Top 10 Best Low Light Video Cameras 2021
If you want a reliable camera that you can use in most situations, you will want to take a look at this list of the best low-light video cameras.
Let's start first with a table showing our top choices, and then we will compare them and give you tips to choose the best one for your situation.
Table of Contents
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Our Top 3 Picks
What Makes a Video Camera Good for Low Light?
These are a couple of things that you need to understand if you want to know why these cameras are good for low light.
These concepts are a bit complicated for newcomer, but it's something you should understand if you plan to work with cameras, no matter the purpose.
You should know the following concepts to understand exactly what you're buying and make the right decision:
1. Sensor Size
The sensor is the part of the camera that captures light and transforms it into an image.
This concept is pretty simple:
The larger the sensor size, the more light the camera is able to capture.
So, larger sensors give you better low-light performance. They capture more light so the image quality won't be compromised as easily.
Sensor sizes come in a few standard sizes, and it's pretty easy to remember them.
From larger to smaller:
Full-frame > APS-C > Micro Four Thirds
Below these sizes you will find camcorders and compact cameras. They are the worst for low-light recording.
This means that you want to stay away from camcorders and compact cameras if you want something good for low light.
That's why you'll only see here cameras with the 3 standard sensor sizes I stated above.
We'll be talking about mirrorless and DSLR cameras here because they come with these sensors.
There aren't too many important differences between the two types if you're just worried about low-light recording.
Just bear in mind that mirrorless are---generally---lighter than DSLRs.
Also, needless to say that the larger the sensor size, the more expensive the camera is---most of the time.
2. Lens Aperture
The second most important part that makes a camera good for low light is the lens aperture.
The larger the aperture, the more light the lens will allow to enter the sensor.
See, to capture an image, the camera will open its lens momentarily. The aperture is just how 'large' that opening is.
The aperture is something you can control manually in your camera's settings before taking a picture.
However, each lens has a maximum aperture. You will want lenses that allow a large---also called fast--- aperture.
The measure you use for the aperture is called the f/number.
When you buy a lens, you'll see there's a number like f/1.5. That's the maximum aperture. The lower the number, the larger the aperture.
The fastest affordable lenses are around f/1.8, f/1.5, or even a bit lower. They are highly recomended for low-light shooting.
3. ISO Range
Each camera has a maximum ISO range. This is how sensible to light the sensor is able to become.
All cameras will increase their ISO when it's needed---when there's not enough light to capture an image.
The camera increases the ISO to be able to produce an image if there's not enough lighting.
However, this comes at a cost. The higher the ISO, the lower the quality of the resulting image.
In high ISOs, you will notice the camera starts to show little grains and dots like in the following image:
When a camera has a large sensor, it won't need to increase its ISO as often. That's why big sensor cameras are the best for low light.
That's also why we use lighting: we want to decrease the ISO of the sensor so we can capture a clean image without losing quality.
Depending on the quality of the camera's sensor, increasing their ISO will affect more or less the quality of the image.
That's why this is another important thing to consider when buying a low-light camera.
However, it is the least important factor that comes into play. What you want to do first is make sure you can capture more light without having to increase ISO in the first place.
This is going to be your last resource. That's why it's better to worry about a large sensor camera and a fast lens first.
What Lens Do I Get?
This question is a little bit hard to answer because I don't know what you are looking to do with your camera.
It will also depend on whether you get a full-frame, APS-C or Micro 4/3.
This is so complex that I've made a huge post about it here.
However, if you want a quick recap here it comes:
- If you're going to use your camera for different stuff, get one of the zoomable lenses that come with the cameras.
- If you want something for vlogging, get a 24mm if you're using full-frame
- Or a 15mm if you're using an APS-C and around 12mm for Micro 4/3.
In the end it will come down to your lens preferences, so if you don't know anything about lenses you are better off with the zoomable kit lens that comes with the cameras.
With this kind of lens you can test different focal lengths until you find one that you love for your work, and then you can get a prime lens---non zoomable---around that focan length to get better quality and more lighting.
Review of the Best Video Cameras for Low Light
Sony a7 III
It actually comes in a few different versions: the a7, a7R and a7S.
For video recording, the a7 and a7S will be your go-to models.
However, I’ll feature here the Sony a7 III because it is the newer—and superior in most situations—camera.
The Sony a7s II would be your favorite if you really want a camera for extreme low light situations.
We’re talking about situations around 51200 ISO.
For the rest, the Sony a7 III is just superior.
Autofocus is more reliable in the a7 III because of the new phase and contrast detection feature.
