Top 15 Low Light Cameras – Best Performers in Low Light Situations

Do you shoot a lot in poorly lit places? Wondering what camera can take great photos in low light environment? I’ve got you covered. The list of cameras you see below is considered to be the best performing shooter to be used in situations where lighting is scarce. It consists of multiple different types of cameras; from full-frame DSLR cameras, to premium point-and-shoot cameras with a large one-inch sensor.

best low light camera

With specs and features on each and every cameras varying infinitely, we can’t expect them all to perform the same as well in dim lighting conditions. There are several deciding factors that contribute to the camera’s overall performance for low light photography, which includes the sensor size, ISO range, and noise reduction capability. I’ll talk more about them at the lower portion of this post, but in general rule cameras with bigger sensor tend to perform better in low light situations.

DLSR cameras are also known to perform better than their mirrorless counterparts, thanks to their internal mirror system that helps reflect light. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t take any good shot at night with a mirrorless camera. A number of mirrorless models such as Sony Alpha A6300 and Olympus E-M1 MARK II offer better than decent results in low light, especially if you use them with a wider and faster aperture lens that help let in more light to reach the sensor.

Now that you know what you’re going to deal with, here are some of the best low light cameras in the market right now. Do notice, though, that they’re by no means only intended for low-light photography. The idea is if they impress you in a setting where there isn’t much light, you can expect them to be a whole lot better in bright daylight.

Best Low Light Cameras

CamerasTypeSensor FormatMegapixelsISO RangeLow Light ISO
Sony A9MirrorlessFull Frame24MP100-51,2003517
Nikon D600DSLRFull Frame24MP100-25,6002980
Pentax K-1DSLRFull Frame36MP100-204,8003280
Canon EOS 5D Mark IVDSLRFull Frame31MP100-32,0002995
Nikon D800DSLRFull Frame36MP100-25,6002853
Nikon D7500DSLRAPS-C20MP100-51,2001483
Sony A6300MirrorlessAPS-C24MP100-25,6001437
Nikon D5500DSLRAPS-C24MP100-25,6011438
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark IIMirrorlessMicro Four Thirds20MP200-25,6001312
Nikon D7200DSLRAPS-C24MP100-25,6011333
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark VPoint-and-Shoot1-inch20MP125-12,800586
Panasonic Lumix LX10Point-and-Shoot1-inch20MP125-12,801581
Canon PowerShot G7X Mark IIPoint-and-Shoot1-inch20MP125-12,802556
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark IVPoint-and-Shoot1-inch20MP125-12,800562
Panasonic Lumix FZ2500Point-and-Shoot1-inch20MP125-12,801538

Best Full Frame Cameras for Low Light Photography

best full frame camera for low light photography

Full frame cameras are those whose rectangle image sensor has the same size as the one used in film format, which is 35mm. They’re the best option if you want to be serious with low light photography. Well, truth be told, they offer the best image quality in any conditions, actually; be it in bright daylight or in indoor lighting. Two main issues that make people reluctant to choose it are its large and heavy form-factor and also its intimidating price. The most budget friendly full format camera is sold around $2,000 and that will get you the body only. Below are 5 full frame cameras that performs spectacularly in low-light situations.

Sony Alpha A9

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

sony a9Sony A9 is a top-end mirrorless camera bringing the power of 24MP full frame stacked CMOS sensor capable of performing continuous burst shooting up to 20fps. It is aimed to compete with the professional grade and highly likely going to break your bank. Its steep pricing, of course, goes along with its superb performance in nearly all conditions. Whether you’re shooting with ample natural light or in between shadows, this camera can hardly turn out disappointing. With extended ISO range 50-204,800 and 693-point autofocus, it’s known to be able to lock its focus quickly even when the surrounding light intensity is low.

Sony A9 has low light ISO of 3517. As if to emphasize its characteristics as a Sony’s premium camera, it excels wonderfully in high-ISO noise reduction as well as fine-detail rendition. You can increase the camera sensitivity when shooting in low light without worrying about getting a muddy photo. Under ISO 2000, you will barely notice any significant noise. Even up to ISO 25,600, you will still likely gain some very clear shots. Higher than this, the quality of the image captured will start to drop. Noise will take up most of the frame but images are still very much recognizable with colors are still accurately retained.

