Nikon remains one of the leaders in the global DSLR market. The growth of interchangeable lens cameras is due to users migrating from high-end smartphones to DSLR photography. At only $447 bundled with an 18-55 mm kit lens, the Nikon D3500 is probably the most preferred camera for amateur photographers.
But one lens is not enough. You might not even buy the bundled lens. If possible, go for the body and a lens of your choice. That is why I have done a deep dive into the external lenses for Nikon D3500, available at every price point.
But before I begin with the list, I would want you to know a few things that you should consider when buying a lens for Nikon D3500:
- Compatibility: Nikon D3500 is a DX camera with an F-type mount. Always make sure that you are buying a lens with the same mount.
- Focal Length: A short focal length provides a wider angle, and a longer focal length narrows the field of vision.
- F-Number: This will decide how wide the aperture that lets light inside the camera would be. As a rule of thumb, lenses that perform well at low f-numbers (wide aperture) are more expensive.
- Type of Lens: You would need one prime (all-purpose) lens and one telephoto to start. Later you can add a wide-angle and macro lens if needed.
- Image Stabilisation: Most cameras have inbuilt image stabilization. It helps if the lens system has one too. Working together, they give the best outcome.
- The Best Nikon D3500 Lenses in 2023
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Nikon D3500 Lenses in 2023
It can be pretty challenging to find a suitable lens for the Nikon D3500 from a pool of dozens of variants currently available in the market. I had used this DSLR for over five years when I started my photographic journey, and hence I know this camera quite satisfactorily.
That said, after a lot of trial and error, I invested in some of the best lenses that I still use with my other camera gear. Here, I review the top 9 compatible lenses that you should consider getting for this beginner-level camera.
1. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR
The Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR is a lightweight telephoto zoom lens. It works well with the Nikon D3500 and focuses really fast. It is reasonably affordable at $397.
The AF-P in the name indicates that it is one of the latest lenses and has a stepper motor. The autofocus works with a faint hum. The lens focuses internally with no external movement or telescoping.
There is no way to switch off autofocus from the lens, and you have to do it from the camera menu. The lack of an AF/MF switch was sorely missed by us during tests.
The interior of the lens has all 14 elements, which are arranged in 10 groups and is equivalent to 105 to 450 mm when used in FX or 35 mm cameras.
The construction is almost entirely of suitable quality plastic, including the mount. The lens cap is included, but no lens hood.
The motor makes it easier to focus in Live View mode. VR means it has built-in image stabilization and can correct any hand trembling.
The lens is not very bright and can provide only f/4.5 at a minimum focusing distance of 70 mm. That rises to 6.3 at 300mm.
The quality of bokeh shots is satisfactory but not exceptional. It is adequate as long as you keep in mind that this is an affordable lens for beginner photographers learning their art.
- Not at all expensive
- Efficient stepper motor
- Almost silent autofocus
- Can focus as close as a meter
- Light and compact build
- No AF/MF switch
- Plastic lens mount
2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX
It is essential that when you expand beyond the kit lens, you not only buy a telephoto zoom but a prime lens. A large aperture fixed focus lens is invaluable because there are fewer lenses that light travels through and hence less distortion.
The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX is available for about $190 and meant for all Nikon DX cameras, including the D3500.
35 mm DX translates to about 50 mm FX, and this one fits in perfectly as a standard lens and provides images identical to that seen by the human eye. With Nikon Silent Wave Motor, you can autofocus if needed.
On the inside, there are eight elements in 6 groups, including one hybrid aspherical element. The lens can focus at a minimum of one feet or a third of a meter.
At different apertures from f/1.8 to 8, it performed well and produced sharp and clean images. There was some lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration, but that is only to be expected from one that is so affordable.
There was quite a lot of vignetting at the maximum aperture setting, but this disappeared at f/2.8.
Overall it performed decently and is handy to have with you if you are looking for the perfect lens for great photography at a gala wedding or perhaps around the neighborhood without changing the settings too much or needing zoom.
- Fast autofocus
- A quick change to manual focus
- Highly satisfactory bokeh
- Affordable and suitable for beginners
- Good image quality
- Chromatic aberration present
- Substantial vignetting at low aperture
3. Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF FX
Quite expensive at $1220, the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF FX Telephoto Zoom Lens is meant for those who are serious about outdoor photography. The price is several multiples of the f/4.5 70-300 mm lens that I reviewed at the top of this comparison.
The price is because it is not outsourced by Nikkon but Made in Japan. In some form, this lens system has been a part of the Nikon product line since the 1990s. Made of metal, it is robust and built to take the rough with the smooth.
