Best Low Light Camera
The thrill of a nighttime photography adventure can be hard to resist, so why not find a camera that excels in low light conditions?
Whether you’re trawling the streets in a new city at night, or exploring familiar areas when the sun goes down, having a camera that can produce great results with low lighting can be a great idea.
Not all cameras perform well without the sun lighting up the surroundings, so pick carefully according to your personal preferences.
Here’s what to expect in this article:
- Reviews of the best low light camera
- A detailed selection guide
- Your burning questions answered in a FAQ
Without further ado, here are our top picks…
👑 Our Pick for Best Overall
⭐ Our Other Top Picks for Low Light Cameras
Best Low Light Camera Reviews
Sony A7S III (👑 Best of the Best)
The best low light camera, in our view, is the full-frame mirrorless A7S III from Sony.
This camera operates at the highest level of quality, and blows its competitors out of the water with unrivaled low light performance. The clarity and detail when using this camera in low light conditions is truly breathtaking – even more so for recording video footage. If you have the budget to match the hefty price tag of this mirrorless camera from Sony, you won’t be disappointed with the return on your investment.
First of all, it’s worth noting that this is a specialist camera that shines as a filmmaking tool. That isn’t to say it doesn’t always produce excellent stills (it does), but just that it’s more apt for shooting impressive nighttime video. This is due in large part to the full-frame movie performance which includes high sensitivity as a result of the expanded ISO which tops out at 409600. But that’s not all. There’s also 15-stop wide dynamic range for every possible shot imaginable, sophisticated autofocus for keeping things clear, and extra-strong image stabilization to steady the footage. Oh, and then there’s the fact that this camera can shoot in 4K at 120p1, which makes more movie-level video, if that’s something which interests you.
All of the video-focused features of the A7S III make it an outstanding camera for nighttime adventures, if what you’re looking to capture is fast-moving cars, the business of city life, or any other subject matter which requires high resolution and a smooth framerate. The main attribute which makes it stand out in this regard is the astonishing ISO range, which can produce some incredibly cinematic results – a quick search on Youtube can verify this easily enough.
But how well does it do for stills?
Well, the same qualities that make this camera excellent for video are also what make it a fantastic choice for still photography, too. There really isn’t much you can’t do with this camera, such is its versatility. There are so many features with this camera that Sony’s product page could take you a whole afternoon to read. But to save you the effort, here are some of the highlights.
As mentioned, the fast hybrid autofocus system with 759 focal plane phase-detection sensors and 425 contrast-detection points does a lot for the clarity of subjects for both stills and video. The high ISO range too can contribute to stills as it allows for incredibly clean images in low light conditions as well as more defined textures. This is true even if the subject you’re taking a photo of is in next to no light. As for the image sensor, this camera is packing a full frame Exmor R CMOS sensor and 12.1 Megapixels with 15-stop wide dynamic range which is powered by the impressive BIONZ XR processing engine.
- Mirrorless full frame camera
- 12.1 Megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
- BIONZ XR processing engine
- ISO up to 409,600
- 15-stop wide dynamic range
- Video recording in 4K at 120p
- Autofocus with 759 focal plane phase-detection sensors and 425 contrast-detection points
- 510 shot battery life
WHY WE CHOSE IT AS OUR TOP PICK
1. This mirrorless camera is practically flawless. If you want to record video in low light conditions, nothing comes close to this model.
2. As well as boasting stunning low light cinematic video, this camera’s high ISO range and impressive processing engine make it a great camera for late night stills.
3. The image sensor allows for stunning photography, even on the darkest of nights when there’s little to no light on your subject.
4. You can record incredible video in 4K at the ultra smooth framerate of 120p, which is suitable even for fast-moving subjects like cars.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV (🥈 Runner Up)
Our runner up pick for best low light camera goes to the exceptional EOS 5D Mark IV from Canon.
This full frame DSLR is a mighty camera with excellent performance in low light conditions. This is primarily due to the broad ISO range, but there are many other features housed inside the body of this camera that make it special. Most worthy of note for still photography is the 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor which is capable of capturing exquisite shots in just about any lighting conditions. This makes it just as good for daytime adventures as it is night time explorations. Throw in the dual pixel CMOS 61-point autofocus system too, and you’ll find that the subject of your photography or videography remains in focus the whole time.
Aside from the impressive image sensor, this camera has an ISO range of 100-32000 which can expand up to 50-102400. ISO range is one of the biggest factors in low light performance since it refers to how sensitive the sensor of the camera is to light. This affects the exposure of each photo or video, so by adjusting the ISO you can optimise the image for different levels of lighting. The higher the number with ISO, the higher the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light will be, which affords the user more options when dealing with various light conditions.
