Choosing The Best Low Light Camera
When it comes to low-light photography, the sky’s the limit. The quality of your shot, the versatility of your ability, and sharpness of your contrast are all going to depend on which camera you buy.
With low-light cameras, the motto, “you get what you pay for” is often quite true. This means that if you want to catch the truest images in the darkest conditions, money talks.
The disposal camera from your nearest hobby store is not going to cut it when taking photos of your nightly cityscape or the inside of a bat cave. You need a high-functioning, technologically savvy, low-light specific camera that is going to deliver you the perfect image every time.
Check out our top seven picks of the best low light cameras.
The PowerShot G7 X Mark II (yes, we know the name is a lot to swallow) is a top of the line low-light camera that isn’t going to smash your piggy bank into pieces.
The PowerShot G7 from Canon is compact and easy to use. It comes featured with a 20.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, which is going to produce the sharpest and most dynamic dark photos you can imagine.
The G7 (for short) is an ideal travel camera because of its slim design and lightweight build, allowing you to easily snap quick action shots of the darkening savannah at sunset during your next safari. Even if you are shooting at around a 1250 ISO value, your photographs are still going to look amazing.
Its slim design means you can draw the Mark II quickly, catching those unexpected shots without fussing with your bag or camera pouch.
- Wi-Fi built-in for ultimate convenience
- Advanced video capabilities
- Operating temperature between 0-40 degrees Celsius
- Phenomenal autofocus system w/ manual focus
- High resolution with a 3” LCD monitor
- Captures high and low angles easily
- Perfect continuous shooting at an impress 8 frames per second
- Batteries may need to be changed or charged frequently
- You cannot control the G7 with your phone when video recording
The DCS-RX100 Mark IV from Sony is probably one of the best low-light pocket cameras on the market today. This model has an excellent wide-angle feature and a high aperture, giving you photos that are never blurred or dull. You can shake the camera like a crazy person when you take your shots – on a roller coaster, in the back of a jeep – and the photos are going to come out crisp and clear every time. It also offers maximum performance when set to high ISOs, and this is all thanks to the massive sensor and the ultra-bright lens. There is nothing amateurish about Sony’s powerful Mark IV low-light camera.
- High-Resolution 4K recording for movies
- Capable of ultra slow-motion frame rates, up to 960 frames per second
- Super-speed anti-distortion shutter
- The viewfinder is totally retractable
- 3” multi-angled LCD
- Easy connectivity to your smartphone w/ Wi-Fi & NFC
- Unbelievable photo quality
- Raw mode & manual mode
- The grip is not great
- No port for microphone
- Battery dies quickly
The Lumix DMC-GH5 from Panasonic is definitely the most diverse, versatile, and overall high-performing low-light camera on our list of best cameras for low light photography. This unit is perfect for YouTube content creators, amateur photographers and videographers, and hobbyists who have a lust for great low-light photography.
The recording speed is incredible, with up to 180 frames per second while shooting fast-paced videos. The slow-motion capabilities are above average, while the dynamic hues and tones captured in dim settings are going to be as bright as a rainbow on your high-tech LCD rotary display. You can look forward to crystal clear nighttime photos and slick low-light videos with the awesome Lumix from Panasonic. Keep in mind that this model is not cheap. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.
- Professional video
- Sharp images
- 3 megapixels
- Splash-proof design & immune to freezing
- Dust-proof body & weather-sealed joints, dials, buttons
- Dual image stabilization
- No shaking of the lens or body, thus eliminating blur
- 4K video & 6K photos
- HDMI port, Twin SD card slots, USB, 3.5mm audio port
- Wi-Fi integrated
- Shooting speed is slow
- Lack of focus tracking
- Incredibly Expensive
The OM-D E-M10 Mark II from Olympus, or Mark II for short, is an extremely powerful low-light camera with an impressive ISO range from 100 all the way to 256,000. It also has a 16MP sensor. These features alone make the Mark II a desirable camera for those who enjoy shooting in conditions with low light, taking magnificent photographs of dark cities or wild landscapes.
