This research is supported by you, our readers, through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission with no extra cost to you. Learn More.

Lenses on a camera are what 3D glasses are to your eyes in a theatre.  You put one on, and ‘boom’ the once dull images come alive and take on a bright, beautiful quality.  Even more important is the use of a lens that does wonders in dimly lit locations.  Given that there are many lenses out there, searching for the best lens for low light could be a real hassle. And that’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 best low-light lenses that you can use to shoot with minimal illumination.

5 Best Lens for Low Light

Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art DC HSM - Editor’s Pick

    • It possesses Sigma’s distinguishable Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) feature that increases autofocus power.
    • Its zoom lens works wonders for focal adjustment, so you don’t need to move about during shoots.
    • Uncharacteristically, the zoom lens works well with a wide aperture and allows much light passage for night photography.

If you’re looking for the best lens for low light with other great, handy features, the sigma F1.8 is everything and more. 

This offering from Sigma has a zoom lens that allows for focal adjustment during a shoot. That means, with this camera, you can choose which image in the background to focus on regardless of distance.  But as you know, zoom lenses are highly notorious for being slow, which can be a real bummer when you need to take pictures without the lens’s accompanying blurriness. 

Thankfully, this Sigma version has a lens with a fast aperture that promotes speedy light passage and, ultimately, a brighter-looking image. 

I believe filmmakers who like to capture nature’s beauty, especially lovers of night sky photography that calls for a camera with a wide aperture and a good zoom lens, will fall in love with this lens.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR f/2.8E - Best Nikon Lens for Low Light

    • Zoom lens and aperture combination produce rare perfection in bright and sharp images.  
    • Four-step vibration reduction banishes the slightest possibility of blurriness from external impact.
    • Its high refractive index quality produces better images and makes it usable in almost any photography field.

Nikon’s f/2.8E shows excellent versatility in almost all photography fields. 

Because of its wide application, photographers argue that it can easily register as the best Nikon lens for low light, and that’s as close to the truth as it gets.

Perhaps, the most outstanding feature that blew me away is the Vibration Reduction (VR) feature, which erases the possibility of blurriness from unsteadiness during capturing. 

Nikon includes not one but four stops during the stabilization process. Consequently, using a Nikkor lens guarantees images with ultra-clear resolutions even in locations with the lowest lighting.

When you consider the fact that the camera delivers all the qualities mentioned earlier despite its zoom lens, a rather unmatchable combination, you’d want to attest that, within the Nikkor category, it’s the best Nikon lens for low light.

Canon EF f/1.4 USM - Best Canon Lens for Low Light

    • Its lowest f/stop rating will produce a colorful and pleasant image with the lowest light amount.
    • The USM feature works with the aperture to capture objects in quick succession with little background lighting. 
    • Its build is sturdy and resistant to quick weathering from the elements.

The lower the f/stop, the wider the aperture, and the Canon EF f/stop rating is so low, more than enough light gets into the camera through its uncommonly wider gap. And that’s why the camera lens makes it to our list as the best canon lens for low light.

This lens is indispensable to photographers who live off image capturing at late-night events.  Frankly, with such a tiny f/sop rating, any background lighting will produce a bright and radiant image at night.

Apart from its necessity in places where visibility level is so low, folks in the street, portrait, and landscape photography field will still find this camera helpful.

So if you were searching for the best Canon lens for low light, I believe you’ve found your answer in the Canon Ef f/1.4 USM.

Sony SEL35f18 f/1.8 - Best Low Light Lens for Sony

    • It’s built with an aperture that takes in more light and increases image brightness.
    • The lens is portable and can be quickly taken along for picnics, hikes, etc. 
    • A wide aperture, in conjunction with manual focus, helps to create nice Bokeh effects.

The autofocus settings are pretty fast so that you can use the lens in filming. Should the focusing be inaccurate, repeatedly locking on an undesired subject, you can use a direct manual focus function to override the autofocus settings.

With an f/1.8 rating, the aperture is the most obvious talking point, and combined with other properties, is why this lens deserves to appear on our best lens for low light list.

Personally, the lens size is a desirable property because lenses with such matching qualities weigh more. Consequently, hiking and photographing with the Sony SEL35F18 will be a blissful experience.

Rokinon Cine DS - Best Budget Low Light Lens

    • The circular blades make the bokeh rounder and the background more appealing.
    • Its f/1.5 rating increases the possibility of shooting indoors and late into the night. 
    • It has a Cine DS lens that guarantees immaculate sharpness during videography.

Looking for a lens to shoot videos with poor or minimal lighting, look no further than the Rokinon Cine DS. 

So what makes the Rokinon a rave among photographers?

It’s the 8-blade circular aperture that creates a bokeh.

What’s a bokeh, you ask?

You see all those round, dull, blurry lights in movie backgrounds. That’s what’s called bokeh, and it’s a result of the rounded blades in a camera’s aperture, which I’ve found out makes shots more professional.

You can find scenes with the Bokeh effect in the background in the Grand Budapest Hotel movie. (1

So if you want a lens to create sharp, colorful images while still having a professionally dulled background with well-rounded bokeh, you can count on the Rokinon Cine DS.

