The Death of the Entry-Level DSLR Is Upon Us: Nikon Calls Time on the D3500 and D5600

Last week, Nikon confirmed that its two most affordable DSLRs, the D5600 and D3500 are now “archived products.” Are we witnessing the slow disappearance of the entry-level DSLR?

TechRadar reached out to Nikon following reports that the two cameras have been listed as “archived.” This, according to Nikon Rumors, is usually an indication that the two models are about to be discontinued if they haven’t been already. “In Japan, the D5600 and D3500 are archived products,” Nikon explained. “The products will continue to be sold in countries and regions other than Japan. We plan to continue selling these products for the time being. For areas other than Japan, we will consider the optimal timing for discontinuation based on the needs of the market and customers.”

Nikon continues to occupy a curious position in terms of its DSLR cameras, having just released new versions of the Z 6 and Z 7 mirrorless cameras but, according to rumors, intends to produce not one but potentially two new high-end DSLR cameras in the near future. One near-certainty will be the successor to the popular D850 and it remains unclear what the second might be.

Is the end of the entry-level DSLR upon us? Is Nikon planning an even-cheaper crop-sensor full frame camera — a  Z 30? — to bring customers into its ecosystem? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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21 Comments

Gary Pardy's picture

The D3X00 and D5X00 were the entry point into ICL photography for many, many, many people - myself included. That said, the future looks to be increasingly mirrorless. Not every entry level mirrorless camera has to be an ultra-compact form factor like the a6000, requiring significant ergonomic compromises. A spiritual successor to the D3X00/D5X00 series in Z-mount would be a great option for new photographers.

JEREMY MOORE's picture

The D3600 is a huge ergonomic compromise for anyone without dinky hands. Anyone that can hold that comfortably, can hold a small Sony or a future, small Nikon body smaller than a Z50

sjaak bokweijer's picture

I'm curious where people on a budget are going to find the stunning image quality that these DSLRs bring at a comparable price. A Z30 will have to be a lot cheaper than the Z50 to come even close. And the entry level Canon DSLRs may still compete in a lot of respects, but IQ is certainly not one of them. Maybe the mirrorless prices have come down by the time Canon stops making cheap DSLRs as well.
A lot of people are going to miss these cameras the next two years or so...

Spy Black's picture

It's only a matter of time before the Z50 drops down to the D5xxx price range, and some miserable equivalent to the miserable D3xxxx will do the same.

sjaak bokweijer's picture

Blue Monday...

dick ranez's picture

Entry level ilc market will swing to Sony, Fuji or canon. Bad strategy for Nikon.

JEREMY MOORE's picture

Sales are already dropping on those bodies. The writing is on the wall

Michael Clark's picture

Most of the market that once bought the D5x00 and D3x00 has already swung to Apple & Samsung.

Matthew Di Teresa's picture

Very poor business decision on the part of Nikon. Back in the 80s I wanted to learn to windsurf. Living near Lk Mead in Nevada, there was a large windsurfing community. I bought an entry level plastic board, a mast, boom and a couple of sails and went to the lake every chance I got. As the years went on, my sailing skills and my income increased and I upgraded my gear to an expensive carbon/kevlar board, a carbon mast and boom and some much more efficient sails. But I noticed that the local windsurfing community was getting smaller and smaller. The reason? The equipment manufacturers realized that their profit margin was much greater on the high-end and high-tech gear and discontinued the entry-level equipment.
If you go to the Sailing Beach down at Lk Mead today, you most likely won’t see one windsurfer out on the water, where 25 or 30 years ago, there would have been dozens. The manufacturers chased short term profits over long term market stability and cut their own throats.
Entry level equipment that is affordable is needed for any endeavor to be successful. If you eliminate entry level equipment, you eliminate entry level enthusiasts that are your future market.
Listen up, Nikon. You’re cutting your own throat.

stuartcarver's picture

I’ve still got my D5300 but it hugely annoyed me that they cut a lot of features that are on the higher end models, most of it I can put up with, and understand why, but the 96% viewfinder and no front dial are just a piss take.

