Photographers generally use low light cameras in photography settings that do not have a lot of natural light. These cameras allow maximum light through their high sensitivity technology to provide bright, clear, and professional photos. We’ve designed our guide to help you find the best low light camera for your ideal shooting situations and give some background on this type of photography.
What are the Primary Features of the Best Low Light Cameras?
The best cameras for low light photos tend to have specific features that help them capture natural lighting and provide crisp, clear images. Here are a few to look for:
The sensor size of your low lighting camera directly relates to its field of view. The sensor is the part of the camera that collects information about the lighting around the camera. A low light camera generally needs a larger sensor to gain plenty of light information to adjust the photo as needed.
The best camera for low light photography is usually a full-frame camera with a large sensor to collect light. Crop cameras, also known as APS-C cameras, have narrower viewpoints and not as much area to sense light as full-frame cameras. A micro four-thirds camera has an even smaller sensor than an APS-C, making it one of the most challenging for shooting in little to no lighting.
This feature of a camera relates to its ability to sense lighting. In low light photography, it’s necessary to have a good ISO range to play around with. Low light conditions require a higher ISO than full light settings, but a very high setting can affect a photo’s noise.
Noise is what causes the graininess you see in photos that don’t look clear or accurate to the original setting. An ISO that’s too high can affect a low lighting camera’s ability to produce pictures with little to no noise. However, many low light cams allow you to adjust the settings to each photo to create the most precise image possible.
Types of Photography That Benefit from a Low Lighting Camera
Low light cameras are beneficial for several kinds of photography, from outdoor to indoor photography, including:
- Night Photos: Night settings are, perhaps, the most common scenes that require low light photography with the right camera, from dusk until dawn. Nighttime scenes need a camera that allows for plenty of light to seep in and a range of shutter speed and ISO settings for adjustability.
- Sports and Outdoors: Most outdoor photographers need to use a low light camera when natural sunlight isn’t peeking through. With a low light sensor, the right shutter speed, and ISO settings, the camera can perfectly catch outdoor scenes like sports, landscapes, and outdoor concerts.
- Wedding, Concert, and Events: Whether a wedding, concert, or event is indoors or outdoors, the right camera designed for low light photography can play an essential role in producing images in reception halls or on cloudy days.
- Photojournalism: Photojournalists rely on their camera to be ready to shoot photos as soon as they are, regardless of the weather or time of day and without sacrificing image quality.
- Astrophotography: Astrophotographers often practice their art at night when having a full-frame cam with great ISO capabilities and a long shutter speed comes in handy.
Best Cameras for Low-Light Conditions By Image Quality
If image quality is your priority, then these cam options stand out:
Best Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
If you’re looking for a camera that can outdo other low light cams in terms of image quality, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV might be the right option. The Canon 5D Mark IV is an upgrade from the previous Mark III, offering incredibly clear, crisp photos when natural light isn’t available. The 5D Mark IV has a full-frame sensor that’s just right for capturing lighting.
As a bonus, the Canon 5D Mark IV also records 4K video – high-resolution video – as clearly as the Canon 5D Mark takes photos, with a high ISO range and dynamic range to enhance its shooting quality in virtually any condition. You can even connect the Canon 5D Mark IV to Wi-Fi for easy sharing and transferring.
- 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting. Aspect ratio 3:2
- Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
- 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
The Second in Line: Nikon D850
Another top choice for low light photography is the full-frame Nikon D850. It features a broad range of ISO settings with an even more extensive ISO expandability up to 102,400, 4K video capabilities, and a dynamic range (the contrast between light and dark colors in your images). The cam also features flicker protection to avoid snapping the photo when artificial lights go through their off-cycle.
- 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...
- Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance
The Nikon Z6 is a well-rounded DSLR that can meet many photographers’ needs, but those shooting in conditions with little to no light will appreciate its autofocus capabilities. The feature allows for sensitive, accurate autofocusing, even in the darkest settings, while still producing excellent quality images, thanks to its full-frame sensor and reliable ISO range.
- 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
A smartphone with the best camera can take incredible photos, but not many “best camera smartphone” options can take the place of a reliable DSLR with the right low light settings for shooting. The Nikon D5 is one of them, including a full-frame CMOS sensor and ISO up to 102,400. Its 4K video capabilities also make it a stand-out choice for versatility.
