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.
Nowadays, low light cameras are becoming more and more common due to their high-quality photos and affordable prices. There are even different types of low light DSLR cameras available on the market today.
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:
1. Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
Setting a New Benchmark in Professional Photography
Canon’s EOS-1D series has consistently been the go-to for professionals, especially those in sports and wildlife photography.
With the introduction of the EOS-1D X Mark III, Canon has once again fortified its dominance in the DSLR market. The camera is not just an upgrade but a testament to Canon’s commitment to providing cutting-edge tools for photographers.
Housing a newly designed 20.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and the DIGIC X image processor, the camera promises not only high-resolution images but also unparalleled speed.
Continuous shooting goes up to an astounding 20 fps in Live View mode and 16 fps with the optical viewfinder, ensuring that photographers never miss a moment.
Technological Marvel in Ergonomic Design
On the video front, the EOS-1D X Mark III doesn’t disappoint.
Capable of 5.5K 12-bit RAW video internal recording and 4K 60p with 10-bit 4:2:2 Canon Log, it’s evident that Canon is pushing the boundaries of what DSLRs can achieve.
The inclusion of the deep-learning AI autofocus technology means that the camera can smartly and swiftly track subjects, a feature that’s invaluable in fast-paced settings.
While the camera is packed with advancements, Canon hasn’t compromised on its usability.
The camera retains the ergonomic design characteristic of the EOS-1D series but includes a smart controller, which makes selecting autofocus points nearly 3 times faster than its predecessor.
The illuminated buttons, a first for the EOS-1D series, are a thoughtful addition for low-light conditions.
Robust Build Meets Advanced Connectivity
The EOS-1D X Mark III is not just about capturing images but also about transferring and storing them efficiently.
With built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS, alongside the super-fast built-in Ethernet or the optional WFT-E9, transferring images on-the-go is easier than ever.
The inclusion of a CFexpress card slot means faster write speeds and larger storage capacity.
All this tech is housed in a magnesium alloy body that promises durability.
Weather-sealed and robust, it’s built to endure the challenges of professional photography.
The camera’s battery life is also impressive, ensuring that one is always ready to capture, irrespective of the duration or the intensity of the shoot.
In conclusion, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is not just another upgrade in the market.
It’s a statement. A statement that DSLRs are here to stay and that they can hold their own against the onslaught of mirrorless cameras.
With a blend of speed, performance, and build quality, Canon ensures that professionals, whether they’re at the Olympics or on a wildlife expedition, have a reliable tool that captures every nuance of their subject.
The EOS-1D X Mark III is more than a camera; it’s Canon’s vision of the future of professional photography.
- High Image Quality with New 20. 1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor Combined with Newly Designed low...
- New DIGIC X Image Processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; Expandable to 50-819200 .
- New 191-point AF System Capable of Tracking the Subjects Head and Face using Deep Learning...
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF for Fast and Accurate Auto Focus using up to 3869 Manual AF Positions and up to...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a...
2. Nikon D850
A Perfect Marriage of Resolution and Speed
The Nikon D850 is a camera that manages to combine two features that photographers often had to choose between in the past: high resolution and fast performance.
At the heart of the D850 is a 45.7-megapixel full-frame BSI CMOS sensor.
This ensures that the images have an exquisite level of detail, making the camera perfect for landscape photographers, studio photographers, and anyone else who requires large, detail-rich prints. But this high resolution doesn’t come at the cost of speed.
The D850 can shoot continuously at 7 fps, which can be bumped up to 9 fps with the optional battery grip.
This ensures that even wildlife and sports photographers, typically drawn to faster, lower-resolution cameras, can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Ergonomics and Build Quality
When it comes to build quality and design, Nikon has kept up its reputation with the D850.
The camera feels robust in the hands, with a magnesium alloy body that is both weather-sealed and dust-resistant.
This ruggedness ensures that the D850 can handle the rigors of outdoor photography, whether it’s being used in a sandy desert or a humid rainforest.
The ergonomics are also spot on, with a deep grip that ensures the camera feels secure in hand.
The button layout is intuitive, making it easy for photographers to change settings on the fly without diving into menus.
The tilting touchscreen on the back, a first for a Nikon full-frame DSLR, adds another layer of usability, making it easier to shoot from awkward angles or to quickly select autofocus points.
Advanced Features for Modern Photography
Beyond the headline specifications, the D850 packs in a plethora of features that cater to the needs of modern photographers.
The camera’s 153-point autofocus system, borrowed from Nikon’s flagship D5, is both fast and accurate.
Whether you’re capturing a model in a studio or birds in flight, the D850 locks on to subjects with precision.
The ISO range of 64-25,600, which can be further expanded, ensures that the camera performs admirably in a variety of lighting conditions.
Videographers aren’t left out either. The D850 can capture 4K UHD video using the full width of its sensor.
Features like focus peaking and zebra stripes, more common in mirrorless cameras, are also available here, demonstrating Nikon’s commitment to meeting the needs of video shooters.
In summation, the Nikon D850 is a versatile tool that manages to cater to a wide range of photographers without significant compromise.
Its blend of resolution, speed, build quality, and advanced features make it a compelling choice for professionals and serious enthusiasts.
Whether one is looking to capture the intricacies of a portrait, the grandeur of a landscape, or the action of wildlife, the D850 stands out as one of the most well-rounded DSLRs in the market.
- Nikon designed back side illuminated (BSI) full frame image sensor with no optical low pass filter
- 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of...
- Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance
- 8k6 and 4k time lapse movies with new levels of sharpness and detail; file system : DCF 2.0, exif...
- Tilting touchscreen, focus shift shooting mode, outstanding battery performance and much more; total...
BEST LOW LIGHT DSLR CAMERAS
What Are Low Light DSLR Cameras?
