Low light DSLR cameras are what you want for night time use and those difficult interior shots in badly lit environments. This is our guide to the best low light DSLR.
We’re going to feature our camera picks, as well as give you some tips and techniques for getting the best out of low light shooting situations.
Here are a few examples of when you might need a good low light DSLR:
- This could be during event videography in a church, for example.
- Narrative filmmaking when shooting guerrilla style and lacking much in the way of a lighting setup.
- Nighttime wildlife videography scenario.
- Or an entertainment journalist, shooting club work.
- Event videography featuring evening entertainment, and more.
Videography (or photography) is tricky is low light situations. Anyone who’s shot in an English church during winter knows this all too well. Low light conditions require a higher quality CMOS sensor, which is capable of producing good images where low light conditions are constantly a factor.
Let’s look at some of our favorite DSLR cameras when shooting in low light environments.
Best Low Light DSLR Models
These premium cameras have been repeatedly recommended for the toughest conditions, which includes low light photography/videography:
This 24-megapixel body is made to the highest quality, which includes an advanced CMOS Sensor and great in-body stability features.
The EOS 77D is generally considered a light and compact professional standard camera, providing top quality results, with clear imagery and solid design. It’s also favoured by a high number of photographers and videographers who are worth listening to.
When a lens is added the camera utilised two forms of stabilization, which added IS (Image Stabilization) features as part of the design, dual stabilization features for top low level light results.
Canon is regarded as cutting edge in the field of professional photography and their AF or autofocus computer-controlled feature offers maximum protection from amplified error that can be experienced in low light shooting settings.
Just looking at some test images online and the AF stands out, the shots are usually pin point clear and detail is fantastic. This is where the dual stabilisation really stands out and should translate to low light environments.
Combine this body with;
- Cannon EF 85mm f/1.2L 11 USM
- Tamron SP 35mm F/1,8 Di VC USD
- Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM
For great results in low light levels and for fine focus and aperture setting ability.
A quality “Dual Pixel Sensor” is developed in this model, which has been designed for high performance tracking and fast focus, all computer controlled.
- 242 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor
- Built-in Wi-Fi*, NFC** and Bluetooth***
- Hdr movie & time-lapse movie
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your compatible Canon camera into...
- Flash memory type: SDXC
There are a lot of great Nikon cameras, but here I have chosen to focus on the Nikon D7200.
The base is fairly reasonably priced, but like with most body cameras here double that price for a high-quality lens. This can seem a little expensive, but once you have catered towards this level of hardware, you are pretty much covered in all other shoot settings.
Like they say, the first cut is the deepest!
This model features a EXPEED 4 processor and has a 24 MP ability. One thing you will notice at this level is that the features of all the cameras seem to bottom out. This is because at this level you are entering the top of the hardware capabilities, the premium hardware on offer by most manufacturers.
This communicates the demanding and tricky world of low light level shooting!
This model has excellent shutter speed or ISO settings (100 – 25600 range) and with dual stabilization from both the body and lens, blurring and poor image quality will be minimized.
Combine this with a AF-S DX 18-140mm lens and you’re onto a winner here.
Looking at the reviews, customers are consistently giving the D7200 high scores with people recommending to look out for the DX version of this model, for top level professional results.
A good all round offering here.
- 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS image sensor
- No Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF)
- 51 point autofocus system
- 6 frames per second (fps) shooting capacity
- Built in Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) for instant sharing
Featuring great image stabilisation and a high 24-megapixel capability. This camera is professional level and isn’t cheap, but has high quality components including extremely high-quality CMOS Sensor, this camera body has continuously received great customer feedback.
And, okay, not strictly a DSLR. But it makes it here on its incredible overall low light performance merits, and the fact that it has many similarities with the other DSLRs here.
Fast hybrid auto-focus will add a further processor control to get great low level light results and offer clear shots when it really matters.
It isn’t cheap, this is a fairly big investment. But, then again, you need to pay well for good quality equipment like this.
- Sony SEL55F18Z.AE 55mm
- Sony SEL28F20 Full Frame 28mm F2.0
- Sony SEL35F28Z Sonar T 35mm F2.8 Zeiss
Combined with a premium Zeiss E mount high aperture lens, like any of the above and you’re all setup for great shooting. These lenses aren’t cheap, but everyone we know who uses them is happy to have upgraded and taken advantage of the improved performance and features.
Expensive, but worth the quality!
- Advanced 24.2MP BSI full frame Image Sensor w/ 1.8X readout speed
- 15 stop dynamic range, 14 bit uncompressed RAW, ISO 50 to 204,800. Compatible with Sony E mount...
- Up to 10fps silent or mechanical shutter with AE/AF tracking. Battery life (Still Images): Approx....
- 693 phase detection / 425 contrast AF points w/ 93 percent image coverage. Focus sensor: Exmor R...
- In the box: Rechargeable battery (NP FZ100), AC adapter (AC UUD12), shoulder strap, body cap,...
