Night photography is an intriguing niche that often produces stunning images. But, it has a number of challenges, not the least of which is lighting. Because of the challenges you face as a night photographer, it’s vital that you pick a camera that will meet your needs. But, what are the best cameras for night photography?
In this post, we’ll take a look at 13 of the highest rated cameras for night photography, but before we do that, let’s take a look at some of the general considerations for night photography.
Why do you need a special camera for night photography?
For many photographic genres, the camera itself makes little difference because you really improve your images by learning how to work with the camera you have to create great composition, good light, and a little bit of creativity, but in the case of night photography, the right camera really does make a huge difference when it comes to capturing those incredible images. So, what features make for great night photography cameras?
- ISO: One of the biggest things you want in a camera for night photography is good performance at high ISOs. ISO refers to the camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number, the more your camera is sensitive to the available low light. But, the problem is that when you increase the ISO, you tend to get more noise in the image. Noise refers to that grainy appearance to the image. For night photography, you’ll likely be shooting at ISO 3200, 6400 or even higher, and so, that means you’ll want a camera that performs well at higher ISOs. Most modern cameras perform well with high ISOs and won’t leave you with a grainy image, but you want to make sure the camera has a high ISO range.
- Dynamic Range: Since you’ll often be underexposing your images when shooting at night, it’s very important that your camera is able to lift the shadows in post-processing with degrading the image. Therefore, being able to light shadows or dark areas in your scene without introducing an unacceptable level of noise is crucial for any camera you choose for night photography. For this, you need a wide range of focus since without it, you’ll lose detail in the shadows.
- Large Sensor: Since you’ll likely be shooting in low light conditions, you’ll want a large sensor to capture as much light as possible. That will help to reduce the noise in your images too. A camera sensor with a large dynamic range and high sensitivity is able to collect more light than a smaller sensor because of the size of the imaging area.
What are the camera settings you want to use for night photography?
Once again, it’s all about the lighting with night photography, and any camera you choose should be able to handle the following settings:
- Shoot in manual mode: You’ll need a camera that allows you to switch to manual settings since you’ll often have to override certain settings to get the shot you want. The automatic mode will only serve to confuse the camera, and thus, it’s better to shoot in manual mode.
- Use a wide aperture: The aperture is what allows the light to enter the camera. The wider the aperture, the more light comes in. Since you’ll be shooting in low light conditions at night, you’ll want to use as wide an aperture as possible in most cases. Typically, you’ll want camera lenses that can open at least as wide as f/2.8 if not even a little wider at around f/1.2 – f/1.8.
- ISO: As we’ve discussed, you’ll want a high ISO number. You can start at around 800, but you’ll often have to go higher–to 3200 and sometimes more.
- Longer shutter speed: This setting depends on your scene, but for something like the night sky, you’ll need a shutter speed of 10 seconds or more. That’s considered a long time, but even if you’re shooting in an urban setting with artificial light, you’ll still likely need a 2 – 10 second shutter speed–that’s still longer than if you were shooting in the daytime.
Is there any extra gear beginners should consider?
There are a few things that will make your life as a night photographer better. These are the kinds of things that can help you get the shot you need. Here are few things to consider:
- Tripod: You’re going to need a tripod for many night photography situations as well as many other photography situations. It’s very hard to take photographs with the camera settings you’ll need while holding the camera in your hand. The tripod will help you avoid camera shake so you can capture those stunning images.
- Shutter release cable: This is another piece of equipment that will help you avoid camera shake, and it’s useful for many situations. This will allow you to take the picture without touching the camera. When you’re shooting in such low light conditions as are common for night photography, even just the act of pressing down on the shutter can result in a shaky image. A shutter release cable will help you avoid that.
- Flashlight: Don’t forget to bring a flashlight. This will be useful for walking in the dark and for potentially painting your scene with light. That can add great detail to your images.
- Camera bag: You’ll also want to make sure you have a good camera bag to haul not only your camera, but an assortment of lenses you might need, extra batteries, and extra memory cards. All of these are things you’ll want to bring along since you won’t want to run out of memory or battery power as you’re shooting. That could cause you to miss that perfect image you were waiting for.
With these features, camera settings, and extra gear in mind, let’s take a look at the 13 best cameras for night photography.
