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Best Low Light Camera to Buy in 2021 (Our 16 Top Picks!)

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When you’re shooting photos on a beautiful sunny day, light is the last thing you worry about. But the fun doesn’t always stop when the sun goes down or when the lights go off.

This guide will help you find the best low-light camera for you in 2021. We have something for all skill levels and budgets. So let’s have a look at the best cameras you can buy today.

image of a camera on a tripod with a blurry sunset in the background
Photo by Patrick

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What is Low Light Photography?

Light is one of the essential elements in photography. And low-light conditions have always been a challenge for photographers.

Light reacts with the film emulsion or triggers the camera sensor. This is how a photograph is made. The more light there is, the easier the process is. And in the past, low light photography has been a problem.

Camera technology has come a long way in the last few years. And now cameras are built to cope with low light conditions. They have the functions and features that can achieve excellent images even when light is at a premium.

Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are the three elements that make up the exposure triangle. All photographers should understand this, especially if they want to shoot in when light is low.

If your film or sensor don’t get enough light, you’ll experience two main problems. Your image will be under-exposed, which means the photo will be dark and lack detail. And you will experience noise.

Noise is an image defect that gives it a granular effect. With film photography, this problem is called grain. There are solutions in post-processing. But the best solution is having a camera that can cope with the conditions.

When you’re looking for the best low light camera, these are some of the things you’ll need to be aware of.

image of a petrol pump shot in low light with a dark landscape in the background
Photo by Khamkeo Vilaysing

Best Low-Light Cameras in 2021

“The Best” is a difficult thing to define, especially when it comes to cameras. You need to think about which camera is best for you. What is your budget? And what photography do you want to do?

Our list of the best low light cameras has something for everyone. Take a look, and we’re sure you will find the best low light camera for you.

Best Low Light Cameras for Beginners

1. Sony a6300

Sony a6300

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: APS-C CMOS
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Screen: 3-inch Tilting Touchscreen, 921k dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.4-million dots
  • ISO Range: 100-512008
  • Max burst speed: 11fps

The Sony a6300 is affordable and has great features. It’s compact but has everything it needs to be the best low light camera for beginners in 2021.

It’s a crop sensor machine, so it doesn’t have the resolution of a full-frame camera. But 24.2MP from an APS-C sensor won’t disappoint.

The ISO range is the thing that makes this a low light specialist. You won’t find many cameras with an ISO range of 100-512008 in the same price bracket. You can shoot up to ISO 25,000 without experiencing any noise. Even beyond this point, the image quality stays high.

The autofocus system is another strong point for the Sony a6300. It’s quick and reliable. And it uses 425 points of phase detection that keeps your images in sharp focus even when light is running low.

2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
  • Resolution: 20.3MP
  • Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037K dots
  • Viewfinder: 2,360K dots
  • ISO Range: 80-25,600
  • Max burst speed: 15fps

A lot of people might be concerned by the smaller sensor size. But the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is one of the best low-light cameras in 2021.

Micro Four Thirds cameras are often misunderstood. The sensor is smaller than those of the APS-C and full-frame cameras. But this Olympus still packs a punch. And the smaller sensor gives an extended focal length.

The standard resolution is 20.3MP, which is more than respectable. But the ISO range of 80-25,600 makes this a competitive low light camera. If the light does start to fade, you won’t need to panic.

The in-body image stabilization system is the feature that sets this camera apart. It’s not something often found in a camera of this price bracket. The system will keep your images sharp and distortion-free when conditions are favourable. You don’t need to worry when using slower shutter speeds.

Olympus also have an excellent selection of lenses for their Micro Four Thirds cameras. Selecting the right lens can also help you achieve good results when the lights go out.

3. Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: APS-C CMOS
  • Resolution: 32.5MP
  • Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037K dots
  • Viewfinder: 2.36 million dots
  • ISO Range: 100-25,600 (expandable to 51200)
  • Max burst speed: 14fps

The Canon EOS M6 Mark II is an excellent beginner’s mirrorless camera. The variety of great functions make it an all-round camera with great low light capabilities.

The M5 Mark II is small and compact. But when it comes to images quality, it will knock your socks off. The APS-C sensor provides an image resolution of 32.5MP. The image quality of this standard is a great place to start for night shooting.

The standard ISO range is 100 to 25,600 but expands to 51,200. The image resolution is so good that noise doesn’t become a problem until things get really dark. It’s perfect for night shoots and concerts.

The autofocus is a strong point. The phase detection works well in darker situations so you can keep your images crisp and clear. The main weakness is the battery life. 300 shots per charge won’t get you too far.