- 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
- EXPEED 5 Image Processor
- 3.2" 2.36m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
Huawei P30 Pro
There certainly are phones with excellent cameras, so it’s not always necessary to splurge on a full camera. If you’re looking for a new phone with the best camera options for your nighttime or dark-setting photos, try the Huawei P30 Pro.
This smartphone best camera choice has a SuperSpectrum sensor that allows it to capture beautiful dark and night scenes with clarity and accuracy.
- 3G HSDPA 800 / 850 / 900 / 1700(AWS) / 1900 / 2100 - 4G LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800),...
The Sony A6400 cam is the only APS-C sensor option we chose for image quality because of its stand-out ISO and noise suppression technology that allows you to capture explicit, crisp imagery, even in dim settings. Variable shutter speed settings make this camera’s shooting options even more customizable, regardless of your scene or subject.
- Next Gen speed: experience the world’s fastest 0. 02 sec AF with real-time AF and object tracking
- Enhanced subject capture: wide 425 Phase/ 425 contrast detection points over 84% of the sensor
- Fast & accurate: up to 11Fps continuous shooting at 24. 2MP raw with crisp, clear natural colors
Sony A7 III
Deemed one of the best compact cameras 2018 released, the Sony A7 III is also an excellent choice for this type of shooting. From its full-frame sensor to its anti-flicker shutter setting, the camera captures just the right amount of light when you need it most.
- Advanced 24.2MP BSI Full-frame Image Sensor w/ 1.8X readout speed Advanced 24.2MP Back-Illuminated...
- 15-stop dynamic range, 14-bit uncompressed RAW, ISO 50 to 204,800
- Read up to 260MB/s UHS-II
Best Cameras for Low Light Photography By Auto-Focus (AF) Performance
Auto-focus (AF) capabilities can help you capture gorgeous photos with a little bit of autonomy from your camera. Here are a few excellent options for settings lacking light:
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
This Olympus Mark II camera is a versatile pick that includes a dual autofocus system that’s extremely fast, targeted, and even customizable. When these features combine, you end up with crisp photos in almost any shooting setting without needing to spend time doing most of the legwork yourself.
In addition to its high-quality AF, this Olympus Mark II also has 60 FPS shooting and a jaw-dropping 50MP hi-res shooting mode.
- New 20.4 megapixel live MOS sensor
- New TruePic VIII dual quad core image processor, auto focus points phase detection: 121 (121 cross...
- 60 frames per second S AF, 18 frames per second C AF (silent electronic shutter)
The compact Nikon D500 can shoot in almost any dim or nighttime scenario with its already-high ISO and expandable ISO capability.
Add in the multi-CAM autofocus technology that uses more than 150 AF points to focus on just the right targets in your photos, and you have one of the best low light camera options to brighten up your pictures and capture scenes as you intended.
- 20.9MP DX format CMOS sensor. Viewfinder: Eye level pentaprism single lens reflex viewfinder
- Expeed 5 image processor; Monitor size: 3.2 inches diagonal
- 3.2 inches 2,539k dot tilting touchscreen LCD
Olympus OM-D E-M1 X
Intelligent autofocus makes your job as a photographer just a bit easier, and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 X does just that. Its AF technology allows you to save custom targets that you typically focus on to make the already quick setting work even quicker for future photo sessions.
This Olympus also has some pre-programmed subjects that it senses to find just the right AF settings for whatever objects or actions you’re shooting, day or night.
- 20. 4 MP live MOS sensor with dual Tropic VIII image Processors
- 5 Axis sync is provides 7.5 EV Stops of compensation, the world's most effective stabilization...
- Hand held High Res shot mode provides 50MP images with no stabilizing gear. ISO sensitivity AUTO ISO...
Best Full-Frame Low Light Camera
Full-frame cameras are often the way to go for this type of photo-taking, and these camera choices are our top picks:
Canon 5D Mark III
This Canon 5D Mark may be an older version of our top pick, but it’s still a worthy contender for full-frame low-lighting cams. The Canon 5D Mark’s 22.3MP sensor creates gorgeously clear images, while its image processor works to shoot pictures quickly without adding unwanted noise – precisely what you want in photo settings with little to no light to enhance the picture naturally.
