The best low light camcorder must feature a high resolution, large sensor size, and impressive noise control. I’ve handpicked the top five camcorders with these features. Keep reading to learn more about why these factors matter.
As an amateur filmmaker, I’m an avid fan of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras when shooting videos. I love how sharp the videos look with the right lens, even in low light situations.
It’s amazing how much the best low light cameras today have improved vs. just a few years ago, and low-light camcorders are no exception. Historically, many camcorders had much smaller sensors than still cameras. A smaller sensor typically means a camera won’t be suitable in low light situations.
But today, higher-end camcorders now offer larger sensors which makes them capable of capturing low light video. Camcorders don’t fit every situation but they still have a lot of benefits, so I still recommend you consider using them for the right situations.
Below, I listed the best low light video cameras at the time of this writing. I put this together when I was shopping for my own camcorder, so I checked photography reviews across the web as well as quite a few hours of user reviews. At the end of the article, I also included a camcorder buying guide to help you choose the right one for your needs.
If you’re short on time I’ll give my top picks first, but read on to learn our picks for the best low light camcorders.
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5 Best Low Light Video Cameras
Panasonic HC-WXF991 4K Camcorder – Best Low Light Camcorder Overall
The Panasonic HC-WXF991 4K Camcorder has a backside-illuminated sensor. It also includes a wide f/1.8-f/3.6 built-in lens. These features make it possible to deliver sharp videos in dimly lit situations.
This camcorder even offers a night mode that uses infrared (IR) light to capture footage. It gives you “night vision” ability, allowing you to see even in the dark. But we still recommend using an external infrared light for pitch-black scenarios.
Moreover, this camcorder shoots 4K ultra HD video. It also provides in-camera editing for Full HD clips.
Besides its exceptional video recording abilities, the Panasonic HC-WXF991 packs other powerful features. These include a 5-axis image stabilization, 20x optical zoom, and picture in picture video mode, which are hard to find in other camcorders.
Finally, connectivity isn’t an issue on this low light video camera. It allows you to pair your devices via the built-in Wi-Fi or NFC, so you can instantly share Full HD videos online.
All these features make the Panasonic HC-WXF991 one of the best low light video cameras today.
Sony FDR-AX53 4K Handycam Camcorder – Best Low Light Camcorder for Slow Motion
The Sony FDR-AX53 4K Handycam uses a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R sensor and a fast f/1.8 built-in lens. These features capture low light videos without a problem.
Additionally, this camcorder offers an infrared flashlight and Night Shot system. It allows you to shoot in the dark with ease.
It even has Sony’s Optical Steady Shot. This technology results in smooth clips, even in dim shooting conditions.
Furthermore, the Sony FDR-AX53 delivers sharp 4K resolution footage at 24/30 FPS. If you are worried about this large maximum resolution, fret not! This robust camcorder can record two movies—one in AVCHD format, the other in MP4 file—at the same time, despite not having dual SD card slots.
Do you want to shoot far away subjects in the dark? This camera also has 20x optical zoom to help bring distant objects closer.
For your slow motion needs, this Sony Handycam can also shoot up to 120 FPS at Full HD. It’s the best low light camcorder to record videos in slow motion.
Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder – Best Low Light Camcorder for Low Budgets
If you want to save money and don’t need 4K resolution, consider the Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder. Although it only shoots at 1080p, it still performs well in dimly lit shooting conditions.
This low light camcorder features a backlight (BSI) sensor that reduces grain or noise on your clips. It also has a wide f/1.8 aperture, which allows more light to enter the sensor. Thus, it delivers better low light videos compared to an ordinary camera.
The Panasonic HC-V770 HD Camcorder also includes a built-in optical image stabilization. This feature corrects camera shake and ensures that videos are clear and steady in low light scenarios.
Moreover, it can bring distant objects closer, owing to its 20x optical zoom capability. There is also a remote control that works via the Panasonic Image phone app.
Finally, it comes with a built-in Wi-Fi and external microphone connectivity. The former allows you to connect your smart phone and use it as a secondary camera. Meanwhile, the latter lets you attach an external microphone for clearer sound quality.
The only downside of the Panasonic HC-V770 is its low-quality touchscreen display. But considering its other benefits and low price, this camcorder offers excellent value for your money.
For these reasons, we chose the Panasonic HC-V770 as the best low light camera for videos.
Sony HXR-MC2500 Shoulder Mount AVCHD Camcorder – Best Low Light Camcorder for Professionals
The Sony HXR-MC2500 features a unique form factor that serious videographers might find appealing. Thanks to its shoulder mount, it’s easier to shoot and stabilize video.
It also comes with an Exmor R CMOS sensor and a large maximum aperture of f/1.8. These features deliver excellent low light performance. Plus, they can help reduce image noise or grain, even when you are using a high ISO range.
Additionally, the Sony HXR-MC2500 Camcorder offers a built-in LED video light. This provides illumination in dim shooting conditions.
This Full HD video camcorder also features a 12x optical zoom. It has an equivalent focal length of 26.8mm at its widest or shortest zoom range.
The Sony HXR-MC2500 also meets your audio needs with its built in zoom microphone. It even allows you to connect external microphones.
There are some cons, though. This professional camcorder does not shoot in 4K resolution. It also lacks the night-vision mode found on other camcorders on this list.
Nevertheless, the Sony HXR-MC2500 is still one of the best low light video cameras on the market.
Sony HXR-NX100 Full HD NXCAM Camcorder – Best Low Light Camcorder with Manual Control
The Sony HXR-NX100 Camcorder uses a backside-illuminated sensor to increase light sensitivity. This Exmor R CMOS sensor also captures more pixel information. It results in highly-detailed videos, even in dim shooting conditions.
