exposure. Grains are also an issue due to the high ISO needed to compromise for the narrow F3.5 aperture.
This lens might not be the cheapest in the market, but it’s more affordable than lenses made by Nikon. It features autofocus too! Click here for more details!
Nikon 55-200mm F4-5.6 VR II Lens
You probably guessed it, how could I miss a zoom lens? For those photographers who love close up shots and capturing bird photos, this is the lens for you. For 55mm focal length, it has a great aperture of F4, providing good bokeh and depth of field for your photos. When it comes to lenses made by Nikon, I’ll say you could rest assured, they’re great stuff! Click here for more details!
Wrapping It Up
If you’re still hesitating whether to step into the world of photography or not, give Nikon D3500 a try. It’s one of the best, if not the best entry-level DSLR Camera out there for both Beginner and Intermediate photographers.
All the features would be more than enough for travel photography until you decide to plunge yourself all-in into the world of professional photography. Portraits, landscapes, street, and daily photography, Nikon D3500 will undoubtedly give you satisfactory results.
In the end, it’s still up to you. If you can afford higher-end DSLR cameras, that would be great. But as I said, sharpen your skills and post-processing knowledge first, and decide whether you need a better camera or not.
Questions or feedback? I’m happy to hear them. Leave them in the comment sections and let me know what you think! Happy photographing.