Nikon D3500 vs Sony NEX-5
The Nikon D3500 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2018 and May 2010. The D3500 is a DSLR, while the NEX-5 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 24 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 14 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3500 and the Sony Alpha NEX-5? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3500 and the Sony NEX-5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The NEX-5 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3500 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-5 is considerably smaller (46 percent) than the Nikon D3500. Moreover, the NEX-5 is markedly lighter (21 percent) than the D3500. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3500 nor the NEX-5 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3500) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-5, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D3500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||365 g||1550||n||Aug 2018||429|
|2.||Sony NEX-5||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||287 g||330||n||May 2010||699|
|3.||Canon M100||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||302 g||295||n||Aug 2017||499|
|4.||Canon SX730||110 mm||64 mm||40 mm||300 g||250||n||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Fujifilm X-A7||119 mm||68 mm||41 mm||320 g||440||n||Sep 2019||499|
|6.||Fujifilm X-A5||117 mm||68 mm||40 mm||361 g||450||n||Jan 2018||399|
|7.||Fujifilm XF10||113 mm||64 mm||41 mm||279 g||330||n||Jul 2018||499|
|8.||Fujifilm X-E3||121 mm||74 mm||43 mm||337 g||350||n||Sep 2017||899|
|9.||Nikon D3400||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|10.||Nikon D5500||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||420 g||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|11.||Nikon D3300||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||n||Jan 2014||499|
|12.||Panasonic ZS70||112 mm||67 mm||41 mm||322 g||380||n||Apr 2017||449|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||111 mm||59 mm||39 mm||276 g||330||n||Aug 2012||749|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||117 mm||67 mm||42 mm||314 g||470||n||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||111 mm||59 mm||38 mm||269 g||460||n||Aug 2011||699|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||110 mm||60 mm||33 mm||225 g||400||n||Jun 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D3500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 39 percent) than the NEX-5, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the NEX-5 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 24MP, the D3500 offers a higher resolution than the NEX-5 (14MP), but the D3500 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 5.11μm for the NEX-5). However, the D3500 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 3 months) than the NEX-5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D3500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3500 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3500 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Sony NEX-5 are 23 x 15.3 inches or 58.3 x 38.8 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 12.2 inches or 46.7 x 31 cm for very good quality, and 15.3 x 10.2 inches or 38.9 x 25.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D3500 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-5 are ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the D3500 provides a higher frame rate than the NEX-5. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60i.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D3500 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the NEX-5 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the NEX-5 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the FDA-SV1. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3500, the Sony NEX-5, and comparable cameras.
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D3500 has one, while the NEX-5 does not. While the built-in flash of the D3500 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The NEX-5 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the D3500 does not have a selfie-screen.
The D3500 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the NEX-5 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The D3500 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the NEX-5 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3500 and Sony Alpha NEX-5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
The D3500 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the NEX-5 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the NEX-5 was succeeded by the Sony NEX-5N. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3500 or the Sony NEX-5 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3500:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 14MP) with a 31% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/60i).
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1550 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 3 months of technical progress since the NEX-5 launch.
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-5:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (111x59mm vs 124x97mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 78g or 21 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in May 2010).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3500 emerges as the winner of the contest (10 : 8 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3500 and the Sony NEX-5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3500 and the NEX-5 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D3500||..||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2018||429|
|2.||Sony NEX-5||3/5||+ +||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||699|
|3.||Canon M100||3/5||+||..||4/5||3.5/5||Aug 2017||499|
|4.||Canon SX730||..||+||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||399|
|5.||Fujifilm X-A7||3/5||..||81/100||4/5||3.5/5||Sep 2019||499|
|6.||Fujifilm X-A5||..||+||..||4/5||3.5/5||Jan 2018||399|
|7.||Fujifilm XF10||..||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2018||499|
|8.||Fujifilm X-E3||4.5/5||+||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2017||899|
|9.||Nikon D3400||4/5||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|10.||Nikon D5500||5/5||+||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|11.||Nikon D3300||3/5||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||499|
|12.||Panasonic ZS70||..||+ +||..||4/5||4/5||Apr 2017||449|
|13.||Sony NEX-5R||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2012||749|
|14.||Sony NEX-F3||4/5||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2012||599|
|15.||Sony NEX-5N||3/5||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2011||699|
|16.||Sony NEX-C3||3/5||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D3500 vs Sony NEX-5
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2018||May 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 429||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.6 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||366.6 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.2 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||14 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||4592 x 3056 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.91 μm||5.11 μm|
|Pixel Density||6.55 MP/cm2||3.84 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 25,600 ISO||200 - 12,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 4||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||69|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||22.2|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||796|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||no Bluetooth|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3500||Sony NEX-5|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1550 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
124 x 97 x 70 mm
(4.9 x 3.8 x 2.8 in)
111 x 59 x 38 mm
(4.4 x 2.3 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||365 g (12.9 oz)||287 g (10.1 oz)|
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