As one of the best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab), the Nikon D3500 really is the best entry-level Nikon DSLR body ever. It has everything the newcomer would want: multiple shooting modes; full HD movie recording; a useful rear LCD screen; tactile easy-to-reach buttons; and large 24.2MP stills capture.
One of the great things about this camera is its value for money; it's still one of he cheapest interchangeable lens cameras you can get. And another great thing is the sheer range of lenses you can still get for Nikon DSLRs.
Of course, there are plenty of people who think DSLRs are on the way out, but it's not going to happen overnight, and the D3500 is one of the best DSLRs you can still get. And if your still not convinced, read our article on DSLR vs mirrorless cameras to read the pros and cons.
Lenses can be expensive, of course, but in the spirit of the D3500 as a quality camera on a budget, we've taken the same approach to these lenses, picking six optics we know you'll find useful but at prices which give you a lot for your money.
We’ve rounded up the best lenses for the Nikon D3500 (opens in new tab), from ultra-wide zooms to telephoto zooms, with a penchant for quality and value for money. There’s a reason why so many Nikon-manufactured lenses appear on this list, it’s because Nikon is absolutely fantastic at creating lenses for its camera bodies. A long heritage in lens making is Nikon’s specialty so are usually among the best. But there are some good third-party lenses too!
The best lenses for Nikon D3500 in 2023
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Most beginners opt for a telephoto zoom as their first additional lens, but we reckon an ultra-wide zoom is at least as useful – especially if you're interested in travel or vlogging. This Tamron original 10-24mm ultra-wide zoom has improved optics, 4-stop VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilization, and a new HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system. Weather-seals are also added, plus a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and aid cleaning. Image quality is very good and, overall, it’s simply the best Nikon-fit DX format ultra-wide zoom. It beats Nikon’s long-standing AF-S DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens for performance and image quality, and is much less expensive to buy, although it’s twice the price of Nikon’s budget 10-20mm VR zoom (which you also might like to consider if you’re on a budget).
See our full Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
A big step-up from other entry-level telephoto zoom lenses, this 70-300mm from Nikon combines great focusing, substantial vibration reduction, and extra low dispersion (ED) glass for clear images. Fast internal focusing means any attached filters won’t be spinning around at the end of the lens, so users using filters can set it and forget it when composing.
At 415g it may seem a little heavier than other Nikon DX lenses, especially if you’re not used to using telephotos, but it’s still reasonably lightweight when compared to full-frame options. A variable aperture range means zooming in to 300mm incurs a maximum aperture of f/6.3 which would ordinarily make it tricky to get decent exposures for sports and wildlife photography without extending shutter speed - but four stops of vibration reduction make short work of that issue.
See our full Nikon AF-P DX 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
With its 16.6x zoom range, this lens gives you a standard zoom and a telephoto zoom in the one lens - meaning it can shoot nearly all subjects. As such this type of 'superzoom' is popular for travel, where you want one lens to do it all. This is much lighter 18-300mm than the Nikon predecessor - slashing about 300g off the weight, to make it more manageable. The downsizing is partly down to clever design, but there’s also a sacrifice in the widest available aperture at long zoom settings, which shrinks from f/5.6 to f/6.3, but that's no slower than the competing Sigma and Tamron lenses. Sharpness is good at wide angles but tails off as you zoom in - proving that such all-in-one lenses inevitably involve making compromises on image quality.
See our full Nikon AF-S DX 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
This little lens is only about half the length and a third of the weight of a 'pro' lens like Nikon’s 105mm macro lens for its full-frame cameras, so it’s easy to squeeze into a spare corner of your camera bag. With an ‘effective’ focal length of 60mm, it’s ideal as a standard prime lens for general shooting too, combining a fairly fast aperture rating with excellent optical performance. Sharpness is excellent across the entire image frame, from f/2.8 all the way to f/16. Color fringing is absolutely negligible and there’s virtually zero distortion.
There is a more expensive Nikon AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED, but if you own a Nikon D3500 and shoot macros only occasionally, this is easily good enough.
See our full Nikon AF-S DX 40mm f/2.8G Micro review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
Likely the most-purchased second lens when upgrading from the kit lens that comes with the D3500 is this 'nifty fifty'. Aptly named since its very wide aperture of f/1.8 means it can shoot bright images in even the darkest of settings. The 50mm fixed focal length is generic enough to capture many types of subjects, whether portraits, landscapes, or close-ups.
Although it’s soft in the edges when shot fully open, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this optical characteristic is actually lauded among many because it helps to push focus into the center of the frame (and usually the subject) creating a more intimate mood. Though photographers may want to click the Remove Chromatic Aberration button in their favorite image editing software as highly contrasted edges in the frame can suffer from purple and cyan fringing. But at this price, what’s the harm of an extra click?
See our full Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
When hoping to shoot sports, wildlife, or automotive photography the standard kit lens just won’t cut it. In fact, even the handy zoom range of the 70-300mm mentioned above still comes up a little short when far-away subjects need to fill the frame. However, Sigma’s “Contemporary” version of its 150-600mm definitely extends capabilities substantially. Considering it’s a DX-lens the effective focal length is actually more like a whopping 225-900mm.
This is a big lens to put on the compact Nikon D3500 body, but for its type it's compact and surprisingly lightweight. It’s the perfect tool for bird photos, or distant athletes on the pitch. Two stabilization modes make it easier to shoot and track moving subjects whether flying around trees or heading towards a goal.
See our full Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary review.(opens in new tab)
For those that just want an upgrade to their existing kit lens, this 16-80mm f/2.8-4 from Nikon provides excellent zoom range and a boost in technology. Four stops of Vibration Reduction help to keep handheld shots sharp when shooting in low light. Photographs are kept sharp and clear with four ED glass elements and three aspherical lens elements. Sure, it’s a little more costly than other lenses on this list but the added features, superior optics, and flexible focal length range means that you probably won’t need another lens to accompany it for most shoots.
A Nano Crystal Coat keeps flaring to a minimum and the Silent Wave Motor drives a fast, quiet autofocus system. Effectively a 24-120mm in disguise thanks to the 1.5x crop sensor on DX bodies, this is like a kit lens on steroids. Still small and lightweight, the enhanced features and improved optical clarity make this the perfect walkaround lens for homebodies and travel photographers alike.
See our full Nikon AF-S DX 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR review (opens in new tab).
As a DX lens, this Nikon prime is designed specifically for APS-C-sensored cameras like the D3500. The effective focal length is 52.5mm - making this much closer to the standard 50mm lens that used to be sold as standard with 35mm film SLRs in the old days. As a crop-factor lens, it is also smaller - making this a neat addition to your camera bag for when you need the wide f/1.8 maximum aperture that a zoom can't provide.
Autofocus speed is pretty quick and focusing is internal so the front element doesn’t rotate. This makes it easier to use filters like circular polarizers and ND grads. Sharpness is very good across the whole image frame at apertures between f/2.8 and f/8 but less impressive at wider and narrower apertures.
See our full Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G review (opens in new tab)
How we test lenses
We test lenses using both real-world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-world testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.