Nikon D3500 Wide-Angle Lens Recommendations

Here are some recommendations for wide-angle lenses for your Nikon D3500.

Nikon 10.5mm DX Fisheye Lens
Nikon 10.5mm DX Fisheye Lens
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Filed Under: DSLRs, Lenses

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I’m a big fan of wide-angle lenses, and I tend to reach for them more than any other lens for my travel photography.

There are a lot of things I like about them. I like that they can really capture more of a place, whether that’s the interior of some magnificent cathedral or mosque, a bustling urban waterfront, or an artisan surrounded by their workshop. I like that they can often be used in lower light than tighter focal lengths because they’re less susceptible to camera shake. And I like that they encourage you to get in close, giving a much more connected feel to the image. I like that they can be more forgiving for focus, with a naturally deeper depth of field. For all these reasons, wide-angle lenses probably spend more time on my camera than any other type.

The D3500’s kit lens is a good starting point for most people, but if you want to get different kinds of shots from your camera then it might be worth looking into some extra lenses. If you’re looking to expand your lens selection to include a wide-angle lens for your Nikon D3500, below are some practical recommendations.

Lenses Mentioned in This Post

If you just want to cut to the chase, these are the lenses mentioned in this post.

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm ƒ/4.5-5.6G IF VR Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
  • AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens - LC-72 72mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap - LF-4 Rear Lens Cap -...
  • Ultra-wide-angle view that surpasses any kit lens and lets you get creative with composition
Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Wide-Angle Zoom Lens for Nikon F
  • Super-Wide: 10-20 with maximum aperture of F3.5 throughout entire zoom range
  • Includes: Petal-type Hood supplied
Tokina ATX-i 11-16mm ƒ/2.8 Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
  • New design & lens coating for better perfromances
  • Item Package Quantity: 1
Nikon AF DX NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Fisheye Lens
  • Lens not zoomable
  • DX-Nikkor reduces the diameter of the lens' image circle, allowing a range of lenses with practical size...
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5G ED Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
  • Ideal for landscapes, cityscapes, interiors, architecture and more.
  • Focal Length : 10- 24 mm, Close focusing to 0.8 feet
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 12-24mm ƒ/4G IF-ED Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
  • 12 to 24 millimeter autofocus zoom lens with f/4 maximum aperture for Nikon digital SLR cameras
  • 2 Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass elements and 3 aspherical lens elements for superior optics

You can find much more information about them below along with some example images I’ve shot with them.

Wide-Angle Lens Strengths & Weaknesses

There are some things that wide-angle lenses are particularly good for:

  • Adding drama
  • Adding broad context
  • Capturing the grand
  • Landscape photography
  • Cityscapes
  • Architectural photography
  • Travel photography

But there are also things that wide-angle lenses are not well-suited to:

  • Closely-cropped portraits. That’s not to say that wide-angle lenses can’t be used for portraits–they’re excellent for environmental portraits, where you want to capture other aspects of the location to help tell the story. Think of a doctor in a hospital setting, or a welder in her workshop, or a painter in his studio, and so on. But they’re not good for a conventional headshots (as always in photography, there are exceptions. A good example is the portraiture of Platon Antoniou).
  • Wildlife. It’s often not possible or desirable to get close to wildlife. You probably wouldn’t take only a wide-angle lens on safari, for example. (Again, there are always exceptions: example 1; example 2).

About These Recommendations

But first I want to clarify what these recommendations are and aren’t. I’m not trying to provide a laundry list of every wide-angle lens that’s compatible with the Nikon D3500. Nor am I going to recommend super-expensive lenses that, while they’ll work well, aren’t a logical pairing with the Nikon D3500. I’m also emphasizing autofocus lenses here. There are many older and manual-focus lenses that can also work well, but those aren’t my focus here.

So what is a wide-angle lens? The threshold for what makes a lens wide-angle is quite subjective. You could argue, for instance, that the 18-55mm kit lens that often comes with the D3500 is a wide-angle. When it’s zoomed out to 18mm (which is 27mm on a full-frame sensor) it is respectably wide. But I’m focusing on here not so much on replacing the 18-55mm, but rather on lenses that offer something different from the 18-55mm so that you can get different kinds of shots. Nikon’s 16-85mm, for instance, would give you slightly more reach on both ends of the zoom as well as better image quality (it has better optics), but it’s not going to be a huge difference–particularly on the wide end–from the 18-55mm.

I personally tend to regard around 30-35mm (in 35mm equivalent) as the threshold. Lenses in the 40mm to 60mm range are often considered “normal” perspective, while anything over that heads into telephoto territory.

Sigma 10-20mm Wide-Angle Zoom

This has been a very popular lens for a long time. And for good reason. It was one of the first lenses to bring in a super-wide focal length at very competitive pricing. It’s small and compact and well built.

