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The 6 Best Cameras For Low-Light Photography - Fall 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Cameras For Low-Light Photography
70 Cameras Tested
  • Store-bought cameras; no cherry-picked units
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The sensitivity of your camera's sensor is key when taking photos in low-light. Modern digital cameras can reach astronomically high ISO sensitivities, with some cameras achieving native ISOs of 102400 or higher, and that's without mentioning expanded ISOs. Most people, however, won't ever need to use ISOs that high, even in low-light or at night. The trade-off of a 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 reasonably high ISO settings.

Generally speaking, the bigger the sensor, the better. While full-frame cameras are typically best for low-light photography, 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. On top of sensor size, other factors affect a sensor's low-light performance, including its resolution, pixel pitch, pixel density, and type, whether it's frontside or backside illuminated, and how it processes light and gain. The good news is that 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. Above all, you should factor in your ergonomic and shooting preferences, your budget, and the kind of lenses you'll use.

It's important to note that your chosen lens affects how much light it lets in, which in turn affects its low-light performance. A faster lens with a wider maximum aperture is going to 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 have 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 65 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras for low-light photography. These picks were selected not only based on their overall 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: Canon EOS R6

    7.6
    Travel Photography
    8.1
    Landscape Photography
    8.1
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    7.4
    Vlogging
    8.6
    Studio Video
    5.3
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    Full Frame
    Tested Lens
    Canon RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM

    The Canon EOS R6 is the best camera in low light that we've tested in the mirrorless category. This premium mirrorless model is very well-suited to shooting in low light conditions thanks to its full-frame 20.1-megapixel sensor. It has fantastic RAW noise handling capability at higher ISO levels, and its JPEG image quality is good, keeping visual noise to a minimum. It also reaches a very high max ISO of 102400, should you need it for extremely low light.

    The camera feels incredibly comfortable to use and should suit most hand sizes. It feels well-built too, and it's advertised to be weather-sealed against elements like rain and humidity. Its autofocus system has an exceptional 6072 advertised detection points spread over a 100% coverage area, meaning the camera can track and focus on anything within the edges of the frame. It has a good success rate when tracking moving subjects. The autofocus is advertised to work in light conditions as low as -6.5 EV, so it should keep tracking subjects even at night, though this varies depending on what lens you use.

    That said, it doesn't have the best battery performance. Its tested battery life in video is just decent, although battery performance can vary drastically with settings and usage habits. Also, while it supports USB charging, you can't use it while it charges, which is a bit inconvenient. Still, this camera's superb image quality and noise handling capability, as well as its great autofocus system, make it one of the best cameras to use in low light that we've tested.

    See our review

  2. Cheaper Alternative: Nikon Z 6II

    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    Full Frame
    Tested Lens
    Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S

    If you want to save some money, check out the Nikon Z 6II. It doesn't have a fully-articulated screen like the Canon EOS R6, and its autofocus system isn't as robust, with fewer advertised detection points and a notably worse face-tracking success rate, but it's cheaper and still a very capable low-light camera. It's a full-frame model, and while it doesn't reach a max ISO of 102400, its max 51200 ISO should be more than capable of handling almost any low-light situation. Its 24.5-megapixel sensor delivers fantastic image quality, and its RAW noise handling capability is superb. Nikon states that its autofocus works in light as low as -4.5 EV, which isn't as low as the Canon but should still be suitable for tracking moving subjects in very dim lighting. Autofocus performance, however, can vary with different lenses. The camera also supports CFexpress cards for a virtually infinite photo buffer, meaning you can take continuous snaps without interruption at a very quick 13fps continuous shooting speed.

    Overall, the Canon offers more robust low-light functionality and quality-of-life features like a fully-articulated screen, but if you want a full-frame camera at a more affordable price, the Nikon is worth considering.

    See our review

  3. Best DSLR Camera For Low-Light Photography: Nikon D780

    7.8
    Travel Photography
    8.0
    Landscape Photography
    8.1
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    5.2
    Vlogging
    7.9
    Studio Video
    5.0
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    No
    Sensor Size
    Full Frame
    Tested Lens
    Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

    Of the DSLRs we've tested, the best camera for night photography or low-light photography is the Nikon D780. This full-frame DSLR feels very well-built, with a magnesium alloy and carbon fiber body that's advertised to be weather-sealed. It's also comfortable to use thanks to its large, textured handgrip, dedicated exposure controls, and intuitive menu system. Its optical viewfinder also gives you an unfiltered view of your subject.

    It uses a 24.5-megapixel sensor and delivers excellent overall image quality in JPEG, with good dynamic range and consistently sharp, noise-free images even at higher ISOs. Its RAW noise handling capability is also fantastic, so it should perform well even in low light or at night. It has an outstanding autofocus system that consistently and reliably tracks moving subjects. Depending on your lens, Nikon advertises that it can detect subjects down to -3 EV when shooting through the viewfinder, which extends down to -5 EV when shooting via Live View and down to -7 EV when using its 'Low-Light AF' mode, though it may be slower to focus in this mode.

