Best cameras for low light photography in 2024

One of the best cameras for low light photography can revolutionize your shooting, especially if you like to shoot at nighttime, in poorly-lit areas or you're an astrophotographer. But there's much more to a camera capable of low light photography than shooting the stars: Having a good sensor can help in all kinds of situations. 

The good news is that in recent years, digital cameras have come a long way in terms of technology. That means whether you're a beginner photographer looking for something inexpensive to learn with, or you're a pro looking for the best the market has to offer, you'll be able to find a camera with seriously impressive technology inside. Even the cheapest cameras have impressive sensors compared to even just a few years ago — but if you buy something designed to perform well in low-light situations, you might just be blown away.

For keen astrophotographers, coupling one of the best cameras for low light photography with one of the best lenses for astrophotography will allow you to take incredible images of the night sky. If that's you, you might also find our round-up of the best cameras for astrophotography helpful.

If you're newer to photography and aren't quite sure what equipment you'll need, don't worry. We've answered the most common questions in our low light cameras FAQ

Our team of expert reviewers here at Space has spent time with a range of the best low-light cameras on the market. We've covered goods from top brands Sony, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Fujifilm and rigorously tested them all to see which ones operate best in low-light settings. In our guide, you'll find cameras covering a range of budgets, from high-end to more affordable cameras for beginners and enthusiasts.

Tantse
Tantse Walter

Tantse Walter is a photographer and adventurer that's spent seven years facilitating global adventurous expeditions. She loves getting into the nitty-gritty of sourcing and planning trips. Whether that be for astrophotography location scouting, or just for the love of exploration. Tantse enjoys taking creative, bright and bold photos of people, places, animals and the night sky. Tantse’s photos have been purchased by notable companies such as Ford and Cross Country Trains as well as an upcoming book about the songs, rituals and musical history of Capoeira.

The quick list

Best cameras for low light photography 2024

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Best all rounder

Best all rounder: The Z7 II is especially good for astro and low light photography

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 45.7 MP
Lens Mount: Nikon Z
ISO Range: ISO 64 - 25600 (expands to 32 - 102400)
Stabilization: 5-axis sensor-shift Image Stabilization

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent ISO handling
+
Electronic viewfinder is excellent

Reasons to avoid

-
Will price some beginners out
-
Overboard if you're only shooting astro
Buy it if

✅ You shoot different styles: This camera excels at shooting many different styles of photography thanks to its detailed sensor and processing power.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're only shooting astro: The 45.7MP sensor would likely be too much if you only shoot astrophotography, and there are cheaper models out there that will be more suited.

The bottom line

🔎 Nikon Z7 II Combines power, speed and precision with a simple interface and organized button layout in an attempt to master all trades — although it would be overkill for just astrophotography. ★★★★½

The Nikon Z7 II's predecessor, the Z6 II, is an excellent camera — and indeed you'll find it a little further down our list of best cameras for low-light photography. But thanks to a few key benefits that we highlighted in our Nikon Z7 II review, like dual memory card slots, more megapixels and better image quality, we think the Nikon Z7 II is hands-down the best camera for low-light photography currently on the market.

We've found that the noise level in high ISO shots is excellent: In fact, we couldn't notice any until at least ISO2500. The camera's exposure preview, too, makes it incredibly easy to set up a shot in low light — it's one of the best we've used, in fact. 

But it's not just these low-light features that make the Z7 II such a great camera. It's a fantastic piece of kit all-round, whatever type of photography you're shooting. Things like its two memory card slots is a big plus, for example, especially for pros. It lets you decide which card to store your photos on or you can set it to back up every shot automatically. This feature is a lifesaver in case, heaven forbid, one of your cards gets corrupted.

The Nikon Z7 II also sports almost double the megapixels as the Nikon Z6 II: its sensor packs in 45.7MP instead of 24.5MP. That's a mind-blowing resolution, perfect for photographers who are creating extra-large prints or want the ability to heavily crop in post-processing. For wildlife photographers in particular, it's a huge benefit.

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Nikon Z7 II
AttributesNotes
DesignWeather sealing protects it from the elements.
PerformanceHigh ISO image noise is fantastic.
FunctionalityPlenty of customization.

Best DSLR

Best DSLR: The D850 is the best DSLR for low light photography and videography with features that can match or outcompete contemporary mirrorless models

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 45.7 MP
Lens mount: Nikon F
ISO Range: 64 - 25,600 (expandable 32 - 102,400)
Stabilization: None

Reasons to buy

+
Huge stills resolution with excellent cropping options 
+
Outstanding ISO range for a DSLR 

Reasons to avoid

-
DSLRs are being phased out 
-
Not as good at low light focusing as its mirrorless counterpart 
Buy it if

✅ You're a pro looking for a second camera: Produces high-resolution images without breaking the bank, and it's just about the best DSLR for professional use.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something that's future-proofed: DSLRs are gradually being phased out, so there won't be any newer versions or lenses released as most companies are now focusing on mirrorless models.

The bottom line

🔎 Nikon D850 A 45.4MP beast, the Nikon D850 will capture every single star you can possibly see and then some, thanks to its wide ISO range — although DSLRs are being phased out in favor of mirrorless models. ★★★★½

Most cameras these days are mirrorless, but the Nikon D850, a DSLR camera, is still a fantastic choice if you're looking for one of the best cameras for low-light photography. In our Nikon D850 review we called it one of the best you can buy, and if shooting the stars is what you're wanting it for, it's an absolute master for astrophotography.

