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The 6 Best Cameras For Low-Light Photography - Spring 2022 Reviews

Best Cameras For Low-Light Photography

When it comes to low-light photography, generally speaking, the bigger the sensor, the better. While full-frame cameras are typically best, some APS-C and even Micro Four Thirds cameras are still very capable in low light and offer other advantages like portability and focal reach, so it's all about weighing your needs. The sensitivity of your sensor is also key when taking photos in low light, and thankfully, modern digital cameras can reach astronomically high ISO sensitivities.

However, the trade-off of using high ISO is that it introduces more digital noise, so to take clear sharp images in low-light, your camera needs to have good noise handling capability at higher ISO settings. Thankfully, camera technology has advanced to such a degree that most new cameras can shoot at ever-higher ISOs without sacrificing too much in the way of image quality, and most people won't ever need to use the highest ISO settings, even in low-light or at night. Other factors can affect low-light performance beyond the size and sensitivity of your camera's sensor as well. Above all, though, you should consider your own personal ergonomic and shooting preferences, your budget, and the kind of lenses you'll use.

Your chosen lens impacts how much light the camera takes in, which in turn affects its low-light performance. A faster lens with a wider maximum aperture will let in more light and let you shoot in darker conditions using lower ISO settings for a sharper image, while a slower lens will force you to crank up the ISO and potentially introduce more noise. That said, for consistency's sake, we currently test most of our cameras with their standard kit lenses.

We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras in low light. These picks were selected not only based on their performance but also their feature set and price. For more options, see our recommendations for the best cameras for photography, the best travel cameras, and the best cameras.

  1. Best Mirrorless Camera For Low-Light Photography

    The best low light mirrorless camera that we've tested is the Canon EOS R6. It's an enthusiast-level full-frame mirrorless camera that feels incredibly well-built with a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body, a large handgrip, and responsive controls. Its menu system is remarkably intuitive, and its fully articulated screen can help you shoot from different angles. It also has in-body image stabilization, which should help when shooting without a tripod.

    It's very well-suited to low-light photography thanks to its full-frame 20.1-megapixel sensor, which can reach an amazingly high ISO of 102,400. Its RAW noise handling ability is superb, too, so you can shoot at those high ISO settings without introducing much luminance noise. If you prefer to shoot in JPEG, it still delivers sharp, well-rendered images with impressive dynamic range and minimal noise in low light. Depending on what lens you use, its autofocus system can focus down to -6.5 EV, meaning it can track subjects even in very low light.

    That said, the camera's battery performance is unremarkable. While it supports USB charging, you can't use it while it charges, which is somewhat inconvenient. Still, battery life can also vary drastically depending on your usage habits and choice of settings. Overall, this is an excellent low-light option thanks to its amazing high ISO performance, excellent autofocus system, and robust build quality.

    See our review

  2. Cheaper Alternative

    If you want to save some money, check out the Nikon Z 6II. Its autofocus system isn't as good at tracking faces as the Canon EOS R6's, and it doesn't have a fully articulated screen. However, it's one of the more affordable full-frame cameras we've tested and still delivers great low-light performance. Its image quality is excellent out of the box, as photos look sharp and detailed even as you raise the ISO. It also has fantastic RAW noise handling capability at high ISO levels. The camera also features in-body image stabilization for handheld shooting, and it has a high-resolution EVF, but it can be laggy when using its manual focus assistance feature. The camera's advertised battery life is also just okay.

    Get the Canon if you want a more effective autofocus system and features like a fully-articulated screen. If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, the Nikon is a great alternative.

    See our review

  3. Best DSLR Camera For Low-Light Photography

    The Nikon D780 is the best camera for night photography or low-light photography that we've tested in the DSLR category. This full-frame DSLR feels incredibly well-built and comfortable to shoot with. It has a large handgrip and an optical viewfinder with 100% coverage, so you get a clear, unfiltered view of your subjects. Its weather-sealed body also has extensive physical controls and several customizable options that you can adjust to suit your shooting preferences.

    The camera's 24.5-megapixel sensor has incredible RAW noise handling capability, so you can shoot at high ISO settings in low light without introducing too much visual noise. Its JPEG image quality is also excellent, with minimal noise and loss of sharpness at higher ISOs if you don't want to process your photos yourself. It also has an exceptional battery life that's advertised to last for approximately 2,260 photos depending on your shooting habits and settings.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, so you may need to use a tripod to shoot at slower shutter speeds at night or in very dimly-lit conditions. That said, its Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR kit lens does feature optical stabilization, and the camera does a superb job of reducing the effects of camera shake with it attached. Overall, if you're looking for a DSLR for low-light photography, this is one of the best DSLRs we've tested.