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Carey Rose – Sony Alpha A9 – F/2.8 – ISO 2000 – 1/640th
Dan Bracaglia – Sony Alpha A9 – F/5.6 – ISO 12800 – 1/400th

Nikon D600

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

nikon d600In terms of value for money, it’s hard to beat what Nikon D600 has to offer. It’s arguably the best full frame camera sold at an enthusiast level price range, which is around $2,000. It’s still expensive for most people, but when you look at how other full frame cameras can easily set you back three times of the said price, it looks completely like a great bargain. Especially, when this camera can match those pro-grade DSLRs on performance basis. Armed with new 24MP FX CMOS sensor, it has a sensitivity level ranging from ISO 100-12,800, which can be extended both ways to 50-25,600.

Throughout its native ISO range (100-6400), Nikon D600 has no problem churning out clean images with almost no visible noise both in broad daylight and low-light situations. It has phase-detection AF system with 39 focus point, 9 of which are cross-type sensors. While it’s the same old AF system used on Nikon D7000, it’s none less able than the one that comes with its big brother, Nikon D800; both are blazing fast and accurate. At low ISO (100-800), this camera hardly shows any noise even on the darker parts of the frame. Noise starts to show up at ISO 3200 and higher with more of it occupies the shadow areas at ISO 6400.

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Barney Britton – Nikon D600 – F/5.6 – ISO 3200 – 1/80th
Barney Britton – Nikon D600 – F/4 – ISO 6400 – 1/50th

Pentax K-1

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

Pentax K-1An even cheaper alternative to the budget full-frame DSLR, Nikon D600, is Pentax K-1. Obviously, it’s bound to come with a few compromises such as limited options of lenses, fairly slow burst shooting, and no touchscreen. However, as far as low light performance is concerned, this camera can put its pricier competitors to shame. When extended, its sensitivity ranges from ISO 100-204,800; talking about an overkill on a hobbyist camera! Its default setting, however, has the camera run at an Auto ISO of 3200 tops. Based on the independent test by DxO Mark, Pentax K-1 has low ISO as high as 3280. That’s the highest ISO you can set before noise start to takes the better of your shot.

With Pentax K-1, you really don’t need to give a second thought about shooting at ISO 3200. Details and neutral colors are well preserved with very little to none visible image noise. Its high ISO noise processing is well executed, though in some cases it may look a little harsh. You can see that its JPEG shots lack the biting detail compared to the RAW images. As for the autofocus, the camera offers 33-point AF system with low-light sensitivity to EV-3. On paper, that would put it on the same level as Canon 5D Mark IV, but in reality its AF is not the same as fast in low light. It’s not slow but just less suitable for action photography.

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Chris M Williams – Pentax K-1 – F/2.8 – ISO 3200 – 25sec
Dan Bracaglia – Pentax K-1 – F/1.4 – ISO 12800 – 1/640th

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

canon 5d mark ivWith the third iteration of Canon’s renowned EOS 5D series camera getting considerably outdated, everybody was eager to welcome the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Aside from a big leap in megapixel (from 22 to 30MP), there is little difference that puts this camera apart from its predecessors. Its ISO range is still retained from 100-32,000, but expendable to 50-102,400. Despite having the same sensitivity rating, the 5D Mark IV has been infused with Canon’s latest noise-processing algorithm, enabling the camera to suppress the muddiness when set at high ISO. Another step-up worth mentioning is the inclusion of DIGIC 6+ processor, giving it the much desired 61-point AF system only available in Canon 1D X Mark II, which costs almost twice its price.

The high resolution on the camera sensor might make you suspect that it’s going to capture more noise in the upper portion of the ISO range. Well, don’t. The new noise-processing algorithm works exactly like Canon claims. At ISO 800, the images it captures are completely free of noise. Kicking it up to ISO 2000, you will find the images still looking very natural with no sign of chroma noise at all. Based on the test done by DxO Mark, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is capable of taking absolutely clean images up to ISO 2995. With the AF system sensitivity rated to EV-3, this camera is definitely one of the best options for low light photography.