The Nikon D850 is a tough beast: it's built with a magnesium alloy body that can survive most knocks while still being lightweight. Its weather-sealing makes it impervious to most weather conditions too, so don't let shooting in the rain put you off. Its advanced features make it appealing to professionals, but even if you're more of an enthusiast, there's a lot to love about the D850. Its huge ISO range — going up to 102,400 — puts it at the top of its class, and its full-frame sensor and powerful EXPEED 5 processor handles noise very well.

If you're more interested in video than stills, this is a great choice for shooting video in low-light conditions too. It focuses excellently in dark environments (down to -4EV), making use of 153 focus points. A built-in feature called face-priority autofocus is wonderful if you're shooting portraits, practically eliminating the need to switch to manual focus. And its hot shoe and PC sync connector make hooking up external lighting solutions a cinch, if that's more your style.

The only downside to the D850 is that the camera itself doesn't have built-in image stabilization, something that you'll find in newer, similarly specced mirrorless cameras. It's not a total deal-breaker, though, as long as your lens has stabilization. And if you use an F-mount lens, you'll benefit from Nikon's Vibration Reduction feature, which stabilizes shots by up to 4.5 stops — something that's supremely helpful in low light, especially.

We do have to mention, however, that DSLR cameras are quickly being phased out in favor of mirrorless cameras, and this is one of only a handful still available on the market. If you're looking to purchase a Nikon camera for the first time, then, you might be better looking for a mirrorless model. But if you already have a collection of Nikon lenses and want an upgrade from, say, an entry level DSLR, the D850 is still worth considering: It may be a little old now, but it's still a very capable camera. 

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Nikon D850
AttributesNotes
DesignBack illuminated buttons to help see in the dark.
PerformanceGood low light AF detection.
FunctionalityHuge stills resolution.

Best hybrid model

Best hybrid model: The A7R V is in a class of its own and gives fantastic detail even in the darkest shadows

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame
Megapixels: 61MP
Lens mount: Sony E
ISO Range: 100 - 32,000 (expanded 50 - 102,400)
Stabilization: In body OSS - 8 stops

Reasons to buy

+
In-body Optical Steady Shot
+
Awe-inspiring image quality
+
Fantastic in low light

Reasons to avoid

-
An expensive camera
-
Huge RAW files
Buy it if

✅ You want insanely high resolution: Currently, this is the highest resolution full-frame camera thanks to its massive 61MP sensor.

You want accurate autofocus: The AI-powered autofocus in this camera is nothing short of incredible.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a beginner: Not because you wouldn't get on well with it, just because it would likely be overkill and you probably wouldn't need 61 megapixels.

You only shoot astro: For practical reasons, we think the previous model, the Sony A7R IV, is slightly better for astro.

The bottom line

🔎 Sony A7R V: The Sony A7R V builds on the power of its predecessor with its higher resolution EVF and LCD screen, more stops of image stabilization and a new AI autofocus unit, it proves to be a fantastic contender for low-light photography. ★★★★½

The Sony A7R knocks most other cameras on this list out of the water when it comes to megapixel count: It boasts a huge 61MP resolution. That means it's capable of bringing out an incredible amount of detail, even darkly shadowed areas. It's not just great for stills-shooting, either — with the ability to shoot 8K video, it's an absolute beast of a camera whether you're a photographer or videographer.

Its predecessor, the Sony A7R IV, used to sit on this list, and while that's still a very capable camera (and often available notably cheaper), the upgrades made to the A7R V mean it's a much better purchase in just about every way. A prime example is image stabilization: In our Sony A7R V review, we found the improved image stabilization (8 stops, compared to the A7R IV's 5.5 stops), made a huge difference when shooting cityscapes in low light. We were able to shoot handheld at 1/3 of a second at ISO 100 to get light trails from cars, and the image was pin-sharp and in focus. 

This, coupled with the newer AI-powered autofocus found in Sony's newer cameras (and not in the A7R IV), make it an absolute powerhouse for low-light photography — whether that be shooting indoors, low-light portraiture or nighttime cityscapes. 

The LCD screen on the A7R V has also had a big facelift — they've made it much more functional and bigger (from 3-inches tilt-only to 3.2-inches tilting and fully articulating) and it's a lot more detailed, upping the resolution from 1.44M to 2.1M dots. The EVF has also been improved from 5.76M to a whopping 9.44M dots (the same resolution as the A1), which makes viewing and composing your shots in the dark much easier.

That said, for astro specifically, we'd still recommend the Sony A7R IV for more practical reasons, and it's still in our best cameras for astrophotography guide. The new AI autofocus in the A7R V is undoubtedly impressive, but not only is it not necessary if you're only shooting astro, but it also drains the battery quicker, which isn't ideal for anyone embarking on long nights of astro shooting. Astro shooters also won't need the additional stops of image stabilization, so for the sake of the same resolution and very similar handling, we'd advise you to save the extra few hundred dollars and opt for the A7R IV if you focus more on astro.

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Sony A7R V
AttributesNotes
DesignNew design improvements make low light shooting easier.
PerformanceExcellent in low light.
Functionality8 stops of image stabilization and new AI autofocus.

Best for intermediates