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If you are thinking of buying a camera for low light photography, and if you’re not aware of all the best options that you can avail, you might end up buying some thing that is pretty far from your expectations.
Whether you’re taking self-portraits with your cell phone or capturing a panorama on a DSLR, you’re probably aware of the role light plays in your pictures. Having good lighting is essential to framing the best possible shot. But of course, photographers aren’t miracle workers, they can only work in conditions they’re given. No doubt, you’ve come across conditions that are simply unfavorable for getting the right shots. Situations like this can be frustrating and stressful especially for amateur photographers that aren’t prepared.
Anyone that has tried to take shots at night in landscapes or concerts knows well the utter frustration that low light brings. To put it simply, there is no photography without light. And for a lot of cameras, the difference between low light and no light is very slim. This is why you’ll often find your best shots ruined by the dimly lit surroundings. This will happen no matter what kind of photography technique you use or how much you tinker with the settings on your camera. There is a vast limit to how much the ordinary camera is capable of doing. Without relying on extra lighting equipment, you will need a camera that can handle these situations.
This is where low light cameras come in. These cameras allow you to capture your moments in the dark without having to worry about the quality of your pictures. While they aren’t absolutely necessary, having an extra camera for your low light pictures can be great for those crucial moments. However, picking up a low light camera isn’t easy, and you have to take multiple aspects into consideration. But luckily for you, we have done all the hard work, so you don’t have to. Listed below are some of the best cameras for taking low light pictures.
The Best Low Light Camera
Canon EOS 1DX Mark II
There should be no doubt when picking up a camera from Cannon. The company has more than proven its reliability in providing outstanding photography gear. Canon has tried to capture some of the photography industry’s fondness of the 1D model with the new Canon EOS 1DX Mark II.
At cursory glance, it’s not too hard to see the similarities between the 1D and the 1DX Mark II. They both carry a similar simplistic body frame that’s indicative of model line. The key design features on the outside call back to Canon’s design and it’s built with enough durability to handle more than a few big impacts. The camera relies on a brand new full frame CMOS sensor that is built for a 20.2 Megapixel resolution along with a 360,000-pixel RGB + IR metering sensor.
No doubt Canon formulated this camera with hard-core photography professionals in mind. The camera is well equipped with a 60+ point focus system and 4K video capability. But not only is the Canon EOS 1DX Mark II a great camera, it’s also a great low light camera. The camera has an ISO range that starts from ISO 50 and goes all the way to ISO 409,600. This allows for stunning low light shots with very little noise and distortion. Special sensitivity setting working in tandem with the autofocus system will give you accurate shots even when faced with compromised light situations. Thus making it one of the best low light cameras in the market today.
• Full Frame 20.2MP CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus.
• Extensive ISO range from ISO 50 to ISO 409,600.
• Native 4K video at 60fps in DCI format.
• Slightly older than some other models.
Sony Alpha A7S II
Sony is another leading competitor in consumer electronics that’s recognized globally. It would make perfect sense to include them in this list, given their track record with excellent performing cameras. The Sony Alpha A7S II is one of the latest cameras from their Alpha line.
The Sony Alpha A7S II features the signature slim body profile that is common with Sony cameras. In many ways, this model competes directly with models like Canon 1DX Mark II. You can find many similarities between this camera and other similarly ranged models. For one, the Alpha A7S II has a similar full frame CMOS sensor like the Mark II. The difference here is that Sony’s Exmor CMOS senor is updated with new circuits and improved noise reduction algorithms. This provides a cutting edge over its competitors with bleed and noise reduction throughout. Making it one of the top contenders’ when looking for the best low light camera.
There’s no mistaking the fact that the Sony Alpha A7S II was designed for video recording. The camera has native 4K with 60fps and 4:2:2 colour depth. At lower resolutions, this camera allows you to use pixel binning to achieve greater sensitivity.
Alternatively, you can also take advantage of the camera’s ability to record HD footage at 100fps at 100Mpbs. This is combined with the camera’s 5 axis stabilisation system to give you the ability to record slow motion footage in the dark. Low light shooting is further enhanced by the camera’s high ISO range that extends up to ISO 409,600. Culminating these features with the 169-point focus system and manual gamma level adjustment make this a great night time video camera.
• Superior Auto Focus in low light conditions.
• Impressive 5 Axis stabilization system.
• Great for low light video recording.
• Camera resolution maxes out at only 12 MP.
• 4k video recording is limited to only 8 bits.
Photography enthusiasts will no doubt recognize the reliability of having a Nikon camera. They’re widely regarded as versatile cameras that perform well and offer great value for money. The Nikon D7200 manages to hold this reputation with its low light performance.
Right away you can get used to the Nikon D7200 with familiar Nikon body design. The camera has a sturdy body that can take hits and has ergonomically placed buttons in its design. The Nikon D7200 offers a great alternative option if you don’t want a full frame sensor-based camera. This model relies on an APS-C CMOS sensor offering a 24.2 MP level of quality. The Nikon D7200 builds upon its predecessor model by offering a processor upgrade from the Expeed 3 to the more powerful Expeed 4. This allows 6 fps frame rate at full resolution making it capable of taking 100 12-bit NEF JPEGs in one burst.