4. Fujifilm X-T30

Fujifilm X-T30

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 26.1MP
  • Screen: 3-inch touchscreen, 1,040K dots
  • Viewfinder: 2.36-million-dot
  • ISO Range: 200-12,800, (expandable 100-51,200)
  • Max burst speed: 8fps Mechanical, 30fps electronic

The Fujifilm X-T30 is only just in the beginners’ category. But its affordability means you get a lot for your money. And you can grow into the camera as your knowledge improves.

The X-T30 is a great all-round mirrorless camera. The 26.1MP resolution gives you excellent images. And you get the option of a mechanical or electronic shutter for continuous shooting. The latter gives you a rapid 30fps burst rate.

The standard ISO range of 200-12,800 doesn’t seem like something to shout about. But this can be extended to 100-51,200, giving you superb images in low light. Digital noise does become a problem, but not until you really push the ISO.

One problem is the lack of an in-body stabilization system. But the autofocus has excellent low light phase detection capabilities. The camera was built with low light photography in mind, making it one of the best low light cameras available today.

5. Canon G1X Mark III

Canon G1X Mark III

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless Compact
  • Sensor: APS-C CMOS
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2,200K dots
  • Viewfinder: 2,360k dots
  • ISO Range: 100 – 12,800 (25,600 extended)
  • Max burst speed: 14fps

If you’re looking for a compact camera with excellent low light performance, then the Canon G1X Mark III could be the answer to your prayers. It’s made for travel, and it won’t let you down when the road gets dark.

Don’t be fooled by this camera’s size. The 24.2MP resolution can compete with many DSLRs in the same price range. And they won’t fit in your pocket.

The maximum ISO range is 100-25,600. And that’s extended from 12,800. It may not seem like much compared to other cameras on this list. But this is a compact camera.

The lens-shift image stabilization is another plus point, making the G1X Mark II one of the best low light compact cameras you can find.

image of shooting stars on a dark mountainous landscape
Photo by Nathan Anderson

Best Low Light Cameras for Enthusiasts

1. Nikon Z6 II

Nikon Z6 II

  • Camera Type: Full Frame Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Full Frame
  • Resolution: 24.5MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 2,100K dot
  • Viewfinder: 3.69M-dot
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200 (50-204,800 extended)
  • Max burst speed: 14fps

The Nikon Z6 is about as versatile as a full-frame camera can be. It’s great for stills and video. There’s a good burst for continuous shooting. And low light shooting isn’t a problem either.

The image resolution is 24.5MP. This isn’t groundbreaking, especially for a full-frame camera. But the image quality is still excellent. And the Z6 II has other features that increase the low light performance.

The high ISO can be extended from 51,200 to 204,800. This wide ISO range gives you flexibility and reliability. And the camera works hard to reduce digital noise, even at higher ISO settings.

The Z6 II has a special low light metering system that can assess images when light is limited to -6EV. The in-body stabilization also helps to keep your image quality high. And the hybrid autofocus system performs well when light is low.

Nikon has an excellent selection of Z-Mount lenses to go with this camera. You don’t get the same variety as with their F-mount series, but the collection is growing.

2. Panasonic Lumix S5

Panason Lumix S5

  • Camera Type: Full-frame Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Full frame CMOS
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,840K dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36M dots
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200
  • Max burst speed: 7fps (mechanical shutter), 30fps (6K Photo Mode)

The Panasonic Lumix S5 is a workhorse of a camera. It’s lightweight and robust. And it’s one of the best low light cameras on the market.

The 24.2MP image resolution is perfectly respectable. But the Lumix S5 has the killer combination of a solid ISO range, advanced autofocus, and reliable image stabilization.

The top ISO setting is 51,200. Noise will become a problem as you near the limit. But you’ll still capture usable images throughout the ISO range. You also get V-Gamut mode for a 14-plus stop dynamic range.

The autofocus system has head, face, and eye detection that makes your life a lot easier. And the 5-axis in-body stabilization system is second to none in this price range. It allows you to shoot at a 6.5-stop slower shutter speed. This is perfect for low light shooting.

The Lumix S5 also has great video capture and burst mode. So if you’re a videographer or vlogger with a lack of light, it’s one of the best cameras for low light shooting.

3. Nikon D7500

Nikon D7500

  • Camera Type: Crop Frame DSLR
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 20.9MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 922K dots
  • Viewfinder: Pentaprism
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200
  • Max burst speed: 8fps

If you’re looking for a DSLR camera, the Nikon D7500 is a low light specialist. The camera has the classic Nikon DSLR build quality. And it’s durable and robust.

