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In today’s post, we will compare two popular entry-level digital SLR cameras from Nikon, the Nikon D3400, and Nikon D3500. The D3500 is the replacement and successor to the previously released D3400. Nikon aims this as the perfect camera for beginning and enthusiast photographers looking for a step up in image quality over their smartphones. On paper, its specifications appear identical to the predecessor. However, Nikon has made several notable changes to deliver what they deem as the better of the two cameras. Yet, are these changes enough for first-time buyers to blunt the additional costs of owning the newer model? Or are they better off getting the older model at its lower price? Today, we will answer those questions and cover the key differences between these cameras to help you understand which is best for you.
Size & Dimensions
Physically, both cameras have broadly similar measurements at approx 124 x 97 x 73 mm, though not identical. However, in weight, Nikon was able to reduce the successor by an additional 30g, now moving its weight from 395g to only 360g. This change allows the camera to take the reign as Nikon’s smallest and lightest DSLR camera to date.
Physical Controls & Ergonomics
Although both cameras are inexpensive, they use the same design principals from Nikon’s higher-end cameras. However, the successor makes notable changes and improvements in this regard, firstly with its inheritance of a surprisingly deep grip. The refined grip makes the camera far more comfortable to hold than the predecessor and feels very reassuring in hand. Nikon has also strategically repositioned the buttons on the successor to the right-hand side of the camera, surrounding the grip. This change now provides excellent one-handed operation, all without altering your grip whatsoever. Overall, ergonomics are one of the key selling features of the newer body.
For the price, both cameras feature a wealth of physical buttons and adequate manual controls. Though, the buttons included on each camera are mostly identical. However, the most notable differences are the removal of the FN and Depth of Field buttons on the successor. In all, this means the successor lacks any customization and cannot judge Depth of Field without first going into the Live View mode.
Both cameras feature identical 3.0-inch wide-angle TFT-LCD screens with resolutions of 921K dots, where both supply adequate viewing angles and ample brightness for viewing, even in bright outdoor conditions.
Both cameras feature identical optical viewfinders with 95% frame coverage and large 0.85x magnifications.
Both cameras use the same 24.2-megapixel DX sized CMOS sensor without an Anti-Aisling (AA) Filter and EXPEED 4 image processor. With that, they both supply the same level of sharpness, color rendering, and ability to resolve fine details, though at the risk of moiré.
Both cameras shoot sharp 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps with accurate colors. At this quality, both also limit recordings to 20 minutes. Alternatively, dropping down to 1080p 30 fps allows for the industry-standard 29 minutes and 59 seconds recording.
Both cameras feature an 11-point autofocusing system with 3D-tracking, which melds the camera’s AF points together for more precise subject tracking. Overall, both systems work well, provided you compose using the viewfinder.
Both cameras use Nikon’s EN-14a battery. However, battery performance has improved by 30% on the successor, now making it class-leading in many respects. It now has an impressive 1,550 shots per charge lifespan, instead of just 1,200 shots, which is another selling point feature of the newer camera.
User Interface & Menus
Both cameras feature well-organized menus with traditional categorization that lends themselves well to intuitive navigation, especially beginners.
Both cameras have built-in Bluetooth for wireless pairing to a smartphone device via Nikon’s Snapbridge app for image transfer or remote control.
Both cameras feature built-in pop-up flashes.
Both cameras feature moderate continuous shooting speeds of 5 fps, which is suitable for this price-point.
Both cameras lack image stabilization.
Both cameras lack weather sealing.
Both cameras lack 4K video recording.
Both cameras lack built-in sensor cleaning, which means users will have to clean the sensors manually.
Both cameras lack USB charging.
Both cameras lack microphone inputs, which means users will have to external audio recorders for better audio capture.
The successor lacks the infrared (IR) sensor, used for remote shutter operation. Without this sensor, users cannot use wireless remotes to trigger the camera. This feature is only present on the predecessor.
So which is best?
Well, ultimately, as you can tell, the successor features many of the core components as its predecessor, the same sensor, processor, autofocusing system, and even display. Its main improvements come in the form of design, ergonomics, and battery longevity. However, considering the marginal price difference between the cameras, these improvements do culminate into the better overall camera. And, they deliver a more pleasant day to day shooting experience. Though, this comes at the trade-off of a missing IR sensor, FN button, and Depth of Field Preview button, which could be deal-breaks for some users. If you find yourself deeply upset by these removed features, then the Nikon D3400 is best as the core imaging performance between both cameras is virtually identical. Otherwise, the Nikon D3500 is the better of the two cameras and an excellent choice for a beginning photographer.