When it comes to shooting photographs indoors or outside when its nightfall your camera choice can heavily influence how your photos will turn out. In these situations, its essential you have the best low light camera.
But what exactly is the best low light camera? Typically, it’s a camera with a large sensor and low noise presence, even when shooting at high ISOs.
But finding these cameras is no easy task, which is why we selected some of the best low light cameras on the market in 2020:
1. Sony a7S II
The Sony a7S II is the champion when it comes to low light photography. This camera is frequently featured in our recommendations, recently earning the title of the best camera for wedding photographers.
At a glance, you might be surprised to see this camera as one of our top recommendations. After all, a resolution of 12.2MP sounds far from impressive. However, this low resolution means that your pixel size is very large, and as a result, more light is captured. This also means that you shouldn’t find too much pesky noise creeping in to your photos when you crank up the ISO. This kind of performance is perfect for low light shooting scenarios where you’ll likely need to boost the ISO but don’t want to compromise on image quality.
Another advantage to this camera is its built-in image stabilization. This means that you won’t always need to use a tripod when you’re shooting at longer exposures. Sony has adopted a 5-axis image stabilization technology which makes for incredibly smooth and crisp images/footage.
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- Full-frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization
- Fast and effective, enhanced Fast Hybrid AF
- BIONZ X image processing engine ; Clear Image Zoom :Still/Movie: Approx. 2x
- In the box: Rechargeable Battery NP-FW50; Cable Protector; AC Adaptor AC-UUD11; Battery Charger BC-VW1; Shoulder strap; Body...
- 12.2 megapixels 10 35mm full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor Lens Compatibility - Sony E-mount lenses
Next up is one of Canon’s professional level full-frame DSLRs, the 5D Mark IV. This is a great camera for shooting both stills and videos.
The best thing about the 5D Mark IV is that it offers a good balance between resolution and low noise. With a DIGIC 6+ image processing engine the 5D Mark IV is capable of producing clean images even at very high ISOs. The native ISO range of the camera is 100 – 3200. With this sort of performance under its belt, it goes without saying that this is one of the best low light camera systems if you are looking for DSLRs.
Autofocusing is yet another significant point about the 5D Mark IV. The 5D Mark IV’s autofocusing system is powered by a 61 point system all of which are sensitive down to f/8. Out of these 61 points 41 are cross type which means they have double sensitivity when it comes to locking focus on two pieces of contrasting brightness levels. This accuracy is great for shooting in low light situations.
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- New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100-32000; expandable up...
- 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images;...
- Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD monitor has full touch-screen...
- Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor for improved...
- Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam, or do the...
3. Sony a7 III
The Sony a7 III is a mirrorless full-frame camera and one that shoots excellent images in low light situations. This low light performance is thanks to the 24MP Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor and the BIONZ X image processing engine.
Autofocusing in low light is a major hurdle for most cameras and this is where you need above-average performance.The a7 III provides exactly that with a 693-point phase detection hybrid (425 contrast detection points) auto-focusing mechanism. You’ll find low light autofocusing a doddle with this kind of technology.
Finally, image stabilization is the piece that brings everything together because it adds to the low light capability of the camera. Built-in 5-axis sensor shift type image stabilization is what makes the a7 III a useful camera to have if you are shooting low light images.
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- 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 lenses. Can be connected via...
- Up to 10fps silent or mechanical shutter with AE/AF tracking. Battery life (Still Images): Approx. 610 shots (Viewfinder) /...
- 693 phase detection / 425 contrast AF points w/ 93 percent image coverage. Focus sensor: Exmor R CMOS sensor
- In the box: Rechargeable battery (NP FZ100), AC adapter (AC UUD12), shoulder strap, body cap, Accessory shoe cap, Eyepiece...
4. Nikon D850
The D850 can be compared to the 5D Mark IV in terms of the target consumer base. Just a notch below the top end professional choices on each product range. But that said, both the 5D Mark IV and the D850 incorporate a number features from the top end products. Both the D850 and the 5D Mark IV discussed above have excellent low light capabilities.
Under the hood there is something new about the D850, and that is the sensor that powers the camera. Nikon has always used Sony sensors for their cameras. And this is the first time that they have used a sensor that is designed by their own R&D team. A full-frame high resolution (45.7 MP) BSI sensor is always a challenge to make. But Nikon has done a good job of it.
BSI sensors are known for their exceptional low light performance and the sensor inside the D850 is no exception. Thanks to the BSI technology you can not only hope to make clean images in low light but also have the confidence to make large prints out of them. The overall design makes the D850 a winner when it comes to the best low light camera performance.
- 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 moiré
- 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 2.31, Pict bridge
- Tilting touchscreen, focus shift shooting mode, outstanding battery performance and much more; total pixels: 46.89 million
5. Nikon D7500
The D7000 series’ latest model, the D7500 is one of the best cameras for low light photography. This camera borrows heavily from Nikon’s top-end models, incorporating some of the best tech in a lower-priced crop-frame camera.
This 20.9MP sensor produces clean images throughout. The native ISO range of the D7500 is 100 all the way to 51200. Of course you can further extend the ISO range but for all practical purposes that well encompasses the ISO range you will be shooting in when working in low light.
Additionally, the D7500’s autofocusing points are sensitive down to -3EV. There are 51 phase detection AF points and out of that 15 are cross type. Cross type points have far greater sensitivity when it comes to detecting contrast because it is able to detect it in two axes. Thus they are likely to be able to lock focus faster than line sensors in less contrasting situations as well as low light situations.
For a lower end option, the D7500 is definitely a low light camera to be considered!
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award winning D500
- Large 3.2” 922k dot, tilting Lcd screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °c to 40 °c (+32 °f to 104 °f)...
- 51 point AF system with 15 cross type sensors and group area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous shooting capability
- 4k ultra hd and 1080p full hd video with stereo sound, power aperture control, auto ISO, 4k UHD time lapse and more
- Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for easy connectivity through the Nikon snap bridge app
Fujifilm's X-T3 is the replacement for the older X-T2. It looks and feels and somewhat operates very much like the older camera. But there are some changes. Some subtle and some not so subtle. This camera takes good photos in low light.
Yes, the X-T2 may not have been the absolute best when it came to shooting low light, especially when you compare it to the likes of Sony’s mirrorless units, but things have moved up by a few notches with the X-T3.
The X-T3 does take beautiful photos in low light, even when using very high ISOs. The camera retains sufficient contrast and colors when shooting at a higher ISO thanks to the BSI sensor technology used in the camera. When it comes to autofocus performance, the X-T3 is pretty good with auto-focusing both in bright and in low light conditions. For a lower priced option, this is definitely a strong best low light camera option.
- 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 camera with APS C or...
- 2.16M phase detection pixels across entire frame and low light phase detection limits has been increased over X T2 by 2...
- 3.69 million dot OLED color viewfinder with 0.75x magnification and blackout free burst shooting
- 16 film simulation modes: Including eterna/cinema, B and w adjustment: 9~+9
The Best Low Light Cameras: Conclusion
Hopefully this article has given you and idea of the camera you want so you can get some stunning low light photos. Once you have your camera, all that’s left is to get out and shoot!
Is there a camera you use that you’d recommend to others for low light photography – why not share it with us in the comments?
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. He loves to test and review new photography gear. He has been writing about cameras and lenses for over 10 years now. You can consider him as your “master guide” here at PhotoWorkout.
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