On paper, the specs might not look like there’s much to shout about. But the Nikon D7500 has excellent low light performance.

The ISO range is 100-51,200, and digital noise is kept to a minimum. You’ll get usable images in some of the most extreme conditions. There is also an Auto ISO mode that selects the correct number for the conditions. It’s a great time-saver and learning tool.

Photographers used to more modern cameras might not like the old-fashioned pentaprism viewfinder. But the touchscreen does have articulation capabilities.

The battery life is excellent, achieving 900 shots from one charge. Like most Nikon DSLR cameras, the D7500 is usable and reliable. And for low like conditions, it’s the best out there.

4. Fujifilm X-T4

Fujifilm XT4

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Resolution: 26.1MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,620K dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots
  • ISO Range: 160 – 12800 (80-51200 extended)
  • Max burst speed: 15fps

The Fujifilm X-T4 is a versatile crop-frame mirrorless camera. The stills and video are brilliant, and the burst is quick too. But low light shooting is another one of its strong points.

The 26.1MP image quality gives you a great basis to start from. The standard ISO range isn’t impressive. But the top end can be extended to 51,200. And as you go further up the ISO range, the X-T4 will continue to produce usable images.

The camera’s other features make the X-T4 a contender in dark conditions. The 5-axis in-body image stabilization system allows you to shoot at a slower shutter speed without experiencing blur. And the autofocus tracking system works when it’s as dark as -6EV.

The 4K video capture also works well in low light. The battery life is good, and with the battery extension, you can shoot up to 2000 without having to recharge.

5. Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame DSLR
  • Sensor: Full-Frame CMOS
  • Resolution: 26.2MP
  • Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • ISO Range: 100-40,000 (Expandable 50-102,400)
  • Max burst speed: 6.5fps

DSLR cameras are great workers. And the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is the perfect example. It has the classic DSLR traits of reliability and usability. And it has superb low light performance.

When the sun is shining, you’ll get excellent stills with a resolution of 26.2MP. And the image quality is maintained even up to the highest standard ISO stop of 40,000. You can also expand the ISO range to 102,400. You might experience some noise at the expanded stops. But you’ll still get usable images.

The autofocus isn’t the most advanced, with only 45-point cross-type detection. But it is fast and reliable in low light. It’ll continue to function down to darkness of -4EV.

It’s a classic DSLR camera and one of the best for low light conditions. It might not suit everybody. But it might be the best low light camera for you.

6. Panasonic Lumix GH5S

Panasonic Lumix GH5S

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds
  • Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,620k dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 3680K dots
  • ISO Range: 160-51,200 (80-204,800 extended)
  • Max burst speed: 11fps

The Panasonic Lumix GH5S is aimed at videographers as well as photographers. The dual-purpose does affect the stills functions. But if you’re looking for a camera that makes videos, this is one of the best low light cameras available.

Don’t be alarmed by the 10.2MP resolution. This is a micro four thirds camera, so the sensor is naturally smaller. But also, the extra photoreceptive sensor surface delivers excellent image quality and an ultra-wide dynamic range.

The GH5S also has Dual Native ISO for extra light sensitivity. Digital noise is kept to a minimum even when you’re using the expanded ISO grades. And the expanded ISO range is impressive, reaching 204,800.

The rugged body is splash and freeze-proof. And the battery is reasonable at 440 shots per charge. The Panasonic Lumix GH5S is one of the best low light cameras for stills and video.

guitarist on stage shot in low light
Photo by Asyraf Syazwan

Best Low Light Cameras for Professionals

1. Sony A9 II

Sony a9 II

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Full-Frame CMOS
  • Resolution: 24.2MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,620k dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 3680K dots
  • ISO Range: 100-25,600 (50-204,800 extended)
  • Max burst speed: 20fps

The Sony A9 II was designed for professional sports photographers and photojournalists. It has all the features to meet their needs, such as a rapid burst and top-of-the-range autofocus. And low light features are included too.

The 24.2MP sensor isn’t breathtaking. Nor is the standard ISO range. But the Sony A9 II has features that make it a market leader in low light photography. The ISO range is extendable to the height of 204,800, which is impressive. And the camera maintains excellent image quality with minimal noise.

The in-body stabilization system allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds without fear of deterioration. It gives you 5.5 stops of compensation, giving you the freedom to shoot in the dark.