Low light DSLR cameras are a popular choice for photographers due to their ability to capture the best images in low-light conditions.
This is especially true when shooting with a wide aperture lens, which captures more light than your average camera.
Some of the best low light DSLR cameras on the market today include: Canon EOS 5DS R, Nikon D810A, and Sony A7S II.
These models are all high end models that provide professional performance without sacrificing quality or affordability.
3. Sony A7S III
Master of Low Light and Video
The Sony A7S III is often hailed as the master of low light and video within the realms of mirrorless cameras.
Sony’s decision to stick with a 12.1-megapixel full-frame sensor might seem unusual in an age where high resolution is often seen as king.
However, this decision pays dividends when it comes to sensitivity and noise performance.
Each pixel on the sensor is larger, which allows it to gather more light.
This translates to exceptional low-light capabilities, with an ISO range that can be expanded up to an astonishing 409,600.
Videographers, in particular, will appreciate the camera’s ability to record 4K video at 120fps, delivering silky smooth motion, while also offering 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording which greatly benefits color grading in post-production.
Ergonomics and User Experience
Sony has listened to its user base and made several tweaks to the A7S III’s design, aiming to improve the overall handling and user experience.
The camera features a more pronounced grip, making it more comfortable for extended shooting sessions.
The menu system, a common gripe with previous Sony models, has been overhauled, making it more intuitive and touch-friendly.
The fully articulating touch screen is a boon for vloggers and those shooting video, allowing for flexible shooting angles and easy touch-to-focus control.
Dual card slots, which support both SD UHS-II and the faster CFexpress Type A cards, ensure that photographers and videographers have the flexibility and speed they need for various shooting scenarios.
Revolutionary Autofocus and Stabilization
When it comes to autofocus, the A7S III is no slouch.
Leveraging Sony’s latest advancements in AF technology, the camera boasts 759 phase-detection points that cover 92% of the image area.
This ensures quick and accurate focus, regardless of where the subject is within the frame.
Real-time Eye AF for both humans and animals is especially impressive, keeping subjects sharply in focus even when they’re on the move.
Complementing this autofocus prowess is the camera’s 5-axis in-body stabilization.
This offers up to 5.5 stops of shake reduction, making it easier to capture sharp images at slow shutter speeds or smooth video footage when shooting handheld.
In conclusion, the Sony A7S III excels as a tool designed for those who demand top-tier video capabilities and unparalleled low-light performance.
While it may not cater to the resolution-hungry, it offers a suite of features that make it a standout choice for videographers, night photographers, and anyone who requires a camera that performs when the lights go down.
Its combination of advanced autofocus, improved ergonomics, and high-end video features ensure that it holds a unique and revered spot in the mirrorless camera market.
- 12.1MP1 Exmor R sensor, optimized for 4K, sensitivity and speed.Bluetooth : version 5.0
- New BIONZ XR processing engine delivers 8x more processing power2
- Low noise images with ISO up to 409,6003 and 15 plus 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)
BEST LOW LIGHT DSLR CAMERAS
Advantages To Using Low Light DSLR Cameras
• DSLR cameras with lower ISO are better for shooting in low light environments.
• DSLR cameras can produce much cleaner and sharper images when using a tripod or other type of camera stabilization.
• You can shoot up to 1,000 photos per second with your Low Light DSLR Camera.
• Equipped with sensor and lens capability that light up the night.
• Capture more clear pictures of your subject in low-lit room.
• Shoot in a wide range of environments, from portraits to landscapes.
4. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
All-Rounder with a Sturdy Legacy
The Canon EOS 5D series has long been a benchmark in the world of DSLRs, providing a blend of top-tier performance with practicality.
The EOS 5D Mark IV continues this lineage, presenting itself as an all-rounder that appeals to both professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Housing a 30.4-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, the Mark IV offers a noticeable step up in resolution from its predecessor.
This ensures detailed images that can cater to large prints or provide ample room for cropping in post-production.
Alongside its stills capabilities, the camera is adept at video, offering DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) video recording at up to 30fps.
Advanced Features for Modern Demands
One of the standout features of the EOS 5D Mark IV is its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system.
This technology allows for faster autofocus during live view and video recording, effectively utilizing phase detection across the sensor’s surface to lock onto subjects with both speed and accuracy.
Another noteworthy addition is the inclusion of the Dual Pixel RAW format.
This allows photographers to make micro-adjustments to focus, bokeh, and ghosting effects after the shot is taken.
The built-in GPS and Wi-Fi functionalities further modernize the camera, providing geotagging capabilities and the convenience of wireless file transfers or remote control through a compatible smartphone or tablet.
Balancing Ergonomics and Performance
Canon’s design philosophy places emphasis on user experience, and the EOS 5D Mark IV is no exception.
The camera’s body retains the robustness and weather-sealing that the series is known for, ensuring reliability in challenging environments.
The familiar layout of controls ensures that those upgrading from earlier models will feel right at home.
The touchscreen interface is responsive and makes for intuitive navigation, especially during live view or when reviewing shots.
Under the hood, the DIGIC 6+ image processor ensures swift operation, minimal shutter lag, and rapid image processing.
Paired with a decent burst speed of 7fps, this camera is capable of handling fast-paced scenarios, from wildlife chases to fleeting moments in wedding ceremonies.
In essence, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV emerges as a versatile tool in the hands of photographers who demand a balance of resolution, performance, and usability.
While the world has seen a rapid shift towards mirrorless technology, the Mark IV proves that there’s still a solid place for DSLRs in the professional arena.
It carries forward the reputable 5D name, blending tried-and-true design with features that meet the demands of contemporary photography and videography.
- 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+ Image...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a...
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.
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