Cameras come in different tastes and colors, well figuratively at least, and we know that different cameras focus on different things at the least. For instance, different cameras focus on capturing the fast movements of subjects, making them excellent picks for wildlife and sports photography, then again some cameras are better for delivering a better video capturing performance, or the models that are perfect for portrait and wedding photography. Of course, if you are reading this you want a camera that will deliver you a better low light performance.
It has always been a big challenge for photographers, finding cameras that will deliver better performance for low light scenarios. Right until like 10 years ago, you would have needed to pay a lot of money to get a good low light camera, however, with the advancements in technology and such we have seen excellent models coming in that deliver perfect performance in low light conditions.
For that reason today I will reveal the best cameras for low light photography and other than that I will tell you what makes a camera better for low light conditions. I have written this guide based on my experience, expert consultation, and market research. Now without further ado, let’s take a look at the best low light cameras.
The Top 5 Best Low Light Cameras
5. Pentax K-3
For those that are looking for low light cameras and don’t want to spend a lot of money, I have an excellent option that will satisfy all your low light photography needs, the Ricoh Pentax K-3. This camera will deliver great still low light photography, and so much more as you will see in a few moments.
When you check out its specs and features, you might not expect that the Pentax K-3 is such an affordable camera. Starting from the most important, the Pentax K-3 has a 24-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor that combines with the homegrown processing engine that delivers a great performance. The ISO range of this camera spans form 100 to 51,200 and it has 9 white balance presets of which all of them look good. It has a contrast-detect and phase-detect hybrid autofocus system with 27 focus points and can shoot 8.5fps in burst shooting mode.
As a proper enthusiast DSLR, the Pentax K-3 looks the part with a great ergonomic body that is a result of the great weight balance, deep handgrip, and textured thumb grip. Also, this camera is designed for outdoors, as it is storm and freezeproof so you can use this camera in extreme conditions. I should also mention that this camera has some nice enthusiast-level controls that are intuitive and deliver great creative freedom.
During testing, I noticed that the Pentax K-3 delivered a great photography experience, and during the low light conditions, it proved itself powerful and useful. The metering and white balance performance was excellent and it eliminated the noise adequately, at least for its price. So if you want a good low light camera without spending a lot of money this is it.
4. Nikon D750
Coming up next we have the Nikon D750, which is a full-frame DSLR camera from the trusted manufacturer. It is one of the most capable models in the market delivering a performance close to professional level cameras out there, and the low light results were pretty much exceptional. Let’s take a closer look.
The feature and specifications list of the Nikon D750 is pretty long and large, but I will take the main points from it that is needed for low light performance. First off, this camera has a 24 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that works hand-to-hand with the Expeed 4 image processor. This camera has a good ISO range as well, one that spans from 50 to 51,200, which is more than enough, and it has 12 white balance presets that work rather well. To go along with all that it has a contrast-detect/ phase-detect autofocus system that has 51 number of focus points and it does so quickly. It can also shoot 6.5fps in the burst shooting mode without losing focus.
Right upon unboxing I saw that this camera feels like it is capable of withstanding any form of abuse, and checking its construction confirms since it has a magnesium alloy and carbon fiber combination in its construction. It does feel durable and it has weatherproofing, while it is still pretty light at 840 grams. I should also state that it has a great handgrip and ergonomics are its strong suit. The controls are as expected easy to use, yet a lot. They will deliver you plenty of creative control without a doubt.
During two weeks of testing, I saw that the Nikon D750 was a beast, delivering sharp images with natural color and great exposure. Coming to our main point the 91k pixel RGB metering sensor worked wonders and combined with the +/-5 EV exposure compensation was pretty much enough for delivering perfect performance at even high ISO settings.
3. Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Coming up next we have another excellent full-frame DSLR, that will deliver you a great low light performance at high ISO with super low noise, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. If you know a thing or two bout cameras you might have heard that the Canon EOS 5D series has been one of the best, and the Mark III doesn’t disappoint.
This is a pretty powerful camera that will be enough for even professional photographers, and just by looking at the spec sheets and feature list you will see what I am telling you. It is packed with a 22MP full-frame CMOS sensor that works perfectly with the DIGIC 5+ image processor. The ISO range of this beast spans from 50 to 102,400 and it does everything perfectly with the 6 white balance presets. On top of that, it has a hybrid contrast-detect and phase-detect autofocus system with 61 points. It can shoot 6 frames per second in burst shooting mode and it does so with great focus.
This amazing camera feels capable right from the get-go. When you take it in your hands it feels like it is ready for action, as it has millions of buttons and controls all over it. It might feel a bit heavy, but it comes to form its heavy-duty durability thanks to its magnesium alloy and polycarbonate construction, which is also dust and weather-sealed. While it weighs 950 grams in total it doesn’t tire your hands a lot thanks to its weight distribution and deep handgrip, which works wonders.
