Dreaming of landing a Nat Geo magazine cover with a breathtaking shot of the night sky? Or maybe one on The Surfers Journal of an Indonesian sunset surf session? Or perhaps you just want to be able to take some great pics of your family and friends, even when the light dips.
- 1 Top 10 Best Cameras For Low Light Photography In 2021 Review
- 1.1 1 Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body – Best Customizable Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.2 2 Pentax K-3 Mark II Digital SLR – Best Value for the Money Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.3 3 Sony α7R IV Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera – Best Mirrorless Full Frame Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.4 4 Nikon D5 Digital SLR – Best 3D Tracking Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.5 5 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera – Most Ergonomic Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.6 6 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera – Best Premium Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.7 7 PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S Body 4K Digital Camera, 10.2 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera with High-Sensitivity MOS Sensor. – Best Camera for Low Light Photography and Video
- 1.8 8 Sony RX100VA Cyber-shot Point and Shoot Camera – Best Point and Shoot Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.9 9 Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Point and Shoot Camera – Best Budget Camera for Low Light Photography
- 1.10 10 Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera – Best True Color Camera for Low Light Photography
- 2 Before We Announce Our Winner…
- 3 So, What Are The Best Cameras For Low Light Photography?
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
That’s right because we are here to line up the top contenders in the “Ideal Cameras for Low Light Photography” category and see what each brings to the table. We are looking for cameras that not only handle low light conditions with ease but also cameras that will perform brilliantly in all lighting conditions.
What makes the best cameras for low light photography?
For low light, a camera with a large sensor is best; full-frame, if possible, but APS-C and mirrorless sensors can also do a great job. You will also want a fast lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or lower.
There will be times when shooting in low light that you will need to increase the time the shutter stays open, so any sort of inbuilt stabilization is essential (either lens-based, sensor-based, or both if possible). And if you absolutely need to freeze-frame in dark environments, a high ISO setting will be invaluable.
Options in every price range…
We are going to take a look at the full range of offerings, from budget to high-end, available right now. Anyway, that is more than enough info to start with. Let’s dive straight into the list so you can decide which is the best model for your needs!
Top 10 Best Cameras For Low Light Photography In 2021 Review
1 Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body – Best Customizable Camera for Low Light Photography
For a camera that is a few years old now (released in 2014), the Nikon D750 offers low light performance that is truly remarkable!
How is this possible?
It’s pretty simple, actually. The magic comes from the combination of a top-class sensor and autofocus system and impressively high-ISO capabilities. This combination provides a sensitivity range of ISO 100–12,800, with extension settings pushing the ISO limits to 50–51,200.
Great customization options…
The Nikon D750 offers autofocusing at a respectable -3 EV and does a first-rate job of acquiring focus quickly, even in low light. There is also a vast range of AF modes and customization options. These can take a bit of getting used to, but once you figure them out, they grant actual pro-level control.
Shooting at ISO 1600 produces noiseless results, as does ISO 3200 in most situations. Some noise does become present at ISO 6400, but this is expected, and the levels are acceptable.
Other than that…
Other features include a burst shooting speed of 6.5fps (frames per second), a 24.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, a viewfinder with 100% coverage, video capabilities of 1080p at 60fps, 50fps, 30fps, 25fps, and 24fps.
When you put this all together, you get a great low light camera, even by today’s standards!
- Pro-level AF system.
- Massive ISO range.
- Two memory card slots.
- All-round image quality.
- 6.5fps burst shooting.
- Limited to 1080p video.
2 Pentax K-3 Mark II Digital SLR – Best Value for the Money Camera for Low Light Photography
Coming as no surprise to Pentax loyalists, the Pentax K-3 Mark II makes this list early! The blend of the best image quality, ruggedness, and performance make this an excellent camera for everybody!
And it really starts to shine when used in low light…
The Prime III image processing engine used in the Pentax K-3 Mark II makes it possible for the sensor to operate at ISO settings up to 51200, and the 27-point AF system (SAFOX 11) provides lightning-fast operation at a light-sensitivity range of -3EV to +18EV, thanks to Pentax’s “Real-Time Scene Analysis System” and advanced AF algorithm.
A small package that packs a punch…
That’s right! Incredibly small and lightweight, all while being one of the highest-ranked cameras for weatherproofing, with 92 weather seals!
Also included are dual SD card slots, excellent rear LCD screen (with 1,037,000 dots), in-camera GPS, 24.35 megapixels APS-C CMOS sensor, Full HD movie capture at 1920 x 1080 60i/30p, 8.3 frames per second burst shooting, AA filter simulator, wireless tethering via the optional O-FC1 FluCard, plus onboard shake reduction effective to 4.5 EVs.
