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:
Best Low Light Mirrorless Cameras: 4 Great Picks in 2020
1. Sony Alpha a7S II
The 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.
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.
- 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
2. Sony Alpha a7 III
The 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.
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
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.
- This Bundle Includes BRAND NEW Sony Alpha a7III, Soft Padded Carrying Case, 5 Piece Cleaning Kit
- The Sony Alpha a7III full-frame 24.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor works with the BIONZ X image processor to offer...
- 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
- ISO 204800 and 10 fps Shooting | Built-In Wi-Fi and NFC, Dual SD Slots
3. Sony Alpha a9
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.
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.
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 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.
- World’s first Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor w/ integrated memory
- World’s first blackout-free continuous shooting up to 20 fps. Battery Life (Still Images) - Approx. 480 shots (Viewfinder)...
- Silent, vibration-free, anti-distortion shutter up to 1/32,000 sec.
- 693 Phase Detection AF points over 93% frame coverage. Operating Temperature - 32 - 104 degrees F / 0 - 40 degrees C
- In-the-box: Power cord, Cable Protector, AC Adaptor, Battery Charger BC-QZ1, Shoulder strap, Body cap, Accessory shoe cap,...
4. Nikon Z6
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.
Related Post: The Best Lenses for Nikon Z-Mount Cameras
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.
- Large, full frame Z mount for Revolutionary optical performance
- Nikon-designed 24. 5MP backside illuminated image sensor
- 273-Point on-sensor Phase detect AF system
- Up to 12 fps; 4K Ultra-HD video; 6K time-lapse; 1080P/120Fps slow motion
- Compatible with NIKKOR Z lenses, over 360 F-mount NIKKOR lenses
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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