This camera is also capable of capturing top quality video, too, offering 4k JPEG video at 30p or 24p. While the framerate is significantly lower than the Sony A7S III, this camera doesn’t pretend to be the best in cinematic-level video recording, and is also more affordable. It’s a camera which focuses more on still photography in low lighting, which makes it perfect for nighttime photo shoots. There’s also 7fps continuous shooting, so if you need to experiment with burst shots, you can do so easily enough.
- Full frame DSLR
- 30.4 Megapixel full frame sensor
- 61 point autofocus
- 7fps continuous shooting
- 4K video at 30fps
- ISO range of 100-32000 which expands up to 50-102400
Nikon D7500 (💎 Best on a Budget)
The third of the three camera manufacturer titans, Nikon, has what can be considered the best low light camera for a budget: the D750.
The D750 is significantly less expensive than the other two top low light cameras in this guide, but you wouldn’t know from its stellar performance. This full frame DSLR gives the competition a run for its money, and not least because it offers up a premium photography experience at an affordable price point. The main difference between this and the other two cameras from main rivals Sony and Canon is that the sensor size of the D750 is cropped instead of full frame. This means you’ll get slightly less dynamic range than you would with the A7S III, and the EOS 5D Mark IV, but if you’re fine with that, then this is one exceptional piece of kit.
What makes the D750 worthy of this list of the best low light cameras is its ability to outperform the competition in many areas, and the excellent image quality it allows with its array of features. It’s a camera that is ideal for beginner’s not wanting to break the bank of their first low light camera, but also for the experienced photographer looking for a solid DSLR. The 20.9 Megapixel CMOS image sensor is a good place to start with this DSLR, which is paired with EXPEED 4 image processing to outstanding effect. Every photo you take with this camera, regardless of the lighting conditions, should come at as crisp and clearly as you could hope. This is aided by the 51 focus point and 15 cross-type sensors of the autofocus system, which help keep the subject clear for both stills and video.
8fps continuous shooting will be a welcome feature for those who enjoy capturing a subject in motion in a single snapshot, and the lightweight body of the camera makes it easy to capture scenes as they unfold around you. But it’s the 4K ultra HD video recording which will be your most useful tool if you plan on capturing motion with the D7500. Despite the fact that the image sensor is cropped as opposed to full frame, you can still record in all the glory and detail of 4K, which is highly impressive for this reasonably-priced DSLR. If you’re looking to experiment with the highest quality video resolution, then this a great camera to start out with.
As for the ISO, the Nikon D7500 offers the user a range of 100-12,800 which is expandable to 51,200. This should provide the perfect amount of light sensitivity for the image sensor, so that your night time photo shoots produce crystal clear stills. There’s also compatibility with the Nikon SnapBridge app, which allows you to transfer your images to your mobile device or tablet via Bluetooth.
- Full frame DSLR
- 20.9 Megapixel CMOS image sensor
- EXPEED 4 image processing
- 8fps continuous shooting
- 51 autofocus points and 15 cross-type sensors
- ISO range of 100-51,200
- 950 shots on a single charge
- Compatible with Nikon SnapBridge app
If you’re looking for the very best low light camera for your needs, then you’re going to need to dig a little deeper and sift through the surface level information about the cameras.
While it’s important to know about the image sensor of a camera and the video resolution it records in, for low light performance there are other key features involved.
We saved you the effort of trawling the internet in search of what makes a good low light camera, by listing the most important features in this ultimate buyer guide.
ISO is by far the biggest factor as far as low light performance is concerned. Without a broad ISO range, you’re unlikely to get the results you’re looking for, regardless of other features the camera may have.
In short, the ISO range of a camera refers to how sensitive the sensor of the camera is to light.
Logic follows then, that the higher the ISO range, the higher the sensor will be sensitive to light. So for a great low light camera, you’re going to want to see a very high top end ISO number.
The ISO range affects the level of exposure, so unless you want night time photos that come out dark and barely visible, invest in a camera with a wide range.
At the top end of the scale you have cameras like our top pick, the Sony A7S III, which offer a staggering range of ISO up to 409,600. Yet, a camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, with an ISO range of ISO range which expands to 102400 is still very competent.
A high value of ISO is any number over 1000 really, and the higher it is after that, the more clear your night time photos will come out.
Photo or Video
It’s crucial that you determine whether photo or video is more important to you before you part with your cash, since this will tell you what to look for in the camera.
If it’s crisp night time photos you’re after, then you’ll want to pay more attention to the Megapixels and image sensor of the camera.
It’s best to go for a full framed image sensor if you want the best dynamic range in your shots, but a cropped image sensor can do a great job too.