Without any delicate VR (vibration reduction) mechanism, you could expect it to work for years without breaking down in the middle of nowhere. Of course, the absence of AF-S means autofocus is slightly slow.
The drawback is that it would not autofocus on the cheapest Nikons like D3500. Inside the body, there are 16 elements arranged in 11 groups, of which three are Extra-low Dispersion. The 9 elements diaphragm stops down to f/22.
This has been a favorite of professional photographers for decades and even when wide open at f/2.8, gives superb pictures.
A quite heavy lens at well over a kilogram is however very well balanced. The flange at the front prevents your hand from moving too far forward. You have to use your middle finger around the focus ring and thumb to switch between manual and autofocus.
- No problems with vignetting
- Can also be used as a macro lens
- Smooth and precisely machined
- The photo qualities are simply superb
- Easy to reach AF/MF selector
- Lacks Vibration Reduction
4. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR IF-ED
Targeted squarely at the enthusiast level sports and wildlife photographers, the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G AF-S VR IF-ED Telephoto Zoom Lens packs quite a punch. Priced at close to $700, it is not too expensive for a serious photographer.
Nikon has made an excellent lens that does not pretend to be great. Mostly made of plastic, it, however, has a metal lens mount. Being a G-type lens, it has no aperture ring. When used with a Nikon D3500, you get a field of view that is identical to 105 – 450 mm on an FX camera.,
There are 17 elements arranged in 12 groups with two Extra-low Dispersion elements. The 9 blade diaphragm stops down to f/32.
Our tests showed that it is the perfect lens to have if shooting still subjects. The autofocus is fast, and there is a dedicated AF/MF toggle.
The VR II system is noisy but allows you to take pictures in low light with longer shutter times. It is capable of full 4 stops. The bokeh effect is subtle and neutral.
At almost 750 grams, it is much heavier than the camera, but the construction is very high quality, and the lens feels solid in your hands.
The Silent Wave Motor works perfectly, and the front lens does not turn when focusing.
- Very good till 200 mm
- Large zoom ring
- Easy to use manual focus
- Swift autofocus
- VR II makes a tripod unnecessary
- Plastic build
- VR is noisy
5. Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD
You would want to get a wide-angle lens as part of your lens kit at some point in your photographic career. The Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD is ideal though a tad expensive at $500.
If you are looking for dramatic sunset shots from horizon to horizon, then a wide-angle lens is indispensable. The Tamron 10-24mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC HLD is weatherproof and offers a slew of features at a price that is less than similar lenses available from Nikon.
The lens is short and stubby and made from polycarbonate plastic with rubber-coated zoom ring. It is waterproof, and the front of the lens system is fluorine coated, making it smudge-proof and easy to clean.
Primarily used as a landscape lens, it is not very heavy at 440 grams. The soft matte finish looks gorgeous and expensive. It slips easily on and off the D3500.
On the left side of the lens barrel, there is a toggle for changing from manual to autofocus. There is another button for enabling the image stabilization system.
Inside you will find 16 elements in 11 groups. The images are bright and vivid, but the edges are faintly blurred, especially when you go really wide. At near maximum aperture, there is a lot of vignetting, but it drops off at f/8.
- Overall high image quality
- Effective image stabilization
- Expensive and premium feel
- Reasonably affordable
- Compact and easily carried
- Noticeable vignetting at maximum aperture
- Blurry edges at wide-angle
6. Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR AF-S DX
This is the best do-everything lens. It can shoot wide, zoom, and take reasonably great close-ups. Priced at $1070, the Nikon 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR AF-S DX is one of Nikon’s better all-rounder kit lenses for budding photographers.
What do you get in exchange for this price? The much-coveted Gold Ring at the end of the barrel. It is the best way to flaunt that you use nothing but professional lenses quietly.
It also gets you fluorine coating at the front and back which makes it easy to remove the oily smudges. In addition, you get VR II with Silent Wave motor and aspherical elements. That is quite a long list of goodies.
Inside the barrel, there are 17 elements arranged in 13 groups. Of these, four are Extra-low Dispersion elements, and three are aspherical. The closest it can focus is about 1.2 feet.
It is small and fast. The lens does everything well but at a rather steep price. At 480 grams, it is light being constructed of plastic. There are toggles for MF/AF and VR On/Off. The autofocus makes a faint whirring sound and can be slightly distracting.
The images are quite good, and there is no noticeable vignetting unless you drop all the way down to f/2.8. The bokeh effect is soothing and attractive.
- 5X zoom is excellent for a kit lens
- f/2.8 aperture
- Fluorine coating
- Gold Ring quality
- Responsive autofocus
- High priced
- Vignetting at wide-angle
7. Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX
If you want an inexpensive macro lens for your D3500, you cannot possibly choose anything other than Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX. At only $280, it is a bargain.