- 22MP full frame CMOS sensor
- 6 frames per second continuous shooting
- 61-point AF system
Canon 6D Mark II
With its 26.2MP sensor, expandable ISO settings, and a powerful and lightning-quick image processor, the Canon 6D Mark II is a tough one to beat. This upgrade from the Canon 5D Mark line utilizes dual-pixel technology that blends photodiodes with precision, leading to clear subjects, just like you see them.
The optical viewfinder with accurate autofocus capabilities is an excellent perk that helps you target the camera to your subject without losing detail.
- 26.2 Megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
- Optical viewfinder with a 45 point all cross type AF system. Compatible Lenses: Canon EF lenses...
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with phase detection and Full HD 60p
Sony a7S II
The high-range ISO of the Sony a73 II is its most stand-out feature for photographers who spend most of their time shooting in dim settings. This camera allows for up to ISO 409600 with its ultra-sensitive light sensor to grab light information from your scene and use it to tweak the picture to perfection.
A 5-axis image stabilization feature keeps things steady while focusing on your subject, which can come in handy for shooting without much natural light.
- Sony ILCE7SM2/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (Black)
- Sony VGC2EM Vertical Grip (Black)
Sony a7R III
This step-up from the a7S II is pricier, but the Sony a7R III also has significantly higher resolution, shoots with more frames per second, and has a convenient touchscreen that adds simplicity to setting changes. More color depth, a higher dynamic range, and a much higher ISO makes this camera one to consider if you have a higher budget and don’t mind splurging to get what you need.
- INCREDIBLE DETAIL: Shoot high-speed subjects at up to 10fps with continuous, accurate AF/AE tracking
- OPTIMAL LIGHT: A back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with gapless on-chip lens collects more...
- FASTER IMAGE PROCESSING: An updated BIONZ X processing engine boosts processing speeds up to 1.8x
Best APS-C / Cropped Sensor Camera for Low-Light Photography
APS-C – also known as a cropped sensor – cameras are often more compact and affordable than their full-frame counterparts. The following are the best APS-C options for low light photos:
Best APS-C Mirrorless Camera: Fujifilm X-T3
A mirrorless camera can be beneficial to you as a low light photographer because it allows you to see a preview of your photo with the current lighting before you snap it. The Fujifilm X-T3 takes our pick for a mirrorless APS-C with its high-tech viewfinder and autofocus feature that focuses with complete accuracy in almost any lighting.
- 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 10bit recording and the first Mirrorless...
- Optically designed to draw out the maximum image quality of a flagship standard zoom lens. Angle of...
Best APS-C DSLR Camera: Nikon D7500
If a DSLR APS-C is more your style, try the Nikon D7500. This compact option has expandable ISO, a 20.9 pixel CMOS sensor, and active D-lighting, which helps you tune out shadows and oddball casts of lighting when you’re shooting contrast imagery. Vibrant colors pull through in almost any scene with the Nikon D7500.
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the...
- Large 3.2” 922K dot, tilting LCD screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °C to 40 °C...
- F-mount lens/DX formatfilter-attachment size: 58mm, (p = 075 mm)
Canon 7D Mark II
The Canon 7D Mark II is a stand-out DSLR in the low-light photo world. With a sensor that captures up to 16000 ISO without creating unwanted graininess and its intelligent Tracking and Recognition focusing system, this DSLR meets the needs for shooting night events, evening scenes, astronomy, and more.
- 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
- High speed continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
- 65-point all cross-type AF system
Where the Canon 7D Mark II shines in autofocusing, the Canon 80D shines in image quality. This DSLR has slightly less precise AF capabilities. Still, its image quality – even with incredibly zoomed-in photos – is almost unmatched for an APS-C, even when little lighting is available.
- The EOS 80D camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder helps bring the thrill of SLR photography with each...
- The Intelligent Viewfinder displays AF points and AF mode, has a grid display, a horizontal...
- For next level AF operation, the EOS 80D camera has a wide area, 45 point, all cross type AF system...
The Nikon D7200 is an APS-C DSLR targeted to low-lighting situations. The high-ISO option has a 24.2 MP sensor and 51 focus points for its AF system that allows it to capture the right shots at the right time in virtually any setting.
This Nikon also comes without an optical low-pass filter, which can potentially improve image sharpness in situations when noise usually takes over.