It serves well for landscape and still life photography because its aperture lets in more light, conferring a bright, color-filled richness to any image.

Pivotal Factors to Consider in Dimly Lit Settings 

  • Shutter Speed

The shutter speed regulates how much light passes through the camera lens within a given timeframe. The slower the shutter speed, the more time light can pass through the camera before a shot is taken. 

But drastically reducing your shutter speed has its downsides because it causes blurry images.

So if we need to capture images in low-light and reduce shutter speed is essential to this, but there’s the tendency of aberrations in the final image; what do you do?

Wait! There’s a formula. 

Generally, photographers aiming to reduce shutter speed and still avoid blurriness set the shutter speed to 1/10th of the camera lens’s dimension. 

That way, there’ll be a delicate balance between the lens’s focal length and the shutter speed. 

Quote Box

Reducing the speed of a camera’s shutter beyond a certain level will still cause blurriness.  The best solution is to use a tripod to prevent blurry images that may result from unsteadiness while the shutter slows down capturing.

  • Use Image Stabilization Lenses

Since slowing the speed of a camera’s shutter opens up the possibility of producing blurred images, there’s a need for some sort of steadying device. Externally, the tripod can do the job, but when combined with a lens with an in-built stabilization mechanism, the error for margin reduces to almost zero.

Consequently, you can break the 1/10th formula rule and slow down your shutter even further when you have an image-stabilizing lens and a tripod to ensure zero-motion shooting.

Not all camera lenses come with an in-built stabilization feature, but most Nikon and Canon lenses do.  

Therefore, if you are buying from a third-party manufacturer, be sure to get a lens with features that let it stabilize images.

  • Raise Your ISO

Sometimes, despite using a low aperture camera lens and a reduced camera shutter, the possibility of having a dull image remains. In such cases, the following logical approach will be to increase the camera’s ISO.

The ISO’s standard function is the regulation of your camera’s sensor sensitivity. A sensor with a pronounced sensitivity will register more light and capture better in dim locations. (2)

A quick warning, though.

Increasing your sensor’s sensitivity can open up your photos to a high degree of digital noise, which can negatively affect your professional reputation. 

So to be on the safe side, instead of tweaking your ISO, you could simply purchase a camera with a large sensor.

In this respect, a camera with a full-frame sensor will mostly get the job done.

  • Use AF Assist

Autofocus works by measuring the distance between the background and the subject. However, it’s difficult for the autofocus feature to determine where the subject is in relation to the environment in a dark setting. 

In such moments, the AF assist feature, commonly found in modern cameras, will come in handy. 

Accessing this feature requires activation from your camera’s menu. You can also activate it by clicking the shutter halfway through when you’re ready to shoot in a dimly lit location.

  • Freeze Images with Flash

We’ve established before that tweaking your shutter’s speed setting to a shallow level causes blurry images, while increasing it too high produces a dull image. 

Now let’s get a little innovative.

You can use a flash in low-lighting conditions to capture photos even with an increased shutter speed. 

Let me explain. 

You turn down the rate at which the shutter closes because you want to get more light in the camera. However, reducing the shutter’s closing rate results in a dim picture, which we want to avoid. 

So now, with the brightening effect of a  powerful flash, there’s no need for shutter speed reduction; you can shoot at 1/120th of a second without having to fret about the picture’s brightness level.  

Regardless of this, your ISO shouldn’t be toned down too low, or images in the background will start to fade in the dark. 

But just because you’re using a flash, it doesn’t mean that you can set your ISO back down to 100. If you do, you’ll start to lose background detail in the dark.

Personally, for an image to be well detailed and the background okay, I recommend an ISO of 400 or thereabout. 

Since camera sophistication differs, I suggest tweaking your flash and ISO settings to find the right balance. 

Last advice. 

The beams from an external flash might be too powerful and cause glare. And as such, you might need a diffuser to reduce the light’s harshness. 

F. A. Q

Any lens to work well for night sky photography must have an aperture not higher than f/2.8.  The lesser the aperture reads from f/2.8, the brighter the images the lens will capture.

Generally, blur in an image could be a result of vibrations during capturing.  It could also arise when photographers try to reduce the shutter speed while shooting in a dark environment. You can minimize blur by using a tripod, a lens with a wide aperture, and raising your camera’s ISO.

Yes, the aperture f-number of a lens affects image quality in low-light.  The more the f-number decreases, the wider the opening where light passes through and the brighter the image.

Yes, a low-light lens will give a bokeh effect so long as the aperture blades form a well-rounded shape when they close. Thus, an 8-blade aperture lens should be a good pick for newbie photographers.

Yes, you can use flash in low-light conditions so long you tweak your lens accordingly to avoid flares and reduce lighting harshness. 


There comes a time in every photographer and videographer career when the need to shoot or film in a dimly lit environment arises. 

At such times, professionals must select the best lens for low light to produce images with ultra-high clarity. 

And after going through a list of low-light lenses, the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art DC HSM comes out on top. 

This is because it comes with a zoom lens that allows for manual focal length adjustment while still possessing a fast aperture for shooting with minimal lighting in the darkest of settings.


  2. Online Browsing Platform (OBP) ISO 19093:2018(en)-Photography-Digital-cameras-Measuring low-light performance. Retrieved from