It can also record a higher quality image than most 4k cameras. The reason is that the amazing new sensor lets it record in 6k and downscale to 4k, achieving a sharper and higher quality image than most competitors.
The camera also has a decent battery life that lasts around 3 hours, 2 memory slots and a headphone jack to monitor your audio.
Also, a big plus is its in-body image stabilization. This gives you more freedom when choosing lenses because you won’t need to get a lens with stabilization to have smooth video.
It is overall an amazing camera for low light with remarkable image quality.
Sadly, even though it does have an articulating screen, it doesn’t do the complete 180º rotation, so there’s no flip screen.
So if you really want a camera you can monitor while recording yourself in selfie mode, this one won’t cut it. It is probably the biggest downside that makes some people go for another option.
Read our full review of the Sony a7 III.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Also, if you plan to upload to YouTube, then you’re not really going to use 4k.
That’s why there are still choices that don’t record 4k video that you should be considering, especially if you want to save some money and still get amazing image quality.
That’s what the 6D is for you.
The best advantage this camera has is that it is a Canon camera with their famous Dual Pixel Autofocus.
The biggest pain of recording video with autofocus is that most cameras don’t do a great job.
You can trust that this camera will focus on the right thing at the right time, most of the time.
Also, you will have a flip-out screen that you can use in selfie mode to record yourself and make sure everything is alright while recording.
It does have some disadvantages compared to the Sony, but it’s also a lot cheaper, and the resulting video is still amazing.
It’s heavier, doesn’t have a headphone jack, it lacks in-body stabilization, only 1 memory slot and there’s no 4k recording—and not even mentioning the missing 6k downsampling.
However, it’s cheaper, has better autofocus for video, better and easier-to-use interface and more battery life.
Every camera has its ups and downs, and a lot of people will still prefer the heavier 6D Mark II even if they had the money for the Sony a7 III.
Canon EOS R
The camera has become a favorite for content creators that got the money to spend.
It is a good competitor for the Sony A7 III, and ends up being the favorite a lot of times because of the flip screen.
However, the main reason filmmakers love this camera is the color science from Canon. Sony cameras can’t beat Canon colors yet.
Colors are just too real, and it’s especially noticeable when shooting people.
However, I must admit this camera seems mostly inferior to the Sony A7 III for the rest of the features.
The main disadvantage is the 1.7x crop factor of the Canon when recording in 4k.
This means that the camera isn’t really using the advantage of a full-frame for video, and the resulting image doesn’t look as wide.
This also means that if you needed to make wide shots, you will need a lens with a wider angle, which is worse for low light because it’s slower.
So, if you want a recommendation for vlogging, you will want a lens around 24mm to get a wide enough shot when in selfie mode.
Also, it doesn’t have in-body stabilization even though it is a pretty expensive camera.
You’ll want to get a lens with optical stabilization to record smooth video with it.
Thankfully, Canon provides with a good selection of good O.I.S. lenses.
This camera has been truly polarizing between fans and haters because it’s not so well balanced.
It’s either the best camera you could get or the worse, depending on your work.
But it’s still an amazing camera that you can choose if you’re a vlogger, content creator, or interview filmmaker because I think that’s when it truly shines.
I don’t recommend it for action filmmaking.
Just a few weeks ago, it was the Canon EOS M50, but this newer camera fixed one of the main issues the Canon had.
The a6400 can record in 4k at 30fps without any crop factor, and it’s still a relatively affordable camera.
But the best improvement this camera has is the brand new autofocus system. According to Sony, it’s the fastest autofocus in the world.
And after many tests, experts are impressed. It might be the best autofocus in the market right now, especially for video.
This, combined with being a small camera with everything you need to record video, and with an excellent quality, just makes it one of the best cameras for recording video.
It’s not in the first place because it’s not full-frame, so it’s not as good for low light.
But if you’re looking to buy an APS-C camera, consider this as your first option.
The downside is that it doesn’t come with internal image stabilization, but at least there are plenty of Sony lenses with OIS to choose from.
Read our full review of the Sony a6400.
Canon EOS 90D
The Canon EOS 90D is the best affordable DSLR for video.
It has been created with video in mind, and it has got all you need—except in-body stabilization—if you’re not looking for a full-frame camera because of their price.
The autofocus is really good and reliable, and the excellent colors science from Canon is still visible in this camera.
You can even use the autofocus for action filming and it’s going to be pretty reliable.
And for the rest of the video features, it has it all: flip screen, microphone and headphone jack, timelapse, touchscreen, and its battery lasts for long—960 shots CIPA rating.
It might not be as great as a full-frame for low light, but as an APS-C camera, it’s still good in low light.