The jewel in the crown is the hybrid autofocus system. It has 693 points for phase detection. And 425 points of contrast detection. It’s the perfect system for the fast-paced action of sports photography. And it’s also great when you’re in dark conditions.

2. Nikon D5

Nikon D5

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame DSLR
  • Sensor: FX-Format Full-Frame
  • Resolution: 20.8MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 2,360K Dots
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • ISO Range: 100-102,400 (Extend to 3,280,000)
  • Max burst speed: 12fps

The D5 is one of Nikon’s best full frame DSLR cameras. It is rather on the expensive side. But it’s rugged and reliable. And it’s a low light specialist.

The sensor resolution may seem low. But the Nikon FX-format sensor isn’t your average image sensor. It is more receptive to light. And coupled with the Expeed 5 processor, the images won’t disappoint you.

The star of the show is the ISO range. The standard range is 100-102,400, which by itself is impressive. But this is extendable to 3,280,00. This is outstanding and makes it a true low light specialist.

The Nikon D5 also has brilliantly sharp and responsive autofocus. The system uses 153 points of detection. And it performs well down to light levels as dark as -4EV. And the video quality is also excellent, even in low light.

The problems are the size, the weight, and the price. And it lacks an image stabilization system. But you can rely on the quality. And when it comes to DSLR cameras, the D5 is the best camera for low light right now.

3. Sony A7S III

Sony a7S III

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Exmor R
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,440K dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 9.44M-dot
  • ISO Range: 80-102,400 (40-409600 expandable)
  • Max burst speed: 10fps

The Sony A7S III is a specialist in two areas. It is excellent for video. And it has superb low light capabilities. So if you’re into shooting videos in the dark, the A7S III is the best camera for low light footage capture.

The Sony Exmor R sensor is highly sensitive. But the low pixel resolution does let the camera down slightly. But when it comes to low light, the camera has no problems at all.

The ISO is expandable to 409,600, which is outstanding. Digital noise is kept to a minimum even in the darkest conditions. And the advanced autofocus system will function without issue down to EV-6.

The Autofocus system uses 759 points of phases detection. And the in-body image stabilization system gives you 5.5 stops of compensation. And both these features work for stills and video.

4. Nikon D850

Nikon D850

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame DSLR
  • Sensor: FX-Format Full-Frame
  • Resolution: 45.7MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,600K dots
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • ISO Range: 64-25,600 (expands to 32-102,400)
  • Max burst speed: 9fps

Professional photographers all over the world are using the Nikon D850. This DSLR camera has been around for a few years now. And some of the tech has been surpassed. But it’s still a camera you can turn to in 2021.

Image resolution is the D850’s real strength. The full-frame sensor has a staggering 45.7MP, and it’ll give you unforgettable images. And the high resolution ensures you don’t experience any digital noise when you’re shooting in lower light.

The expanded ISO reaches 102,400. And with this level of image resolution, you can push it to its limit without fear of losing quality. Even with minimal light, you can capture usable images.

The autofocus system is reliable in low light conditions. But there is no in-body stabilization. You have to rely on lens stabilization systems. Fortunately, Nikon has an excellent range of lenses for F-mount cameras.

5. Canon EOS R6

Canon EOS R6

 

  • Camera Type: Full-Frame DSLR
  • Sensor: Full-Frame CMOS
  • Resolution: 20MP
  • Screen: 3.2-inch articulated touchscreen, 1,620k dots
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots
  • ISO Range: 100-102,400 (50-204,800 expandable)
  • Max burst speed: 12fps (Mechanical), 20fps (Electronic)

The Canon EOS R6 is a solid all-round full-frame mirrorless camera. It’ll perform well for all types of photography. And low light is one area where it is particularly strong.

The image quality from the full-frame sensor is good. But the extra features make this a true contender when the lights go out.

It has a dual-pixel autofocus system that has 100% image coverage, using 1053 areas. No matter what you’re shooting, or when, the AF will be able to get a grip on it. And the 5-axis image stabilizer gives you 8 stops of shake correction.

These features will maintain high image quality when shooting in low light. Even when using the camera’s expanded ISO range, you’ll be impressed by the images.

sunset behind shrubs shot in very low light
Photo by Noah Silliman

Conclusion

Coping with low light has been a problem for photographers ever since the camera was invented. But all the leading camera manufacturers are now tackling the low light photography problem head-on.

Camera technology is advancing all the time. And now low light solutions are being provided.

No matter your skill level or your budget, you can find the best low light camera to meet your needs.

If you want to learn how to capture stunning nighttime skies, check out our Shooting Skies eBook.

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