5 Best Low-Light Cameras | A Guide To Choosing The Right Camera

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Best Low-Light Cameras – Investing in a new camera can be a long process full of research that can be overwhelming. 

Which style of a camera are you looking at, a mirrorless or DSLR camera? What is your budget for a new camera? How will you be using your new camera? Even though the questions can be overwhelming, the good news is there is a fantastic camera available to suit your needs.

But with all the features that many of us look for in choosing the perfect camera, there is one thing that I believe is the most important, and that is low-light capability.

Knowing how a camera will perform when shooting a night scene, how it works with natural light, and how it performs across the exposure triangle is extremely important in finding the right camera for you. 

While the grainy film look is fantastic when taking video or pictures during magic hours, but the grainy film look is something you don’t want when shooting in low-light conditions. 

Whether you’re filming social events at dark venues like low-lit restaurants, shooting a music video in a poorly lit location, or even shooting night vlogs to post on your YouTube channel, you will need the best low-light camera possible.

In this article, I’ve put together a list of the best low-light cameras available today for your low-light needs, along with some of the important factors you need to consider as well. 

The best low-light mirrorless cameras and even the best low-light micro four-thirds cameras are here in the post for you to check out! 

Whatever camera system you’re looking for, you’ll find the best low-light performer right here.

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Key features to consider

Before we begin with the best low-light cameras today, you should understand some of the key factors you need to think about in your research. Whatever model of low-light video camera you’re searching for, these three key factors will always apply.

Sensor size

For those that don’t understand sensor size in a camera, a sensor is the part of your camera that will capture all of the light coming through your lens. 

It takes this light and converts it into the image you see. Essentially, the larger the sensor is, the more light the camera can capture. So with larger sensor sizes, it will always give you better low-light performance. 

The more light a camera can capture, the less light you’ll need to film or capture photographs even when shooting in a dark, low-lit environment.

There are 3 main sensor sizes you should consider. The largest is full-frame, followed by APS-C and micro four-thirds.

ISO range

The second factor is the camera’s ISO. Besides your shutter angle and aperture, ISO plays a critical role in low-light performance. With a few exceptions, you want to keep your ISO at 100, or at least very low. 

When working with less light, you can increase the ISO. This increase provides a brighter image even if there’s not enough light, but there is a drawback to this. The higher the ISO, the noisier the image and the lower the quality of the video footage of the picture image. 

Subject to the camera you are using, you’ll see that when shooting on high ISOs, dots and grain will show up in the image, especially in the darker parts of your frame. So, how do you deal with this?

Well, the larger your camera’s sensor is, the less you’ll need to punch up the ISO. Next, some of the best low-light cameras available now have made huge steps in the ISO range. Even when punched up way higher than what has previously been considered acceptable, the image quality remains exceptionally well.

Just remember that bumping up the ISO should be your last resort if you don’t have an adequate lighting kit. 

Lenses

Having the right lens is key when it comes to the best low-light video cameras. If you don’t have the right lens attached to even the best low-light camera on the market, it won’t improve the quality of your videos or photographs.

So, what should you look for in choosing the right lens for your low-light video camera?

When you look at aperture size, the larger your aperture is, the more light the lens allows to enter the sensor. Therefore, the lower the aperture of your lens is, the better your camera will perform when it comes to low-light conditions.

When deciding on the best low-light cameras for you, you’ll need to think about which lens mounts they use and which lens families will be available to you when you purchase a particular camera body. 

The way we measure aperture is called the F-number, or F-stop range—something you may be familiar with now. When looking at lenses, you’ll see that they come with a number such as f/1.8 or f/3.5-f/8. 

So to get the most out of your camera in low-light conditions, you’ll be looking for a lens with an F-number anywhere between f/1.8 and f/3.5.

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The Best Low-light Cameras

Now that we got the key factors of what to look for in a low-light camera, let’s breakdown the best low-light video cameras available to you right now.

