The Best lenses for Nikon D3500 – 2020 Buying Guide

I hope you will agree with me when I say:

The best lens for Nikon D3500 is not necessary the best for a full-frame sensor DSLR such as the Nikon D750.

Also, each lens will perform better or worst under different shooting conditions. Thus knowing which types of photography you will be doing will greatly narrow down your choices considering the number of lenses for Nikon D3500 available.

There are two main specs to consider when choosing any lens: the focal length and aperture.

Focal length, usually represented in millimeters (mm), determines the lens’ angle of view (how much of the scene will be captured) and the magnification (how large individual elements will be).

Within these categories live prime and zoom lenses.

Prime lenses

Prime lenses are lenses that have a fixed focal length. They are often simpler lenses, making them easier to manufacture and in return cost less and usually are of higher quality than zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses

Zoom lenses, on the other hand, cover a range of focal lengths and because of their versatility allow you to carry only one lens instead of two or three to cover the same focal range.

The drawbacks are the increased cost and slightly reduced quality from manufacturing something so complex.

The aperture is measured in f-number of f/stop.

The lower the f/stop…

  • The larger the lens opening
  • The less depth of field
  • The blurrier the background

The higher the f/stop…

  • The smaller the lens opening
  • The greater the depth of field
  • The sharper the background


Although there are other features that may come with some lenses and not others, these are the fundamentals to nail down before considering anything else. Obviously, the price is definitely very important.

Before diving into the different types of lenses and which ones are the best for the D3500, it’s important to know that it’s far better spending time and money on yourself, upgrading your skill than on an expensive kit.

The difference between a $500 lens and a $2,500 lens is sometimes unnoticeable and not worth the additional cost which can be remedy with better skills and training.

Best Nikon D3500 Lenses Round-up

best all around prime lens for Nikon D3500
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G with Auto Focus
Best for portrait, low light and wedding photography
Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
Best for travel for Nikon D3500
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction with Auto Focus
Best for travel, everyday photography, landscapes, close up, wildlife and sports
Aperture Range: f/3.5 to f/22
best wide angle lens for Nikon D3500
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon
Best wide-angle lens ideally for landscapes and architecture
Aperture Range: f/3.5 to f/22
best all around prime lens for Nikon D3500
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus
Best for video, everyday photography and landscapes
Aperture Range: f/2.8 to 22
best Nikon D3500 for macro photography and close up
Nikon AF-S DX Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G
Best for close up and macro photography
Aperture Range: f/2.8 to 22

Nikon D3500 Lens Buying Guide

As mentioned earlier aperture and focal length are the two most important aspects of a lens. Understanding how to influence the image will greatly help you compare different lenses.


Aperture is the hole in the lens through which light travels into the camera body and onto the image sensor. The larger the aperture of the lens, the more light enters the camera.

Aperture is express in f-numbers also know as f-stops. F-stops are a way of describing how open or close the aperture is.

The image below illustrates how aperture affects the depth of field. The lower the aperture, the shallower the depth of field (blurred background).

Aperture, ISO and shutter speed illustration

How aperture, ISO and shutter speed affect each other illustration – by Vincent Ledvina


Using your lens aperture together with your camera body ISO sensitivity and shutter speed you can compose the best possible image under your shooting condition.

In layman terms, the lower the f-number (resulting in a wider aperture), the more light gets to the image sensor which is great in low light conditions and indispensable for night photography.

The higher the f-number (smaller aperture), the less light gets to the image sensor.

Aside from controlling the amount of light passing through the lens and into the camera, the aperture has a direct impact on the depth of field, the area of the image that appears sharp.

A large f-number such as f15 will bring all foreground and background into focus while a small f-number such as f1.6 will isolate either the foreground or background objects and make everything else blurry (see image above).

Every lens has a limit on how large or small the aperture can get.

NIkon D3500 lenses aperture

If you look at the specifications of lenses, it should indicate the maximum aperture (lowest f-numbers) and minimum aperture (highest f-numbers).

The minimum aperture of a lens is usually not important and should rarely be used as diffraction will cause the image to lose clarity.

Focal length

Represented in millimeters, the focal length number tells us the angle of view, how much of a scene will be captured, and the magnification, how large the subject will appear.

The lower the number, the wider the field of view and lower the magnification, increasing the amount of the scene that our camera can see.

The larger the number, the narrower the field of view and greater the magnification, decreasing the amount of the scene our camera can see.

While the lens you attach to your camera comes with a focal length, depending on the type of camera you attach to it, its focal length can actually vary. 

This is known as the crop factor.

Full-frame cameras do not have any crop factor since they operate on the 35mm format used in the days of film.

APS-C sensors, however, have a crop sensor 1.5 for Nikon or 1.6 for Canon.

What this means is that any lens attached to an APS-C camera like the Nikon D3500 DSLR will need to have its focal length multiplied by the crop sensor to get its effective focal length.

The actual focal length of the lens remains unchanged, but switching camera bodies that have different sensor sizes will change what the picture will look like.

When considering a lens, there is a number of categories defined by ranges of focal lengths (see image above).

The widest lenses are the fisheye or ultra-wide lenses. These lenses have ranges from 8mm to 24mm. They are limited in used and typically used in landscape or architecture. They create such a wide angle of view that images can sometimes appear distorted and they are not suited for portraits since they make facial features look distorted.

Regular wide-angle lenses

With focal lengths typically between 24mm to 35mm, this is where distortion stop appearing unnatural.

Standard lenses with focal lengths between 35mm to 70mm produce images that closely reproduce what our eyes see. They are great walk-around lenses and very popular.

Telephoto lenses typically start around 70mm and end around 300mm. Portrait lenses fall into this range and you increase focal length telephoto compression will cause foreground and background objects to appear close together.

Extreme telephoto lenses round out the bunch with focal length increasing 300mm. These lenses are used for wildlife and a situation where extreme magnification is required.



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