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Best Low Light Digital Camera Models

Updated on August 21, 2014

Get Better Shots with the Best Low Light Digital Camera

If you take a lot of shots indoors, in the late evening, or at night, you may often be faced with under exposed pictures unless you're using the right camera or have a good knowledge of how to get the right exposure. For those seeking the best low light digital camera and knowledge on how to improve their shots in low light conditions, you've come to the right page to get started.

You'll find tips about choosing the right camera and how to take the best low light shots.

Photo: TonytheMisfit.

Important Characteristics of the Best Low Light Digital Camera Models

So you're on a search to find the best low light digital camera, to choose just a few characteristics/features that can produce better than average low light shots, look for:

A good sensor.Generally speaking the best are on DSLR models, not point and shoot cameras. Of course, not everyone wants a DSLR, so you can check for some of the other characteristics listed here but even some point and shoot cameras offer a high sensitivity - low noise sensor that is better than average. Now it's not too difficult to find cameras that use a back-lit or back-illuminated sensor which increases sensitivity and keeps noise to a minimum. High ISO.Using high ISO is similar to using high film speeds in old film cameras. ISO is actually the light sensitivity. For good shots in low light, you want high sensitivity, which means a high ISO setting. For instance, ISO 800 will give you more light sensitivity than ISO 400, but ISO 1600 would be even better. Of course, using a high ISO can result in more "noise" or artifacts in the image you produce. Thus, having a low noise sensor or at least noise reduction technology is also important. Due to the limited sensor size in digital cameras it can be wise to choose one with an ISO over 800 but fewer megapixels so that the demands on the sensor are reasonable, and you don't end up with too much noise. Optical image stabilization.This helps to compensate for blurring that occurs when there are small inadvertent movements that happen with handheld shots. A long exposure or slower shutter speed is sometimes used to bring in more light when in low light settings. Unfortunately, this increases the likelihood of handshake. Thus OIS can be critical. Of course, the use of a tripod is the best defense. Controls.You need to be able to turn off the flash. In most low light situations you want the flash off unless your subject is within flash range. To get a good low light shot, the camera needs to capture enough light. Thus, you may also want manual control over the aperture (to get more opening for more light) or control over shutter speed (a slower shutter speed leaves the aperture open longer, allowing in more light). Even many point and shoot cameras give you some control over these in an aperture or shutter priority setting. A night setting on your camera can help obtain similar settings in the absence of manual controls. A fast lens.The best low light digital camera needs a fast lens. An f1.2 or f1.4 lens will most likely be found only on a DSLR model. But it's still useful to compare; an F4 would still be better than F22 for low light shots. (you want the F number to be smaller)

Photo: BreeBailey.

Taking Better Low Light Shots

Having the best low light digital camera is a good start, but knowing how to use it is even more important. Even for those without all of the features mentioned above, low light shots can still be improved if you know what to do. For casual users, the following tips can help.

Keep steady.If you have a camera with a slower lens or you slow the shutter speed to allow in more light, you may get the best results using a tripod. With the shutter open longer, there is simply more chance for camera movement resulting in blurring. The tripod helps eliminate the risk of camera shake. You can also use the timer to avoid unwanted movement caused by physically touching the camera to activate the shutter button. If there is no tripod available, try to use another stationary object in the area. If hand holding the camera, bring your arms in close to the body and hold your breath while snapping the shot. Use your legs to brace yourself like a tripod or kneel down. In general, a wider aperture allows the camera to gather enough light in low light situations.Most point and shoots have an aperture priority setting that allows adjustment. If nothing else however, using the Night Mode setting will help. Know the flash range on your camera.In most instances, using the flash isn't effective unless your subject is within 8-10 feet of the camera.

Reduce heatThe longer your camera is on the more heat it produces which can create even greater noise from the sensor. Therefore, it's best to not use the camera for extended periods of time prior to trying to capture a nighttime shot.

Photo: left-hand. (no derivative work allowed)

Canon PowerShot Cameras for Low Light Images

Canon has their HS System which includes a DIGIC 5 image processor and high sensitivity, back illuminated sensor which helps to reduce noise at high ISO levels, expands the camera's dynamic range, and therefore results in much improved images taken in low light situations. Here are some of the best low light digital cameras from Canon.

Canon PowerShot S90 10MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-Inch LCD (OLD MODEL)
Canon PowerShot S90 10MP Digital Camera with 3.8x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-Inch LCD (OLD MODEL)

This Powershot S90 is a 10 megapixel camera with low light scene mode for settings up to ISO 12,800. It has a customizable control ring for manual options, a wide-angle 3.8x optical zoom, optical image stabilization, a 3" LCD and a bright f/2.0 lens.

 

Finepix Models for Good Low Light Shots

Fujifilm Finepix S100fs 11.1MP Digital Camera with 14.3x Wide Angle Dual Image Stabilized Optical Zoom
Fujifilm Finepix S100fs 11.1MP Digital Camera with 14.3x Wide Angle Dual Image Stabilized Optical Zoom

This 11.1 megapixel Finepix S100fs offers 14.3x optical zoom, dual image stabilization, face detection, and automatic red-eye removal. It has a bright F2.8 or F5.3 lens, with an expanded dynamic range for greater sensitivity and low light shooting capabilities. It has a 2/3-inch super CCD VIII sensor and a movie mode for VGA quality video at 30fps.

