The best point-and-shoot cameras for low-light photography need a few essential ingredients. These include the obvious need for instantly correct exposures, a very good ISO range, and RAW file output.
The point-and-shoot side of things should be covered so you can concentrate on the composition to happily snap away. Meanwhile, a high-sensitivity range means better low-light capabilities, with RAW files providing the best overall quality.
However, high ISO levels can be both a positive and a negative. Positive in that a high ISO range will enable you to capture a scene in very low light without using artificial lighting. But this can also be a negative, since the higher the ISO, the more digital noise is introduced to an image.
Therefore, you have to be acutely aware at what point a certain camera starts to produce noisy images. The general consensus is, the cheaper the camera, the earlier it starts to introduce image noise.
It’s good practice to lean on the side of higher-quality cameras, which will not just provide a better ISO range but also result in the best image quality.
Sony is well known for making high-quality compact and mirrorless cameras, with the Sony RX100 Mark VI being no different. Compact dimensions and a very capable 24-200mm ZEISS lens provide very good image quality via the 20.1MP, one-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor. The ISO range goes up to 12,800 for low-light shooting and on the video side of things, the output is very respectable with UHD 4K recording.
The other added benefit for low-light conditions is the five-axis image stabilization system, which allows for very steady handheld shots. The RX100 Mark VI can also shoot in the RAW format for those times when you really need to crank up the exposure in post-processing.
For such a small and compact camera, the RX100 Mark VI crams in a fair amount of facilities. Our Sony RX100 VI review explains why this is not just a great solution for low-light shooting, but also acts as a very good travel camera.
3. Sony RX10 IV
The Sony RX10 IV is a highly-capable bridge camera, which is a combination of a compact camera and a full-blown DSLR. The camera features a 20.1MP, one-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and a good ISO range up to 12,800 for low-light shooting.
The lens also has a wide-ranging 24-600mm equivalent focal length, which can cover everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto shots. Another handy feature for low-light shooting is the optical SteadyShot stabilization system. But most importantly, the Sony is a great all-round solution, which can be used in many different shooting scenarios, with the added benefit of a ZEISS-engineered lens.
Canon’s Powershot range has been a great solution for those who don’t want to dive into a full-blown DSLR or mirrorless camera and need more straightforward workings.
This doesn’t mean you have less of an impressive feature set, with the camera offering a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, a wide ISO range of 100-25,600, and a reasonably-fast shooting rate of 9 fps. The camera may not have 4K video facilities, but it does offer 60 fps in full HD mode.
The lens on the Powershot G1X Mark III covers the 24-72mm range, with a reasonable aperture of f/2.8-5.6 and an optical stabilization system for steady handheld shots. There are lots of shooting modes within the camera, which include a Handheld Night Scene mode, with a nice amount of automatic features, including Smart Auto and Hybrid Auto modes.
Our Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review covers this very capable all-round camera, which can also dive into low-light conditions and is very straightforward to use.
5. Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II (Budget Winner)
For such a compact little camera, the Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II has lots of capabilities, which can be used from full automatic to manual modes. These modes will allow you to stretch your legs as your photography skills progress for when you need to control every aspect of an exposure.
The camera also comes with a 20.1MP, one-inch CMOS sensor and an ISO range of 125 to 12,800, which can also be set to auto mode with the very usable 5x zoom lens.
The aperture on the lens ranges from f/1.8-2.8, which is one of the most important factors for shooting in low-light situations. The G5 X Mark II has a built-in image stabilization system to cover difficult lighting conditions. If pure night time shooting is more your thing, the PowerShot G5 X Mark II has a nice bunch of shooting modes which include Star Shooting, Star Nightscape, and Star Trails. There is also the facility to shoot star time-lapse movies with 4K video quality.
Considering all the facilities the G5 X Mark II provides the average photographer, Canon’s PowerShot point-and-shoot cameras still boast a worthy design in a highly-competitive arena.
Point-and-Shoot Cameras for Low-Light Photography: Let Your Budget Be Your Guide
When it comes to point-and-shoot cameras for low-light photography, it can be easy to buy into a very low-cost solution thinking it can cover every base equally well.
However, capturing images when the light levels drop usually sorts the wheat from the chaff, with the best results coming from the higher-priced versions. This is why we have narrowed down popular examples that can still be used in fully automatic mode, have compact dimensions, and offer the cleanest of low-light imagery.
All the cameras above will allow you to expand your skills as a photographer. While you may not want to dive into manual mode straightaway, modes like aperture or shutter speed priority can ease you into the task without being overwhelming.
These point-and-shoot cameras also provide plenty of built-in features that are optimized for low-light conditions. This means the deciding factor is really down to how much cash you want to lay down for your chosen photography subject matter.