Panasonic make incredible cameras and their Lumix series is considered one of the best DSLR lines for overall image quality. This clocks in cheaper than the Lumix GH5 and others.
The Lumix G7 is a 35mm lens DSLR complete camera system for a very reasonable price and comes with a 12-600mm lens, OLED display and a solid 16 mega-pixel sensor.
This model also has the ability to shoot 4K video, which is a useful feature, especially at this end of the price scale.
The Panasonic has what they call a live MOS sensor, which is CMOS variant. This includes auto focus and filters for post processing.
Looking at the reviews and image quality of example shots, this looks like a great mid-range camera. You can even transfer photos and videos from phone to camera using built in Wi-fi SSID. So this neat little device is packed full of additional features to make your life easier.
All this innovation and attention to detail can only be a good thing. The model even features a -4EV “low light AF”, which uses the processor to compensate in low light conditions, making it a solid contender for best low light DSLR out of the box.
Again, the ISO is 100-25600, with hot shoe for addition flash and a firm and solid SLR construction to it.
The sensor may not be as high quality as the other models features here. However, the standards of stability and ISO are similar, with an included lens and other options for a reasonable budget, make the Lumix G7 well worth a look and a great value DSLR camera.
Recommended budget option.
- Superb DSLM image quality without the bulk and weight of traditional DSLRs
- Never miss a photo with three unique 4K ultra HD video pause and save 4K photo modes
- Fast and precise auto focusing tracks the subject; Focus mode AFS (single) / AFF (flexible) / AFC...
- Class leading, ultra compact, interchangeable lens and accessory option; HDMI: microHDMI TypeD /...
- Unwire your creativity with integrated Wi Fi sharing
We told you the image quality was great! Take a look!
Features of a good Low Light DSLR
A low light DSLR Camera, is a specialist piece of equipment, which means it’s usually a premium product costing more, not being a standard feature or standard requirement.
Imagine if you’re taking a once in a lifetime trip to see the northern Lights, this is a challenging environment for good quality video and photos.
What factors are most important for low light camera performance?
Advanced CMOS Sensor
CMOS Sensor size is a factor. In poor light conditions, the higher the number of light points the image capture ability of the camera, i.e. 35mm camera Sensor or full frame camera.
This will ultimately provide a great foundation for an image which would normally struggle to be captured clearly, without blur or obtain great detail in your shots.
A full frame camera will almost always out perform a crop sensor (APS-C) or Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera every time.
ISO or Industry (of) Standardizing Organisation, camera setting defines how much light the camera can capture.
Increasing the ISO level, increases the camera’s shutter speed. Great for action shots and advanced aperture control.
There is a downside, however, being that the noise level is increased and in a lot of situations, just because you have strong ISO settings, it isn’t a given that you’ll want to use them.
The Noise effects the brightness and clarity of the image, which is a major downside. Noise can be avoided shooting in a lower ISO setting, using a wider aperture value or lens.
Good stabilisation ability
In low light levels, errors in your shot are more easily noticed. This means obvious blur and grainy images are intensified, so the better the camera’s ability to counter these problems the better.
Keep in eye out for these options when looking for great low light DSLRs.
- Vibration reduction (VR),
- Optical Image Stabilization (OIS),
- Optical SteadyShot,
- Shake Reduction (SR), and
- Vibration Compensation (VC).
These, or advanced versions of them, will greatly improve your image quality results in extreme conditions like night and low light level shoots.
Sony, as an example, seem to be a leader in these features.
Lens requirements for low light shooting orientates around the aperture size, 35mm to 50mm lens capture the most light and get the best low level results.
This is not a given, as Sigma cameras (and lenses) often work best with a 85mm lens in low light conditions.
The following lenses have traditionally tested well in low light conditions:
- Canon EF 24-79mm f/2.8 L 11 USM
- Sigma 35mm f1.4 ART DG HSM Lens
- Nikon AF Nikkor f/1.8D
In an outside environment, a wide angle lens captures the most light, so gets the best results.
Higher quality cameras avoid flash and flare shine on the image, less blur and greater detail due to enhanced stabilisation. This means you have a better chance of getting a clear, high quality image when it matters, in extreme and low light conditions.
Best Low Light DSLR – Thoughts and Summary
Camera bodies sadly aren’t cheap, but when paired with a 35-55mm high aperture lens, you will be maximising your chances for quality low light level results and professional grade results.
Not mentioned in this review, but well worth looking at are the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and the Fujifilm X-T2 18-55mm XF Lens, both appeared repeatedly when we researched low light shooting. So worth comparing with the others mentioned here.
If your life depends on professional grade shooting time and time again, it’s hard not to choose the processor controlled and highly developed Canon 77D plus high aperture 35mm + lens.
With all the assist features, much of the work is taken away from the shooter, allowing them to concentrate on the technical aspects of framing and composition of the image.
We hope you’ve got some effective information from this article on the best low light DSLR. Have we missed your favorite low light camera from this list? Let us know in the comments below.