Sony a7S III

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Sensor: 12.1MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor | ISO range: 80-102,400 (expandable 40-409,600) | Lens: Sony E-mount | Image stabilisation: 5-axis in-body stabilisation

Pros

  • 12MP full-frame sensor
  • 4K recording at 10-bit quality
  • 120fps slow-motion at 4K
  • Face and eye detection autofocus
  • Subject tracking at 10fps
  • High sensitivity for low light
  • 5-axis IBIS
  • Dust and splash protection

Cons

  • CFExpress cards required for best quality slow-motion video
  • Video autofocus doesn’t work SLR lens adapters

If you are looking for a camera with power, the Sony a7S III is one of the best low-light cameras you can buy right today. With its ISO ceiling of 409,600, the Sony A7S III can quite literally capture videos inside a mysterious dark cave with ease, with its full-frame sensor making the most of every pixel. 

The dynamic range of the Sony A7S III beats almost every camera out there on the market today, plus its cinema-quality 4K video is one the best you can shoot with a camera at this size and price point.

The only thing about the Sony A7S III camera is it’s a video first camera, which explains the low megapixel count of 12MP. Between the incredible low-light capabilities and the stunning 4k 10bit video, this camera is a beast for any videographer OR photographer. 

I’d say it rivals the Sony FX9 in terms of video quality (minus some of the more pro features like internal ND, timecode, or XLR), but this camera’s video quality is that of Hollywood and could easily be used for feature productions. 

All around this is my favorite Sony camera, and even though it has low MP the quality for photos is excellent, easily printable up to 16×20 if not larger with no loss of quality. This low-light camera is a must-buy if you shoot video!

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Panasonic GH5s

best low-light cameras

Sensor:10.2-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor | ISO range: 60-51200 (expands to 80-204800) | Lens: Interchangeable lens | Image stabilization: 5-Axis Sensor Stabilization; Dual I.S. 2 | Video: Internal 4:2:2 10-Bit 4K Video at 24/30p

Pros

  • Native 4K sensor and dual native ISO for excellent low-light video quality
  • Same build quality as GH5
  • Dual card slots
  • Vari-angle touch LCD
  • Big
  • sharp EVF
  • 14-bit Raw imaging V-Log L and HLG included

Cons

  • Omits in-body stabilization
  • 10.2MP sensor not ideal for imaging
  • No built-in flash

Step up to the professional-grade Panasonic LUMIX GH5S C4K mirrorless camera that offers over 29 LUMIX and LEICA compact lens options built on the next-generation of interchangeable lens camera standard Micro Four Thirds pioneered by Panasonic. 

Its mirrorless design enables the high performance, durability, mobility, and low light gathering needed for professional Cinematic and Anamorphic 4K video production.

One of the few complaints about Panasonic’s well-known GH5 was that the camera came up short when it came to low-light performance compared to Sony a series cameras. But with the latest GH5s, Panasonic addressed this issue and has given us the best low-light camera available in the micro four-thirds class.

This little camera is a beast in low light. So many options and the video quality is just stunning. What Panasonic did with the GH5s was they expanded the sensor size and introduced dual ISO, meaning grain reduction ability at higher ISO settings dramatically increased. This gives the GH5s a real improvement on the GH5 for low-light shooters and a great, affordable option. 

When compared to other cameras in this range, this is hands down one of the best out there. It is 100% a film-making / vlogger camera. With proper preparation and execution, you can film a feature film with the right equipment. It is on par with lower-end RED cameras like the raven, with the exception of frame rates.

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Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

best low-light cameras

Sensor: 20.3MP Four Thirds Live MOS sensor | ISO range: Approx. 80-25,600 | Lens: Micro Four Thirds lens mount | Image stabilization: In-body 5-axis image stabilization

Pros

  • Good image quality and resolution from the updated sensor in both JPEG and Raw
  • Attractive form factor, excellent handling, and controls
  • Built-in image stabilizer good for video and low-light shooting
  • Useful beginner-friendly modes, but with room for people to grow
  • Excellent 4K video quality

Cons

  • Autofocus performance is not up to fast action shooting
  • Burst speeds on the slow side
  • Limited customization options
  • Image quality lags similarly priced competitors with larger sensors
  • Menus a bit complicated

If you are on a tight budget but still want a camera that performs amazingly well under low-light conditions, you can’t go wrong with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

Even though the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is meant for the novice filmmaker/photographer, the E-M10 IV is a very advanced camera that a user can grow into once they’ve learned the basics of the camera. Olympus is well-known for its powerful stabilization systems, and the 5-axis version on the E-M10 IV is amazing for a camera at this price point, providing up to 4.5 EV steps of real-world compensation. 

