Ask Corey: Best Mirrorless Camera for Low Light

by Corey Rich

Hi Corey

I am in a dilemma and really hope you can help me please.

The question I pose is simple – Z6 or Z7?

As a cave photographer who shoots say 90% of the year underground for magazines, I rely on a sensor with top-end low light capabilities, this is high up on the must have list. I currently use a D850 and absolutely love it. However, it’s big and the mirrorless system is too tempting.


Hi Robbie, one thing I’d point out before discussing the Nikon Z cameras is that the D5 is superior to the D850 in low-light. In fact, of all the Nikon cameras, the D5 rules the roost for its low-light performance and capabilities.

But, that’s not what you’re asking. I’m sure that if you’re squeezing through claustrophobic tunnels miles below the surface of the earth, having a smaller-factor camera could end up being a really enticing idea.

There’s not too much to say here. Your question was simple, and so is my answer. The Z 6 is the best low-light camera, surpassing the performance of the Z 7 as well as the low-light performance of your D850. The Z 6 is my favorite camera right now specifically for its speed. I think that going with the Z 6 will be an upgrade over the D850 for you, and more than anything I know you’ll really love the size when you’re burrowing underground.

If you’re not sold on the Z system yet, I’d be remiss not to point out that Nikon has also released the Z 50, a DX cropped-sensor rig that offers a way to break into the world of mirrorless cameras at a better price point. (Plus, you can try the Z 50 worry-free for 30 days with the Nikon Yellow Program.) That said, I can’t speak to the Z 50’s low-light performance, though I will say this: Like anyone adopting new technology, I was a bit of a skeptic when I started using Z cameras but now I admit that I can’t go back to the world of DSLR. I suspect you’ll be the same! Good luck with your journey.

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Robbie Shone January 29, 2020 - 1:19 am

Cheers Corey! That’s a big help, Between you, Keith Ladzinski and Tom O’Brien in the Nat Geo basement, you guys all suggested the Z6. I bought one and love it!

You are right to mention the D5 and then go on to mention that I’d be most likely to be squeezing through claustrophobic tunnels miles below earth, because that is my biggest point here. It’s all about image quality v’s camera size/weight isn’t it. For me, the D850 is still the best at being the all rounder. Let’s wait and see what the next generation Z6 & Z7 look like.

Nick C January 29, 2020 - 9:58 am

Robbie, I would have thought robustness is the main requirement. I use a Nikon D610 in caves and so far I have totally failed to kill it (though several lenses did not survive). They can take amazing abuse. Is the Z6 just as robust?
For a laugh, this is how durable the Canon 7D is (amazing), but they are a bit rubbish in low light.

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