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Carey Rose – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – F/2.8 – ISO 8000 – 1/160th
Carey Rose – Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – F/2 – ISO 12800 – 1/80th

Nikon D800

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

NIKON D800Rather than make it a replacement for the phenomenal D700, Nikon released the D800 as a separate package. You can easily guess which is superior, though. With three and a half years in between the two, Nikon D800 packs more horsepower at its core. The 36MP FX CMOS sensor and its EXPEED 3 image processor are a perfect combination to capture spectacular looking images in virtually any situations. The camera’s native ISO range from 100-6,400 but can be extended to a whopping 50-25,600. It has the same autofocus system as the monstrous Nikon D4, which is Multi-Cam 3500FX 51-point AF with 15 cross-type sensors.

On bright daylight, the said AF system enables Nikon D800 to focus at a maximum aperture of f/8, which should help tremendously with wildlife photography. It works suprisingly well too in poor conditions, say, where the only available light is from the street light. You may need to put the the subject on the center of the frame, though, because the center focus point is the most accurate. At all ISO levels, Nikon D800 produces remarkably excellent images. And when I say all, it includes the extended ISO 12,800 and 25,600. With how little noise is visible, it’s always safe to shoot up to ISO 3200 or even 6400. Just turn off the High ISO NR and Long Exposure NR in the menu for both can soften the images. You’ll have better results processing the noise with a dedicated software such as Lightroom.

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Barney Britton – Nikon D800 – F/4 – ISO 25600 – 1/20th
Barney Britton – Nikon D800 – F/5.6 – ISO 3200 – 1/60th

Best Low Light Cameras with Cropped Sensor

best low light camera with cropped sensor

Crop sensor cameras are those whose rectangle image sensor has been cropped from its outside edges. The amount of the cropped part varies with the manufacturer. This is then called as “crop factor”. Nikon crop sensor cameras has 1.5x crop factor, while canon 1.3x and 1.6x, and Olympus 2x. The smaller the crop factor, the better because you’re left with larger sensor that can lead to better quality images. They’re less able in capturing images in low light environments but it doesn’t mean you can’t use them at all. The following are 5 crop sensor cameras that offer reliable performance in situations where the lighting is less than ideal.

Nikon D7500

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

nikon d7500If you have less than $2000 at your disposal, you’ll get away best with a budget cropped sensor DSLR like Nikon D7500. I can safely say that this camera is the best in its class, though have fewer megapixels than its predecessor, the D7200. The sensor it uses, however, mimics the pricier D500; so does the image processor, giving it an edge at high ISOs while offering faster continuous performance too. Overall image quality is as terrific as you can expect from a Nikon’s camera. Color rendition is accurate while you also have the option to customize it your liking using its Picture Control.

In semiautomatic modes, the exposures are mostly correct thanks to the impressive dynamic range that covers details both in shadows and highlights. For landscape photography, where the scenes can be too contrasty, you can always count on its Active D-Lightning. Its native ISO ranges from 100-51,200 while DxO Mark notes its effective low-light ISO to be at 1,483, which is higher than even some full-frame sensor cameras. You’re still going to need a faster lens to get the quality image you want in a low-light situation, but the point is Nikon D7500 is the best low light camera under $1500. I always prefer to use photo-editing software to deal with the noise, but the camera also has in-body high-ISO noise processing options that you can set to low, normal, high, or turn off altogether.

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Dan Bracaglia – Nikon D7500 – F/4 – ISO 4500 – 1/500th
Dan Bracaglia – Nikon D7500 – F/5.6 – ISO 12800 – 1/200th

Sony Alpha A6300

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

sony a6300For those who don’t feel like lugging around a cumbersome DSLR, Sony A6300 might be an interesting alternative. This mirrorless camera still has the advantage of having an interchangeable lens design with a great number of lens options, all the while keeping things compact and easily manageable. It also benefits from one of the fastest autofocus systems in the industry and 4K video capture is a great added bonus. Its smoking fast performance derives from the new 24MP APS-C sensor backed with Bionz X processor. Its burst mode allows it to capture 11 frames in one second and with its hybrid AF system, you’ll never gonna miss a shot.