Admittedly, the Nikon D7200 does lag behind its competitors in a few areas. The ISO range only extends to ISO 102,400 at its maximum and the camera only allows 1080p video recording at 30fps. But it’s important to remember here that this APS-C camera is only 1/4th the price of more fully-fledged models.
There are some additional features that make the D7200 shine. The camera has Wi-Fi and NFC capabilities for advanced image sharing. Dual SD card slots are provided to store images and video as well as a dedicated HDMI out port. For budget-oriented photographers in mind, this camera can offer the best low light performance that a lot of expensive models can struggle with.
• Affordable price range.
• Multiple media sharing options.
• Great value for money.
• Comparatively limited ISO range.
• Cannot record 4k video.
Sony Alpha A6300
Coming in with another entry from Sony is the Sony Alpha A6300. Apart from making high-quality full frame sensor cameras, Sony has also been known to make decent quality APS-C sensor camera as well. The Sony Alpha A6300 is one of the APS-C cameras from Sony’s Alpha line-up.
Similar to other Sony cameras, the Sony Alpha A6300 has a very slim design profile. However, it does suffer from some ergonomic inconsistencies when it comes to button placement. Despite this, the camera is one of the few mirror less APS-C sensor-based cameras. This makes the Sony Alpha A6300 one of the lightest cameras that you can buy. If you’re looking for an easy to handle camera that can give you good low light shots, this may just be the camera for you.
The Sony Alpha A6300 is a very well-rounded option for a APS-C based camera. It comes with a similar Exmor CMOS sensor that comes with other Alpha cameras but with processing enhancements. Sony’s new BIONZ X processing engine takes full advantage of the senor to make image improvements and getting rid of noise. This is essential because the APS-C limitations make this camera only go up to an ISO level of ISO 51,200. However, it does make up for it with 425 phase-detect AF pixels and 6k down sampling to 4k for better image production even in low light situations.
• Well-rounded APS-C mirrorless camera.
• Extremely lightweight design.
• 6k down sampling capability for 4k video.
• ISO range only extends to ISO 51,200.
Looking for point and shoot cameras instead? You might be interested in our guide for the best point and shoot camera under $300.
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Panasonic has been more recognized for being a brand that has its focus on consumer appliances. As far as photography equipment, the company has been somewhat under the radar. But they’re changing that in recent years with their flagship Lumix series.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is one of the latest cameras off the GH line. This camera is built up using Panasonic’s simple design philosophy. The camera’s performance is based on Panasonic’s unique micro four thirds mirror-less camera design. Unlike the previous GH models, this camera is built for versatility allowing great picture and video performance. The large MFT sensor provides a 20.3 MP image quality and the ability to shoot 4k at 60 fps.
For low light performance, this camera works well with its various features. The 5 axis stabilization system and in body stabilization provides decent still shots. The ISO range isn’t very extensive, only going up as far as ISO 12,800 but the for mid-range price point it’s decent enough. For video performance, this camera allows you to record at 10-bit 4K with 4.2.2 colour depth and HDR capabilities. Overall, the Lumix GH5 is versatile and lightweight enough for a decent low light photography starting point.
• Versatile performance for images and video.
• Inexpensive and durable design.
• Unique MFT mirror less design.
• Immensely reduced ISO range.
• Image quality isn’t up to par with premium models.
Fujifilm is synonymous with professional level photographers and film developers. There’s no mistaking the company’s track record with decent photography equipment. The Fujifilm X H1 is a continuation of that heritage moving forwards.
The Fujifilm X H1 builds up on the design structure of the other X series cameras. In fact, this is one of the most feature rich cameras in the series. But at the same time, its built with a sturdy that makes it one of the lightest cameras in the series. The Fujifilm X H1 is based on a mirror less APS-C CMOS sensor that handles the camera’s performance. In addition to its light weight, this camera features in-body image stabilization to make the camera extremely easy to handle. That’s not to say the quality takes a backseat here. The camera’s APS-C X-Trans III CMOS sensor allows for 24.3 MP picture image quality and cinema video recording 4K at 24 fps.
While the Fujifilm X H1 does lag behind in image quality compared to more mainstream cameras, it does make up for it with great additional features. This camera has a host of different sharing options that let you get your content across different platforms. The ability to use WI-FI, NFC, and Bluetooth makes it very easy to get pictures on to your PC or smartphone. This makes it a good enough hobby camera for low light photography.
• Intuitive touchscreen controls.
• In-body image stabilization
• NFC, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi sharing options.
• Controls are somewhat hard to fiddle with.
• Battery performance lags behind significantly.
Looking for a more all rounder and light weight camera instead? You should definitely check out our guide for the best mirrorless camera under $1000.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Olympus has been world renowned for making precision optical equipment. They’re well established in making microscopes, endoscopes, and thermometers. Olympus also has a stake in making high quality camera and photography equipment.