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens for...
  • Super-Wide: 10-20 with maximum aperture of F3.5 throughout entire zoom range
  • Includes: Petal-type Hood supplied

On a Nikon D3500, the 10-20mm is the equivalent of a 15-30 on a full-frame camera. Which is a very wide lens.

And it has aspherical elements. What that means is that you don’t get the heavy lens distortion that you get with a similar focal length in a fisheye lens (see below). So lines stay straight, including horizons. You do, however, get quite a lot of stretching around the edges, but that’s something you can factor into your framing and even emphasize, if you wish.

Find them at:

Note: There’s also a ƒ/4-5.6 version which has long been discontinued but still turns up used. It’s also a good option–just a bit slower than the ƒ/3.5 version.

Here are some photos I’ve taken with the Sigma 10-20mm on various Nikon DX bodies.

British Library
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Jazz trumpeter busking on the street
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Photo of Painted decorations of the Three Storied Pagoda at Shinjouji Temple
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Kayaking Amongst Icebergs in Antarctica
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Lincoln Memorial with tourists
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar light store and shopkeeper
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.
Wat Si Saket Vientiane Laos 2000 Buddhas 337-0125286641x
Taken with a Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens.

Nikon AF-P 10-20mm ƒ/4.5-5.6G VR

This super-wide zoom lens from Nikon is unusually affordable. Like the Sigma 10-20mm, it has aspherical elements but essentially the same super-wide view.

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G IF VR ZoomLens - Bundle with 72mm...
  • AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Zoom Lens - LC-72 72mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap - LF-4 Rear Lens Cap -...
  • Ultra-wide-angle view that surpasses any kit lens and lets you get creative with composition

Two features separate this version from the Sigma–one is a plus and one is a negative.

On the negative side, this lens is slower. The Sigma has a constant ƒ/3.5 maximum aperture through the zoom range. That means that the maximum aperture is ƒ/3.5 whether you’re fully zoomed in or fully zoomed out. The Nikon version has a maximum aperture of ƒ/4.5-5.6, What that means is that when you’re fully zoomed out, the aperture if ƒ/4.5, while when you’re fully zoomed in, the maximum aperture is ƒ/5.6. By itself, that would make this lens less suited to low-light shooting than the Sigma.

But then there’s the other feature: the Nikon lens has vibration reduction, which means that you can get an extra 2-3 stops without shaking ruining the photo. Vibration reduction, or VR, is pretty unusual on lenses this wide, and especially on ones at a low price point like this one.1

Find them at:

Alternative: Another good option is Nikon’s 10-24mm ƒ/3.5-4.5. It has slightly more on the zoomed-in end, has the same maximum aperture, doesn’t have vibration reduction, and yet is more expensive. But what you’re paying for here is an optically better lens, which translates to sharper images across more of the frame and less flare. Third-party manufacturer Tamron also has their own version of this lens, which is significantly cheaper than the Nikon version.

Tokina atx-i 11-16mm ƒ/2.8 CF Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens

Tokina isn’t a brand that comes up as often, but this lens stands out. It has an ultra-wide 11-16mm perspective, and it’s fast, with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 (and a minimum of ƒ/22). Aspherical elements help minimize lens distortions. And with an MSRP of $349, it’s very affordably priced.

If you’re after a shade more flexibility, there’s also the Tokina atx-i 11-20mm ƒ/2.8 CF (not to be confused with the Cinema version, which is a very different lens at a very different price point). It’s more expensive and also bigger and heavier.

Check current price and availability at:

TOKINA ATX-i 11-16mm F2.8 Nikon F
  • New design & lens coating for better perfromances
  • Item Package Quantity: 1

Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye

A fisheye is a special kind of wide-angle lens. It combines a super-wide perspective with heavy lens distortion.

It’s a niche look. It’s very dramatic look, and it’s also easy to overdo. But it can also be a lot of fun and create some really unique and unusual perspectives. We’ve become more conditioned in recent years to the fisheye look thanks to the widespread use of it on GoPro and action camera videos.

Nikon AF DX NIKKOR 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Fixed Zoom Fisheye Lens with Auto Focus...
  • Lens not zoomable
  • DX-Nikkor reduces the diameter of the lens' image circle, allowing a range of lenses with practical size...

Nikon’s 10.5mm fisheye is small and compact. There’s no zoom–most (but not all) fisheye lenses don’t have zoom.

Fisheye lenses are especially good for:

  • grand interiors
  • close quarters
  • dramatic distortion
  • close action
Planes on Display at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Taken with a Nikon 10.5mm ƒ/2.8 Fisheye lens. I shot this several years ago at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. The Wall Street Journal published it as a half-page image.

For a specialty lens that’s relatively fast (maximum aperture of f/2.8), the Nikon 10.5mm is reasonably priced. It’s small and light and doesn’t take up much space in the camera bag.