This low-light camera allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds, and letting the camera take in more light, without the need for a tripod! It records 4k video at only 24fps with 60fps at 1080p.

It’s a great all-around camera, and though the Micro Four Thirds sensor is smaller than others on this list, you do get access to the huge inventory of MFT lenses. It’s lightweight as well, making it the perfect choice for travel photographers/vloggers.

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Fujifilm X-T30

Fujifilm XT-30

Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor | ISO range: 200-12,800 (expandable 100-51,200) | Lens: Fujifilm X-mount | Image stabilisation: None

Pros:

  • Proven 26MP APS-C image sensor.
  • Quick, accurate autofocus.
  • Up to 30fps Raw capture.
  • EVF and built-in flash.
  • Tilting touch LCD.
  • Tactile controls.
  • 4K video.
  • Wi-Fi.

Cons:

  • The body isn’t weather-sealed.
  • Restricted maximum video clip length.
  • No in-body stabilization.
  • Small capture buffer.
  • Memory card slot limited to UHS-I speed.

The Fujifilm X-T30 falls in the category of a budget-friendly low-light camera, that lets you access the sharp X lenses, many of which are pushing boundaries when it comes to low light. 

My favorite is the incredible XF 50mm f/1.0, which manages to make this wider-than-ever aperture useable.

The X-T30 uses the famous Fujifilm X-Trans sensor, which produces JPEG images that look vivid and pop straight out of the camera, which is great for those who hate post-production adjustments.

The Fujifilm X-T30 has great low light performance with an ISO range of 160 up to 12,800. The ISO function includes three preset bands of Auto ISO control that are perfect depending on the lighting conditions. Under extended sensitivity settings, the ISO can extend to 51,200.

From my testing with this camera, I found low light performance to be solid, and that the RAW files were highly recoverable even when underexposed considerably. Even at higher levels of ISO, the images were not overly grainy nor polluted with excess noise.

The lack of in-body stabilization isn’t a deal-breaker but you may have to buy a gimbal to avoid shaky camera footage. But the X-T30 checks off pretty much every other box at an outstanding price. 

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Canon EOS R5

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Sensor: 45MP full-frame CMOS sensorISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-102,400)LensCanon RF mount | Image stabilisation: 5-Axis In-Body Vibration Reduction

Pros:

  • 8K 4K 120p video
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Best-in-class image stabilization
  • Great handling
  • Sharp and accurate images

Cons:

  • Video overheating issues
  • Micro-HDMI port
  • Aging menu system

If you are a Canon camera fan, and thinking I have left you out in this article, don’t worry because the Canon R5 is the best low-light video camera for you.

The Canon EOS R5 is a beast and is a strong competitor to the Sony A7s III and Panasonic GH5s.

Canon’s all-new 45 Megapixel full-frame sensor is at the heart of the EOS R5’s superb image quality, which also leads the way for impressive 

8K DCI cinematic movie capture with the ability to extract 35.4 Megapixel still images.

Focus and speed are paramount in the EOS R5, providing impressive continuous capture at speeds of up to 20 frames-per-second and with Dual Pixel CMOS AF II capability, to track split-second movements of even the most elusive of subjects.

With 1,053 Automatic AF zones, it is easier than ever to photograph people with the use of Eye, Face, and Head Detection AF, or intuitively track the whole body, face, or eye of cats, dogs or birds with Animal Detection AF.

The 5-axis in-body image stabilization can effectively compensate for camera shake with approximately 8 stops of stabilization with the use of both non-stabilized, and optically image stabilized lenses.

The camera boasts exceptional image quality at 4K and a remarkable 14.6 stops of dynamic range. This gives it a fantastic low-light performance that rivals the Sony A7s III and Panasonic GH5s.

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Conclusion

So, these are our opinions on the very best low-light video cameras currently available for video creators.

Whether you’re looking for a mirrorless camera to capture the best possible image quality when shooting at night, hunting for a micro four-thirds system that can handle dark restaurant shoots, there are plenty of brilliant options out there.

When it comes to vlogging, photography, and filmmaking, we live in an era where we have lots of camera options to choose from. With the competition getting more aggressive every year, there it’s exciting to see the amazing evolutions and developments ahead!

If you liked this article, please help me share it via a tweet, stumble, pin, or Facebook share would be much appreciated! 

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About the author – Trent has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

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