Rulers of the Dark. The Best 3 Cameras with Great High ISO Output

There are lots of good cameras with solid high ISO performance, but these are our favorites.

First off, you should know that we’ve done the print tests. That’s right, we test cameras in a much different way when it comes to high ISO output. Looking at ISO 6400 on 5K Retina screen is much different than printing it. So for years now, we’ve done the standard thing for printing ISO 6400 at 17×22 inches. From there, we’ve found some of the best cameras for high ISO photography. Does your camera stack up to the competition? We dove into our Reviews Index to find three of our favorites.

The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house by the staff. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve thoroughly reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge.

Tips for Better High ISO Image Quality

Want to get the most of your high ISO output? Here’s what you need to do:

  • Put noise reduction on the standard mode. For many camera brands, it affects the RAW and the JPEG both.
  • High ISO modes can drain your camera’s battery life quicker. Only use them if you need them.
  • On a digital screen, high ISO images might look clean, but tell a different story if you print them.
  • There’s nothing wrong with embracing black and white or film presets to embrace the high ISO noise.
  • A high ISO setting should never replace getting the light you need in the first place. Try to go for the light first.
  • As high ISO settings go up, dynamic range decreases. Don’t expect to be able to have the full editing rate at ISO 6400.
  • Never neglect the idea of using a good tripod. They’re handy.

Sony a7s III: 12MP High ISO Glory

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • Nice feel in the hand
  • Good build quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Fantastic autofocus
  • The 9.44 million dot EVF is simply gorgeous.
  • A new touch menu system! Hallelujah!
  • Despite only having a 12MP sensor, the image quality is great.
  • Sony finally added a tilty, flippy screen
  • Decent battery life when being used for stills
  • Not a bad price

Cons

  • The LCD is on the small side, and it hinders the new menu system.
  • The EVF can lag in low light situations, even when on its highest refresh rate settings.
  • Colors take on rather strange tones at very high ISOs.

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Canon EOS R6: All You Need for Bird and Wildlife Photography

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • Fantastic ergonomics have returned to Canon cameras.
  • Great build quality which includes excellent weather sealing
  • Incredible autofocus system that’s on par with Sony offerings
  • Plenty of 4K video options for those who need them
  • Easy to use touchscreen menu system
  • Excellent image quality
  • Incredibly effective IBIS
  • Two UHS-II SD card slots
  • Incredible buffer performance (over 180 RAW and over 1,300 JPEGS)
  • The EVF and vari-angle LCD are high quality

Cons

  • No top LCD panel
  • It’s priced a little high at $2,499.

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Leica SL2s: High ISO Output for the Photojournalist

In our review, we said:

Pros

  • The fastest autofocus on a Leica ILC I’ve seen. It’s now on par with Canon and Sony.
  • Autofocus profiles are cool!
  • Solid build quality
  • Easy to use
  • Beautiful image quality
  • People detection is wonderful.
  • Functionality-wise, the buttons are fantastic with a good layout and give you everything you need.
  • A camera that you truly want to carry around with you everywhere
  • Both Panasonic and Leica lenses have comparable autofocus speeds.
  • Raw files are pretty versatile in Lightroom.
  • FANTASTIC high ISO print capability

Cons

  • A tad pricey. But when you consider the weather sealing, it’s not bad.
  • I wish it did Qi wireless charging.
  • I wish this had dedicated animal face detection.
  • There should be an option to never let the display time out. This is especially true for the EVF-Extended mode.
  • It needs the right strap to be comfortable for long photo walks
  • Still no multiple exposure mode
  • I wish the menu was touch-capable and that it either flipped or tilted/pivoted.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.