When it comes to low-light photography, generally speaking, the bigger the sensor, the better. While full-frame cameras are typically best, some crop sensor 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. Thankfully, modern digital cameras have been getting better and better over the years at being able to shoot at higher ISO sensitivities with less and less noise, making it easier than ever to capture clear, sharp photos in low light. Of course, if you're going to be shooting at night with a tripod, you'll be able to shoot at lower ISOs with longer exposure times. On the flip side, if you're shooting handheld, built-in image stabilization might be necessary, allowing you to get clear shots at slower shutter speeds. Above all, you should consider your own personal ergonomic and shooting preferences, your budget, and the kind of lenses you'll use. A 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.
We've bought and tested over 75 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras for low light. If you're looking for a general-purpose photography camera, you might prefer to check out our list of the best cameras for photography. If you're more interested in wildlife photography, take a look at our best wildlife cameras. Or, maybe you're just looking for the best cameras we've tested, period. Either way, you're sure to find something to suit your needs.
The Canon EOS R6 is the best low-light camera we've tested. It can handle the toughest of lighting conditions, whether you're shooting wildlife at night or at events like weddings where light may be limited. In-body image stabilization (IBIS) means you can get longer exposures without a tripod in situations where there aren't moving subjects. However, the camera also performs incredibly well at high ISOs, meaning you can get low-light shots of faster subjects with minimal noise. Top it off with an excellent autofocus system that can detect and track subjects even in very low light (down to -6.5 EV, according to Canon), and you've got a very versatile low-light camera.
Canon also has plenty of high-quality lenses available that can open to a very wide aperture. Ultimately, you get what you pay for with this camera. It's super well-built, with a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body that can put up with a ton of use, along with plenty of command dials and well-laid-out controls for an easy-breezy shooting experience.
If the Canon EOS R6 is out of your price range, check out the Nikon Z 6II. Both Canon and Nikon have got camera design down to an art, so this is another full-frame model that stands out for its high-quality build and intuitive controls and design. It's a tad more portable than the Canon, with an even higher resolution viewfinder. However, it doesn't perform at quite the same level as the Canon at high ISOs, although you likely won't notice a huge difference unless you're a pro or hobbyist.
Lenses make the real difference when shooting in low light, and thankfully, Nikon has poured more and more resources into developing Z-mount lenses. There are plenty of excellent high-end options with wide apertures, but Nikon is also increasingly putting out more affordable Z-mount lenses. Overall, this is a fantastic choice for a variety of low-light situations. If you want to save a bit more, the Sony α7 III is also a strong camera to consider and opens up your lens options even further with more third-party options, though it isn't weather-sealed and has worse image stabilization.
You'd never guess that the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 was Panasonic's first full-frame offering. Coming out of left field in 2020, this mid-range camera gives the big three camera brands a run for their money. While Panasonic's autofocus still leaves a lot to be desired compared to Canon or Sony, especially when recording video, this is a fantastic low-light camera with noise handling that's right up there with the Canon EOS R6.
It's also an excellent option if you're interested in video. It can record 4k / 60 fps (with a crop) and captures high-quality video files with a lot of recording formats to choose from. Video quality also stays great when shooting in low light, with plenty of sharpness and detail. Overall, if you don't mind the less reliable autofocus, this is a great low-light option for the price.
The Nikon Z 50 is the best low-light mirrorless camera we've tested for those on a budget. While it uses an APS-C sensor, this entry-level model still performs well in low light thanks to a sensor that punches above its class with noise and high ISO performance. It's also a well-built camera that's relatively portable and feels very comfortable to shoot with, although at this price, you do lose out on higher-end features like IBIS.
It doesn't have the most reliable autofocus system either, but it still does a decent job tracking fast subjects, and it does fairly well focusing in dimmer lighting. It also uses the same lens mount as the Nikon Z 6II above, so it's compatible with all the same Z-mount lenses. Overall, this is one of the best entry-level mirrorless cameras we've tested, and it's a great budget option for those interested in low-light photography.
If you're more interested in video than photography, the Panasonic LUMIX GH5s is a great option. It's less suited to photography than our high-end picks above because of its smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor, but it's designed specifically for low-light video work, taking the best video features from the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 (the predecessor to the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II that we tested) and adding in a lower-resolution sensor optimized for low light. This camera is a videography powerhouse, giving you tons of recording formats/codecs to choose from along with different resolution options like DCI (Cinema) 4k and anamorphic 4k to get a more cinematic look, not to mention unlimited recording times.
That said, you'll get better low-light performance with a full-frame option like the Sony α7S, though the current iteration, the Sony α7S III, will cost you a small fortune compared to the Panasonic. The Panasonic will be more than enough for most people to shoot videos or films in dim lighting conditions. You also get a more portable system overall, with smaller and generally cheaper Micro Four Thirds lenses. Unfortunately, the Panasonic doesn't have built-in image stabilization, so you'll need to use an external stabilizer to get the smoothest footage.
Sep 02, 2022: Overhauled article structure and picks to better reflect market conditions and user needs. Also updated intro and Notable Mentions.
Jan 11, 2022: Reviewed article for accuracy with no change to recommendations.
Dec 21, 2021: Reviewed picks for accuracy and availability.
Dec 08, 2021: Checked accuracy of picks; no change to recommendations.
Nov 17, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras for night photography and low-light shooting 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.