DxO Mark has its effective ISO noted at 1437, but in reality you can set it much higher than that and still get a very usable result. Obviously, there’s some post-production editing to be done, but the fact that you can shoot at high ISO with relatively low noise means Sony A6300 is a respectable camera for low light photography. As I figured it out, artificial grain started to come out visibly at ISO 2000. Image quality showed significant drop at ISO 8000 and above, with the colors shifting and noise taking over the frame. Highest boosted ISO is 51,200, but shooting at that will give you next to useless results.

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Dan Bracaglia – Sony A6300 – F/5.6 – ISO 12800 – 1/125th
Dan Bracaglia – Sony A6300 – F/1.8 – ISO 5000 – 1/60th

Nikon D5500

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

nikon d5500Of the heaps of entry-level DSLR cameras flooding the market today, you can put your trust in Nikon D5500. It’s a solid all-round performer that excels in both daylight and low-light photography, thanks to the remarkable noise reduction capabilities. The pairing of 24MP DX sensor with the old Expeed 4 processors is less suitable for action photography. However, if your demands are not too great, you still should be able to have a good time with its 5fps burst shooting mode. The AF system used on Nikon D5500 is exactly the same as one in another top performer, Nikon D7000, which provides you with 39 AF points with nine of them being cross-type sensors.

The AF module on Nikon D5500 may be aged but it fares just as well as the newer systems. It’s fast and accurate, even in poor conditions when there’s less light than usual (make sure to turn on the AF light, though). Setting its ISO at the lowest gives you 12.3EV dynamic range, which is excellent for a 24MP cropped sensor camera. When you have to make a do with the little available light, you can increase the ISO to 1600, or even 3200 and still get highly usable images. Any higher than that, you’ll soon notice that the image quality begins to dip with great loss of details, especially in the shadows.

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Jeff Keller – Nikon D5500 – F/4 – ISO 5600 – 1/50th
Jeff Keller – Nikon D5500 – F/3.5 – ISO 3200 – 1/40th

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark IIFor a cropped sensor camera, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is very expensive. Compared to full-frame DSLRs in the same price range, its low light performance is only mediocre. So, if your primary game is taking photographs in conditions with poor lighting, you’d better invest your money to the likes of Nikon D600. Still, in comparison to other Micro Four Thirds cameras, it’s safe to say that Olympus E-M1 Mark II is the current king. It’s a serious camera for advanced photographers. Beginners will only get confused and perhaps frustrated wby the swathes of manual controls it has to offer.

Based on the test by DxO Mark, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has an effective low light ISO of 1312. It’s less than half of what Nikon D600 can achieve, but when compared to other small sensor cameras, such is considered pretty high. Its native sensitivity ranges from ISO 200-25600. Although it doesn’t perform the same as well as full-frmae cameras in low light environments, it benefits a lot from its outstanding image stabilization system. It’s so good you can set the shutter speed to its lowest, letting in more light through the lens to reach the sensor, hence eliminating the need to shoot in high ISO. You can’t do this with a camera that has sub par image stabilization as the image will be very blurry. Obviously, you have to mount the camera on a tripod and maybe even use remote shutter release to avoid any shakes. Also, such trick is only good for stationary subjects.

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Carey Rose – Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – F/1.8 – ISO 3200 – 1/125th
Carey Rose – Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – F/1.8 – ISO 6400 – 1/100th

Nikon D7200

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

NIKON D7200Before the release of the D7500, Nikon D7200 was the go-to camera for amateur photographers wishing to up their game. The price difference between the two isn’t too stark, so if you asked me, I’d recommend the D7500 instead for it comes with a lot of improvements that’ll lead to better image quality and easier operation. Aside from that, this camera is a solid midrange shooter. Its relatively compact body is weather-sealed against harsh conditions and equipped with optical viewfinder offering 100% field of view. In ideal lighting situation, getting some good shots is completely effortless. In most cases, its exposures are spot-on, giving you crisp images with fine details even when it lacks optical low-pass filter.