And all of this at a ridiculously affordable price… now that’s good value…
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best deals going for low-light cameras today.
- Reliable, rugged, weatherproof design.
- 27-point AF system.
- Light-sensitivity range of -3EV to +18EV.
- Advanced AF algorithm.
- No inbuilt flash.
3 Sony α7R IV Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera – Best Mirrorless Full Frame Camera for Low Light Photography
Taking a big leap in price and quality, here we have Sony’s flagship mirrorless full-frame camera: the Sony α7R IV. This is, without question, one of the top contenders for the best camera on the market right now!
What makes this one so unique?
This is a hugely impressive camera. The super-high-resolution 61MP sensor grabs pictures with incredible detail and puts it well past any of the full-frame mirrorless rivals in terms of resolution. This makes for superb image quality, even in high ISOs in low light.
This is combined with a 10fps continuous shooting capability, which can be used without stopping for up to seven seconds. That equals up to 70 (that’s right, 70!) photos per burst.
Sony’s hybrid AF system includes the all-new eye-tracking tech, and it does a fantastic job of tracking moving subjects in low light conditions.
Sony has been the class leader with its sensors and inbuilt image processing for quite some time now. Even so, it’s still exciting to see how they’re pushing the envelope with every new camera. The native ISO range is from ISO 100 through ISO 32000, but Sony has extended that to go right down to ISO 50 and all the way up to ISO 102,400.
Stretching the boundaries…
That’s not to say that this whole range is going to always be useful. Particularly high range ISO still suffers from noise distortion with the image quality suffering noticeably, but we like to see the a7R IV stretching the boundaries of what is possible!
- 10fps shooting for seven seconds.
- Class-leading resolution.
- Eye-tracking AF.
- Excellent high ISOs.
- No built-in flash.
4 Nikon D5 Digital SLR – Best 3D Tracking Camera for Low Light Photography
Staying with flagship models, here we have the Nikon D5 Digital SLR. And geez, have they produced a fantastic camera or what!
In terms of low light abilities, this camera is second to none. In terms of ISO, the D5 not only has Nikon’s widest native ISO range (100 to 102,400) but also the highest expanded range, going all the way up to ISO 3,280,000.
What does that mean?
Well, when combined with the ridiculously fast and sophisticated 153-point AF system, you have at your fingertips possibly the most powerful camera ever made for low light photography.
The speed and accuracy of the autofocus system is a sight to behold, especially in dark conditions. There’s also a new ASIC unit that’s 100% dedicated to this AF system. This has been incorporated to ensure the high performance of this system never drops, even when shooting in burst mode.
And then there’s the 3D-Tracking mode…
This mode uses the color information of a subject through all 153 points to keep the focus on a moving subject – whilst half-pressing the shutter button. To say we were blown away by how well this responded in low light, is putting it lightly.
A juicy buy…
As to be expected from any Nikon flagship model, the D5 works remarkably in all areas. Including its continuous burst shooting speed of 12 frames per second with full autofocus and auto exposure, 4K video recording, touchscreen functionality for both still and video shooting, and a possible 3,780 shots per battery charge. That makes this a juicy buy for all that can afford it!
- Amazing AF system.
- Class-leading ISO range.
- Built to last.
- 3D Tracking.
- 4K video.
- Confusing menus.
5 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera – Most Ergonomic Camera for Low Light Photography
Looking for a bang for your buck camera? One that will perform in all conditions, even in extremely low light? A camera that is compact and lightweight, but still offers all the functionality (and more) of a standard DSLR?
Well, look no further!
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II mirrorless camera is the newest in the OM-D range, a range that has always impressed with its top-class ergonomics, vintage-inspired styling, integrated EVFs, and list of cutting edge features.
This Mark II version has some glaring differences to the original version. The most exciting of which is the all-new 5-axis stabilization system, which has boosted the hand-held capabilities in dim situations. The video recording capacity and ISO range have also had a welcome boost from the previous model.
But, although impressively ergonomic, can a camera like this compete with a flagship model?
Yes and no is the correct answer. In some aspects, this camera will perform equally as well as a much more expensive model, and in other ways, it will just not be able to keep up. One of those areas is shooting in low light. Yes, something like the Nikon D5 or the Canon 5D Mark IV will shoot better quality images at lower light.
But, at what cost?
This camera is a fraction of the price of the flagship models and produces more than acceptable photos. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference and budget.
- Ergonomic and compact.
- 8.6fps continuous shooting.
