The 5 Best Low-Light Video Cameras of 2020

Low-light cameras for any photographer's needs

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The Rundown
"ncludes a Night Mode that uses a built-in infrared (IR) light to give you “night vision” in the darkness."
"The best-looking raw video footage we've ever seen from a mirrorless camera."
"A 1080p camcorder with a backside illumination sensor large and high-quality enough for the price range."
"A DSLR loaded with a lot of overall premium features while falling below the premium price ranges."
Best for Pros:
Nikon D5 at Amazon
"A trusted product in the industry, and exceptional low-light performance plays an important role."

Most Popular: Panasonic HC-WXF991 4K Camcorder

It’s hard to match the image quality and low-light capabilities of mirrorless or DSLR cameras, but camcorders are the most practical choice for consumers looking for dedicated video recording. Among them, Panasonic’s HC-WXF991 is one of the best options. It can shoot 4K-resolution video and achieves excellent low-light performance from its 1/2.3-inch sensor (8.29 million effective pixels for 4K video) and fast lens, which ranges from a wide f/1.8 to f/3.6. It also includes a Night Mode that uses a built-in infrared (IR) light to give you “night vision” in the darkness. But, for serious night vision users, having a separate IR light source is recommended.

Overall, the HC-WXF991 packs a strong set of video features that both complement low-light shooting and make it a worthwhile high-end camcorder overall. You’ll get five-axis image stabilization and a 20x optical zoom that outpowers most competitors. A second “twin camera,” on the flip-out display, can capture other angles — including one that is user-facing (like a selfie) — and show the footage in a picture-in-picture box. Several 4K in-camera editing tools and effects are available too, along with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. 

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Panasonic Lumix GH5S Mirrorless Digital Camera

With the Lumix GH5S, Panasonic prioritized both video and low-light performance. The results pay off, with some of the best-looking raw video footage we've ever seen from a mirrorless camera. At 4K, it shoots at up to 60fps and, at 1080p, up to 240fps (for super slow motion). Impressively, it also supports High-Dynamic Range (HDR) and rich 10-bit color depth with 4:2:2 subsampling, rare technologies for mirrorless or DSLR cameras. 

Besides capturing crisp, high-quality footage, the Lumix GH5S’s 10.2MP sensor takes in a lot of light, even with its smaller micro four-thirds sensor. This results in great low-light image quality, with its Dual Native ISO feature reducing noise even further at high ISO ranges. ISO 6,400, for example, still looks clean, though it maxes out at ISO 51,200 (expandable to ISO 204,800). 

One downside is a lack of internal image stabilization, which may affect still photography more than video work. By relying on videographers for the physical camera stabilization, the Lumix GH5S benefits from a locked-down sensor instead of making it "float."

Best Budget: Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder

Being able to record 4K video may be more cutting-edge and future-proof, but 1080p (or Full HD) video is all most people need. The Panasonic HC-V770 is a 1080p camcorder with a backside illumination sensor large and high-quality enough for the price range. Its pixels are bigger than most 4K cameras due to the lower effective resolution (6.03MP for video), and the max aperture of the lens is wide at f/1.8. Therefore, image noise is reduced in dark footage. A powerful 20x optical zoom, fast autofocus, and strong image stabilization also contribute to keeping the picture clear and steady in the low light. 

Overall, the 12.5-ounce HC-V770 boasts many of the same practical features as Panasonic’s 4K-capable HC-WXF991. One difference is in how the “twin camera” feature is executed. Rather than including a second built-in lens, the HC-V770 can connect wirelessly to your smartphone and use it as a secondary camera, incorporating its footage as a picture-in-picture box in your video. 

Best DSLR: Nikon D7500 DSLR Camera

Nikon’s D7500 DSLR is loaded with a lot of overall premium features while falling below the price range most would consider premium. While it does record 4K video at 24, 25, or 30fps, its APS-C sensor crops that footage by 1.5x. Nevertheless, the D7500’s the 20.9MP sensor still brings out stellar footage at just about any type of environment. Its native ISO range reaches 51,200, expandable to a sky-high 1,640,000. The noise you get at the highest levels make them mostly impractical, but the camera’s low-light performance as a whole (such as at ISO 1,600 and 3,200) appears to be clean. 

Other standout features of the D7500 include a speedy 51-point autofocus system and a nice 3.2-inch tiltable LCD touchscreen that lets you tap where you want to focus. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity options are integrated as well. 

Best for Pros: Nikon D5

For many professional photographers and videographers, getting clear and usable shots in low lighting is an important part of the job. In these cases, investing in the most powerful (and most expensive) tools makes a lot of sense. Nikon’s D5 comes at a pro-level cost, and it’s not the easiest to carry at a fairly bulky three pounds. But as the brand’s flagship full-frame DSLR, it’s a trusted product in the industry, and exceptional low-light performance plays an important role. Its native ISO range already reaches ISO 102,400, and it’s expandable to a mind-blowing ISO 3,280,000. 

The numbers are backed up by equally impressive results, with clear, high-quality video quality even around ISO 6,400. Unfortunately, its 4K video has a 1.5x crop, giving footage the look of an APS-C sensor. That said, you can shoot full-frame at 60fps if you drop to 1080p or 720p resolution. Its 20.8MP CMOS sensor and 153-point autofocus, excellent features for any type of photography, also serve to support the D5’s low-light video quality.