If it’s cinematic-level videos you want to record in low light, then pay attention to the video resolution and framerate the camera can record in.
4K is non-negotiable if you value high quality video, so really it’s the framerate that you should focus on.
A framerate of 30fps in 4K is very respectable, but some cameras which are made for creating cinematic video in low light conditions like SOny’s A7S III offer an incredible 120fps, which allows for slow motion and other fun effects.
Autofocus is important for any camera you buy, there should be no doubt about that.
For taking photos and video in low light conditions, it’s useful as it allows you to focus on what’s important rather than making sure the subject is clearly in focus.
A good autofocus system is perhaps more important in low light conditions than it is when lighting is bright, since you might be straining your eyes to keep the subject in focus.
What makes a great autofocus system generally is that it has a lot of autofocus points, since this will more clearly define the image in the camera’s eye.
The more autofocus points a camera has, the better suited it will be to shooting epic video and fast-flowing action too.
Factors to Look For When Buying a Low Light Camera
If you are an amateur photographer, then capturing some amazing images in low light conditions can be a challenging task for you. Professional photographers know how to make photography breath-taking even in low light.
As an amateur, you may find it difficult to choose the best low light digital camera from the market, as a number of factors are associated with it.
Though the skill and technique play a major role in great photography, you cannot deny the role of a feature-packed camera for this. We are here to help you to buy the best camera for low light conditions with a few simple tips and we hope this will help you to secure a profitable deal.
1. Size of the Sensor
Sensor size plays a major role in low light photography and this can be a key buying factor for you. If the sensor of the camera is low, it will capture less light and you will get the low-quality picture as the result.
Big sensors incorporate necessary light required for high-quality photography and if you are planning to invest in a camera designed for low-light photography, never forget to conduct market research; as such a camera can be highly expensive and simple market research can help you save a lot.
2. ISO of the Sensor
Here is another important factor to look for when buying a digital camera for low light. ISO measures and controls the sensitivity of the sensor. Higher ISO ensures faster shutter speed and high-quality photography. If you buy a camera with better sensor sensitivity, it will create great images even in low light conditions.
It is better to buy a camera with 1600 or more ISO. You can also find cameras with more than 25,000 ISO but these cameras are quite expensive and you have to be a little bit careful when choosing such one.
3. Take Care of Megapixels
Though the capability of the sensor ensures the quality of a photograph megapixels or the resolution plays an important role in photography. If your camera comes with a larger number of megapixels, you can expect high-quality and sharp print images.
Higher megapixels will certainly help you to capture high-resolution images but a high megapixels camera will not make you an expert overnight.
Here you must remember that megapixels are just another feature of a camera that plays a role in low light photography. Do not purchase an expensive camera with higher megapixels if you do not need it. Do not get lured by high megapixels, as this can compel you to spend hugely.
4. Prefer Brighter Lenses
If you are planning to buy the best low light camera, you must pay attention to the lenses. Brighter lenses are good for low light photography, as brighter lenses come with the low depth field that allows the light to reach the sensor easily. Brighter lenses can make images impressive even in low light conditions.
The aperture value is another factor you need to look at. The aperture value is related to lenses. Greater aperture value ensures less bright lenses. If you are planning to invest in a camera for low light photography brighter lenses will be an effective feature for you.
5. Noise Control Feature
The high volume of ISO often makes more noise and you have to be careful about this when buying the best low light camera. Many low light cameras come with noise control feature that affects sensor and reduce noises. In most cases, low-light cameras feature a larger sensor and the size often determines the level of noise in cameras.
6. Options In Menu
The menu will bring the world of options for you and you must consider it an important factor. Though the nature of the menu varies from one model to another you have to make sure it is easy to understand and use. Some brands prefer user-friendly menu options for the users and you may not need to read the manuals to understand them.
Some cameras can save photos in either JPEG or raw format, while most of the cameras can save photos in JPEG format. Raw format is believed to be the best, as the raw format can capture all the information and allows the users to enjoy the flexibility to adjust mistakes.
Autofocus remains a key factor when it comes to high-quality photography. The autofocus feature helps users target the spot they want to target when capturing an image. Missed focus can be a major issue and the autofocus feature can help you to get rid of it.
3. Image Stabilization
Whether it is a low-light or normal light photography, vibration and shakiness can be a major obstacle for you. The digital image stabilization feature can stable the camera lens and reduce the possibility of blurriness even in low light conditions.
4. Panoramic Mode
The feature allows a camera to capture multiple images of an object or scene and joint them together to make it a panoramic shot. You can find the feature more in point and shoot and mirrorless cameras than DSLRs.