I found it to be a fabulous all-purpose lens suitable for outdoor conditions that can also take lovely close-ups. The interior is made of 9 elements in 7 groups. To focus, the front lenses move, and the lens telescopes.
The diaphragm is made of seven elements and stops down to f/22.
The autofocus is fast and reliable. It takes just a second to switch from infinity to close up.
The color palette is excellent, and the bokeh effect is soothing. This is a good purchase if you are looking for an entry-level lens into macro photography.
There is too much of focus breathing – sharp changes in magnification with minor changes in focus. This is especially true when you try to shoot close-ups. The close-focus point is only 6.4 inches being a macro, but it is best to use it from about 9 inches away.
- Superb optics
- Sharp images with low distortion
- Lightweight and durable
- Tough polycarbonate build
- Inexpensive to buy
- Cannot take perfect close up shots
- Inner barrel projects quite far
8. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM
This exceptional lens from Sigma is now available in the market and is priced at $950. It belongs to their Art range. Optically speaking, it is the best 50mm lens that I have ever used for Nikon D3500.
It is not that you would note much difference between this and other 50mm lenses at f/4, but at f/1.4, you comprehend why the price is so high.
There are 13 elements arranged in 8 groups inside the lens barrel. Three of these are Extra-low Dispersion elements, and the rear element is aspherical. The nine-blade diaphragm stops down to f/16.
The pictures taken by the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM was impressive, to say the least. There was no vignetting, even with three filters. All the way from f/2.8 to f/13, I took images that were clear and crisp with no aberration of color around the edges.
The autofocus is silky smooth and quick. The focusing is internal, and there is no inner lens barrel projection. The downside is that it is quite bulky and expensive. The incredible build quality and astounding optics made it our favorite lens by far.
- Exceptional quality of images
- Superb resistance to flaring
- Quick and silent autofocus
- Superb build and design
- Attractive bokeh rendering
- Quite expensive for a general-purpose lens
- Not weatherproofed
9. Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G
Meant as an FX lens, it also works with DX mounts like D3500. The Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G is priced at an extraordinarily reasonable $170.
At this low price point, you do not expect superb images but rather a good lens with autofocus and is fit for rough use by a beginner photographer.
At 70 mm, you can use f/4, and at 300 mm, f/5.6. It is not a constant lens and has no pretensions to such greatness. The lens performs decently between f/8 and f/11 and is well suited for outdoor use with plenty of daylight.
In low light, it did reasonably but not much more than better quality point and shoots. The lens system is made of 13 elements in 9 groups.
The lightweight makes it ideal for carrying around, and since it is really inexpensive, you will not worry about damaging it. The autofocus is not very smooth, but as a downmarket telephoto lens, you could hardly expect much more. It does not have the Silent Wave motor that the rest of its brethren featured above had.
As long as you do not zoom more than 200 mm, you get impressive results. If you understand the limitations of the lens, it gives excellent results.
This is the cheapest telephoto lens that I have ever tested. Remember that most decent spectacle lenses cost more than this lens system, which boasts of the prestigious Nikkor brand name.
- Highly affordable
- 4.3X zoom
- Perfect for beginners
- Good at outdoor photography
- Very light
- Lack of Silent Wave motor
- Lack of image stabilization
Frequently Asked Questions
The bundled 18-55 mm Nikon is a cheap all-purpose lens. You may not choose to upgrade. But to make the most of your camera, a relatively inexpensive lens such as Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm F/4.5-5.6G ED VR is necessary.
Most of your daily photography that does not need zoom can be achieved with a prime lens. Taking pictures at weddings, family photos, and plain landscape views can be done using only a prime without a macro, wide-angle, or telephoto.
That would depend on what you want to do. Ideally, you should have one prime lens and one telephoto lens. If possible, add a larger telephoto and wide-angle later.
Photography consists of the camera, the lens system, the subject, and the user. A more expensive lens is of no use without a knowledgeable user.
I hope this article helps you make a strong decision. I have laid down the best Nikon D3500 lenses, but if you’re still confused, I can help you with straightforward suggestions:
- I know it is expensive, but the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM prime lens takes the first place. The unbeatable optics and the wonderful finish makes it the best all-purpose lens I have ever used. It is ideal for street photography and delivers fantastic results.
- The second place goes to the tried and tested Nikon Nikkor 80-200mm F/2.8D ED zoom lens. Sturdy and flawless are the words that come to mind when describing it. Precisely crafted from metal, it has a timeless quality that is hard to put into words.
- Lastly, the Nikon f/1.8G AF-S DX with 35mm focal length is a cheap yet amazing prime lens to use with your Nikon D3500.