The Mark II comes included with a handy five-axis stabilizer. This stabilizer gives you an extremely wide space for taking photographs in dim lighting at lengthy exposures.
You also get a heap of other features with the Mark II, like the upgraded interface, the touch controls, and the sleek, slender design.
To get the most out of this unit, you may want to upgrade to the M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm 4/1.8 lens, also from Olympus. This will drastically improve your shooting abilities.
- Compact size is ideal for travel
- Five-axis image stabilization
- Silent mode
- Focusing points
- Burst shooting with 8.5 frames per second
- OLED electronic viewfinder
- Remote operation via Wi-Fi
- Settings may be confusing
- Sensor is outdated
- Indictor functions are strange w/ inconvenient button arrangement
Sony has been king of the pile for a long time, and many people have come to accept the a7R III as one of the best, if not the very best low light mirrorless camera you can buy today for the express purpose of getting great low-light photos.
The sensor on this monster camera is 42.4MP. That is almost double the size of the other sensors on our list.
Even though the a7R III only has an ISO range of between 50 and 102,400 in extended mode, your photographs are going to be unmatched. You simply won’t get a better-quality image with another camera in the same price range as the a7R III.
Combine this with the autofocus, the eye detection, the high functionality, and you get a truly remarkable low-light camera. Upgrade to the 85mm Sony lens to get even richer and deeper colors out of your low-light photos.
- ISO range is impressive
- Geotagging available w/ Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- Dual memory card slots
- UHS-II Support
- Fast shooting w/ 10 frames per second of continuous AF & AE tracking
- 4K video recording
- Menu is large and confusing
- Too many delays within the menu
- Interface is limited in its functionality
The X-T2 from Fujifilm comes with a drastically enhanced engine, lightning-fast image focusing, super quiet functions, and impressive image quality. The X-T2 is so user friendly that you won’t have any difficulties as an amateur low-light photographer working your way through the settings and preferences. Plus, there is no need for you to change the settings of the ISO.
As a user-friendly camera, the X-T2 comes with a whopping 24.3-megapixel sensor that can capture massive amounts of light in dark conditions. Essentially, once you power the X-T2 and turn it on, you are ready to rock. Take photos without making a lot of noise, stay sharp using the electronic viewfinder, and take excellent photographs at night, of the sky, or inside thanks to the 325-point autofocus. There is also an SR automatic mode for intelligent shooting.
- 3 megapixels w/ APS-C sensor & X Processor Pro engine
- Fast response times
- Better color
- Low noise
- Resistant to dust and moisture
- Weather sealing w/ freeze resistance
- Super fast real-time viewfinder
- Lag time of only 0.005 seconds
- Full 4K shooting capabilities
- 3” tilting LCD monitor w/ tempered glass
- Space for extra batteries
- Internal stabilization can be finicky
- The phase AF may not function properly with every lens
As with many Nikon cameras, the price tag on the D5 makes it nothing more than a fantasy for many amateur photographers and photography students just starting out. That being said, if you have deep pockets or are looking to splurge on perhaps the best low-light camera in the industry, the Nikon D5 is for you.
This device has all the bells and whistles, surpassing many similar models in nearly every aspect. The photos in low-light conditions are crisp, clean, and beautiful. You get a sensor with 20.8 megapixels that can take photos at up to an amazing 14fps.
The D5 is in no way an amateur or beginner’s camera. This is a professional camera used by pros and people who want to become pros. Light up the night by taking excellent photos in the dark or in shadowed suburban landscapes with the best low light DSLR camera, the Nikon D5.
- Topnotch photo quality
- 2” touchscreen LCD monitor
- ISO between 102,400 and 328,000 when extended
- 4K UHD recording at 30 frames per second w/ CompactFlash
- 8 megapixels
- HDMI output
- Great battery life
- Snappy autofocus
- Heavy and bulky
- Extortionately expensive
- Unable to shift the screen’s position
Now that you’ve chosen the best low-light camera, let’s take a look at what exactly low-light photography is.
