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
- Our Top 5 Picks
- What Makes a Video Camera Good for Low Light?
- Review of the Best Video Cameras for Low Light
- What Lens Do I Get?
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Our Top 5 Picks
|Sony a7S III||Mirrorless||2160p120 (4k)||699g (1.54 lb)|
|Panasonic LUMIX S1H||Mirrorless||6k24p||1164g (2.56 lb)|
|Canon EOS 6D Mark II||Mirrorless||1080p60||765g (1.68 lb)|
|Canon EOS R||Mirrorless||4k30p||662g (1.46 lb)|
|Sony a6400||Mirrorless||2160p30 (4k)||403g (1.45 lb)|
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 newcomers, 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 cameras 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 entering 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 recommended for low-light shooting.
3. ISO Range
Each camera has a maximum ISO range. This is how sensitive 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.
Review of the Best Video Cameras for Low Light
1) Sony a7S III
- Small Full-frame camera with the best low-light performance
- 4k at 120fps
- S-log recording
- Great autofocus
- User interface could be easier to use
- Only 12MP sensor
The Sony a7 has become a fan favorite thanks to rocking a full-frame sensor inside such a small, lightweight body. It actually comes in a few different versions: the a7, a7R, and a7S.
For video recording, the a7 III and a7S III will be your go-to models, but especially the a7S.
The previous versions had a few problems that this new version has fixed. Finally, Sony delivered the almost perfect camera for low-light videos.
It shines especially in the range between ISO 1600 and ISO 6400, even though it only has a 12MP sensor.
It’s clear that Sony designed this camera, especially for filmmakers. The small sensor can be a huge disadvantage to photographers, as other cheaper cameras can take higher-detailed images with 24MP sensors.
But for video, the Sony a7S III is just superior to the competition — only comparable to the Panasonic S1H, although it’s quite a different camera.
Autofocus is reliable and fast. However, it’s not too different from the autofocus found in the much cheaper Sony a6400. But this is just because Sony has probably the best autofocus system on the market overall.
It can also record in 4k up to 120fps without losing quality, which is an impressive fate. And it also has S-log recording, which gives you a huge dynamic range to work with.
The camera also has a decent battery life and has good heat dissipation, meaning that you can shoot for longer than its competition.
Finally, the in-body image stabilization is good, although the Panasonic S1H seems better. This gives you more freedom when choosing lenses because you won’t need to get a lens with stabilization to have a smooth video.
It is overall an amazing camera for low light with great features for video, and the only possible comparison right now is the Panasonic S1H.
- 6k downsample to 4k
- Excellent stabilization
- Tons of pro-friendly features
- Not many good options for high framerate shooting
- Smaller lens selection than Sony
We should be comparing this camera to the Sony a7S III because both are the only ones that can really compete at this level.
So, what makes it different?
This model has better stabilization thanks to its superior Dual I.S. system, which allows it to use the in-body stabilization with the optical IS from the lens. But don’t expect it to be too different.
The main difference is the approach it uses to the video recording process. It has a 24MP sensor that shoots video using the entire sensor with 6k quality and then downgrades it to whatever resolution you want to use.
This gives it better image detail than the Sony a7S III, which is a huge win. Moreover, it also gives it more useful tools like being able to roam and select the part of the sensor that you want to crop and downsample to for 4k.
However, this means that it records huge files that give it a limitation: you can only use this downsample for up to 30fps. This means that it can’t match the Sony’s full-frame 60fps and 120fps capabilities.
So, in other words, this Panasonic has better stabilization and image detail. But the Sony has better high framerate shooting, more battery, and slightly better autofocus.
Both cameras are excellent for low-light recording and you should go for the one that fits your style the best.
- Good battery life
- Excellent autofocus
- Flip screen
- No in-body stabilization
- No 4k
4k recording is not for everybody. To handle these files you need a lot of storage and a really good computer to be able to edit footage without running into problems.
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.
4) Canon EOS R
- Lightweight for a full-frame
- Great colors
- Flip screen
- 4k Crop factor turns it into an APS-C
- No in-body stabilization
- No 4k
The camera has become a favorite for content creators that got the money to spend.
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 A7S 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 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 just don’t recommend it for action filmmaking.
5) Sony a6400
- Top quality 4k for a fair price
- Probably best autofocus in the market
- Lightweight and small
- Flip screen
- No in-body stabilization
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 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.
- Flip screen
- Great, reliable autofocus
- Good colors
- Long battery life
- Heavy (1.6 lb)
- No image stabilization
- There are cheaper cameras with 4k
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 its 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.
7) Canon 77D
- Made for video (stabilization, flip screen, mic jack and hot shoe)
- Effective dual-pixel autofocus
- Light for a DSLR (1.19 lb)
- No 4k recording
- Not weather-sealed
- Short battery (600 shots)
This one has the same sensor and processor as the 80D, but you’ll notice that it’s smaller, lighter, and also, cheaper.
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.
- Super lightweight (0.86 lb)
- Good price
- DSLR-Size sensor
- Lots of vlog-friendly features
- Short battery
- Cropped 4k recording
This is Canon’s offer to vloggers that are making content on YouTube.
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.
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, and probably the best APS-C for vlogging.
- Great dynamic range
- Made for video (IS, mic. port, flip screen, hot-shoe)
- Dual Image Stabilization
- 5k downsample to 4k recording
- Not the best for low light (micro four thirds sensor)
- As heavy and big as a DSLR (1.6 lb)
From this point on we will feature arguably the worst cameras for low light in this list since they have a micro four third sensor.
Regardless of that, if you want a low-light camera to record indoors, these cameras are still enough for that purpose.
The Panasonic GH5M2 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.
10) Panasonic G95
- 4k video
- Flip screen, hot shoe, mic jack
- Dual I.S.
- Not the best for low light (micro four thirds sensor)Micro four thirds sensor
- Autofocus could be better
The Panasonic G95 is another vlogger-friendly camera that has a lot of functionality for video, and even something extra that the Gh5 doesn’t have by default: V-log.
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.
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.