    Unfortunately, it lacks in-body image stabilization, so stabilization performance depends on the optical stabilization of whichever lens you use. That said, with its Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR kit lens attached, it does a superb job of stabilizing the image when taking photos without a tripod, which can help shoot at slower shutter speeds in dimly lit conditions. Overall, this is one of the best DSLR cameras we've tested, and it's a great choice for low-light photography.

    See our review

  4. Best Camera For Low-Light Video: Sony α7 III

    7.9
    Travel Photography
    8.4
    Landscape Photography
    7.4
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    6.3
    Vlogging
    8.5
    Studio Video
    4.9
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    Full Frame
    Tested Lens
    Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS

    The best camera in low light that we've tested for video is the Sony α7 III. It's a full-frame interchangeable lens mirrorless camera that offers well-rounded performance in both still photography and video. It stands out for its amazing autofocus system, with 693 advertised phase-detection points covering a wide coverage area. Depending on your lens, Sony advertises that it can focus down to -3 EV.

    The camera delivers fantastic low-light video quality, keeping visual noise and grain to a minimum without losing detail or sharpness. While it's limited to 24 fps or 30 fps in 4k, with the latter incurring a slight crop, it can record at up to 120 fps in 1080p, which is great if you want to incorporate slow-motion footage into your videos. Its autofocus supports face detection and does an incredible job tracking moving subjects, whether recording in 4k or FHD, although it lacks eye-tracking support for more precise focusing.

    Unfortunately, while the camera has in-body image stabilization, it does a poor job smoothing out camera shake when shooting in 4k with its kit lens attached. It's better in FHD but still just okay. Also, its screen can only tilt out and can't flip around to face you, which may disappoint some vloggers. Still, this is among the best low-light cameras for videography, thanks to its excellent overall video quality and superb autofocus system.

    See our review

  5. Best Crop Sensor Camera For Low-Light Photography: Fujifilm X-T4

    7.8
    Travel Photography
    7.9
    Landscape Photography
    8.0
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    8.5
    Vlogging
    8.6
    Studio Video
    7.3
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    APS-C
    Tested Lens
    FUJINON XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R OIS

    The best crop-sensor camera that we've tested for low-light photography is the Fujifilm X-T4. While it makes the most sense to get a full-frame camera for low-light or nighttime photography, an APS-C camera like this one offers a couple of advantages; notably, its more compact size, as well as typically more affordable lenses. It also has a fantastic in-body image stabilization feature, which can help you shoot at slower shutter speeds in low light.

    Its APS-C sensor has a 26.1-megapixel resolution, and the camera offers very good JPEG image quality. You can also take advantage of Fujifilm's 'Film Simulation' modes to emulate the look and tone of classic film stocks. It has excellent RAW noise handling performance, so photos have minimal luminance noise at higher ISO levels. It has a good autofocus system overall, with 425 advertised detection points and eye-tracking support. It should work well in low light, as it's advertised to focus down to -3 EV using contrast-detection AF and down to -7 EV when using phase-detection AF, though this depends on your chosen lens.

    That said, its autofocus system can be inconsistent at tracking moving subjects when compared to some alternatives. It particularly varies when tracking moving objects for still photos. Still, it does a fantastic job when shooting video, even when your subject is moving around or popping in and out of frame. Its video quality is excellent, though it's only decent in low light due to the crop sensor. Overall, this is one of the best mirrorless cameras we've tested.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Low-Light Camera: Nikon Z 50

    7.4
    Travel Photography
    7.7
    Landscape Photography
    7.1
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    7.2
    Vlogging
    7.1
    Studio Video
    5.2
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    APS-C
    Tested Lens
    Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR

    If you're on a budget, the best camera in low light that we've tested is the Nikon Z 50. This APS-C model is relatively lightweight and portable, and it feels very comfortable to use. While it doesn't offer the same low-light performance as higher-end full-frame models, it still gives a lot of value for its price and solid low-light capability for its class.

    It delivers impressive overall image quality thanks to its 20.9-megapixel sensor. Photos look remarkably sharp and have minimal noise at higher ISO levels. Even in RAW, it has great noise handling capability, letting you shoot at up to ISO 1600 before luminance noise starts to become noticeable. Its autofocus system is decent and does an okay job tracking moving subjects for still photos. According to Nikon, it can focus down to -2 EV, depending on your lens, so it should be suitable for fairly dark conditions, and it extends down to -4 EV in its slower 'Low-Light AF' mode.

    Unfortunately, its battery performance is mediocre, and you can't keep using it while it charges via USB, which may be inconvenient. However, battery life can vary depending on your choice of settings and usage habits. It also lacks in-body image stabilization, but thankfully, it does a good job smoothing out camera shake when using its Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR kit lens, which can help in low light. All in all, this is one of the best beginner cameras we've tested, and it's a great option if you're on a budget.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-S5: The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 is a great full-frame mirrorless camera that has 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 a bit 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 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

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 US).

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.

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