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The best low-light cameras of 2022

Included in this guide:

Best low-light cameras
(Image credit: recep-bg on Getty Images)

The best low-light cameras can make the difficult task of capturing photos and movies in low lighting conditions much easier. The quality of light at end of the day provide stunning texture across landscapes, and warm tones light up portraits in a flattering way, but it's hard to get an image or video sharp and well exposed when there's little light. 

In our guide, we’ve included a range of different brands and models of camera that are best suited for low-light photography and videography. Whether you’re looking to capture dramatic night-time cityscapes, starry skies, or shy nocturnal animals like badgers, one of the best low light cameras will do the job well.

We’ve included models for a range of budgets, but if you’re looking for a starting point, our guide to the best cameras for beginners might come in handy. We’ve also got guides to the best cameras and the best cameras for wildlife photography

The best low-light cameras in 2022

Best low-light cameras: Sony A7S IIICB

(Image credit: Sony)

01. Sony a7S III

The most powerful low-light camera, especially for video.

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Class-leading ISO performance+Professional-grade video+Full-frame sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Over-specced for stills purists

Simply put, for the money this is the best low-light camera available capable of capturing stills photographs and video when the lights are fading. The Sony A7S III is the latest in the A7S line-up and while it now may be a few years old it has some still staggering specs that makes it perfect for low-light shooting. It has a maximum ISO sensitivity of nearly half a million (409,600) that allows you to quite literally see in the dark. When shooting at higher ISOs dynamic range usually suffers, but the A7S III has 14 stops of dynamic range to ensure shadows and highlights are evenly captured. Though the newest iteration in this line-up the A7 IV improves on things further it's still only available for pre-order and the A7S III is currently better value for money.

Photographers should be aware that this camera is designed mostly for video recording. It can capture good quality stills, but only at a measly 12MP. While it's possible to make decent small prints with 12MP it does restrict users when it comes to cropping as image quality starts to whittle down quickly. If you have no interest in video then you can definitely get a better camera for a similar amount of money. In video terms however, the A7S III is utterly sublime, up to the standards demanded by professionals. 

Best low-light cameras: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IVCB endorsed

(Image credit: Olympus)

02. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

A superb beginner’s camera with powerful in-body stabilisation.

Specifications
Sensor: 20.3MP Four Thirds Live MOS sensor
ISO range: Approx. 80-25,600
Lens: Micro Four Thirds lens mount
Image stabilisation: In-body 5-axis image stabilisation
Reasons to buy
+Large MFT lens range+Excellent image stabilisation+Well laid-out controls
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively small sensor 

Olympus have done an excellent job at producing a compact low-light camera for those that are scaled back on budget but still want top quality results. It's worth checking out the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV because even though it's perfect for beginners, the E-M10 IV is a highly sophisticated camera that any photographer can grow into once they’ve mastered the basics. 

Renowned for their high quality stabilisation systems, Olympus has introduced a capable 5-axis stabilisation feature on the E-M10 IV, which when considering the price point is truly staggering. It boosts the shooting possibilities of up to 4.5 EV stops of real-world compensation. This feature allows photographers to capture shots handheld at slower shutter speeds, while letting the camera drink in more light.

It is a Micro Four Thirds camera though, which means the image sensor is smaller than some of the other models on this list. But Olympus have deliberately delivered the camera in a compact body, with a reasonable price tag, and it has a wide range of brilliant MFT lenses available too. It's a great choice for travel photographers who want something small and lightweight.

Best low-light cameras: Nikon Z6 IICB endorsed

(Image credit: Nikon)

03. Nikon Z6 II

Nikon’s enthusiast mirrorless model is better for low light than its big brother.

Specifications
Sensor: 24.5MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor
ISO range: 100-51,200 (expandable 50-204,800)
Lens: Nikon Z lens mount
Image stabilisation: 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation
Reasons to buy
+Capable, versatile autofocus+Metering works in the dark+Sophisticated Z lens mount
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better

While the Nikon Z7 II is the flagship of the Z series, with the top-of-the-line specs, we’d put in our recommendation for the Nikon Z6 II as the better camera for low-light. Whether you're using it to post images online or create large prints, its 24MP stills resolution won't let you down. In fact, this lower pixel count (compared with its bigger brother) is actually what makes it so good for low-light since it results in lower image noise, especially when shooting at higher ISO sensitivities.

The Z6 II includes a sophisticated exposure metering system for accurate scene analysis in lighting conditions as low as -6EV. This is complemented nicely by a capable in-body image stabilisation system, (Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction) which uses a sensor-shift system to compensate for camera-shake by up to five stops. That makes longer exposures when shooting handheld much easier without capturing camera shake motion blur. As all Nikon mirrorless cameras do it features a Z-mount connection between camera and lens for lightning fast autofocus, but older F-mount lenses are still compatible if you use the FTZ adapter for an additional cost.

