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The Best Nikon D3500 Lenses

Matic Broz profile picture By Matic Broz Updated December 26, 2021
Best Nikon D3500 lens thumbnail

You bought your Nikon D3500 body, but it came with a horrible 18-55mm kit lens. While this lens seemed fine at first, you have quickly outgrown it, and now you want more.

So, which lens should you choose next?

Let’s find out.

The 9 Best Lenses for Nikon D3500

Standard (zoom) lenses

1. Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VRII

Nikon 18-200 mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR II Thumbnail image

SPECIFICATIONS

Mount: Nikon F (APS-C)

Minimum focus distance: 0.5m

Max magnification: 0.22x

Elements/groups: 16/12

Diaphragm Blades: 7

Autofocus: Yes

Stabilizer: Yes

Filter size: 72mm

Dimensions (W x L): 77×96.5mm

Weight: 560g

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

$249.00

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REASONS TO BUY

  • Very sharp at 18mm.
  • Decent VR II system.
  • Fast AF.
  • Good build quality.
  • Zoom lock.

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Zoom creep.
  • Worse image quality at the longer end.

Since the Nikon 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6 IF-ED AF-S VRII entered the market in 2009 and succeeded Nikon’s previous version of the Nikon 18-200 mm, it has become a widely popular lens among Nikon photographers. Some might say that it’s the best multi-purpose Nikon D3500 lens for travel and landscape photography.

Thanks to its wide zoom range (11x zoom), it is extremely versatile. Interestingly, for a zoom lens, it’s very compact and not much bigger and heavier than the Nikon 18-105 mm. The housing is made of semi-hard plastic, while the mount is metal, which guarantees sturdy attachment and no wear.

The built-in second-generation VR (vibration reduction) is capable of producing superb images in low-light conditions. It provides three stops of stabilisation, which is great for images at night and handheld shots. Vignetting is not bad, but it gets stronger as you stop down the lens. Distortion, however, is quite strong across all focal lengths.

The Nikon 18-200mm is not very good at bokeh. First of all, the lens’ aperture is not bright enough. Plus, the sharpness around the edges sharply drops as you open the aperture. Therefore, the Nikon 18-200 mm is not a good option for portrait and macro photography.

Considering its price, image, and build quality, the Nikon 18-200 mm is an excellent zoom lens for the Nikon D3500 lens. You will love it for landscape, travel, and street photography.

2. Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G VR

Nikon 18-300mm f3.5-6.3G ED VR thumbnail

SPECIFICATIONS

Mount: Nikon F (APS-C)

Minimum focus distance: 0.48m

Max magnification: 0.32x

Elements/groups: 16/12

Diaphragm Blades: 7

Autofocus: Yes

Stabilizer: Yes

Filter size: 67mm

Dimensions (W x L): 78.5x99mm

Weight: 550g

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$696.95

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REASONS TO BUY

  • Incredible 16.7x zoom range.
  • Optical staiblisation.
  • 1:3 macro magnification
  • Light and compact.

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Poor edge and telephoto quality.
  • Distortion throughout the zoom range.
  • Hood not included.

The Nikon 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR is a very compact and lightweight lens at 550g, considering its impressive 16.7x zoom. It’s no bigger than the 18-200mm lens.

The silent wave motor provides decent autofocus, but it’s not the fastest. You can also turn the AF off and use the focus ring for manual focus, which is located close to the camera body. Nikon’s VR is ideal for hand-held shooting at slower shutter speeds. You will be able to take hand-held shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/15 sec, thus providing a 5-stop VR.

At the smallest focal length, 18 mm, and the maximum aperture, the sharpness is very good in the centre of the frame. By stopping down to f/5.6-f/8, the sharpness in the centre of the frame improves drastically. but the edge sharpness doesn’t improve. At the maximum focal length, 300 mm, centre sharpness remains good between f/6.3-f/11.

Thanks to its outstanding focal length range, the Nikon 18-300mm is virtually a mix of zoom and telephoto lenses for your Nikon D3500.

Wide Angle lenses

1. Tokina ATX-i 11-16mm f/2.8 CF

Tokina ATX-i 11-16mm f2.8 CF thumbnail

SPECIFICATIONS

Mount: Nikon F (APS-C)

Minimum focus distance: 0.5m

Max magnification: 0.09x

Elements/groups: 13/11

Diaphragm Blades: 9

Autofocus: Yes

Stabilizer: No

Filter size: 77mm

Dimensions (W x L): 85×89.2mm

Weight: 555g

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

$400.50

$499.00

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REASONS TO BUY

  • Sharpp, especially at 11.
  • Low distortion.
  • Well-built.
  • Affordable price.

REASONS TO AVOID

  • Chromatic aberration towards the edges.
  • Reduced sharpness at 13mm.

The Tokina AF 11-16 mm performs extremely well for a lens in this price range. It is excellently built with high-grade plastics and a black textured finish.

