The Best Cameras for Natural Light Photographers

Photo:  Rachael Crowe

Cameras are very personal. They’re like learning styles. What might resonate with one photographer may feel completely foreign to the next. There is no one camera that can do everything a photographer needs or wants it to do. Instead, photographers consider their own capabilities and shortcomings as a photographer and choose a camera that will compliment their personal shooting style. Then they learn to compensate and fill in where they’re missing.

But there are certainly cameras that are better at certain elements of photography than others. While one camera may excel in raw, uninhabited settings flooded with natural light the next may thrive at night or in dark, shadowy spaces where natural light seeps in in unsuspecting and interesting ways.

No matter what you’re looking for, finding the ideal camera for you is essential when honing your craft. If you are in the market for a new camera or just curious about the ever-evolving technology, here’s a list of relatively new cameras that are transforming the industry.

1. Full frame:

Full frame cameras have the largest sensor size. For this reason they are still the best for capturing the most light and therefore shooting at night and in other low-light conditions. Full frame DSLRs continue to beat out crop-sensor and Micro Four Thirds cameras in low light. However, these cameras are bulky. And because of that, it is nearly impossible to be discrete with them. Many journalists and street photographers do not like them for this reason. And lucky for them, the technology is changing rapidly so that the mirror apparatus in DSLRs (essentially the thing that gives the full frame cameras their heft) may not be necessary for capturing the best and brightest pictures anymore.

Consider: Nikon D810

Price: $2,797

Note: Nikon is likely coming out with an improved version in 2017, so you might want to wait on this one.

2. Point and shoot:

Point and shoot cameras offer photographers an alternative to DSLR and mirrorless cameras, the two rival technologies currently competing for your attention. Point and shoots afford photographers with professional quality images and the utility due to their ultra lightweight frames. Some weigh in at less than a pound and are a great alternative to your iPhone. Point and shoots can slip in your pocket and give you both quality photographs and mobility.

Consider: Cannon PowerShot SX720 HS (or check out this list of best point and shoot cameras)

Price: $329

Note: Best bang for your buck

Photo:  Ethan Hoover

3. Mirrorless:

Mirrorless cameras first hit the market in 2004. But only in the last few years has the technology really begun to compete with the traditional DSLR. Mirrorless cameras offer photographers smaller, more compact cameras because their intricate reflective mirror systems have been substituted with electronic imaging. Compared to the DSLR, mirrorless cameras are usually simpler, smaller and lighter because they do not have an optical viewfinder. Light metering is done on the image sensor and in their electronic autofocusing system.

Mirrorless cameras offer a similar ISO range to that of the traditional DSLR camera. And because they have electronic imaging, their sensors are much more robust. The Sony A6000 for example has 179 autofocus points and one of the fastest autofocusing systems, making capturing the perfect picture easy even for beginners.

Consider: Sony A6000

Price: ~$500-$600

Note: Take this camera for a test run. You will immediately notice the camera’s ability to quickly and accurately autofocus as you move.

4. Best value:

Many photographers prefer to wait for the second iteration of a new camera so the kinks can be worked out. It seems their waiting has paid off in the second generation of Sony’s a7R. This was the first full-frame, mirrorless camera to hit the market meaning developers have had ample time to work out what does and doesn’t work.

One major reported improvement has been in the camera’s low light capabilities. This camera has quickly become a favorite amongst photographers balancing contrasting light sources between outdoor photography and the photography studio.

Consider: Sony Alpha a7R II

Price: $2,698

Note: A very compact body for a full-frame camera. Check out the Sony Alpha a9 for even more speed.