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Best DSLR For Low Light Conditions

Some digital SLRs are more suited for low light performance than others. If you commonly find yourself shooting in low or dim light, here are some digital SLRs that are best suited for low light.

1) Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR

If you want one of the best performing digital cameras in low light, there's no better option in our eyes than the Mark II 5D... of course you're going have to pay big bucks for it (around $2000) , but you won't be cheated out of your money, that's for sure.

The EOS 5D Mark II is Canon's upgrade from the Canon EOS 5D, that is quite a creature to look at. It's sleek, sturdy and definitely feels and looks like a $2000 camera.

I've been shooting with the 5D Mark II for a year or so with a couple of different lenses. It produces amazing photos, and even at an extremely high ISO of 6400, you won't notice a lot of noise. It's not until you hit 12,800 that you see some noticeable noise. This huge ISO range and performance bodes well for night photography.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II in low light

Shooting video is just as amazing with the Mark II, even in low light. It has HD video recording capabilities, which is incredibly convenient.

What's great about it:
- Huge ISO range
- Great HD video
- Outstanding, amazing image quality

What's not so great:
- Very expensive

Summary: If you're a professional that shoots in low light often, the EOS 5D Mark II is the optimal camera for you. We think Canon produced a winner here.

2) Nikon D90

Nikon D90 camera

If the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is too expensive for your tastes (we don't blame ya!) there's other less expensive options for low light photography.

We're huge fans of the D90, and think it performs very well under low light conditions (and obviously bright light conditions). The D90 has the same on chip noise reduction as the D300, and it definitely showed when we took some pictures in low light.

We took some photos in all the ISO levels. In the low ISO levels, the photos looked flawless. When we reach an ISO of 3200, the photos still looked pretty good. All the colors looked accurate, and well saturated.

Nikon D90 in low light

The performance of the D90 is top of the class. It takes just .2 seconds from power up to shoot. The shutter lag is just .4 seconds in bright conditions, and .9 seconds in situations that are more difficult to focus. Shot to shot time is just .48 seconds or so. Overall, you can't find a better performing camera in this price range than the D90.

What's great about it:
- Excellent top of the class performance
- Excellent photo quality
- Sturdy durable body
- Has video capture

What's not so great:
- Poor HDMI

Summary: If you can't afford more expensive DSLRs, you can't complain with the D90. It packs tremendous performance, great image quality and some cool features like video capture. It performed remarkably well in low ISO, and produced good enough images at ISO 3200. If you're into night photography, the D90 should be more then satisfactory camera.

3) Canon EOS Rebel XTi

Canon Rebel XTi

We were pleased with the performance of the XTi in low conditions. In fact we did a rigorous test to see how well the XTi performed under low light.

First off, like most Canon DSLRs, the Rebel XTi uses a pop up flash as an aid in low light conditions. If you want the benefits of an AF assist, but don't want flash, just simply let your camera lock focus and lower da flash.

We took a handful of photos in dim light, and then in a lighter condition (to compare) , all at ISO of 800 and dual RAW and JPEG. We were pretty pleased with how the images turned out afterwards. If you don't use the AF-assist the photos still turn out pretty well (of course they're better if you use it). After taking a bunch of photos, it's clear that the Canon EOS Rebel XTi preserves the highlights incredibly well.

Canon Rebel XTi in low light

The performance ofthe XTi is great - shot to shot speeds is fast, and there's hardly any shutter lag.

Though you can probably get even better performance and image quality with Canon's newer models, the XTi really performs well in night compared to some of their other newer models, in our experience.

If you do decide to go with the XTi we recommend pairing it with the EF 50 mm f/1.8 II lense, or the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM for the best possible low light performance.

What's great about it:
- Relatively light and compact
- Fast performance
- User friendly layout

What's not so great:
- Kit Lens is slow
- Spot metering is not present

Summary: If you're planning to shoot a lot of photos in night (think astrophotography), the XTi is perfect for you.

4) Nikon D40

Nikon D40

The D40 from Nikon is another camera that performed well in low light conditions, thanks to their noise reduction routine for high ISO levels. We really noticed it when we reached an ISO level of 1600. With most cameras, you start to see noise with long exposures, and a decrease in color saturation. Not so with the D40.

What's great about it:
- Feels great and compact
- Great for newbies
- Good noise reduction in high ISO

What's not so great:
- Kit lens is slow
- Just 6 megapixels

Summary: The Nikon D40 may not be for the professional, but if you're an amateur or making the transition from point and shoots to DSLRs, the D40 is a terrific option that performed better than average in low light.


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