Interestingly, to switch between autofocus and manual focus, you nudge the focus ring back and forth. Although the Tokina 11-16 mm doesn’t have a silent ultrasonic focusing motor, it’s very quick and fairly quiet.

This lens is the sharpest at 11 mm at maximum aperture. At f/2.8, the centre sharpness is excellent and it becomes only slightly soft towards the edges. By stopping down the lens, the centre sharpness worsens, but the sharpness improves towards the edges. At f/8, the overall best image quality is achieved. At 16mm, the Tokina 11-16mm remains decently sharp.

Although the zoom range is short, it still covers a useful wide-angle range. With a very wide-angle and an f/2.8, you will love this lens for indoor photography or in tight spaces. In addition, this wide-angle Tokina lens for the Nikon D3500 is great for astrophotography thanks to its large aperture, large diameter, and short focal length.

Macro Lenses

1. Venus 25mm f/2.8

Venus 25mm f2.8

SPECIFICATIONS

Mount: Nikon F (APS-C)

Minimum focus distance: 0.17m

Max magnification: 5x

Elements/groups: 8/6

Diaphragm Blades: 8

Autofocus: No

Stabilizer: No

Filter size: /

Dimensions (W x L): 65x82mm

Weight: 400g

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

$359.00

$399.00

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REASONS TO BUY

  • Impressive magnification.
  • Inexpensive.

REASONS TO AVOID

  • No AF.
  • Low contrast at high magnification.

The Venus Laowa 25mm comes with a manual focusing full-frame ultra-macro lens that has no autofocus and no iris. The focal length of 25mm allows you to take sharper pictures and use a few frames for stitching photos with different focus points. The minimum focusing distance is 40mm at 5x magnification. The rounded front housing blocks less light than standard lenses.

The Venus 25mm f/2.8 Lens optical design consists of eight lenses with a minimum working distance of 17mm. Specially coated elements reduce chromatic aberration. The weight is 400 grams, and the aperture has eight blades, and the field of view is 10.3 degrees, with the manufacturer claiming to be the widest f/2.8 lens available for APS-C cameras on the market.

The Venus 25mm f/2.8 Lens provides a magnification range of 2.5:1 to 5:1, which allows you to take close-ups of various sizes. The lens produces images with sharp, high-quality colour reproduction using an ultra-low dispersion element that suppresses chromatic aberration and colour ghosting. All Venus lenses have a proprietary multi-layer coating that minimizes the appearance of glare and reflections. Through this, you can easily take photos in high-contrast conditions with a bright light source.

Telephoto Zoom Lenses

1. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC

Tamron SP 150-600mm f5-6.3 Di VC USD thumbnail

Compatibility: Nikon F (DX)
Minimum Focus:
  2.7 m (8.86′)
Filter Diameter:  95 mm
Size:  108 mm (diameter) x 260 mm (length)
Weight: 1,990 g

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD is the least expensive and the overall best 600mm lens for Nikon D3500. At 1,990 g this lens is quite heavy compared to other lenses. However, for a telephoto lens, it’s decently light.

This Tamron 600mm telephoto lens for Nikon cameras has a silent USD focusing motor that ensures accurate and very quick focusing. Additionally, you can manually adjust the focus regardless of whether you’re using AF or MF mode.

Thanks to the VC systems you may be able to take sharp images with a shutter speed of up to 1/80 or even 1/40 of a second. Effectively, this means a 3- or even 4-stop VC.

Tamron SP 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD is very sharp in the centre of the frame throughout the entire zoom range at all apertures. You can achieve the sharpest image by stopping to between f/8 and f/11, which results in a great centre sharpness and very good edge sharpness.

If you’re looking for a 600mm telephoto lens, this is a great Tamron lens for Nikon D3500. Low price, great performance, and good build quality are just a couple of features that make this lens one of the best telephoto lenses for the Nikon D3500.

2. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f5.6E

Compatibility: Nikon F (DX)
Minimum Focus:
  2.2 m
Filter Diameter:  95 mm
Size:  108 mm (diameter) x 267 mm (length)
Weight: 2,300 g

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, weighing 2,300 grammes, is noticeably heavier than the 1990-gram 150-600mm Tamron. But in comparison with the sport-version of the 150-600mm Sigma lens, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is 560 grams lighter.

The Nikon lens has a wide coverage of focal lengths, 200–500mm. A constant f/5.6 aperture ensures optimal shooting quality and control over the depth of field at any zoom ratio. An electromagnetic diaphragm ensures precise exposure during high-speed shooting. Nikon’s powerful vibration reduction allows shutter speeds 4.5 stops slower than normal, and VR Sport mode is great for tracking fast-moving subjects.

In terms of the lens design, Nikon has used very little of its modern optical technology in it. So, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR lacks nano-coating of the front element. Still, it is equipped with a silent wave drive (SWM), vibration reduction/image stabilization with a performance of up to 4.5 stops, an internal focusing system, and three ultra-low-dispersion elements.

