Best Low Light Mirrorless Camera

Low light photography is a specialized genre. It is gear dependent. Not every camera is suitable for low light work. Since there is a lack of light to work with you need a special camera. One that can produce good exposure even in those difficult situations.

Today, we shall be looking at the best low light mirrorless camera systems that you can buy right now. We have gone through several cameras and these are the top four best low light mirrorless camera systems according to us:

  1. Sony Alpha a7S II
  2. Sony Alpha a7 III
  3. Sony Alpha a9
  4. Nikon Z6

Best Low Light Mirrorless Camera

Best Low Light Mirrorless Cameras: 4 Great Picks in 2019

1. Sony Alpha a7S II

Price on Amazon: from $2,198.00    61 Reviews

Sony Alpha a7S II Best Low Light Mirrorless CameraThe Sony Alpha a7S II continues to amaze us with its sheer low light performance. This is a true low light champion and arguably the best camera for this genre. One of the main features that determine the low light performance of a camera is the size of the pixels. The larger the individual pixels, the more light it can capture.Sony Alpha a7S II front view

A Word on Pixel Size and Pixel Density

Thus, the size of the sensor, too, affects this measurement. If the sensor size is small, such as when you compare a crop sensor camera with a full-frame sensor.

This is where the Sony a7S II does have phenomenal performance. The full-frame sensor real estate is filled with 12.4 effective megapixels. That means the individual pixel size is much larger than other full frame high-resolution sensors. As a matter of fact, it is something around 8.40 µm (microns).

In other words, higher pixel density is never a requirement for low light photography.

The a7S II has a maximum ISO sensitivity of 409600. The original a7S was also a good low light camera. But the new system has been optimized. Plus, the low light algorithm has been updated too. This ensures that the camera handles low light much better.

Also, the dynamic range has improved since the first version. Increased dynamic range helps produce better images in low light conditions. Making the a7S II arguably the best low light mirrorless camera.

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262 Reviews on B&H
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63 Reviews on Amazon
  • 12.2MP Full-Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
  • S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 0.5" 2.36m-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF
  • 3.0" 1,228,800-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • Up to 5 fps Shooting and ISO 409600
  • Fast Intelligent AF
  • 169 AF Points
  • Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC

2. Sony Alpha a7 III

Price on Amazon: from $2,699.00    118 Reviews

Sony Alpha a7III Best Low Light Mirrorless CameraThe Sony Alpha a7 II is the best low light mirrorless camera. That is until you bring the Sony Alpha a7 III into the discussion. The second most important mirrorless in this discussion is the Sony Alpha a7 III.

This mirrorless system comes with a 24-megapixel sensor. The same as the previous version. But this is a BSI sensor. The individual pixel size is 6.00 µm. Thus, even though the size of the pixels is not the same as on the a7S II it still does its job.

Sony Alpha a7 III front view

A Word on BSI Sensor Architecture

The a7 III has a BSI CMOS sensor design. BSI sensors architecture is different from what normal imaging sensors in terms of design. In normal sensors, the light-sensitive photodiodes and the accompanying wiring are all on the same surface.

On BSI sensors the light capturing photodiodes are on the upper surface. The lower surface contains the wiring. This increases the chances of light to be captured by up to 90%. Therefore improving the overall efficiency and mainly the low light performance.

Related Post: Best Low Light Cameras

Comparison of 1. standard sensor structure and 2. back-illuminated structure

Now for some very interesting details. According to DxOMark the low light rating of the a7 III is actually better than the Sony a7S II. Low light photography rating of the a7S II is 2993 while that of the a7 III is 3730. It is also better than the D850. Obviously, the D850 is not a part of this discussion. But it is something to keep in your mind when picking up the a7 III.

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434 Reviews on B&H
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156 Reviews on Amazon
  • 24MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
  • 693-Point Hybrid AF System
  • UHD 4K30p Video with HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
  • 2.36m-Dot Tru-Finder OLED EVF
  • 3.0" 922k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • ISO 204800 and 10 fps Shooting
  • Built-In Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Dual SD Slots
  • USB Type-C Port
  • Weather-Sealed Design

3. Sony Alpha a9

Price on Amazon: from $3,998.00    38 ReviewsSony Alpha a9 Best Low Light Mirrorless Camera

The Sony Alpha a9 is the third entrant in this discussion of the best low light mirrorless camera. It has been rated very highly by DxOMark in their low light performance rating.

As a matter of fact, it sits right between the two mirrorless systems that we have discussed above. It pits the a7S II but narrowly misses out to the a7 III in terms of low light sports rating.

Sony Alpha a9 Front view

The Sony Alpha a9 is powered by a 24.2 megapixel full-frame backlit stacked CMOS sensor. It also comes with a global shutter mechanism. The last of which is not entirely about low light photography.

Sony Alpha a9 Rear View

We have already seen plenty of backlit full-frame sensor architectures. But what Sony has done with the A9 is that they have rearranged the memory slots to push them further back. This opens up a lot more space for light to get captured. In addition to that, the stacked design actually incorporates a memory layer.

Sony Alpha a9 Rear View

Sony says that the new design architecture leads to a multitude of other benefits like higher resolution and faster readout. That in turns produces a much higher frame rate and a larger amount of detail.

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77 Reviews on B&H
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39 Reviews on Amazon
  • 24.2MP Full-Frame Stacked CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor & Front-End LSI
  • 693-Point AF System & 20 fps Shooting
  • Blackout-Free Quad-VGA 3.7m-Dot OLED EVF
  • Internal UHD 4K Video Recording
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 3.0" 1.44m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • ISO 204,800
  • Silent Electronic Shutter
  • Built-In Wi-Fi/Bluetooth
  • Dual SD Slots
  • Integrated LAN and PC Sync Terminals

4. Nikon Z6

Price on Amazon: from $1,796.95    26 ReviewsNikon Z6 Best Low Light Mirrorless Camera

The next is a surprising entry. The Nikon Z6 is the smaller sibling to the Nikon Z7. 24.5 megapixel as against 45.7 megapixel makes a huge difference. But for the sake of this discussion, we shall only limit ourselves to the low light prowess of the two.

That huge difference in resolution translates into larger pixels. The Z6 with its smaller resolution is able to capture more light per pixel than the Z7. As a matter of fact, the Z6 has one ISO advantage over the Z7. While the maximum ISO of the Z7 is 25600 (Native), that on the Z6 is 51200, significantly higher.Nikon z6 Front View

Plus the Z6 uses a dual-gain technology. This second higher-gain circuit will suppress noise at ISO levels above 800. This will reduce grain but in the process, some amount of detail will also be lost.

In that regard, the Z6 is a better camera than the Z7. DxOMark rates the Z6 3299 in the low light sports segment, whereas the Z7 is 2668.

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135 Reviews on B&H
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47 Reviews on Amazon
  • 24.5MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processing Engine
  • UHD 4K30 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
  • 273-Point Phase-Detect AF System
  • Built-In 5-Axis Vibration Reduction
  • 0.80x 3.6m-Dot EVF with NIKKOR Optics
  • 3.2" 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 12 fps Shooting; ISO 100-51200
  • Top-Panel Dot-Matrix OLED; XQD Card Slot
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Comparing the Sony Alphas for Low Light

Preview Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
Title Sony Alpha a9 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
Rating
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Price $4,498.00
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Best Choice
Preview Sony Alpha a7S II Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
Title Sony Alpha a7S II Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
Rating
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Price $2,398.00
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Note: Last Amazon.com Price Update: 2019-05-30 | Refer to our Affiliate Disclosure and Disclaimer.

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