Top 5 Best Lenses For Low-Light [with pictures]

Are you looking for a camera lens that can produce better quality in low-light conditions? Here are the top 5 best and most affordable lenses for shooting in low-light.

Coming up !



Actually, shooting in low-light is photographer’s biggest headache. Due to the fact that our camera sensor doesn’t perform well in low-light, we always have to worry about the ISO problem. If you’ve ever experienced shooting at night, then you will realize that you’re limited by the ISO setting.

Sometimes, it depends on what camera you’re currently using, some DSLRs have better high-ISO performance, but often time we can’t shoot at anywhere higher than ISO1600. That’s why we need to get a lens that can produce better quality in low-light conditions !

When it comes to choosing a low-light lens, the aperture on the lens should be as wide as possible. Generally, we want to have an aperture of F/2.8 or F/1.8 so that we can get much more light to our camera sensor. In the next few minutes, I’m going to reveal the top 5 BEST and most affordable lenses for your low-light shots !




Read this before picking a lens

Before picking any camera lens, the first thing you need to do is to understand two things:

1.Aperture  2.Focal length

The aperture controls how much light will enter the camera. Obviously, if you shoot with aperture wide open, more light will get into the camera. When shooting in low-light, you want to keep your aperture as wide as possible. So it’s better to get a lens that has the widest aperture of f/1.8 or even wider !




There is also an important thing you have to know: If your camera isn’t a full frame camera, then a 17-50mm lens will be a 27-80mm lens( x1.6 crop factor ). Please keep this in mind !

The focal length decides the field of view of your footage. The shorter the focal length, the wider the footage. The longer the focal length, the narrower the footage. It’s very easy to understand isn’t it ? So if you want to capture wider shots, then you should look for a lens that has shorter focal length such as 17-50mm, 24-70mm. Generally, the longer focal length such as 85mm, 70-200mm will be very useful for portrait, sport photography.

  • Short focal length(17-50mm, 24-70mm): general use, landscape
  • Long focal length(85mm, 70-200mm): telephoto, portrait, sport



Prime lens or zoom lens for low-light ?

The most obvious benefit of zoom lens is that you’re able to change the focal length in a quick turn of zoom ring. It can be very helpful when you need to photograph a variety of different situations. Unfortunately, most standard zoom lenses are limited to f/3.5 or f/2.8 for maximum aperture while a prime lenses can go all the way to f/1.8 or even f/1.2. When shooting in low-light, we want to use the lowest f stop as possible. So I would highly recommend getting a prime lens for low-light shots.

Prime lenses are also considered “low-light lenses”





1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8

Normally, a professional zoom lens only has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 while this lens allows you to shoot at f/1.8. This is the first DSLR zoom lens that has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. In other words, this might be the best low-light zoom lens. The aperture f/1.8 really lets in over twice as much light and also gives you a background that is twice as blurry.

The 18-35mm focal length allows you to capture from wide angle to tiny telephoto. The zoom range isn’t very long, even less than a standard zoom lens. So this is basically a wide angle zoom lens. Don’t expect to capture anything that’s far away.


1/25, ISO-400, F/1.8


1/25, ISO-1600, F/3.5

Did you see that ? With a standard f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, we have to shoot up to ISO1600 to capture the same amount of light as when we’re shooting at ISO400 with a f/1.8 lens. That’s why a wider aperture lens will be extremely useful for low-light conditions.

The focus ring is super smooth, which is great for pulling focus during video work. It also has full time manual focus, meaning you can turn the focal ring even if it’s set to autofocus mode.

The downside of this lens is that it’s actually a bit heavy, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. I would highly recommend this one if you enjoy using zoom lens and still want to have the widest aperture of f/1.8. By the way, this is a “crop sensor” zoom lens ! It doesn’t work on full frame sensor DSLR.






2. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

Well, this is probably the cheapest zoom lens you can get for your full frame DSLR camera. There are a few standard zoom lenses out there for full frame cameras, but this is the only one that has stabilization. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 is also much cheaper than the original Canon/Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which cost $1,699 and NO stabilization.

The autofocus is… okay. Often times, we would want to use manual focus on this lens. By the way, this lens doesn’t have full time manual focus mode, which means you can’t turn the focus ring during the autofocus mode.