Nikon D7200 performs very well too in low light, exhibiting low noise on high ISOs. Of course, you can’t compare it to a full-frame camera. However, depending on your preferences, any images captured at ISO 3200 should be good enough to be printed at standard 8×10-inch size, given you’ve done what needs to be done to clean the noise in post-production editing. Its native sensitivity maxes out at ISO 25,600. Private investigators could benefit from the extended ISO 102,500 which allows the camera to remain functional in extremely dark places, though it only give you black and white images. As for the AF system, its low light sensitivity is rated up to -3EV, meaning it’s still relatively fast.

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Samuel Spencer – Nikon D7200 – F/1.8 – ISO 4500 – 1/100th
Samuel Spencer – Nikon D7200 – F/1.8 – ISO 12800 – 1/60th

Best Point-and-Shoot Camera for Low Light Photography

best point and shoot camera for low light photography

Point-and-shoot cameras are the least able in adapting to the available light. But with Sony releasing its RX100 series cameras sporting a large one-inch sensor, we can expect at least a decent result when shooting in low light situations. High ISO performance as well as the ability to shoot in RAW are two things that should be your main consideration when choosing a point-and-shoot camera for low light photography. Also, it will help a lot more if the camera has a fast fixed lens because shooting in wide aperture allows more light to slip through and reach the sensor. Below are 5 point-and-shoot cameras with one-inch sensor that performs remarkably well at high ISOs.

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VSony’s RX100 series camera is the pioneer in the manufacturing of many present digital point-and-shoot cameras taking an advantage of a large 1-inch image sensor. It’s so successful that the company has released the mightiest model yet, Sony RX100 Mark V with the sixth iteration expected to hit the market in 2018. It may not be able to offer the same flexibility of an interchangeable lens camera, but this camera is already a power house out of the box. Featuring a 20MP stacked CMOS sensor and Bionz X chipset, it’s capable of taking up to 24 frames within a second in burst mode with the autofocus remain intact. Speaking of focusing, its AF module enables it to lock focus in 0.05 second; talking about fast, huh?

Despite being a compact camera, Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark V perform quite reasonably in low-light environments. You can thank its wide aperture fixed lens for that (f/1.8 – f/2.8; 24-70mm equivalent). Although it doesn’t offer much optical zoom, shooting at wide aperture allows more light through the lens. Thus, you can set the ISO low to keep the noise minimum when shooting in a less-than-ideal lighting situations. This trick will give you a shallow depth of field effect (object in front of and behind the focus getting blurred), which depending on your preference, can look good or bad. Still, should you want to increase its sensitivity, I learned that the safe limit was ISO 1600. In this range, noise is well controlled and you can print the photos in standard sizes with barely even noticing any digital artifacts.

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Carey Rose – Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V – F/1.8 – ISO 4000 – 1/60th
Carey Rose – Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V – F/1.8 – ISO 1000 – 1/60th

Panasonic Lumix LX10

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

panasonic lumix dmc lx10Sony RX100 Mark V might be phenomenal, but its steep price will certainly make everyone think twice or even thrice before fetching it home. A more affordable alternative is Panasonic Lumix LX10. You won’t get any of the nice added bonus like blazing fast continuous shooting, electronic viewfinder, and built-in ND filter. However, as far as the essentials are concerned, the Lumix LX10 is a serious competition at a bargain price. It matches the latter in sensor as well as sensitivity, offering the same 1-inch 20MP CMOS sensor with ISO ranging from 125-12800. In fact, it may give Sony’s shooter a run for its money as it comes with a touchscreen LCD display while the latter does not.

In low light conditions, Panasonic Lumix LX10 benefits greatly from its wide aperture 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 equivalent lens. With such a fast lens, you may set the shutter speed high to avoid motion blur and the ISO low to keep noise minimum and yet still get a high quality images even in poorly lit areas. For quick shooting, this camera offers Auto ISO too, but you may need to watch over it from time to time as it has the tendency to use high ISO. I obviously don’t want to shoot at high ISO when using low ISO is good enough as it results in crisper and sharper images.