But there’s also an important caveat to note when using this lens on this camera. And that is because the lens doesn’t have its own built-in autofocus motor–nor does the D3500 body–the autofocus will not work with this combination. You can still use the lens on this camera, but it will be manual focus and manual control. At the same time, the lack of autofocus is not as much of a dealbreaker on a fisheye lens because of the extraordinarily deep depth of field that ultra-wide fisheye focal lengths have naturally. This fisheye lens isn’t a fixed-focus lens, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep the subjects in focus.

You can find them at:

But it’s also one of those lenses that’s worth trying, but it’s not going to be one that every photographer reaches for regularly. A good way to try it out to see if it’s your cup of tea is by renting it. You can find them at LensProtoGo.

Taken with a Nikon 10.5mm ƒ/2.8 Fisheye lens.

I have some more photos I’ve taken with other fisheye lenses here and here.

Terms Used with Wide-Angle Lenses

35mm equivalent. The focal length refers to the distance that light rays converge in focus after passing through a lens. There’s complicated math involved, but our purposes here are much simpler. The focal length of a lens denotes whether it’s a wide-angle, normal, or telephoto. And if there’s a range (eg. 24-70mm), it’s a zoom lens.

But the complication with cameras like the D3500 is that these cameras use a smaller sensor than a traditional full-frame sensor (which, in turn, is based on the old 35mm film standard–that’s where the “35mm equivalent” bit comes from). And that alters the math and the perspective.

The Nikon D3500 has what’s known as an APS-C sensor, which Nikon calls a DX sensor. It’s smaller than a full-frame sensor, and so you need to multiply the focal length by 1.5x. For example, if a lens says it has a focal length of 10mm, when you put it on a D3500, you’ll get a view that’s equivalent to a 15mm on a full-frame camera.

On the telephoto end, that usually works to our advantage, because you get more reach. A 200mm telephoto lens, for example, gives you the practical equivalent of 300mm on a full-frame camera. But on the wider end, it works against.

Aspherical elements used in the design of the lens work to keep lines straight and minimize distortion. Contrast that with a regular fisheye lens, where nearly every line ends up bent.

Chromatic Aberration / Purple Fringing. The corners and edges of the frame are hard for wide-angle lenses to get right. And because of the physics of the glass, you can often end up with different wavelengths getting out of alignment or becoming unfocused (aka soft). Cheaper, very wide lenses tend to suffer from this more.

Most image editing apps these days include corrections for chromatic aberration (also known as purple fringing) that you can apply in editing, and they often do a decent job.

DSLR vs Z lenses. The Nikon D3500 is a class of camera known as a DSLR (i.e., digital single-lens reflex). Nikon SLRs and DSLRs have for decades used what’s known as an F-mount system to connect the lenses to the camera body.

In the past few years, Nikon has launched a mirrorless camera system that they’re calling the Z series. Lenses for those cameras are known as Z-mount lenses.

For the D3500, you want F-mount lenses. While it’s possible to get an adapter to put F-mount lenses on a Z-mount body, the reverse isn’t true (i.e., you can’t use a Z-mount lens on an F-mount body).

DX vs FX. Nikon calls its full-frame cameras FX cameras, and its APS-C cropped sensor cameras DX. The Nikon D3500 is in the DX series.

It’s often simpler (and cheaper) to stick with lenses that are specifically designed for DX cameras, but it’s not a requirement. For Nikon lenses, “DX” will be in the lens name. Other manufacturers might use a different code; Sigma, for example, uses “DC”.

FX lenses are also often (but not always) bigger and heavier. Nikon’s 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G lens, for example, is a wonderful lens (you can see some of the photos I’ve taken with it here), but it’s big, heavy, expensive. It will work on a Nikon D3500 (multiply the focal length by 1.5x to get the effective focal length on the DX sensor), but it makes the most sense on a full-frame body.

Wrap Up

Something else I wanted to mention is that although I’m focusing here on using wide-angle lenses on the Nikon D3500 specifically, one of the great things about the DSLR system is that it doesn’t mean you can use these lenses only on the D3500 cameras.

In other words, if you decide to update to a new model in the future, or upgrade to a higher model such as the D5600, D7500, or even the D500, these same lenses will remain good options that work on those cameras as well. So long as you stick to a DX-series Nikon DSLR body, you’re good to go. And with an FTZ mount adapter, you can use Nikon F-mount lenses on mirrorless Z-mount cameras as well.2

  1. There’s another advantage: Nikon’s new AF-P lenses use a special Stepping Motor that is quieter and smoother with its autofocus. The “P” stands for pulse, referring to the method of driving the autofocus motor. This technology is less important to stills photography and is mainly relevant to shooting video, where smooth and quiet autofocus is especially important. You can find the latest AF-P lens compatibility chart here. []
  2. Most DX lenses can also be used on Nikon FX DSLRs, but there will be limitations on the amount of frame covered–you will likely have to put the camera into DX mode and settle for reduced resolution. []

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by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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