- 5-axis stabilization system.
- Touch screen display.
- No options for microphone inputs.
6 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera – Best Premium Camera for Low Light Photography
How could we compile a list of the best cameras for low light photography and not include the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV? Well, we couldn’t!
The Canon flagship camera body will and deserves to be included on every single review list concerning the best cameras on the market.
Because this is ours (and many others) pick for the best overall camera on the market today. It does not come cheap, but for the price, you get possibly the best camera ever made.
The brand new 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor is perfect for versatile shooting in any light. The center point has functionality down to -3 EV, making working in extremely dim lighting a breeze.
Mirror Vibration Control System…
And with an ISO range of 100-32000 (expandable up to 50-102400), plus the new “Mirror Vibration Control System”, which helps to minimize mechanical vibrations to better ensure sharpness during long shutter openings or burst shooting, you will not be needing another camera for years to come.
Also improved in this weather-sealed camera is the “Dual Pixel” autofocus is also an improvement, together with totally reworked weather-sealing, a fully overhauled and upgraded AF system, 4K video recording, a touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, GPS, and an “intervalometer” interval time.
But wait, there’s more…
There is a 7 fps continuous burst shooting available, and while this is not class-leading, it sustains for much longer than many of its direct rivals. The built-in intervalometer allows for the creation of time-lapses with total ease, by recording between 1 to 99 consecutive frames in pre-selected intervals from 1 second to 100 hours. You can also choose to set the camera to unlimited frames for a time period. Super handy for night time starlit time-lapses.
- Responsive touchscreen.
- Excellent interface and usability.
- Highly customizable AF.
- 7 fps Continuous Shooting.
- Built to last.
- Huge battery capacity.
- HDMI-out limited to 1080 video.
7 PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S Body 4K Digital Camera, 10.2 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera with High-Sensitivity MOS Sensor. – Best Camera for Low Light Photography and Video
If you are looking for a camera that can deliver the goods time and again, especially for video purposes, then look no further than the PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S. Hold on, though…
A 10.2-megapixel sensor? That’s a bit low when compared to the rest of the list, right?
Well, yes and no. The PANASONIC LUMIX GH5S doesn’t use just any old 10.2-megapixel sensor. Oh no, it features the freshly developed, state of the art 10.2MP high sensitivity MOS sensor. This has been designed with low light shooting at the forefront, and the engineers over at Panasonic have done a fantastic job.
The GH5S is the world’s first mirrorless camera to deliver cinema-quality 4K 60p/50p smooth video, and the multi-aspect sensor maximizes the use of smaller image circle by producing a range of aspects – 4:3, 17:9, 16:9, 3:2 – without you having to worry about compensating for changes in focal length.
Plus, top-class stereo recording on the video…
The optional DMW-XLR1 studio microphone allows for top-class stereo recording for professional video production. High-resolution sound recording up to 96kHz/24bit is also available.
Overall an excellent camera for videography and photography alike!
- 10MP multi-aspect-ratio sensor.
- Best video quality in this class.
- Great in low light.
- Designed to last.
- No image stabilization.
8 Sony RX100VA Cyber-shot Point and Shoot Camera – Best Point and Shoot Camera for Low Light Photography
The Sony RX100VA is the first of just two compact point-and-shoot cameras that we have decided to feature.
The reason for this?
Well, there are a few reasons, actually! First up, the RX100 VA includes an extremely fast and wide aperture f/1.8-2.8 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens. This lens has a 24-70mm Focal range, which is the equivalent of a 35mm lens for this sensor.
With the fast f/1.8-2.8 max aperture range, this lens is not only suited to shooting in low light conditions, but also for portraits and macro shots with stunningly out-of-focus backgrounds. The premium multi-layered T coating that is used on all the lens elements also drastically diminishes all ghosting and flaring issues.
Next is the brand spanking new autofocus system!
The RX100 VA delivers a whole new level of AF execution and pace to the world of compact point-and-shoot cameras. Equipped with the world’s fastest hybrid autofocus system, this system combines the relevant plusses of focal-plane phase-detection AF and contrast-detection AF to deliver some of the fastest autofocus lock on the market today, at a ridiculous 0.05 seconds. That’s impressive for a point and shoot camera.
Finally, the sensor that Sony has employed here is a game-changer. The massive 1 inch stacked, back-illuminated, Exmor RS image sensor (with DRAM) chip at the same time increases effectiveness and the rate of A/D conversion. This, in turn, affords this sensor a remarkable low-light capability. The broad ISO range (ISO 80-12,800) has reduced noise capacities at higher levels too.