The Olympus OM D E-M1 Mark II Is one of the company’s leading Micro Four Thirds based camera design. This model is a direct response to other MFT cameras from major brands such as the Panasonic Lumix GH5 and the Sony A6000. Olympus brings its own design to try and topple the monopoly that the other two brands have had. The Olympus OM D E-M1 Mark II features a Live MOS MFT sensor that brings about a 20.4 megapixel image quality. This sensor is fully tweaked using the latest firmware and image processing engines. Along with this, it uses a 121 cross-type autofocus that is applied to phase detection points on the image frames. The result is a focused image with minimal noise and distortion.
Not only does the Olympus OM D E-M1 Mark II excel at high quality stills, but it can manage decent quality video as well. The camera advertises cinema 4K which usually means full 4K resolution at 25 fps but the Mark II can switch between 24, 25, and 30 fps seamlessly. What’s more, the Mark II captures 4K at a fairly consistent bitrate of 237 Mbps which results in quality footage. Low light footage works very well with camera with the ISO range on the camera extending up to ISO 25,600. This achieved by employed high level noise reduction and makes it twice as focused as competitors like Lumix.
• Highly accurate auto focus system.
• Remarkable noise reduction at high ISO levels.
• High vide
o recording bit rate.
• Not as affordable as other MFT cameras.
• Menus are a bit hard to navigate.
Pentax may not be as popular as big name brands like Sony or Canon but the company have a decent line-up of products to back it up. They might be more familiar to you if you’ve ever dabbled in CCTV cameras. However, professional grade cameras like Pentax K1 prove there’s much to the company than that.
The Pentax K1 features a fairly standard camera body. There aren’t any special details or trimmings to make this camera stand out as a signature brand identity. This camera features a standard full frame sensor that allows image quality up to 36 Megapixels. This is supported by the 5 axis stabilization system that prevents shaking from defocusing any images. This camera is purpose built for nature photography and landscapers in mind. Add that with its low light capability, and you have a pretty decent night wildlife camera.
The Pentax K1 manages its low light performance by utilizing an ISO less design. Rather than having to rely on ISO ranges to give you decent images, you can make manual adjustments. You can use custom shutter speeds with ease, knowing that ISO isn’t going to cause conflicts. There’s enough breathing room in this camera to allow professionals to work with their experience and instinct for breath-taking pictures.
• Tweak-able ISO less design.
• Large 36 megapixel image resolution.
• Great for wildlife photography.
• Compatible lenses are harder to find.
• Size is a bit bulky and heavy.
Olympus Tough TG-5
Olympus isn’t just limited to high-grade professional cameras. Sometimes they dabble into the prospect of making high quality compact cameras. The Olympus Tough TG 5 proves this with its excellent performance.
Unlike other cameras on this list, the Tough TG 5 isn’t designed as a professional photography camera. Rather, this camera is specifically designed to be a great underwater camera for low light shooting. As the name implies, this camera is built around a tough exterior that makes it waterproof and highly durable. What’s even more surprising is that it does this while still remaining compact and lightweight. This makes it the ideal travel camera to take with you during skiing, swimming, diving, hiking, or camping.
Being a compact, the Tough TG 5 won’t really compete with fully fledged DSLRs. But despite that, the camera offers a decent performance with 12 MP sensor and 4K 30 fps capability. The ISO range even extends to 12,800 which is decent for low light underwater shots.
• Waterproof up to 15m.
• Durable design that can handle 100kg of crushing force.
• Great lightweight travelling camera.
• 4K video recording.
• Battery doesn’t last very long.
• Not as affordable as other compacts.
• Can’t compete with DSLR quality.
Nikon has forever been regarded the top of the line when it comes to high quality photography. The Nikon D850 is arguably the most recommended camera by photography enthusiast and professionals. And for good reason, not only is it a great camera for visual fidelity it’s also one of the best cameras for low light photography.
The Nikon D850 comes with a decent sized body that’s easy to manage and ergonomic. The viewfinder offers a magnification factor of 0.75x combined with a 3.2 inch touchscreen for easy navigation. In terms of quality, the Nikon D850 is based on a 45.7 MP full frame CMOS BSI sensor for high quality images. It can also shoot native 4K footage at 30 fps with ease, lower resolutions like 1080p can function on 60 fps just fine. The electronic vibration reduction system helps to reduce shakiness from handheld captured footage.
This camera’s low light performance is unparalleled compared to its rivals. The BSI (Back Illuminated Sensor) captures light better off the surface of the senor. This means even in reduced light conditions you can get great definition without altering the image’s natural contrast and exposure. The ISO range can extend to go as low as ISO 32 or as high as ISO 108,400 offering a great degree of customizability when dealing with variations in lighting. There are also additional features to sweeten the pot, the SD card slot is UHS-II capable for high quality recording. Additional sharing options like Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth are also supported right out of the box.
• Impressive 45.7 MP BSI sensor.
• Extensive 153 point autofocus system.
• Unmatched low light performance.
• Versatile camera for multipurpose photography.
• Expensive price range.
Getting the right low light shots can be a tricky business. It isn’t easy to be able to work with aspects you can’t control. But getting a decent low light camera is a step in the right direction. Hopefully after this guide, you have all the information you need to make your next purchase for a decent low light camera.