- 24.2 MP DX-format CMOS image sensor
- No Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF)
- 51 point autofocus system; Focus Auto & Manual; Autofocus Points Phase Detection: 51 (15 Cross-Type)
Best Budget Camera for Dim Settings
Your budget may not always match the features you want in a cam, but these affordable options offer plenty of perks for photographers who need a lighting boost:
The Nikon D750 full-frame, high-ISO option is a powerhouse when it comes to almost any type of shooting, including dimly-lit scenes. A stand-out feature on this model is its tilting LCD that helps you shoot from various angles to bring life and dynamics to your photos.
- Full frame 243 megapixel CMOS image sensor and expeed 4 image processor
- Full HD 60/50/30/25/24p video
- Built in Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with the WT 5a plus UT 1 communication unit
Starting at around $900, this budget-friendly option is one of the best full-featured cameras you can find for the price. For low-lighting situations, the Sony a6300 boasts an Exmor CMOS sensor with copper materials that naturally capture light to produce images with accuracy and as little noise as possible.
- FASTER AUTOFOCUS: Shoot up to 11fps with 425 phase detection auto focus points and 0.05 sec AF speed
- INCREDIBLE PHOTOGRAPHY: Advanced 24.2 MP Exmore CMOS sensor expands sensitivity and minimizes noise
- ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER: Cameras feature a high resolution XGA OLED Tru-Finder for enhanced viewing
Panasonic Lumix GH4
The Panasonic Lumix GH4 is a surprisingly rugged, durable, and well-built compact cam for its price tag that’s also filled with features you need for your photo sessions in any lighting.
The 49-focal-point AF system works together with the Live MOS sensor to focus quickly, grab the photo, and weed out noise and distortion you don’t want. Many photographers find that pairing this camera with the right lenses makes for an almost unbeatable partnership for night shooting.
- Professional photo performance with exceptional moiré suppression
- Operating temperature:0 degree to 40 degree (32 degree F to 104 degree F); 4K 24p cinematic video...
- High speed 49 area auto focusing in photo or video, perfect for hybrid photography
Best Micro Four Thirds Camera for Low Light Photography
Some photographers shy away from using micro four thirds cameras for this type of shooting, but these devices often produce some of the cleanest photos when you tweak their settings just right. Here are some of our favorite micro four thirds options:
Panasonic Lumix GX8
Panasonic’s micro four thirds cameras, like the Lumix GX8, are the only ones from the company to benefit from its high-speed AF with Depth-From-Defocus (DFD) technology that speeds up the auto-focus process in any setting. This Lumix model even has an AF setting specifically for low-light conditions.
- Capture moments with superb 4K imaging performance in both video and exclusive 4K PHOTO
- Unique, in-body stabilization in combination with select optically stabilized lenses work together...
- Worry-free splash proof / dustproof rugged body. Fast and precise auto focusing tracks the subject
Panasonic Lumix GH5s
The sensor on this Panasonic Lumix has lower megapixels than the GX8, but its high-sensitivity sensor makes up for it in low lighting. This feature allows photos to come out incredibly crisp, even when using a high-ISO setting for low-light.
- PROFESSIONAL PHOTO AND VIDEO PERFORMANCE: 10.2-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor and a...
- RUGGED SPLASH or FREEZEPROOF DESIGN: Durable magnesium alloy body withstands heavy use out in the...
- UNLIMITED IN-CAMERA RECORDING OF C4K: Capable of internal SD card capture of 60p50p 8-bit, 30p25p24p...
Olympus PEN E-PL9
If you’re new to shooting with a micro four thirds cam, you might want to start with the Olympus PEN E-PL9. This camera can begin as a point-and-shoot while allowing you to learn as you go with its versatile settings to meet the needs of almost any shooting condition.
- Kit contains the E PL9 camera, 14 to 42 millimeter EZ Lens, Pen camera case, Special camera strap,...
- TruePic VIII Image Processor
- 3 inch 180 Degree Flip down touch screen
We hope that our list of options for the best low light camera, like the Canon 5D Mark IV, brings you to one that exceeds your expectations and gives you the customization, control, and imagery results you’re looking for. Although plenty of cameras are excellent options for this type of shooting, your choice ultimately boils down to the one that matches your particular photo-taking style.