Shooting in low light is a rewarding experience. If done right, you can nab some pretty gorgeous imagery that has an identity and style all unique to them.
However, if not done right low-light shooting can only lead to ugly and unrewarding shooting experiences. Therefore, you’ll need to be properly prepared and equipped.
The cornerstone of good low-light shooting is the camera you use. There are many things to consider before picking one.
For instance, the size of the sensor can greatly affect the performance of a camera. The larger the sensor, the better it can handle contrast and thus capture subtle lighting in a frame.
So what’s the best camera for low-light shooting? There’s really no one size fits all answer. The best camera depends on you entirely.
That’s why today we compiled a guide on the best low-light camera to help you choose a camera for you.
We’ll list some of the best cameras on the market and discuss the things you should consider before making a purchase.
Best Low Light Camera – The List
let’s take a look at some cameras that will make your low-light shooting experience a pleasure instead of a disaster.
Filmmakers can rejoice as Sony’s release is one of the most capable cameras in low-light.
With an impressive ISO range reaching almost 409,600, the Sony A7S III has better vision in dark than a pair of night vision goggles!
And thanks to its full-frame sensor, the camera offers immense sharpness in the detail for every pixel.
The Sony a7S III boasts a dynamic range unlike anything else on the market. If you’re a filmmaker, the 4K video will please your eyes as its cinema quality is unrivaled by any other body at this price point and size.
The camera may not appeal much to still photographs due to its 12-megapixel count which is very low compared to other bodies.
However, for filmmakers, there’s simply no better choice when it comes to excellent low-light cameras, especially when you add in 5-axis in-body stabilization.
- 12.1MP1 Exmor R sensor, optimized for 4K, sensitivity and speed
- New BIONZ XR processing engine delivers 8x more processing power2
- Low noise images w/ ISO up to 409,6003 and 15+stop dynamic range4
- Up to 4K 120p5 10-bit 4:2:2 and full pixel readout in all rec. modes
- Up to 4K 120p5 in XAVC S (AVC), XAVC HS (HEVC) and XAVC S-I (All-I)
Nikon has thrown its hat in the ring when it comes to developing industry-leading low-light cameras.
Their endeavors have produced a few impressive results, one of which is Nikon’s Z6 II. It’s an impressive camera with wide lens support.
The Z6 II has an impressively wide ISO range. It ranges from 100 up to 51200. Additionally, you can extend it down to 50. The noise performance on this body is overall excellent.
The vibrancy of color and tones are consistently good and you just know this is a huge advantage with a low light camera.
The camera also has a built-in 5-axis image stabilization system. the system is compatible with Z mount lenses. You can also a Nikon F lens with VR or an FTZ adapter.
Therefore, you have the benefit of using image stabilization systems in conjunction, making for a butter-smooth experience.
- Mirrorless versatility on a whole new level. 24.5MP BSI resolution that excels in low light. 14 FPS...
- Full frame. Full pixel readout. Full featured 4K UHD Video. Top of the line video performance with...
- Dual card slots (CFexpress/XQD + UHS-II SD). Flexibility and peace of mind when shooting important...
- Vertical Grip Ready. Now compatible with the new vertical battery grip for those in need of more...
- One mount accepts them all. Compatible with a growing line of NIKKOR Z lenses as well as approx. 360...
Our last Nikon offering is equipped with a 20 Megapixels Full-Frame CMOS sensor. This results in amazing image quality. The ISO range is equally impressive, starting from 100 to 102400. You can extend it as far as 3,280,000.
Instead of going with digital image stabilization, Nikon opted for Lens-based optical stabilization.
This makes for a compact and light camera which is always a benefit to filmmakers. We all know carrying heavy equipment really sullies the experience.
The Nikon D6 has a top-of-the-line ISO speed that can reach 3.2million. The noise performance of this body also trumps most other DSLR in this range. The High ISO NR options are also easy to modify.
You are defaulted to normal but you can amp it up to high, knocked it down to low, or turn it off entirely. Overall, an excellent low-light camera.
Canon’s foray into low-light cameras gives a body with a ludicrously impressive performance.
This is the Canon 5D Mark IV, a camera that can trump almost any other DSLR.
How? Well, for one, the autofocus system can focus in dark areas with very minimal lighting needed.
For filmmakers looking for great quality, the Canon 5D Mark IV can shoot in 4k. The video quality is crisp and rich with detail.
However, you’re here looking for a low-light camera. So how does the camera perform in this regard?
We can say that without a shadow of a doubt, the ISO capabilities and performance of the Canon 5D Mark IV are seldom rivaled.
You capturing amazingly beautiful images at any ISO range. There’s not much drop in quality going from 1600 to even 12800. Yes, the camera is that impressive.