I reckoned that this camera would deliver a superb performance, but it still impressed me even though I set the bar high. It worked wonders in every scene as the dynamic range was super wide and high. The detail retention was superb as well and it delivered a good performance even in low light scenarios which were just what we were looking for.
2. Sony a7R III
Coming up next we have one of the most capable mirrorless cameras in the market, a true beast that has no disadvantages besides its mediocre battery life, the Sony a7R III. This camera is one of the best, while it is pretty expensive it doesn’t have a lot of lens selections available if you want a powerful performance this is it.
Like I said this is one of the most advanced cameras you can buy right now, and the spec sheet confirms that. It is packed with a 42.2 megapixel 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor which does wonder when combined with the Bionz X image processing engine. It can also shoot 10 frames per second at that quality while still keeping focus with the quick Hybrid AF system with 399 points focal plane phase detect and 425 point contrast-detect autofocus points. It also has a 5 axis image stabilization system with 5.5 stop exposure performance, definitely a beast.
Like all mirrorless cameras in the market, this one is light and small compared to other ones in this list. However, it feels extremely premium and substantial when you hold it, thanks to the magnesium alloy construction with a weight of 657 grams. I should also state that the handgrip is pretty deep and you get a secure feeling from it. The controls are pretty interesting though, delivering a professional level of creative freedom.
The image quality and the low light performance of this camera is excellent as it has an ISO range that spans from 50 to 102,400, 15-stop dynamic range and 14-bit raw shooting that makes this one a dream come true.
1. Nikon D850
On top of the list, we have the definite best camera for low light photography the Nikon D850. This camera will do everything from weddings to landscape, to action, and so much more, this is one of the most powerful ones I have ever seen. Let’s take a closer look.
This camera is packed with a 45.7-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that is combined with the Expeed 5 sensor that delivers a perfect performance. It has an ISO range that spans from 32 to 102,400 which is amazing and it has 14 white balance presets that will help us in our quest. It also has a super powerful 151 point hybrid autofocus system that does wonders with the 7 frames per second burst shooting mode.
This camera is pretty large, a huge beast to be honest, but if you want a professional level performance you should know that. This camera has a magnesium alloy body with the best weather sealing in the market. It may weigh 1005 grams in total but it feels nice in hands with the deep handgrip and nice ergonomics. Weight distribution is great as well as it is great overall. I found out that the controls are pretty complicated but nothing that will bother and enthusiast.
The performance of the Nikon D850 is super powerful and no one can compare with it, at least for the low light performance as it delivers a great shooting experience. The noise wasn’t a problem in the high ISO ranges and overall it is one of my favorite cameras in the market.
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What To Look For In A Low Light Camera?
Some criteria make a camera better for low light conditions, and you should know that not just because a camera is marketed as better for low light conditions it doesn’t always translate to that. So let’s check out some of the features and qualities that a low light camera should have.
This is the most important thing you should know before buying any camera, and not just for low light. The sensor should be your primary focus and you should check out that first. Fortunately, though, there are tons of good sensors in the market these days so you just need to choose a camera from a trusted manufacturer to get the best performance. The sensor of the camera is important for low light since a better sensor absorbs as much light as it can from the scene, and without these, you won’t get the quality image, especially in low lighting conditions. For that reason, a high-quality sensor is a must.
The aperture of your camera will depend mainly on the lens of your camera. However, if you are looking for a camera that will excel in low light conditions than you need a camera that has a wide aperture. You can safely opt for a camera that has an f/1.4 with 85mm aperture that will deliver excellent performance, though you can also opt for a 35mm aperture camera that will deliver you excellent performance in low lighting. Apart from low lighting, a wider aperture will deliver a nice effect to your images, and the focusing power is even better than counterparts with narrower apertures.
ISO range of your camera translates to the sensitivity of your sensor, this can span from 50 to millions in the best cameras out there. But to be safe you should know that the ISO level of your camera translates into better light sensitivity, meaning that it can deliver a better low light performance. Then again you should know that if you get a camera with high ISO settings you should also check to see if the camera has good noise cancellation features. Because the higher you go up the ISO range the more noise your images will have.
There you have it, my fellow photographers. Your complete guide on getting the best low light camera in the market. If you follow the tips above you will get one of the best ones, now and in the future. Also make sure to check out the top picks, since those are the fail-safe, tested and proven options. The top picks are chosen by me based on their performance, buyer feedback, testing, features and value for the price. Now go on and have fun with your new camera.