Nikon D3500 vs. Nikon D3400: What's the difference and should you upgrade?

We think the Nikon D3500 is one of the best DSLRs for beginners this year. It's a few years newer than the D3400, has a quiet shutter mode, and conveniently placed buttons that make it easy to use. If you don't mind missing out on silent mode or don't care about the button placement on your DSLR, the D3400 is still a worthy shooter, though it's more expensive than the newer model these days.

Nikon D3400 vs D3500: Do you want an affordable classic or an upgraded superstar?

Nikon Camera On Table

Nikon Camera On Table (Image credit: iMore)

The choice between the classic Nikon D3400 and the upgraded Nikon D3500 comes down to how and where you use your camera. There's a lot of similarity between models, but the difference begins to show when you take pictures away from home. If you shoot outdoors, far away from electrical outlets, you'll appreciate the D3500's extra battery life. If getting a few hundred more shots out of your battery doesn't matter, the Nikon D3400 has many of the same selling points as the newer D3500.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Nikon D3500Nikon D3400
Release date20182016
AF Points1111
Continuous shooting5fps5fps
VideoFull HD/60fpsFull HD/60fps
Battery life1550 shots1200 shots
Quiet shutter modeYesNo
Weight12.9 ounces14 ounces
Dimensions3.82 × 4.88 × 2.74 inches3.9 x 4.9 x 3.0 inches

The Nikon D3500 and the D3400 are outstanding starter DSLRs with tons of available accessories and a large body of lenses to their name. In fact, some of the best DSLR camera lenses are made for Nikon's APS C lineup and marry well with the D3500 and D3400. The two cameras' differences are minimal, but they fall into that make it or break it category for me.

Nikon D3400 vs. D3500: Getting the shots

Nikon Looking At Camera

Nikon Looking At Camera (Image credit: iMore)

As someone who takes photographs for a living, I think the dissimilarities, though minor, make choosing the best camera a no-brainer. On paper, the Nikon D3500 has longer battery life. Nikon claims you can get 1,550 shots out of the D3500 and 1,200 out of the D3400. In reality, my testing showed the D3500 grabbing just north of 2,000 pictures before the battery fizzled while the D3400 could snap take 900 on one battery charge. If you're heading out on vacation or out to the woods on a hike, the bigger battery will mean the difference between getting the shot and needing to step away and recharge batteries.

The D3500's most impressive feature for wildlife, event, and wedding photographers is the inclusion of quiet shutter mode. It doesn't give you a completely silent shutter, but it tones the volume down so much that animals or people around you won't be bothered by the incessant clicking of the shutter. That's a new feature in Nikon's D3000 line and one we hope they'll continue to implement in future releases.

Also new to the D3500 is the button layout. The D3400 has the pushbutton controls split between the left and right sides. Because of that, you need to pull the camera away from your eye, potentially missing a once-in-a-lifetime shot, to make minor adjustments. With the D3500, all but one button has been moved to the right just below the shutter. That puts controls next to your shooting hand's thumb, allowing you to make changes without having to look at the back of the camera. The only button remaining on the left of the D3500 is the pop-up flash. If you're snapping in manual or don't have the camera set to auto mode, you can force the flash to open with this button.

Nikon D3400 vs. D3500: Weight and grips

Nikon D3400 On Picnic Table Outside

Nikon D3400 On Picnic Table Outside (Image credit: iMore)

The D3500 weighs in about an ounce lighter than its older sibling. That doesn't sound like enough to matter, but if you carry a camera in your hand all day or tuck it inside a backpack, you'll notice the change. The D3500 also has a slimmer profile, which is reminiscent of a mirrorless camera. It's sleek and thin in all the right places while remaining easy to handle.

The beefier, rubberized grip is appreciated. Small grips tend to cause hand cramps and muscle fatigue, and Nikon's thicker grip feels good without adding any unnecessary bulk. The thumb grip also spreads out wider than the one on the D3400. If you found that camera to be a little too cramped, you'll be amazed by how a deeper grip has changed everything.

Everything else under the hood and on the body remains the same between the Nikon D3500 and D3400. Really, these are two great cameras with a few key differences.

Nikon D3400 vs. D3500: Features and use

Nikon In Hand Facing Forward

Nikon In Hand Facing Forward (Image credit: 2019)

Both models take phenomenal pictures. They share the same processor and output of 24.2-megapixels. Colors are accurate in bright sun, and with help from the pop-up flash, nighttime pics are rarely grainy or out of focus. Neither model has 4K video, but they each film in Full HD, shooting at 60fps. The D3500 and D3400 capture in JPEG and RAW, and photos can be imported into Adobe Photoshop or your favorite photo editor.

Another plus for both: built-in Bluetooth. Using Nikon's free app, you're able to transfer photos directly from your camera to your phone in minutes for social media sharing or to backup your collection.

The downfall for both models is the lack of an articulating screen, and that's a bummer. Neither model is the right choice for you if you want to stream video of yourself on your own or grab a quick selfie. The cameras are also void of a touchscreen, so while you can look at the scene around you in LiveView using the LCD on the back, you still need to press the shutter button to take a picture. It feels outdated, even for a budget system. The menu is navigatable by the buttons on the rear of the cameras instead of through the LCD. Nikon has always had one of the easiest to learn menu systems, and it's identical on the D3400 and D3500.

Nikon D3400 vs. D3500: Which should you buy?

As someone who shoots a camera for a living, I favor the D3500 because it's newer, takes more pictures per battery charge, has a rebuilt, deeper grip, and has a built-in quiet mode that won't disturb wildlife in the woods or guests at a wedding. If you want the best entry-level camera, you want the newer D3500. As with a lot of technology, newer is better in this case. So if you own the D3400 but find the battery life somewhat limiting or the grip too small, the D3500 is a solid upgrade that's sure to please.

If you don't care about those features, the D3400 still has most of the same hardware under the hood as its newer sibling. Both the D3400 and D3500 DSLRs come with an 18-55mm kit lens and 70-300mm telephoto zoom, and the whole package is small enough to tuck in your favorite camera bag.

Jodi Owan

Jodi Owan works behind a keyboard and a camera. She's a freelance writer for iMore, Android Central, and Windows Central.