The zoom range of 24 to 70mm goes from very wide angle to slight telephoto. It’s good for capture wide vistas or zooming in for portrait. But if you’re using a crop sensor camera, then this lens won’t allow you to capture wide angle shots. The focal length of 24mm on a crop sensor DSLR will be effectively 38.4mm, which is… a pretty zoomed-in lens. I don’t really recommend this lens for crop sensor size DSLR.

The biggest reason why this lens is so popular is because a 24-70mm standard Canon/Nikon lens is much more expensive than a Tamron lens. Let’s say you’re looking for a low-light zoom lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 If you choose a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, then you probably have to spend $1500… But a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 only cost you $700 !

Though the f/2.8 lens might not get as much light as the f/1.8 lens does, but it’s so far the widest aperture you can get for you full frame camera. So if you’re looking for a zoom lens that allows you to shoot better pictures/videos in low-light, then this lens is for you ! “This lens is designed for full frame DSLR cameras”





3. Canon 50mm f/1.8

It’s the Canon’s cheapest lens which only cost $125. It will work on both APS-C sensor and full frame DSLR. This lens is also the most popular prime lens because its “f/1.8” which means it’s very useful for shooting in low-light environment. The wide aperture f/1.8 gives you much better out of focus background than a normal Canon kit lens(f/3.5-5.6).




On a full frame DSLR, a 50mm is a very nice focal length being wide enough to get a lot into your footage. On a crop sensor DSLR, you’ll get 80mm focal length which is much tighter. Some people think that 50mm is only for full frame camera but I don’t really think so. A 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera can still be very useful for shooting portrait.

The build quality is pretty good. It’s even lighter than your camera. But the bad news is that it doesn’t have the function of stabilization so it’s gonna be a little bit challenging to shoot steady video with this lens.

Due to the maximum aperture of f/1.8 and the longer focal length, this lens will be extremely useful for low-light portrait ! This is also the best and cheapest low-light prime lens you can get. If you

‘re using a crop sensor camera, just remember that 50mm is quite zoomed in. You can get some good portrait shots, but it’s definitely not enough for capturing wide angle shots. I would recommend this one if you’re a portrait shooter.





4. Sigma 30mm f/1.4

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is a great lens for crop sensor camera. The 30mm is actually a very interesting focal length. On a crop sensor camera, a 30mm lens will be effectively 48mm, which makes this a very versatile standard prime lens.

Comparing 50mm to 30mm, I think 30mm is a much wider angle but it’s zoomed-in enough to emphasize your subjects and give you a blurry background.

The most interesting thing is that you have the widest aperture of “f/1.4” When it comes to shooting in low-light, f/1.4 is even better than other f/1.8 lenses. The f/1.4 maximum aperture lets in eight times more light as a standard f/3.5-5.6 lens at the same focal length and gives you a very nice out-of-focus background.

This lens also works on full frame DSLR, but you will get the vignette effect around the frame, which I don’t recommend.



Look!  f/1.4 aperture really lets in a lot of light so that we can put the ISO down

The biggest downside of this lens is the lack of image stabilization but you can still find other ways to stabilize your footage. The focal ring is quite smooth and not too heavy, which is awesome for pulling focus while filming.

Overall, I think this is a very nice lens for photos and videos. The reason why some people choose Sigma 30mm f/1.4 over the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is because this lens has a nice compact size and is not too heavy. So if you’re comfortable using prime lens, then I would highly recommend this one. I think this is so far the best low-light prime lens for your crop sensor DSLR.






5. Canon 85mm f/1.8

The Canon 85mm f/1.8 is one of the most popular portrait lens – especially on a crop sensor DSLR . This lens will work on both full frame and crop sensor DSLR. The maximum aperture of f/1.8 allows you to get background nicely out of focus more than anything else. The 85mm f/1.8 is quite similar to the 50mm f/1.8, but the 85mm is definitely designed for portrait photography. Due to the longer focal length and the wide open f/1.8 aperture, you will get the most impressive depth of field.

On crop sensor DSLR

on full frame DSLR

The lack of the image stabilization and the long focal length will make this a harder lens to use for video work because the footage will be quite shaky. Often times, when we’re shooting with a lens that is longer than 50mm, we will want to use a tripod to stabilize the footage. So if you can find a way to stabilize your camera, then this lens will still be useful for shooting videos.

The build quality of this lens is awesome. It’s solid and not too heavy. It also has smoother and larger focal ring, which is great for manual focus. I think this is a perfect lens for people who want to shoot night portrait but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens. So if you’re looking for a telephoto lens which also has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, then this lens is the only way to go.





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