Nikon is gradually replacing old mechanical aperture lenses with modern electromagnetic diaphragm lenses. The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR has a faster aperture at all focal lengths and is effectively useful even with a 1.4x teleconverter. Compared to the Sigma 150-600mm focusing ring, the Nikkor 200-500mm VR ring is very smooth, allowing for more precise focusing.

Prime Lenses

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

Nikon 50mm f1.4G thumbnail

Compatibility: Nikon F (DX)
Minimum Focus:
  0.45 m
Filter Diameter:  58 mm
Size:  73.5 mm (diameter) x 54 mm (length)
Weight: 280 g

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G (its full name) is an improved version of Nikon’s older 50mm lens. Notably, this compact lens offers better coatings and a very quiet and fast internal focus motor, but it lacks an aperture ring, so you can’t use it with older cameras. However, the focusing is slower than in the older version.

On the flip side, when it manages to focus, it produces very sharp images even at the widest aperture setting. Interestingly, even when you have autofocus enabled, you can manually focus by rotating the rubber focus ring.

Unlike the majority of lenses, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G produces high-quality images even wide open at f/1.4. Granted, the sharpness is worse towards the edges, which is expected, but the centre of the image is extremely sharp for such an inexpensive lens. The lens performs best at f/5.8-f/8 when the sharpness is excellent across the frame.

The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is an excellent lens for portrait photography, thanks to the 9-bladed diaphragm that produces smooth bokeh. Slightly unorthodox is the 58mm filter size, considering that similar Nikon lenses usually come with a 52mm or 62mm screw. Therefore, this lens might not be the best choice for you if you have already invested in different filters.

Overall, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is the best Nikon D3500 lens for portraits. Although the autofocus can be slow, it makes up for it by being a lot more silent than its predecessors. Even if you’re an advanced photographer, image quality is great across the frame for such a lens, guaranteeing that you won’t be disappointed.

2. Nikon 35mm f/1.8G

Nikon 35mm f1.8 thumbnail

Compatibility: Nikon F (DX)
Minimum Focus:
  0.25 m
Filter Diameter:  67 mm
Size:  84 mm (diameter) x 72 mm (length)
Weight: 305 g

The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G is a compact lens made out of high-quality plastic, while the bayonet is made out of metal and a rubber gasket to protect the camera from moisture and dust. The lens focuses on a silent, reasonably quick motor, which allows for manual adjustments while the AF is enabled.

This portrait lens for Nikon D3500 performs very well at the centre of the frame, but the image quality quickly degrades towards the edges. Stopping the lens down to f/5.6 improves the image clarity significantly. Considering the price of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, the chromatic aberration is not too bad throughout the entire aperture range.

Overall, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G seems like a good alternative to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, it performs slightly worse and doesn’t offer an f/1.4 aperture.

3. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f1.8G thumbnail

Compatibility: Nikon F (DX)
Minimum Focus:
  0.80 m
Filter Diameter:  67 mm
Size:  80 mm (diameter) x 73 mm (length)
Weight: 350 g

Straight out of the box, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G is one of the cheapest yet sharpest lenses available in the market. Combined with an AF-S motor, it provides for some excellent portrait photography with quiet in-depth zoom and amazing bokeh.

With an aperture ranging from f/1.8 to f/16, it serves as a great contender against the latest lenses by packing an enormous amount of clarity and detail into the photos. It can still be coupled with a wide range of DSLRs and SLRs as it works excellently with every digital Nikkon, both FX and DX, ranging from some of the best ones, such as the D4 and D800, to even the cheapest ones, like the D40s and Nikkon D5000 collection.

A singular downfall of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is that it lacks vibration reduction. You might experience some vignetting on a bright day but a quick post-edit takes care of that easily. Moreover, compared to its predecessors, which came with 9 straight blades, Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G consists of a total of 7 rounded blades that allow for a considerably smoother round aperture.

Considering these facts, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G stands apart from its predecessors greatly. This lens can capture a lot of light, which results in some highly detailed snapshots that may very well suit the economic as well as professional demands of all photographers and filmmakers.

Summary

That’s it from me on the best lens for Nikon D3500. Let’s recap:

If you’re looking for a great multipurpose lens, Nikon 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6G VRII is your best option. For a wide-angle lens, go for Tokina ATX-i 11-16mm f/2.8 CF. The best portrait lens for Nikon D3500 is Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, and the best telephoto lens is Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC.

I hope you found at least one lens that will improve your photos with Nikon D3500.

Let me know in the comments below which one you purchased.

About your guide

Matic Broz profile image
Matic Broz

Matic Broz is a photographer, graphic designer, and stock photographer. For over ten years he's been helping photographers improve their photos and graphic designers find the best images for their designs. His work has been featured by Lifewire, Skylum, and PetaPixel. In his free time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and petting random dogs. Read more

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