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Dan Bracaglia – Panasonic Lumix LX10 – F/1.4 – ISO 2000 – 1/80th
Dan Bracaglia – Panasonic Lumix LX10 – F/4 – ISO 12800 – 1/40th

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

Canon G7X Mark IIIf you’re not a fan of Panasonic, you may want to consider Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II. As with most Canon’s cameras, don’t expect that you’ll be able to capture video in 4K. However, in terms of casual photography, this camera ticks all the boxes. Large image sensor: check; wide aperture lens: check; good range of manual control: check; outstanding image quality: check. All those things are wrapped in a stylish compact body and sold at lower price than Sony RX100 Mark V. Like Lumix LX10, it doesn’t offer an electric viewfinder, but then if you liked using viewfinder more than the Live View to compose your shot, you would be more interested in purchasing  DSLR, wouldn’t you?

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II boasts a fairly fast autofocus system with 31 contrast-detect focus points. Even when set to max zoom, the camera is still able to lock on to the object quickly. Its focusing speed only takes a dive when there isn’t much daylight, which is normal. The real issue is when you’re trying to put the camera real close to an object. Its macro focusing is next to useless. The inclusion of a more powerful DIGIC 7 processor has made the camera more capable in dealing with noise at high ISO. Digital artifacts and speckles are relatively low up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, you’l likely see some smooth edges especially in the shadow areas, but still very much usable. Just chose A4 or smaller size if you want to print images taken at such high ISO.

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Carey Rose – Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II – F/1.8 – ISO 4000 – 1/60th
Carey Rose – Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II – F/2.5 – ISO 6400 – 1/40th

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

Sony CyberShot RX100 IVStepping down a level from the most formidable RX100 camera, we’ve got Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV. Though sold at lower price than its successor, it’s still expensive for a point-and-shoot camera. That aside, it’s a perfect camera to have in one of those occasssions when bringing your bulky DSLR is just too bothersome. Its image sensor and lens are identical to those of its higher-end sibling, so is its LCD display and EVF. One major difference that makes it look like an outdated shooter is the autofocus system. While both are hybrid (using both contrast-detect and phase-detect), the one in RX100 IV only has 25 focus point, in comparison to 315 points in RX100V.

Now don’t get that wrong. The AF system in Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV is still one of the fastest you can find in a pocket-sized camera. It’s just the one used in the RX100 V is out of this world. Anyway, the RX100 IV also uses an old LSI chip. The said chip is claimed to have a direct influence on the image quality taken at high ISOs. However, as it turns out, I don’t see any considerable difference in low-light performance from both cameras. The RX100 IV can still preserve a great deal of fine details up to ISO 3200, though noise starts to look prominent too. You can expect to get the best result when shooting at ISO 80-800.

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Dan Bracaglia – Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV – F/1.8 – ISO 2000 – 1/320th
Dan Bracaglia – Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV – F/2.8 – ISO 6400 – 1/125th

Panasonic Lumix FZ2500

OverviewPhoto samples in low light

panasonic lumix fz2500You may confuse Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 as a DSLR, but it’s actually a point-and-shoot camera with a fixed lens. Aside from its size, only thing that puts it on a different threshold from the likes of Sony RX100 series is its superzoom capability. While its lens can’t give you as wide aperture as the previous four point-and-shot cameras we talked about, it allows up to 20x optical zoom. It does have a thing in common with them, though, which is one-inch 20MP BSI-CMOS sensor, one expected to perform better when the lighting condition is less than ideal. Its sensitivity ranges from ISO 125-12,800 and can be boosted to ISO 80-25,600.

Based on what you’re shooting and how you output the images, Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 produce generally usable results up to ISO 3200. Grainy artifacts starts to show up at ISO 800 but you can easily overlook it as it’s very low. At ISO 1600, there’s an increase in color noise particularly around the shadow areas. The default noise reduction setting on this camera is a little agressive, but you have complete control over it. You might get the job done quicker by adjusting the NR level and shoot in JPEG mode right from the start. But if you ask me, I like to shoot in RAW with the NR entirely turned off, then manually process out any noise.