Best low-light-cameras: Nikon D850

(Image credit: Nikon)

04. Nikon D850

The best DSLR for low-light shooting

Specifications
Sensor: 45MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor
ISO range: 64-25,600 (expands to 32-102,400)
Lens: Nikon F lens mount
Image stabilisation: No
Reasons to buy
+Thoroughly reliable workhorse+Has come down in price+Fantastic lens range
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilisation

Professional photographers and enthusiasts wanting to take a step up will love the Nikon D850. Its large full-frame image sensor is capable of handling image noise when ramped up to the highest (expanded) ISO of 102,400 and delivers pleasing dynamic range, too. Sure, it may be a few years old now but it still keeps up with most modern DSLR and mirrorless offerings in terms of features and reliability. There's also native access to the back catalogue of Nikon F-mount lenses which include a plethora of wide-aperture primes, perfect for when you need to take in more light.

Built like a workhorse, this is a DSLR perfect for outdoor adventurers. The D850 is fully weather sealed, making it a good choice for night-time cityscape or landscape shooting. It’s also more budget-friendly now that it's a few years old. Although, it is still quite pricey (you get what you pay for). So if you'd prefer a DSLR over a mirrorless but this it out of your budget have a look at the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, another full-frame camera with loads of lenses to choose from. 

Best low-light cameras: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

(Image credit: Canon)

05. Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Best low-light compact camera with an excellent APS-C sensor.

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
ISO range: 100-25,600
Lens: 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.6 lens
Image stabilisation: Four-stop Image Stabiliser
Reasons to buy
+Large, sophisticated sensor+Can charge via USB+Weather-sealed body
Reasons to avoid
-Max aperture of f/2.8

Smaller image sensors tend to struggle with low light scenes, producing high ISO image noise. As such, compact cameras aren't the first devices we'd normally recommend you reach for when shooting low-light photos or videos. However, the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III crams in an APS-C sensor in its compact body, the type you’d expect to see in an enthusiast DSLR!

The G1 X Mark III draws on more inspiration from the DSLR world, with a sensible button control layout and satisfying weight in the hand. Outdoor use is easy in any conditions due to its weather-sealed body, making it enjoyable to use wherever you need to. ISO sensivitity on the G1 X Mark III isn't super high but reaches a respectable 25,600. Still, Canon has done a hugely impressive job here, and with the lens shooting at a wide f/2.8 the G1 X Mark III is one of the best low-light compact cameras around.

Best low-light cameras: Sony A6100

(Image credit: Sony)

06. Sony A6100

A good low-light camera for those on a budget

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
ISO range: 100-32,000 (expands to 51,000)
Lens: Sony E lens mount
Image stabilisation: No
Reasons to buy
+Excellent autofocus+Well priced
Reasons to avoid
-No stabilisation-Low-res viewfinder

An APS-C sensor is known as a crop-sensor, relative to the full-frame 35mm image sensor so named after the 35mm film standard. Crop sensor camera bodies tend to appeal more to those that are on a tighter budget or want to dabble in photography without being fully consumed by it. One of the best crop sensor models, especially for low light, is the Sony A6100. A speedy shooter with a best-in-class autofocus system, the A6100 has loads of handy low-light features, such as the ability to shoot at an expandable ISO setting of 51,000. 

Autofocusing systems able to draw on either phase or contrast-detection require a good amount of light in order to operate accurately. Focusing in low-light then, can be a challenge. Thankfully, the Sony A6100’s hyper-accurate hybrid autofocus system performs even when the sun has dipped below the horizon. For those who need a low-light vlogging camera then the A6100 may be the perfect fit as it records high-quality 4K footage at 30p for detailed filmmaking.

This is a lot of camera for a reasonable price, but it may still prove above budget for some. If your budget is more restricted, consider the original Sony A6000. We think the autofocus and video improvements on the A6100 makes it worth the price difference, but the A6000 still gets you an APS-C sensor and the Sony E lens mount, which is enough to craft a potent low-light setup.

Best low-light cameras: Panasonic Lumix S5

(Image credit: Panasonic)

07. Panasonic Lumix S5

A lightweight mirrorless camera with sophisticated stabilisation.

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP CMOS full-frame sensor
ISO range: 100-51,200
Lens: L-mount
Image stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (can sync with lens I.S.; also offers digital Boost I.S. and E-Stabilization)
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight, ergonomic body+Excellent articulated touchscreen+Does everything pretty well
Reasons to avoid
-AF not the best

The Panasonic Lumix S5 represents perhaps the best iteration of Panasonic's S-series line-up. They've managed to pack a full-frame sensor into a lightweight, portable body and as a result it’s a camera that does almost everything quite well. As such, it's one of the better all-rounders on the market at the moment. 