- New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range...
- 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K...
- Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD...
- Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6 plus...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a...
Who can give Canon a run for their money? Canon themselves with the Canon 6D Mark II. While the original 6D was lauded as a great full-frame camera.
However, for the purposes of our guide, we’ll have to go with its successor, the Mark II.
The low-light ISO performance of the Canon 6D Mark II is probably only outranked by the 5D Mark IV. Y
ou can drive the ISO on the 6D Mark II all the way up to 1600 with little to no intense noise. You can even push it all the way up 3200 and still get useable images with slight noise.
The focusing system on the 6D Mark II is quite good. It can acquire focus as low as a -3 EV. It also features a 45 AF point spread.
Overall, the Canon 6D Mark II is a budget-friendly camera for all your low-light shooting needs.
- 26.2 Megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
- Optical viewfinder with a 45 point all cross type AF system. Compatible Lenses: Canon EF lenses...
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with phase detection and Full HD 60p
- DIGIC 7 Image Processor, GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth low energy
- Vary angle touch screen, 3.0 inch LCD
If you’re more of a mirrorless camera person, we’ve saved that for our last spot on the guide. Fujifilm set the benchmark for what a quality mirrorless should be.
Sony has given Fuji a run for their money lately. however, the XT3 is one of the finest APS-C mirrorless cameras on the market.
The XT3 comes equipped with an impressive 26 Megapixel X-Trans IV sensor. The AF performance has also been boosted for this release to be faster and more robust.
The 4K capabilities are quite amazing, being able to record at 60fps.
The Trans IV sensor is where the low-light performance benefits. The ISO can go all the way up to 6400.
Only after you exceed this range can you see the quality of the image dip a little. However, the quality is still pretty high even if you exceed the 6400 point.
Overall, the Fujifilm XT3 is a delight to hold in your hands and utilize during shooting.
Thanks to its excellent ergonomic design and intuitive button placement, you’ll have no problem using this camera either in well-lit or low-light situations.
- New 26.1MP X trans CMOS 4 sensor with X processor 4 image processing engine
- 4K movie recording: Internal SD card 4K/60P 4:2:0 10 bit recording and the first mirrorless digital...
- 2.16M phase detection pixels across entire frame and low light phase detection limits has been...
- 3.69 million dot OLED color viewfinder with 0.75x magnification and blackout free burst shooting
- 16 film simulation modes: Including eternal/ cinema, B and w adjustment: 9~+9
Best Low Light Camera – Buying Guide
Now you probably have a few questions about the specifics of the cameras on the list. So what should you really look out for when considering purchasing a low light camera?
Let’s take a look!
If you followed this or any other website’s guides on cameras, you’ll know that sensor size is crucial in choosing your camera.
For the uninitiated, there are two dominant sensor formats: full-frame and APS-C.
A full-frame sensor will get you superior picture quality because the sensor’s size is big (physically speaking) and can fit in more information. They also cost more than their counterpart.
On the other hand, cropped sensors have a decreased image quality simply because the physical space of the sensor is smaller. They are also cheaper.
For low-light photography, we recommend you go for a full-frame sensor camera.
On top of great image quality, the sensor can capture more light, this is instrumental for low-light shooting.
Also, with full-frame sensors comes bigger lens support which will enable you more freedom and creativity.
We said it before, and we’ll say it again, the lens you use is half the equation when it comes to good photography.
ISO is how we measure the amount of light that a camera’s sensor can capture. If you Increase ISO, you’ll also get to increase shutter speed.
This is incredibly useful when doing handheld photography or if you’re trying to shoot action and fast-moving subjects.
The higher the ISO value the more noise seeps into the image. This is the downside to having high ISO ranges on your camera.
So keep in mind that just because a camera can push its ISO higher than others, doesn’t mean it can perform well in those ranges.
Noise is a term used by photographers to describe the distortion that occurs in digital images. This distortion is the result of pushing the ISO too high.
This is what makes shooting in low-light scenarios so difficult.
Much like film grain in cinematography, noise rears its ugly head when the degree of brightness in relation to color doesn’t match. Images lose their sharpness and just look ugly.
You can avoid this by lowering your ISO levels during shooting.
Best Low Light Camera – Wrapping up
This concludes our comprehensive guide to the best low light cameras.
Hopefully, by now, you’ll have a better idea of what camera you want to get. Just remember to keep in mind the capabilities and limitations.
You can’t go too wrong with any of the choices we listed. They all tend to perform well under high ISO values.
What influences your choice should be what each camera offers on top of the excellent low-light performance.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick a camera and get out there to capture the pristine and stylish imagery you never could with other cameras. More importantly, make sure you have fun.