    See our review

  4. Best Crop Sensor Camera For Low-Light Photography

    If you want to save some money by investing in an APS-C system, take a look at the Fujifilm X-T4, which is one of the best crop sensor options for low light that we've tested. While full-frame cameras are generally better for low light, this camera has excellent image processing that allows it to deliver amazing performance even in dimly-lit conditions.

    The camera's RAW noise handling capability is excellent, so you can shoot at higher ISO levels without introducing too much visual noise. JPEG image quality is also very good, and you have access to Fujifilm's 'Film Simulation' profiles to get different color profiles and tones. It's a sturdy, well-built camera with a relatively portable design and a retro feel. It also has a fantastic in-body image stabilization feature that can help you shoot at faster speeds in low light, and its autofocus system does a good job of tracking moving subjects.

    That said, it's not the most consistent autofocus system, as it doesn't always track objects super reliably. The camera's dedicated exposure dials, small handgrip, and squared-off body may not suit everyone's ergonomic preferences either. That said, if you're looking for a well-rounded and highly capable camera that won't break the bank and performs well in low light, this is an excellent choice.

    See our review

  5. Best Camera For Low-Light Video

    The Sony α7 III is the best camera for low-light video that we've tested. This camera is now a few years old but remains a popular choice for photographers and videographers alike due to its well-rounded performance. It's an incredibly well-constructed camera that feels sturdy and robust, and it offers advanced video features as well as excellent video quality in low light.

    It uses a full-frame 24.2-megapixel sensor, and it can record video in 4k at up to 30 fps and 1080p at up to 120 fps, giving you a lot of versatility to shoot whatever style of video you prefer, including slow-motion. Overall, it delivers excellent video quality even in low light, with minimal noise and grain. The camera also has a highly effective autofocus system that can reliably keep moving subjects in focus, and it's advertised to track in -3 EV lighting conditions, though this will also depend on what lens you use.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't have the best internal recording capability, especially compared to newer competitors. It can only record 8-bit video internally, which may disappoint some videographers. That said, it's still a very capable video camera with support for Log shooting and clean HDMI output. All in all, if you're looking for a solid video camera that performs well in low light, this is one of the better options.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Low-Light Camera

    The Nikon Z 50 is the best low-light camera for those on a budget. While it uses an APS-C sensor, this entry-level model still performs well in low light thanks to its 20.9-megapixel sensor. It has great RAW noise handling capability at higher ISO values, even rivaling the performance of some full-frame models we've tested, so it's well-suited to shooting in dimly-lit conditions.

    It's a well-built camera that's relatively portable and feels very comfortable to shoot with. Its screen can tilt out, and it has a fairly large high-resolution EVF. JPEG image quality is impressive, with a good amount of dynamic range to give you some latitude when processing your photos, meaning you can bring out more detail in shadows or underexposed parts of your image, for instance. Its autofocus system is decent, and it's advertised to be able to focus down to -2 EV (or -4 EV with 'Low Light AF' enabled).

    That said, it's not the most reliable autofocus system. It does an okay job of tracking moving subjects, but it can also lose track and shift focus to something in the background at times. This camera also lacks in-body image stabilization, though its optically stabilized kit lens does a good job of steadying the camera for handheld shots. Overall, this is one of the best beginner cameras we've tested, and it's a great budget option for those interested in low-light photography.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-S5: The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 is a great full-frame mirrorless camera with fantastic noise handling capability at higher ISO levels. However, it has a slower continuous shooting speed than the Canon EOS R6, and its autofocus system is less reliable overall. See our review
  • PENTAX K-3 Mark III: The PENTAX K-3 Mark III is a premium APS-C DSLR camera with high ISO performance that practically rivals some full-frame cameras. However, it's expensive, and its autofocus system isn't as reliable as other options. See our review
  • Sony α6600: The Sony α6600 is a crop-sensor camera that performs well in low-light. Its RAW noise handling capability isn't as good at higher ISOs as the Fujifilm X-T4, and its menu system is more convoluted. See our review
  • Sony α7C: The Sony α7C offers a very similar performance as the Sony α7 III, although it has a more compact body with fewer physical controls and a fully-articulated screen. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jan 11, 2022: Reviewed article for accuracy with no change to recommendations.

  2. Dec 21, 2021: Reviewed picks for accuracy and availability.

  3. Dec 08, 2021: Checked accuracy of picks; no change to recommendations.

  4. Nov 17, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.

  5. Oct 27, 2021: Verified accuracy and availability of picks; no change to recommendations.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras for low-light photography for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).

If you'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all of our camera reviews, arranged according to the criteria required for low-light photography. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.