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Best Camera for Night Photography: Picks For Low Light Shooting

Night photography involves some of the most challenging subjects for beginner and pro photographers alike. While low-light environments take a little more work to capture effectively, the payoff can be huge.

Night sky photography can reward you with stunning images if you’re using the right equipment. The thing is, there are a number of obstacles that can prevent a camera from performing well at night time, so it’s worth making sure your gear is up to the task.

This page will explore some of our picks for the best camera for night photography. We’ll discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and why they’re so great for the task at hand.

night-photography

Best Cameras For Night Photography: Top Choices

The cameras in this list have been picked for their fantastic night photography performance.

1. Sony a7 III

This thing tackles night sky photography like it’s a walk in the park. The ISO performance in particular deserves a whole lot of praise. When you’re dealing with night photography, every last inch of light sensitivity counts, so the ISO range of 50 to 204,800 is great to see here.

Another welcome addition with the a7 III model is Sony’s “BIONZ X image processing engine”. In layperson terms, this means reduced image noise and better onboard image processing overall; your images have a better chance of turning out as planned.

Poor light conditions and similar obstacles that emerge in night sky photography can make unwanted blur far more common. Image processing like this make things much more manageable.

When taking images of the night sky, you’re likely to be using a tripod. For any other photography task, the 5-axis stabilization system on the Sony a7 III will go a long way in keeping your shot shake-free.

Pros:

  • Lightweight body with decent battery life
  • Brilliant high ISO performance
  • Great onboard processing

Cons:

  • Video recordings are capped at 29 minutes and 50 seconds which is quite a let-down

2. Nikon D810 DSLR

This is one of our favorite cameras for night photography. The max ISO is expandable up to 51,200 for stellar low-light performance and some jaw-dropping images of the night sky.

This is one of the most premium cameras that Nikon sells. While not everyone needs this level of firepower, this camera is a fantastic choice for those serious about their night photography. The super-wide dynamic range will make it easier to capture the night sky with confidence.

Other features on this camera that begin to justify the price include the 51-point AF system and new, smaller RAW image format. The former will keep your images razor-sharp, while the latter can save you tons of drive space without compressing your shots.

The overall speed, precision and performance of this model from Nikon makes it a strong candidate for best night photography camera.

Pros:

  • Huge expandable ISO
  • Excellent Wide dynamic range
  • Convenient smaller RAW file size

Cons:

  • Some features like image overlay are restricted for smaller RAW files

3. Sony a7S II

This mirrorless offering from Sony is a low-light powerhouse. Don’t let the numbers mislead you; the lower number of megapixels on the a7S II actually makes elements of night sky photography easier.

While it might seem counter-intuitive to recommend a camera with a lower resolution, it makes several common astrophotography artefacts much less noticeable. In short, fewer megapixels can be more forgiving when working with night photography.

This isn’t true for every camera, but the sizeable sensor and fantastic dynamic range on offer here make this an excellent camera for night photography. Photographs produced by this camera feature, rich, deep, true-to-life colors that are remarkably easy to tweak in post production.

If you’re serious about taking photos of the night sky, this full-frame camera is a phenomenal choice. When released in 2015, the a7S II was the first full-frame camera to offer built-in 4K recording. This level of innovation and quality are fast becoming characteristics of the Sony brand.

Pros:

  • Probably the best low-light option out there
  • Wide dynamic range for jaw-dropping night photography
  • Full-frame 4K recording

Cons:

  • The settings menus can be a pain to navigate

4. Nikon Z6 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

You may have noticed the prevalence of two particular brands in this article: Nikon and Sony. There’s a reason for this; they’re the two best producers of cameras that work well for night photography. Their sensor choices and onboard processing lend themselves very well to this type of work.

This isn’t to say that Canon and others don’t have good options, it’s just that Nikon and Sony both have several products that take glorious photos of the night sky. The Nikon Z6 is a great example of this. The adaptability, low-light performance and overall polish of this full-frame camera make it an excellent option.

The Z6 is compatible with Nikon’s line of Nikkor lenses. If you’re looking for a good lens for night photography, this is a line worth checking out. There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to the Nikkor line, making this a versatile tool in the right pair of hands.

Pros:

  • Ultra-adaptable, full-frame camera
  • Great low-light performance for night photography
  • Reasonable price considering the feature set

Cons:

  • The battery life isn’t great and third-party options are hard to come by

5. Pentax K-1 Mark II

Weather resistance, excellent low-light performance and a built-in “astro tracer” mode make this one of the best night photography cameras there is. A camera for night time shoots needs to feature a broad dynamic range, ISO and shutter speed.

Luckily, the K-1 Mark II has all of these by the bucket load. The “astro tracer” feature of this full-frame camera significantly extends the exposure of your image for bright, gorgeous shots of the milky way. Another killer feature that’s worth mentioning is Pentax’s “Hand Held Pixel Shift Resolution”.

This powerful process compiles up to four images together for a final result with superior color rendition and sharpness. In the context of night time shooting, this can make for some stunning images that far surpass the result of an unedited shot.