Low-light photography is all about taking magical photographs in a wide variety of different lighting conditions, specifically at night or in locations where there isn’t much natural light to capture an ordinary picture with an ordinary camera.
This is why the low-light cameras are specially designed and packed with so much advanced technology, as they need to capture all the available light to take phenomenal photos in the dark.
Most low-light photographs are taken without using flash, which involves having a specialized ISO setting to produce the sharpest possible image in the low light. It also helps to reduce the shutter speed, giving you a longer exposure that sucks up extra light.
Most low-light photography includes taking photos of suburban landscapes at night, taking amazing pictures of wildlife in the dark, taking photos in caves and dank, underground places, and taking photographs inside where there is no natural light. Also, low-light cameras may be used in astrophotography to capture striking images of the universe and the stars. Let’s take a deeper look at indoor photography.
Low-light photography indoors can be a hobbyist or artist’s dream setting. With the right camera, your ISO setting tuned sharply, and an eye for detail, you can enjoy limitless hours of tinkering with the settings and lighting conditions inside your chosen location. You can turn any indoor place into an artistic photographer’s playground. This is a great option on days that are cloudy and grim, or if you have found a cool place to snap photos (the coolest place I ever found was Chernobyl on a gloomy day, and boy was I thankful I had my low-light camera with me).
When you are shooting photographs inside, you want to spend a little time playing with your camera’s setting to get the right feel. This includes the ISO setting, the aperture, and the shutter speed. Find the right settings for your current mood and then get shooting. When indoors, it helps to focus on smaller, more insignificant details. A lone chair in an abandoned warehouse, a disheveled plant, someone’s discarded shoe – there are usually a ton of things you can use to make an ordinary building interesting with your photography.
You also want to maximize whatever artificial light is inside the building. Lamps, strips of sunlight, the screen of your phone, a candle. All these can create extremely powerful photographs, and your low-light camera will help you get the most out of them. Remember that simplicity is often the best. You can try different angles and different degrees of artificial light to create a unique mood in your pictures.
If you want to use natural light indoors, there are three prime hours for shooting. Midday is the worst. Your photos will look flat and harsh with all the intense light. Try curtains and other obscuring materials to get a better effect. The golden hour, after the sun rises or before the sun sets, is a prime time of day because the light from the rising or setting sun isn’t too bright. This results in prime photographs. For low-light situations, twilight is best. You can use artificial light mixed with the twilight just after sunset to create mysterious, ominous, and other moody photographs.
Night photography is unique. You can maximize your nighttime escapades by using a high-quality camera that is designed for shooting in dark and dim conditions. Night photography ranges anywhere from taking beautiful images of stars in the night sky, a neon-lit alleyway in Tokyo, the dingy subway platform in New York City, a creepy abandoned mansion in the hills, stalking lions in the African plains, an outside street party, to just snapping shots of the city from your bedroom window.
When shooting outdoors at night, you want to have a camera with a large sensor to capture the most amount of light. This is what allows you to get an extraordinary picture of the milky way or of the rippling ocean waves after dusk. Try using a torch to add an external light source. This process is called light painting. It allows you to focus on certain aspects of the scene by brightening some areas while keeping others dark or in shadow.
Night photography is something that takes a long time to explore and get the hang of. The best thing we can suggest is that you pick up a quality camera, strap on your backpack, and hit the streets. Find places that interest you and play with the settings on your camera. Night photography is great because nothing is off limits and light sources are optional. You are able to focus on what works best for you. Exposure, underexposure, the alley cat perched on the fence in the darkness, the enormous moon above the ocean, the fireworks exploding overhead – you can literally capture any image the way you want to.
Low-light photography is fun, but you can’t do it without a great camera. Though the options we mentioned in this article are a bit on the pricier side, you can always find a discount option to start your nightly photographing adventures. If you enjoy yourself, upgrade to a better model when you have the spare cash. This is a hobby that anyone can start and excel at, and all you need is an eye for great photos.