You want people to learn the art of photography on cheap gear then make them menu dive/hold buttons to change the basic exposure triangle and then the worst of all, don’t even let you properly frame a shot, the single most important aspect of photography.

Here’s hoping their mirrorless versions are a bit more sensible with the main aspects of photography.

Matthew Lacy's picture

As someone who has owned the D3400 and currently shoots with the D5600, this makes me a little sad. I got into the Nikon ecosystem because the D3400 was quite simply the best, cheapest camera on the market. Canon charged $200 more for a camera that didn't have the same abilities and Sony missed the price point as well. I was originally searching for a point-and-shoot, but Nikon made it possible to get a DSLR for the same cost. Later I grew out of the (many) limitations of the D3400, and upgraded to the still-cheap D5600 while staying with my kit lenses.

Without Nikon's entry-level DSLRs, I'd not have nearly the same option. Canon doesn't even sell a kit with the 18-55mm and 70-300mm like I had, and without the D3400 or D5600, I'd have to pay $1,296.95 to get the D7500 with those lenses. Sony's best offer for an entry-level shooter is $700 kit with a 16-50mm and 55-210mm on the a6000.

Michael Clark's picture

What planet are you living on? Canon sells all kinds of Rebel kits with 18-55 plus 75-300 lenses all the time.

Matthew Lacy's picture

I went to B&H to look at the different brand offerings. I've included the screenshot on the planet I'm living on. I filtered DSLRs by Canon to get rid of other brands and opened up the kit filter, where no option for the dual lens kit was available.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

Sadly the Sony A6000 kit is pretty bad, due to their 16-50 kit lens. Due to their focus on making it as small as possible, it has many compromises that they do not attempt to work around as part of their desire to build it down to a certain price. The lens has a rapid drop off in sharpness as you move away from the center, as well as a lot more distortion than expected, and while it included a lens profile, it performs an extreme amount of lens correction, which further reduces the appearance of detail. A lens like that, gives the ILC camera a bad first impression on new users looking for a basic kit.
Pair that with high priced upgrades, and there is no budget friendly way for someone looking to get in at the entry level to get a good amount of detail in their images.

I feel that at the budget level, there should be no priority given to aesthetics of the lens if it will have any negative impact on quality. Instead it should be something where the sharpness is good and the fringing is well controlled so that when a user takes their A6000 with kit lens, they instantly see a massive improvement over their smartphone camera in terms of detail.

On the other hand, Nikon has done quite well with their AF-P lenses for the entry level. The sharpness is quite good for the price compared to the camera body only. The only issue there is that users will have to contend with arbitrary firmware crippling that may put them off.

For example, the lack of af-fine tune, and the loose tolerances means that it will be rare to get an f/1.8 lens that will focus accurately (and not consistently front or back focus) this means that if you want something like a 35mm f/1.8 for a Nikon D5600, your options are if you are okay with shopping around and going through multiple RMAs, is the AF-S 35mm f/1.8G. Or if you want to do a single purchase and have it focus accurately without any RMAs, then you are spending $600 on the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 Di VC USD, and about $50 for the USB lens dock so that you can calibrate the lens to your camera body (the lens ends up costing more than the camera body, which is a hard sell for an entry level user, but for someone with an entry level camera, it is the cheapest lens available that will focus accurately.

Matthew Lacy's picture

Lens support for Nikon's entry-level cameras isn't something I've ever found to be exceptional. I just recently purchased a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. The AF is slow but accurate, and I've never noticed any issue with front or back focusing with Nikon's kit lenses on either of the cameras I've owned.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

For the kit lenses, the focus issues are less visible due to the smaller max aperture. The issue is that a small amount of back or fro t focus may not be every visible at f/3.5, but at f/1.8, it becomes a major issue.

Matthew Lacy's picture

I can definitely see how that'd be a problem.