 

Nikon Cameras for Low Light Shooting

Nikon D5200 24.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Nikon D5200 24.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

This camera offers a 24.1 high sensitivity sensor, a f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, and a 3" variable angle monitor. Users can shoot up to 5 frames per second and shoot 1080p video with stereo sound. It offers 16 scene modes and allows WiFi sharing and transfer of images with the optional wireless mobile adapter.

 

The Best Low Light Cameras from Panasonic

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2KK 16.05 MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3-inch Free-Angle Touch Screen LCD and 14-42mm Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2KK 16.05 MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3-inch Free-Angle Touch Screen LCD and 14-42mm Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer)

This Micro Four Thirds camera from Panasonic offers creative control and high quality still and motion imaging. It features intuitive touch control, a free-angle "Intelligent" LCD, multi-aspect wide screen Live View Finder, and a 16.05 megapixel Live MOS sensor which results in less noise and much higher sensitivity. This camera offers speed as well. It is capable of capturing 5 fps in full resolution using mechanical shutter and a maximum of 40fps using electronic shutter.

With high speed and it's superior MOS sensor, the GH2 is also a good low light digital camera. It accepts up to 11 interchangeable lenses, including a 3D lens, and offers 7 preset color effects.

Beyond still images, the GH2 also records full HD 1920x1080i video with 60p output. It features cinema-like 24p movie with a maximum bit rate of 24Mbps and a variable movie mode which allows user to record motion in variable frame rates. The EX Tele Conversion function acts to extend the zoom and simultaneous HDMI can be used while recording to allow user to monitor images on a separate screen.

The DMC G3 is another good choice from Panasonic. It's another micro four thirds model with a 3" touch panel, a sensitive 16 megapixel sensor, and f/3.5-5.6 lens. It can also shoot 1080p video.

 

The Best Low Light Digital Cameras From Sony

Sony NEX-F3K/B 16.1 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)
Sony NEX-F3K/B 16.1 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)

This is an interchangeable lens camera giving users more shooting flexibility. It features a 16.1 megapixel EXMOR APS HD CMOS sensor, a control wheel for easy adjustments, and ISO settings up to 16000. This camera can record 1080/60i/24p video and has a tilting LCD display that can tilt down to 13 degrees and up to 180 degrees. Users can capture up to 5.5fps. It offers a variety of shooting modes and even offers and auto HDR mode and 3D sweep panorama mode.

 

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    • profile image

      mistaben 4 years ago

      Great lens and helpful info. Thanks for sharing =)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I would like your opinion please. I take photos of bands in my city, the challenge would be low light, and band lights but also the movement of the band members. Any suggestions? I am new to this.

    • profile image

      CanonCameraLover 5 years ago

      Go pro,Canon EOS 5D Mark III is the way to go!

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Great info on low light pics and cameras.

    • profile image

      antoniow 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens, Squidlike!

    • itravel2004 lm profile image

      itravel2004 lm 5 years ago

      Nice article Mulberry...low light snapping always my big challenges to take good quality photo

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      Thanks for the long list of great cameras that can take pictures in challenging conditions.

    • profile image

      canonpowershotsx130isreview 5 years ago

      f1.2 and f1.4 lens are both pretty decent especially when you are paying under $500 for the camera itself.

    • wcjohnston profile image

      wcjohnston 6 years ago

      Great Lens, I like the look of the Panasonic DMC-LX3, to carry my Canon 5D Mk ii everywhere can be hard work.

      Photographer Bristol.

    • TeamDealStartsH profile image

      TeamDealStartsH 6 years ago

      Thanks for the insight! I really needed this as I am new to night photography, or photography in general! Definitely going to share this with my classmates!

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      i had already been here before, but a wonderful informative page - blessed

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      Tempter there. Now I am slowly going from wanting to NEEDING!

    • profile image

      canonpowershotprice 6 years ago

      I have canonpowershotsx210 which is also very compact delivers good quality photo but after seeing this lens and reading the comparison i think G10 would have been better choice . Thanks for this excellent lens

    • profile image

      GrowWear 7 years ago

      As always, very nice work. :)

    • piedromolinero profile image

      piedromolinero 7 years ago

      A great lens and some great tips. Now I know what to pay attention to when buying the next camera. Thank you and thumbs up.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 7 years ago

      Nice lens. Thanks for the info.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 7 years ago from Scotland

      This was great, I love taking low lighting shots, so this was helpful. Fab information

    • profile image

      redmalloc 7 years ago

      Nice lens - thanks for the information. Even if you have a great camera for low light, knowing how to use it properly makes a great difference, so thanks for adding the shooting tips.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 7 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      Very helpful information. I'm going to get a new camera one of these days.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful job on this lens. These look like some great cameras, would love to try one out someday. Right now I'm still getting to know my camera I got a couple months ago.

      Best wishes,

      Susie

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beautiful job on this lens. These look like some great cameras, would love to try one out someday. Right now I'm still getting to know my camera I got a couple months ago.

      Best wishes,

      Susie

    • profile image

      Sonaprint 8 years ago

      Very Informative! I love the lens...I am now a fan and you are in my featured Lens! :-)

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Excellent info and tips! I feel blessed to have all my camera questions answered by your lenses. And so should you. :-)