When it comes to finding the right lens for night photography, the selection of compatible options for Pentax cameras is comparatively small. Fortunately, there are a few gems that perform fantastically.

Pros:

  • Built-in modes that are perfect for night photography
  • Brilliant ISO sensitivity range
  • Full-frame camera

Cons:

  • Fewer compatible lenses available

6. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The 5D series from Canon has developed something of a cult following in the world of photography. In fact, the series regularly makes it into the top three for many of our “best of” lists. The versatility, reliability and all-round fantastic performance of the Mark IV make it a welcome addition to anyone’s gear.

The performance in darker conditions is very impressive here considering the megapixel count. You’re not just upping your milky way game with the Mark IV, you’re also buying a camera that can tackle virtually any scenario you throw at it.

Canon has spent years establishing itself as a photography powerhouse and this model brings a wealth of versatility with it. Stunning video capture, best-in-class onboard processing and staggering color reproduction are just some of the things take make this camera great.

Pros

  • Excellent sensitivity for night sky shots
  • The 5D line has an excellent reputation

7. Fujifilm X-T2

Another option with weather sealing for protection from the great outdoors, the Fujifilm X-T2 is no slouch when it comes to capturing the milky way in all its glory. The ISO range on this mirrorless camera can be boosted up to 51,200 for excellent performance in poor light conditions.

Getting the exposure right is critical when take photos at night time. Fortunately, the settings dial on the X-T2 is a breath of fresh air to use. Your ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation are all a twist away.

For when you feel like getting creative with your shots, the range of “film simulation modes” on this model can create some impressive effects. Fujifilm maintains a strong “film-focused” brand and this lives on in their line of digital cameras.

Up to 15 modes give a rich variety of color temperatures and create the impression that you’re switching films on the fly.

Pros:

  • Easy-to-control settings
  • Fujifilm’s unique “film” modes
  • Excellent night time performance

Cons:

  • The price is quite an investment

Finding a Good Lens for Night Photography

The camera body is only half the battle; you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right lens too. The good news is that there’s plenty of choices available. Choosing the right model for your requirements means getting to grips with what makes a lens a good candidate for night time shooting.

Image Stabilization

When capturing images of the sky, the most common subject for night time shots, you’ll almost definitely be using a tripod, as astrophotography involves much longer exposures and wait times. For this reason, you don’t need to prioritise stabilization features.

That said, stabilization is useful for a huge list of other applications, so it’s worth keeping it in the back of your mind.

Wide Angle

To capture the heavens in all their glory, it’s best to use a wide angle lens. This will give you the space you need to get a fantastic shot of the sky.

Prime Lenses

As a general rule, prime lenses are an excellent choice for night photography. You won’t have to worry much about zooming in or out as your subject is vast. Manufacturers of prime lenses tend to double down on optical performance to compensate for the lack of zoom.

Our Top Pick

In our opinion, one of the best lenses for photography in this category is the Nikkor 50Mm Prime Lens. It’s packed full of anti-noise and high-ISO considerations that produce beautiful images in even the darkest settings.

A great budget lens with a strong wide angle and night time performance is this option from Rokinon. Another great choice is this behemoth from Zeiss.

Night Photography – The Fundamentals

If you’re new to astrophotography, a few things might be alien to you at first. This section will run through the absolute basics.

Sensor size

The sensor is the most critical part of taking low light photographs. Since the sensor is what actually captures the light, the larger your camera’s sensor is, the more light(and detai) it can capture.

For any decent night photography, you’ll want at least an APS-C sensor. If you’re really serious, don’t settle with anything less than a full-frame sensor.

Read more about APS-C and full frame sensors here.

High ISOs

ISO determines your camera’s sensitivity to light. For taking photos of the night sky, you’ll generally want to set the ISO on your camera quite high. 1600 tends to work well for your average camera.

If you’re using one of the options from this list with phenomenal performance even at a high ISO, you can afford to push that number much higher.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range describes the full spectrum of light present in a given scene. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to find a camera with a broader potential dynamic range. This will give you the flexibility you need to capture the stars effectively.

Exposure

Understanding how to set the right exposure for your image is key to getting a good night time image. Read up on the basics of exposure and then practice, practice and practice again. Our digital photography guide is a good place to start. This guide from Photo Genius is also a great resource.

Megapixels Aren’t Everything

It can be easy for newbies to get waylaid by the “bigger is better” mantra when it comes to picking up a new camera. In reality, a higher resolution can let you down when it comes to astrophotography.

It depends on the size of the sensor you’re using, but some high-megapixel options can make artefacts from the movement of stars far more noticeable. The frustrating thing is that some products that do have lots of megapixels can actually be great for night shoots.

The important thing to remember is that megapixels are just one small part of the picture. You also need to weight up things like sensor size, light performance and exposure options.

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Conclusion

The best cameras for night photography will produce our favorite kind of photos: images that truly create a lasting impression. The night sky is packed full of wonder for those with the patience to capture it. You just need the right kit and bit of know-how.

Whichever camera you choose, we hope you have fun using it!

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