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Carey Rose – Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 – F/4.5 – ISO 3200 – 1/160th
Carey Rose – Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 – F/2.8 – ISO 3200 – 1/50th

What Makes the Best Low Light Camera

Below are some matters that contribute directly to the camera’s ability to capture clear and sharp images in low-light environments.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the bigger the sensor the more able the camera in accumulating available light. Full frame cameras like Canon EOS 5D Mark IV have the largest sensor, which is then followed by APS-C cameras like Nikon D7500. Note that not all APS-C cameras have the same size rectangle. You have to look at its crop factor too. The smaller the crop factor, the larger the sensor. Behind APS-C models are Micro Four Thirds cameras. These are mostly mirrorless shooters manufactured by Olympus and Panasonic, like Olympus E-M1. Right after them are one-inch sensor, which is used by high-end point and shoot cameras like the RX100 series by Sony.

camera sensor size comparison

There’s a belief among experienced photographers that when it comes to low light photography, the fewer megapixels, the better. This is because when fewer pixels populate the same rectangle surface of a sensor, their individual size will be larger, allowing them to collect more light photons. However, some also believe that the amount of photons hitting the sensor surface doesn’t have anything to do with the megapixels. Such only correlates with the sensor size, which I agree. A full frame camera with huge megapixels like Nikon D800 (36MP) can easily outperform an APS-C camera with modest megapixels like Nikon D7500 (20MP).

ISO Sensitivity

The camera sensitivity to light can be increased by adjusting the sensor’s gain. Doing such allows you to use faster shutter speed, which is helpful to avoid motion blur when shooting handheld or capturing a fast moving object. The tricky part is as you increase the ISO, the camera will be more prone to producing digital artifacts that can make images look soft. That’s why you shouldn’t only look at the ISO range of a camera. What’s more important is how well it controls noise when used at high ISO. Two cameras might have the same maximum native ISO 25,600, but one may show considerable amount of digital grains as soon as ISO 800, while the other only start to get muddy after ISO 1600. For this, you can use DxO Mark low-light ISO index to figure out which camera handles noise better at high ISOs.

Image Stabilization

Using slower shutter speed can help the camera capture more light, but the problem is slower shutter speed can increase the risk of getting motion blur, especially if you’re not using a tripod. This is where image stabilization system comes to help. With gyroscopic sensors, such system can move the camera’s image sensors (or the lens glass) accordingly to compensate any abrupt movements prevalent when shooting handheld. All modern point-and-shoot cameras have image stabilization system, though I still firmly believe that Sony’s is the best of them all. If you’re using an interchangeable lens model, you may have to buy a lens that has a built-in optical stabilization.

Wide Aperture Lens

There are reason why photography enthusiasts like to use an interchangeable lens camera, even if they have to shell out more of their hard earned money to buy lenses. Lens with wider aperture allows more light through to hit the sensor. As such, you no longer need to set the ISO too high, so the camera can better control the noise. Also, shooting with wide aperture lens allows you to use faster shutter speed, which is helpful to avoid getting blur. That’s why wide aperture lens is also called fast lens.

Anyway, lens aperture is expressed as an f/number. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture. In contrast, the bigger the number, the narrower the aperture.

Who Are They For?

best camera for low light photography

The best low light cameras are not only for photographers who specialize in night photography. There are many situations where camera’s high ISO performance can be crucial. Here are some examples:

  • Sports photographers: Not all parts of the field receive the same amount of light. Camera with good low light capabilities can help them capture clear images in the darkened areas.
  • Wedding photographers: In many cases, wedding – both the ceremony and the party – are carried on indoor where the lighting conditions can be poor. This is where good low light camera comes in.
  • Street photographers: The city often shows its best scene at night time when all the street lamps are turned on. Not to say that the most interesting of people also like to hang out after dark too. Having a camera with remarkable high ISO performance can help secure some great shots.
  • Landscape photographers: While they primarily take shots in bright daylight, landscapes may look more dramatic when the sun has leaned westward. Again this calls for a good low light camera.


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