This is a great camera for night photography, and it’s tough, which makes it perfect for backpacking and mountaineering. For landscape night photography and sky images, this camera is a solid pick. It has a huge range that allows you to take shots in a forest or from the sky. The images always come out noise-free and flawless, and it adapts quickly between light and dark sceneries, so you don’t have to change the lens each time. It’s also one of the better cameras out there for both quality and durability.
#2: Nikon D850
This is among the greatest cameras for shooting the sky at night. It has an incredible 45.7 megapixel resolution and Nikon’s Expeed 5 processor that creates beautifully clear, noise-free images. It produces truly jaw-dropping images, and it has several other useful features. Among these are a high speed continuous shooting at 9 frames per second and high definition 4k video capture. It also has enhanced light gathering and an increased speed data readout that produces truer color. These features make this camera one of the best for shooting in low-light conditions.
#3: Nikon D750
This is another one of the best cameras for shooting in low-light conditions. It has a CMOS image sensor that, along with its 24.3 megapixel resolution, allows it to produce high quality images. With this camera, you get great image detail even when you’re shooting at night. It also has built in WiFi that makes transferring those images easy. This is a popular model for both amateur and pro photographers.
#4: Sony A7R III
This is as impressive as the Nikon and Canon options on this list. It has great image quality and is great for low-light conditions. With this camera, you’ll be able to capture detailed sky shots and pick up on that subtle beauty of the stars. It has an Exmor R CMOS sensor that allows it to pick more light than many other camera options. It is also built to work even in cold temperatures at peak levels. The image processor is also one of the fastest with a 1.8X processing speed. All of these features make this one of the most popular night photography cameras.
This is a great mirrorless camera for night sky photography. And, it comes as a bundle with a 12 – 60 mm lens, a Koah Pro Panasonic to pack battery with charger, a 64 gb SD card, a high quality camera bag, and a video microphone. It has 20.3 megapixel resolution and a digital live MOS image sensor that lets you capture detailed night sky shots. It also produces a realistic, vibrant color, and it has a 4k quality video capture that’s great for moving videos of the night sky. It’s an exceptional value for night sky cameras.
This is one of the most popular cameras among night photographers for its impressive image quality. You’ll get professional quality results making it among the better cameras for night photography. It has 30.4 megapixel resolution and a full frame image sensor. It also comes with 4k video quality and a 61 point autofocus feature, all of which makes this an exceptional night photography camera.
This is another of the most popular cameras out there. This camera produces clear, beautiful night sky images with its 26.2 megapixel resolution and full frame CMOS sensor. It also has a 45 point all cross type autofocus with phase detection for high definition 60 p video capture. And, the DIGIC 7 image processor is one of the best on the market. These features make this a great camera for night photography.
This is one of the best cameras for night photography, because it has been designed for the beginner. If you have minimal experience, this is the camera for you. It includes, among other features, a Creative Auto mode that helps the novice gain a better understanding of creative photography. It also has full HD and 1080/30 p video capture in the same camera. The images are high quality and you can also alter the settings from the LCD screen.
This is one of the most popular cameras for night photography. It works well in low light conditions and it is able to capture beautiful detail with its 24.2 megapixel resolution and CMOS Expeed 4 image processor. It also performs great with a 100 frame buffer for extended high speed shots. And, it features WiFi for easy transfer of images.
This camera features a 24.3 megapixel CMOS sensor that both detects light and reduces the appearance of any false colors. It also includes an OLED viewfinder that enables magnification. Its LCD monitor can also be tilted and it’s well-made body is dust and moisture resistant. It’s also fully weather-sealed and freeze resistant so you don’t have to worry when out in the great outdoors.
#11: Canon EOS 77D
This camera is perfect for photos and video recording. You get great quality images, particularly at night in those low light conditions. The touchscreen makes for easy access to the settings, and it’s a durable camera for taking it out into rugged environments. With this camera, you can create professional quality images.
This has a 20.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with an ISO sensitivity of 100 to 16000, making it an excellent quality camera for night photography. It’s also got dual DIGIC 6 image processors and full HD video capacity. This camera will help you get professional quality images.
#13: Sony α9
This is a truly innovative camera. It has a full-frame stacked CMOS sensor with integral memory and 24.2 megapixel resolution. Its large volume data in the integral memory allows for 20 times faster readout speeds, and the combination of the CMOS sensor with the enhanced BIONZ X image processor allows you to produce incredible images.
Any one of these cameras for night photography can help you to get truly stunning images. That’s why we chose them as among the best cameras for night photography. But, you can also watch this video to get another take on the topic: