In this Nikon Z30 vs Nikon D3500 comparison, we take a look at Nikon’s cheapest mirrorless and DSLR camera to see how far camera technology has come since the Nikon D3500 was released in 2018.
Furthermore, we’ll assess whether the Nikon Z30 is the mirrorless upgrade Nikon D3500 owners have been waiting for and the areas where the Nikon D3500 still holds the advantage. Jump to Conclusion
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What is the Nikon Z30
The Nikon Z30 was released on 29th June 2022 and is Nikon’s cheapest Z-mount camera. With its APS-C 20.9-megapixel sensor, the Nikon Z30 has much in common with the older and more expensive Nikon Z50 and Nikon Zfc. However, the Nikon Z30 lacks any viewfinder and is primarily marketed as a vlogging camera for content creators. And in this context, the lack of a viewfinder isn’t as much of an issue. But what about photography?
Aside from the absent viewfinder, the Nikon Z30 appears to be as capable of taking photos as the more expensive Nikon Z50 and Zfc. It’s also lighter, more compact, and perhaps, even pocketable (jacket, not jeans).
This is a far cry from the old Nikon D3500. While the Nikon D3500 was absurdly compact for a DSLR, it is a large camera by any other measure. But unlike the Nikon Z30, the cheaper Nikon D3500 has a viewfinder and more megapixels. So, which is best?
Nikon Z30 vs Nikon D3500
Nikon Z30 vs D3500 Image Quality
The Nikon D3500’s APS-C 24.2-megapixel sensor is pretty much as good as its gets. And for any real kind of improvement, you need to buy into a full-frame camera system. In contrast, the Nikon Z30’s sensor features a low pixel count of 20.9 megapixels. Read How many megapixels do you need?
But according to Photons to Photos, the Nikon Z50’s sensor (similar to the Z30’s) delivers a little more dynamic range (the green line).
At the same time, Nikon’s D3500 sensor produces much less noise at ISO 100 and maintains its advantage over the Z30 until it runs out of the road at ISO25600. If you appreciate noisy image quality, the Nikon Z30 carries on an extra stop until ISO51200. Read What is ISO
Overall, the Nikon D3500’s image quality remains competitive and, in some cases, superior to that of the Nikon Z30. However, the difference is slight, and I’m not sure you’d notice it in the real world.
Nikon Z30 vs Nikon D3500 for Video
If video is important to you, buy a Nikon Z30. While the Nikon D3500 can produce attractive 1080p footage, its contrast-detect autofocus system is much too slow to keep up with a moving subject.
On the other hand, the Nikon Z30 has 4K30p and a vastly superior phase-detect autofocus system that can lock onto your subject’s eye and follow them as they move around the frame.
Furthermore, the Nikon Z30’s fully articulating screen can be turned towards you while the D3500’s screen is fixed behind the camera. And finally, the Nikon Z30 has a microphone jack but no headphone jack. Whereas the Nikon D3500 has neither.
Nikon D3500 vs Z30 for Photography
In terms of image quality, both the Nikon D3500 and Z30 deliver. Furthermore, each camera can shoot up to 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus. However, the Nikon Z30 features modern-day perks such as frame-wide eye/face detect autofocus. And its touch screen interface will feel familiar if you are used to smartphone-style photography.
But the Nikon D3500 has a viewfinder enabling you to shoot in the kind of light that will glare out the Z30’s rear screen. Plus, holding your camera to your eye provides a more stable platform to shoot from, and as a result, you’ll be able to get sharper photos at slower shutter speeds.
Then there’s battery life. According to DP Review, the Nikon Z30’s battery is rated for 330 shots between charges. On the other hand, the Nikon D3500’s battery will last for more than 1500 shots.
Nikon Z30 vs D3500 lens selection
Nikon released just three APS-C Z lenses since its first Z APS-C camera, the Nikon Z50, in October 2018. That’s less than one lens per year. Of course, you can mount full-frame Z lenses to your Nikon Z30 – but it’s an expensive, heavy, and sub-optimal solution.
In contrast, Nikon has made 24 APS-C F-Mount lenses, including travel zooms, primes, macros, and pro-grade zooms.
The obvious workaround is to attach an FTZII adapter and attach Nikon F DX lenses to your Nikon Z30. But again, this is a sub-par solution that adds cost and weight.
The D3500 has the advantage of being the older system. But three lenses in four years is incredibly low-yield and does make one wonder whether Nikon is committed to its APS-C system. Read Best Lenses for Nikon D3500
Nikon D3500 vs Z30 Price
Easy, the Nikon D3500 is cheaper.
Nikon Z30 vs Nikon D3500 Specs Compared
|Nikon Z30||Nikon D3500|
|Release Date||29th June 2022||30th August 2018|
|Release Price (US$)||$709 (Body Only)||$649.95 (with lens)|
|Sensor Type||CMOS||FSI CMOS|
|Native ISO Range||100-51200||100-25600|
|In-body Image Stabilization||No||No|
|AF Type||Hybrid Phase/Contrast Detect||Phase Detect/Contrast Detect|
|AF Focus Points||209||11|
|AF Sensitivity||-4.5 – +19 EV||1 – 19EV|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/4000||1/4000|
|Max Shutter FPS||5fps||5fps|
|Max E-Shutter Speed||N/A||N/A|
|Max E-Shutter FPS (Full Resolution)||N/A||N/A|
|Max E-Shutter (Low Res)||N/A||N/A|
|Range||-4 EV – 17EV||0 EV – 20EV|
|4K||30p, 25p, 24p||N/A|
|HD 1080p||120p, 100p, 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p||60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p|
|Max. Recording Time||Approx. 35 mins 4K, 125 mins 1080p||20 mins at High Quality|
|Output over HDMI||Yes||Yes|
|Raw||12/14 Bit Compressed||12 Bit Compressed|
|Card Slot 1||SD, SDHC, SDXC||SD, SDHC, SDXC|
|Card Slot 2||N/A||N/A|
|Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|Resolution||104K Dots||921k Dots|
|Video-Out||HDMI Type D||HDMI Type C Mini|
|Audio In (mic)||3.5mm||No|
|Audio Out (Headphones)||No||No|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.1||Bluetooth 4.1|
|Battery Life||Approx: 1550||Approx: 1550|
|Video Record Time|
|Weight & Dimensions|
For photographers, the Nikon Z30 is not a compelling alternative to the Nikon D3500. Although the Nikon Z30 has modern perks such as eye-detect autofocus, it comes up short with its absent viewfinder, sub-par battery life, and poor selection of lenses.
But as a video tool, the Nikon Z30 sweeps the Nikon D3500 under the rug with its 4K video, vastly superior in-video autofocus, and fully articulating screen. However, the lack of a headphone socket and sensor-based image stabilization is a shame.
To be fair, Nikon is presenting the Z30 as a vlogging camera. But given its low price and feature set, it’s the closest thing we have to a mirrorless Nikon D3500. So, is the Nikon Z30 a sensible upgrade? Well, if you don’t care about video, probably not. And if you do want video and a viewfinder, there’s Nikon Z50 and Zfc.
No one should have to purchase expensive and oversized full-frame lenses for an affordable and lightweight APS-C body, especially while Sony and Fujifilm remain committed to the APS-C format. But a broader question for Nikon’s APS-C fans is whether to buy a Nikon at all? Three lenses in four years is a poor yield indeed.
But in isolation, the Nikon Z30 is a nice camera. It’s relatively affordable, very compact, and particularly well-suited to video. If you don’t care about a viewfinder, it’s well worth a look.
Leave a comment: Are you a D3500 owner and what camera do you want next?
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