Keeping things steady for sharp handheld shots hte Lumix S5 comines a sophisticated image stabilisation technology with an expandable ISO up to 51,200. As you’d expect from a Panasonic camera, it's capable when it comes to recording videos, too, able to record 4K 60p footage which is ideal in a range of shooting circumstances. The Panasonic Lumix S5 is really a jack of all trades, ideal for many casual users and photographers that want a range of features for low-light capture.

Best low-light cameras: Fujifilm X-T30

(Image credit: Fujifilm )

08. Fujifilm X-T30

A bargain intermediate model with exceptional low-light lenses

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Superb JPEGs and flexible RAWs+Small but powerful+Access to brilliant X lenses
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilisation

We’d definitely recommend taking a look at the stylish Fujifilm X-T30 for users that want a camera that not only looks good but shoots well in low-light while on a budget. As many professional photographers know, it's not just about the camera body but the lenses you pair it with. 

When you're shooting with the X-T30 the treasure trove of fantastic X series lenses opens up. Pushing the boundaries of low light capability, these lenses are ultra sharp and fast as well, with the incredible XF 50mm f/1.0 really showboating in the low light realm as it manages to make this wider-than-ever aperture useable. That means more light reaching the image sensor for better low-light performance.

The X-T30 uses the famous Fujifilm X-Trans sensor, which produces JPEG images that look vivid and punchy straight out of camera – ideal for those who'd rather get it right in-camera than fix it in post-production. Although, if you are one for Photoshop, its raw files are also pleasingly flexible. The X-T30 is held back a little due to the lack of in-body stabilisation but it ticks pretty much every other box, all at an outstanding price. 

Low-light cameras: What to consider

First off, when buying low-light cameras, consider the relationship between a camera’s sensor size and its megapixel count. Lots of pixels can be useful for printing, but they can also result in more image ‘noise’, meaning unwanted artefacts reducing the quality of your picture. Each pixel (or photosite) can generate a certain amount of heat when undergoing longer exposures, so larger sensors, where pixels are more spaced out, generate less noise. That is, only if the pixel density remains low. 

A camera's ISO sensitivity range makes probably the biggest difference to taking a well exposed low-light image, after the lens' aperture rating. ISO refers to the image sensor's sensitivity to light, denoted in tens, hundreds, thousands, and up. In bright conditions where there is plenty of light a setting of ISO 100 is ideal as it minimises the amount of image noise. But when it's darker a higher ISO will compensate for the loss of light and still produce a good exposure. The higher a camera’s maximum ISO setting, the more capable it will be in low light – though image quality at these levels can vary because dynamic range decreases and image noise creeps in the further up you go. Image stabilisation can also be critical, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without the need for a tripod, again expanding light-gathering capabilities.

Autofocusing brings reliable and fast focus to stills and sometimes video, but not all camera's autofocusing systems can detect light in the same way. That's why it's important to consider the lowest reported autofocus detection range, (e.g. -4EV) to see how well it performs in darker conditions. Generally, the lower the number, the better it will be (i.e. -6EV is better than -4EV).

Finally, it's important to consider what lenses you can use with a camera. Ideally, wide aperture zooms and primes will be what you're looking for here, or any lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or less. This maximises light input onto the image sensor. If you pick an interchangeable-lens camera you’ll be able to buy these; if you think you’d prefer a compact camera with a fixed lens, be sure to check its maximum aperture so you’ll know what you’ve got to work with.

Good low-light cameras will typically use a large image sensor because they can soak up more light by utilising larger photosites (pixels). This helps prevent image noise in photographs and videos keeping the image clean and clear. High ISO sensitivities boost the image sensor's sensitivity to light and is used often in low-light photography and aids the user by allowing narrower apertures and shorter shutter speeds. Often this means handheld low-light shooting is possible, where smaller image sensors would struggle.

Maximizing light hitting the image sensor is the name of the game to get well exposed shots. Since the lens is the vessel which delivers the light to the sensor it's important to use a lens which has as little restriction of light as possible. That means a wide aperture lens is ideal, something that stops open as wide as f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8 will let more light into the camera. Camera systems that allow interchangeable lenses offer the best options here because it's often possible to get lenses with wider maximum apertures than those of fixed-lens systems. Some lenses can shoot as wide as f/0.95 and more! 

As well as getting a good exposure during low light levels, it's equally important to ensure that the camera can get focused. Autofocus relies on a certain amount of light in the scene in order to lock on to a subject, with some cameras able to focus in darker environments than others. 

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Jon Stapley

Jon is a freelance writer and journalist who covers photography, art, technology, and the intersection of all three. Interests include old film cameras, new digital gadgets, and pounding the pavements of London looking for fresh photo opportunities. If he finds any, he will let you know.