If you’re in the market for a compact point-and-shoot camera that will perform fantastically in even the lowest of light situations, look no further than the Sony RX100VA!
- Super light and compact.
- Sturdy design.
- Amazing AF system.
- Beautiful DRAM sensor.
- Unbelievable 24fps burst shooting capacity.
- Really nothing if you are looking for a point-and-shoot.
9 Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Point and Shoot Camera – Best Budget Camera for Low Light Photography
We all know that light disperses through water at a very reduced rate when compared to how it reacts above the water. Within just a couple of feet from the surface, light levels dip so dramatically that shooting with a regular, everyday camera will simply not produce the results you are craving.
And that’s not even mentioning the obscene cost of most underwater housings for non-waterproof cameras, with some going for a higher price than the camera itself!
But hold up just one second!
This is where the Olympus Tough TG-6 waterproof point and shoot camera takes center stage. And it is not just waterproof up to 50 feet/15 meters deep! Oh no, this is an indeed “everything proof” camera. This fantastic little camera holds the best-in-class stats for ruggedness by a country mile.
It is shock-proof for drops of up to 7 feet/ 2.1 meters, crush-proof for weights up to 22 pounds/100kgs, and freeze-proof down to 14 degrees F/10 degrees C!
Did we mention its underwater capabilities?
Let’s chat a bit more about the underwater shooting capabilities of the Olympus Tough TG-6. This updated version continues the line of “top waterproof cameras on the market” for Olympus. Here we see five underwater shooting modes, including an underwater microscope mode and three underwater white balance modes.
That is not even mentioning all the other features that have been crammed into this compact body at this budget price.
With 4K movie and Full HD 120 fps high-speed recording capabilities, a crazy fast f/2.0 wide-angle lens (which boosts light), and an insanely close focusing distance of as little as 1cm from the lens, we are pretty sure this is the camera for anyone looking to shoot underwater at a fraction of the price usually seen for such quality output.
Finally, this is definitely one of the best cameras for low light photography on a tight budget.
- Literally everything-proof.
- Brilliant Microscope mode.
- Add-on lenses and macro lights available.
- Wide aperture lens.
- Close focusing distance.
- No included touchscreen, which did not bother us but might be an issue for some.
10 Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera – Best True Color Camera for Low Light Photography
Why should you choose the Nikon D850 FX-format DSLR over any of the other contenders listed above?
Well, it’s pretty straightforward if you’re asking us…
Inside the D850, you will find a Nikon designed sensor, which is totally unlike any Nikon sensor we have seen before! The back-side illuminated full-frame CMOS image sensor combines a massive 45.7 megapixels and no optical low-pass filter.
Ok, but what makes this so unique?
This combination enables the user to achieve next-level image quality. With enhanced light collection capacities, the closest true color output we have ever reviewed, and unbelievably fast response time, the Nikon D850 is a fantastic camera to use for low light shooting.
But it’s not just the truest color output we’ve seen. With substantial technological leaps made across the board in the last few years, the Nikon D850 has totally redesigned not just the sensor, but also the AF motor, the dynamic range and sensitivity, the battery life, the shutter and mirror drive mechanism and more…
These improvements make for one of the most well-rounded DSLR cameras to date!
The D850 uses the exact same AF system as Nikon’s flagship model – the highly acclaimed D5. With the help of a whopping 153 focus points and a dedicated AF processor, the D850 is able to supply the entirety of the 45.7-megapixel range.
The autofocus system can handle light shifts down to -4 EV, enabling the photographer to capture so much more in low-light situations, and the all-new AF engine works in tandem with a sequence control microcomputer to enhance subject-tracking, even during high-speed shooting.
- Class-leading AF.
- 45.7 MP sensor.
- Light-sensitivity down to -4EV.
- 7 FPS at 45.7 MP.
- Restrictive price.
Before We Announce Our Winner…
There are a few brilliant accessories available to help improve your experience, whether in low light conditions or not. Interested?
Right, back to the best cameras for low light…
So, What Are The Best Cameras For Low Light Photography?
Ok, friends, now that we have laid out all the options, there is only one thing to do… pick a winner! This was not easy, as the range of not only price but also camera style and shape vary so widely here.
So instead of just choosing one winner, let’s go for the best budget camera for low light first, which is the…Olympus Tough TG-6 Waterproof Point and Shoot Camera
Amazing quality at a rock bottom price.
And, without further ado, our overall winner for the best camera for low light photography is the…Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
This is our top pick for not just low light shooting, but also our overall winner for camera of the year!