5. Video Recording
Video recording has become an option in digital cameras. You can find the options in most types of digital cameras including point and shoot, mirrorless and DSLRs. You can also find a digital camera with 4K video recording option.
7. Other Features
Along with the lens, ISO and megapixels, you need to take care of a few additional features that can play a major role in low light photography. Many brands come with low-light cameras with Wi-Fi that facilitates wireless file transfer and sharing.
You can also focus on the size and capacity of the SD card. Most of the low-light cameras now come with the maximum 128 GB capacity that will allow you to stores plenty of high-resolution images without any fear of low memory alert.
Low light cameras are expensive and you will expect them to serve you for a long period. Durability is one of the key factors to look at. Though the brand you have chosen may not say anything about the durability of the product you have to make sure that it features sturdy magnesium allow as material for internal frames and sealing for weather protection.
Before you think about buying the best low light camera, you should have a purpose in mind. Low-light cameras are designed for those interested in indoor and low-light photography. They are expensive and come with a lot of features and options. If you are a photography enthusiast or want to explore the world of low-light photography, you can invest in a low-light camera.
A low-light camera can be an expensive purchase and you must set a budget before you heading for an online or physical camera shop. The price of a camera varies from one model to another and you must check all the features and confirm if you need them to fulfil your purpose.
Expensive camera models are out there and they can be great for low light photography. If you have come with a strict budget, do not choose a camera with unnecessary features and accessories.
These are some of the key factors that you must look for when buying the best low light camera from online or physical stores. Low light photography is a complex task and you may require some to become a master in this. Buying a suitable low light camera may help you capture some breathtaking images even in low light conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Low Light Cameras
What camera is better for low light conditions?
We believe that the best camera for low light conditions is the Sony A7S III.
This mirrorless camera is more or less the complete package when it comes to shooting in low light conditions.
Whether you’re looking to record cinematic-quality video, or take stunning stills, you can do so effortlessly with the A7S III.
Which compact camera is best for low light?
The Nikon D7500 is a lightweight DSLR camera, which is available at a reasonable price and punches above its weight in terms of performance.
This is a camera which offers up top level performance in low light conditions, while still being compact and light enough to carry in your pocket, which encourages spontaneous night time photo shoots.
Which camera is best for night photography?
Arguably the best camera for night photography is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
This full frame DSLR has a 30.4 Megapixel full frame sensor, and a wide ISO range of 100-32000 which expands up to 50-102400.
These features, combined with the 61 point autofocus system, make for an incredibly competent camera for shooting in low light conditions.
Can I capture action shots in low light conditions?
Capturing a shot in low light conditions can be a challenging task for an amateur unless you have an advanced low light camera. If you have a camera with an adjustable aperture and shutter speed, it will be easy for you to freeze a moment in low light conditions. Though an efficient low light camera makes the task of light photography easy the quality of the images often depends on how dark the object or the area is.
How can I reduce the noise level?
Noise is a major issue in low light photography and you can reduce the level of noise by lowering the level of ISO. If possible try to identify the ISO at which the camera creates noise. However, apart from measuring the ISO level, you have to ensure the right exposure.
Underexposed shot often create noise in low light conditions. Lowering ISO can help you to capture great low light images.
What is the importance of white balance?
White balance is an important factor in the low light photography and it’s important choose the right white balance for the conditions.
The format of your photo can play a role here. If the photo has been taken in RAW format, you will have the chance to adjust the balance later, while in JPGs format you will need to have perfect white balance in your camera.
In most cases, the camera lens cannot differentiate the color of sunlight and fluorescent and tungsten light bulb. Cameras that come with a white balance setting can adjust the difference automatically and create an image as natural as possible.
Some digital cameras also come with a manual white balance setting. In simple words, white balance tells the camera how the different colours will be captured in different lights. It also helps in removing unwanted colour cast. Colour cast can make your image look unnatural and can ruin your image.
How many megapixels are required for low light photography?
Megapixel alone will not help you to capture good images in low light conditions, as the sensor and ISO will also play a major role here. If you are planning to buy the best low light camera, it is better to invest in a product that comes with the effective features required for low light photography. A 15-20 megapixel camera can be enough for the low light photoshoot but you have to look at other factors for a satisfactory outcome.
Related: Best Action Cameras
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A Final Word From Run Gun Shoot
If you are an amateur photographer, capturing quality images in low light conditions can be a challenging task for you. If you are interested in low light photography and want to invest in the best low light camera, you should take care of all these above-mentioned factors.
Choosing a camera with great low light performance boils down to a few important features such as ISO, but will also depend on your personal preferences.
Whether you’re looking to take epic night time shots or record stunning videos in the dark, there’ll be a camera for you in this guide.