Besides its excellent video capabilities, this low light HD camera delivers clear and steady footage. This is all thanks to its Active Steady Shot algorithm.
Moreover, the Sony HXR-NX100 gives you maximum lens control. It includes three lens rings that let you focus and zoom.
For extra creative control, this low light camcorder offers 99 picture profiles. Feel free to adjust parameters such as gamma, color mode, and more.
Despite its great features, the Sony HXR-NX100 comes with several downsides.
It only shoots up to 1080p resolution video. Plus, it only offers 12x optical zoom, which is quite subpar compared to other camcorders.
Even so, the Sony HXR-NX100 suits most of your low light shooting requirements. That is why we included it on our list of the best low light video cameras.
What to Look For in a Low Light Camcorder
Are you still unsure which low light camcorder to buy? Here are essential characteristics to look for.
One of the most important factors to consider is the video quality or resolution.
Camcorders with higher resolutions capture more pixel information. This leads to sharper videos.
In contrast, camcorders with lower resolution capabilities can only capture fewer pixels. As a result, those pixels will appear large, which makes your videos blurry.
Thus, choose a camcorder that can shoot at least 1080p. It can retain more detail in dimly-lit and dark shooting conditions compared to other low resolution camcorders. A larger resolution also allows you to crop or zoom in the video without losing detail.
Sensor Size and Type
The larger the sensor, the more light can enter the camera. Thus, it results in greater video quality.
We recommend looking for a camcorder with a full-frame sensor or at least an APS-C sensor. These bigger sensors come in handy if you only have limited light sources. In contrast, smaller sensor like the one-inch or micro four thirds sensor will have subpar low light
Besides sensor size, you might also want to consider the sensor type. Look for a low light video camera with a back-illuminated sensor. That makes the device more sensitive to light than your smartphone’s video camera.
Noise Control or ISO
ISO refers to the sensitivity of the sensor. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is to light.
Most camcorders allow you to shoot in very high ISOs that go beyond 3200. This feature is useful when shooting in dim conditions.
But a larger number doesn’t always mean better. This is because the heightened sensitivity leads to grain or noise on your videos.
What you should consider, instead, is how the camcorder controls the noise.
As much as possible, you should also try to stick to the base ISO (your camcorder’s lowest native ISO). Doing so gives you the best low light video.
A built-in image stabilization system helps you capture footage at a slower shutter speed. This allows more light to pass through the lens. Thus, it results in higher-quality videos.
So if you want to keep detail in low light conditions or achieve handheld shots, use a camcorder with image stabilization.
Ease of Use
You might also want to consider the placement of the buttons and dials. Look for a model with an easy-to-use interface that allows you to record videos with ease.
You should also test how the camera feels in your hands. A smaller camera will be awkward to hold, especially if you have large hands. Meanwhile, a large camcorder is too heavy to carry for extended periods.
Most video camcorders have a 3-inch LCD screen, which is enough to preview and frame the subject. However, we still recommend checking the display in store to ensure that it is not too bright or too dark.
Test it in dimly lit and pitch black settings and midday sunlight, even if you probably won’t use it in bright conditions. Some screens can suffer from too much glare, which deems them unusable outdoors in bright sun. Remember that viewing performance varies greatly from model to model.
Most camcorders might have fixed lenses but they still offer flexibility, owing to their zoom capability.
So if you want to capture distant objects in the dark, invest in a model with a wider zoom range. Make sure to look for the optical zoom value instead of the digital zoom.
The former refers to a true zoom lens, which brings the subject closer without physically being near it. Optical zoom offers a tighter perspective without reducing the quality of the entire photo.
Meanwhile, the latter is an in-camera image processing. Digital zoom simply enlarges the center area of the photo, which gives you lower quality results.
Although almost all camcorders have built in microphones, they do not have the best audio quality.
If you want to ensure professional-level sound, invest in a video camera with mic input. It allows you to attach an external microphone to record clearer sound.
The only downside is that only advanced models have this feature. You may need to spend more if sound quality is essential for your needs.
Although not as important as the aforementioned factors, it is best to consider the brand name of the camera. Beware of the online market as it is filled with generic camcorders, which do not offer the best image quality. Get a video camera from a reputable manufacturer, such as Canon, Sony, and Panasonic.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best video camera for low light conditions?
The best video cameras for dimly lit conditions are those with large sensors, high dynamic range, and advanced noise reduction capabilities. Both a DSLR camera and mirrorless camera usually offer most of these features. So they tend to produce sharp HD video with minimal noise in dark situations.
With that said, high-end professional camcorders can be just as good as a low light DSLR camera. You just need to look for the right features to ensure high quality video.
Are camcorders good in low light?
Most camcorders have smaller sensors than mirrorless and DSLR cameras. That means only a certain amount of light can enter their image sensors. And as we previously learned, the less light hitting the camera, the lower the quality of the video.
Nevertheless, video camcorders can still perform well in dimly lit conditions, owing to their sensor types. Some models use Exmor R sensors, which are highly sensitive to light. Others also have large lens maximum apertures to offer better low light performance.
Do camcorders have night vision?
Yes, some camcorders feature a night vision capability. This allows you to shoot in pitch dark settings and offers noise reduction to deliver exceptional quality videos. Other models even include built-in LED light to enhance low light shooting experience.
That concludes our list of the best low light camcorder on the market.
Our best pick is the Panasonic HC-WXF991 4K Camcorder. It features a backside-illuminated sensor that delivers high-quality videos in low light. It also includes a wide f/1.8-f/3.6 lens that allows more light into the sensor.
Finally, this low light camcorder offers night-mode shooting using infrared (IR) light. It enables you to capture footage, even in pitch dark scenarios.
Click this link to check the latest price on the Panasonic HC-WXF991 4K Camcorder.