It is definitely more than enough if you’re just looking for a camera for indoors recording.
Besides lacking stabilization, the downside is that it’s also the typical heavy DSLR.
This makes it a great deal if you’re looking for a DSLR camera to carry around for travel or to vlog with.
This is like a slightly toned down version of the 80D, but also has other advantages.
The main differences it has with the 80D is that it has a smaller battery, slower shutter speed for photography, worse file compression and a smaller viewfinder.
It also has some characteristic downsides of cheaper cameras: it’s not weather sealed, doesn’t have a headphone port and there’s no top LCD.
In exchange, you get digital image stabilization, a smaller camera and a cheaper price for the same image quality.
That’s a pretty good tradeoff and definitely earns a place in this list because of that.
Panasonic LUMIX S1
We should be comparing it to the Sony a7 III because it’s the only one that can really compete against it on this list.
So, what makes it more expensive than the Sony one?
This model has better stabilization thanks to its Dual I.S. system, which allows it to use the in-body stabilization with the optical IS from the lens.
This makes it the smoothest full-frame camera on the list.
In terms of image quality for video, this Panasonic has the upper hand. It can record 4k at 60fps, which allows 4k slow motion.
It applies a 1.5x crop factor when doing so, but it will use the full sensor for any other capture mode.
On the other hand, the Sony a7 III applies a 1.2x factor when recording 4k at 30 fps, but it can record at 24/25 without any crop.
Both cameras use a 6k image downsampled to 4k, so both produce amazing detail. But a lot of people like to give the Panasonic slightly better color science.
In exchange, the autofocus isn’t as good as the Sony a7 III’s, and it is really big and heavier.
But the biggest downside is finding the right lens.
Lenses for this camera are too expensive right now because the mount is new, and there aren’t many options for mount adaptors.
But that’s something that will improve hopefully by the end of the year.
Once more lenses and adaptors are available, this camera will have better accesibility and it will be more of a difficult choice than it is right now.
Canon EOS M50
The camera can also record 4k at 24 fps, however, it applies an additional 1.6x crop factor.
Being an APS-C camera, this additional crop factor is a big deal, and for some people—like vloggers— that need to take wide shots, this 4k capacity feels more like a marketing trick.
However, the price actually makes it okay if you take into account all the positive features it has for vloggers.
As a cheaper camera though, it lacks weather sealing, image stabilization and the battery is short (capable of around 235 shots per charge).
If you can afford the Sony a6400, that one is much better for 4k recording and the autofocus is also better.
Otherwise, the M50 is the second best vlogging camera you can buy this year.
Regardless of that, if you want a low-light camera to record indoors, these cameras are still enough for that purpose.
The Panasonic GH5 is the best micro four third camera you can get for video, and filmmakers that use it every day couldn’t care less about its sensor size.
It can do 4k video at 60 fps while rocking one of the best stabilizations available.
It has the Dual I.S. system that allows it to use the internal stabilization together with compatible lenses’ optical IS.
I just wish we could take more advantage of that Dual I.S. 2 as vloggers by making the camera lighter.
But the image in 4k is top quality. It doesn’t have a crop, so it uses the entire sensor to capture the footage.
Thanks to a recent update, you can now record in 5k and in a format friendly with YouTube but with a small crop. You can do it by activating Open Gate mode and activating the guidelines for 16:9.
And what’s even better is that this one does have a flip screen and everything you need for video recording, including amazing stabilization.
Its weakest point is probably the autofocus. Between all brands, Panasonic has the weakest AF system, so it’s not as reliable for action shooting like other cameras.
But at least it’s still useful for simple autofocus jobs.
This V-log is a well-praised log from Panasonic that allows more Dynamic Range for color grading in post-production. If you want it in the GH5, you need to pay an extra $100 to download the firmware, but it’s included in the G95.
This one, however, doesn’t use the entire sensor for 4k recording, but the crop factor is pretty small and negligible: only 1.26x.
Needless to say that the image won’t have as many details as the more expensive GH5, but it’s also a much lighter and smaller camera.
Combined with the inclusion of all the video features we demand—flip screen, hot shoe, mic jack, and even Dual stabilization—the camera is a great choice, especially for content creators.
It is also a camera simple enough to use by anyone thanks to its user-friendly interface and accessibility.
The downside is the autofocus and the fact that it’s a Micro 4/3 camera.
As we already mentioned, Panasonic cameras are not the strongest when it comes to autofocus.
Also, Micro 4/3 sensors are not the best for low light, even though most people will find it good enough for casual low-light situations.