AWR Marendradika's picture

I am an Indonesian man, landscapers, nature photographer, i was learning camera photography with Nikon D3100, D5100 why? So so afordable, light weight, many lenses; upgraded to D5600, and Z50 for better product but more cost to pay; i would think many times to buy if the only camera in the market started with Z50. So, in Indonesia, D3500 and D5600 still solid option, however if Nikon would like to Release cheaper version of Z50, say...Z30, with cost between D3500 and D5600...so all gonna be make more sense...Z mount offers better image, and i hope also more afordable...at least for DX user like me.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

The shift away from the entry level market is one of the main things that is causing the industry to decline. They sacrifice long term success for short term profits by ditching worthwhile product lines, as well as trying to seek too large of a margin at the entry level, and end up with a camera that many people don't want.

If Nikon wanted, they could keep the design of the D3xxx and D5xxx series cameras the same, and simply remove the pentamirror, transparent LCD (for the OVF info display) pellicle mirror, phase detect module, and the supporting motorized mechanisms for them, and then give it the sensor from the Z50, and then give it a 3 million dot EVF (typically have a BOM cost with the supporting optics of around $12)

It will be overall cheaper since they no longer need the calibration process, and the SLR mechanisms to move the mirror out of the way. They could make a camera that is overall cheaper, while reusing many current designs.

One of the main thing about the D3xxx and D5xxx that puts many beginners off, is the the overzealous crippling from Nikon. For example, they disable the af-fine tune function. Both models still have the code for it in the firmware, and if you can track down the nikon service center software, you can tweak its saved values over USB), but it is not available in the GUI of the device. To make matters worse, the entry level DSLRs have looser tolerances, thus they are more likely to have back or front focusing issues.

The end result is someone purchasing a D3600, or D5600, and then thinking that the camera sucks because images are not sharp with the kit lens, due to it back or front focusing. Or they will buy the cheap AF-S 35mm f/1.8 only to find that it is constantly back or front focusing, and they have no option to correct for it. While they can get sharp images in live view, since CDAF can work around that issue, Nikon deliberately cripples live view auto focusing in the lower end by imposing a 1 second delay between focusing attempts. Virtually all CDAF algorithms have a loop delay value, and often companies will try to find a sweet spot where it will keep a subject in focus but not adjust itself so often that you get a shimmering effect on out of focus elements in the scene. Nikon on the other hand, sets an insanely long value of nearly 1 second, thus making it useless for keeping track of a subject.

Nikon could easily revitalize the entry level line and make it more attractive to new users by simply enabling the AF fine tune in the GUI, as well as releasing their service center software officially so that in cases of loose tolerances in the manufacturing process, users can calibrate the camera body.

Beyond that, they need to enable HSS on the entry level line of cameras. They often use the same shutter mechanisms from older versions of the D7xxx series, thus the hardware is capable of handling it.

Finally, Nikon needs to become more willing to do firmware updates that focus on performance improvements. For example, look at Nikon's updates, which are very rare and often only consist of a minor bug fix, or something minuscule such as removing an entry from the time zone list.
Then you look at a company like fujifilm, and you see updates boasting improvements in autofocus speed, better subject tracking, better video quality, focusing in lower light, and much more. No product that relies on software, performs at its best on the initial release of the software, yet for some reason Nikon finds it okay to give up on optimizing when the product is first released.

Anyway by abandoning the entry level market, they are only accelerating their failure since they will now simply lose their target market through attrition.

Someone who thinks they may have some interest in photography (especially with taking more control over their photography), will not make their first purchase, a $1200-$1500 entry into the field. it is too much to spend unless you have a real passion for it.

Loren Pechtel's picture

I'm not surprised--phones are eating into that market segment. I think it's a bad decision, though--the low end DSLRs serve to get people who want more than the phone into your ecosystem.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

So they need to get out some real entry-level mirrorless cameras -- fast. Compatible with existing mounts (Z mount of F mount) and not with yet another new mount.