If you want to do certain types of imaging, choose the right tools. Sometimes
Before choosing cameras and lenses, see:
Does Gear Matter in Photography?
I do a variety of photography, from fast action wildlife, children and pets at play
in low light, to nightscapes and the ultra faint astrophotography. Fortunately, today's digital
cameras can do all this by choosing the with gear. And interestingly, the best
prosumer DSLRs for action are also some of the top low light long exposure cameras.
The best system I have been able to find is given in:
My Gear List for Photography
For more general low light, night, and astro photography, see this article:
Characteristics of Best Digital Cameras and Lenses for Nightscape and Astro Photography
For specific recommendations on lenses and cameras for low light, night, and astro photography,
for a variety of manufacturers, see:
Recommended Digital Cameras and Lenses for Nightscape and Astro Photography
My top choice for action to low light are: Canon EOS 90D DSLR Camera and Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Digital Camera
I also use the Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR Camera for low light.
The key to the above cameras are:
Older but excellent cameras that I also use are: Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR (B&H). Amazon search: Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR
My second camera body of choice is the Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera (B&H). Amazon search: Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera
In choosing camera gear, I look for multiple key factors. 1) For fast action, it is the performance of the camera and the lens together that are key. A slow autofocus lens on a fast body, or a slow autofocus lens on a slow focusing body does not work well. 2) For very low light long exposure photography, not only are fast lenses important, but low read noise and low dark current from the sensor are important, factors most reviews do not cover. One camera stands out in my testing well above the others: The Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR. This camera has the lowest dark current that I have measured or seen data for in a consumer camera (as opposed to actively cooled scientific cameras). Further, it is an amazing action camera and when paired with a fast autofocus lens delivers pro-level images. See my Canon 7D2 review on why this camera stands above other in these regards.
My second camera body of choice is the Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera. This camera is a relatively light weight full frame camera excellent for wide field landscapes, portraits, and nightscapes. The autofocus system is not as fast as the more expensive 5D Mark III and IV cameras, but is lighter weight, and its less mass means it dissipates heat better the the 5D series, keeping dark current lower for low light long exposure photography. The center autofocus point is OK, and I have used it to photograph birds in flight (see my 6D gallery).
My most used lens from fast action to low light astrophotography is the
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens (B&H).
Search Amazon for 300 mm f/2.8L: Canon EF 300mm f2 8L IS II USM Lens
The 300 f/2.8 above, matched with Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and Canon Extender EF 2X III gives 300, 420, and 600 mm focal lengths with excellent image quality. The galaxy image in the upper left corner of the above figure was made with the 300 f/2.8 and 2x TC. The high efficiency small pixels of the 7D2 mean less noise, more pixels on the subject, more detail on the subject than could be done with larger lenses and 1D series cameras of just a few years ago. The 300 f/2.8 is very fast at autofocus, enabling me to get images of small birds in flight that I could never get with the larger 500 f/4 super telephoto. The 7D2 with a 300 f/2.8provides faster autofocus on fast action in a light package that I can hand hold for long periods. Plus it is light enough to put on small portable tracking mounts for astrophotography.
The next lens I use a lot of is the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens. This lens is amazingly fast in autofocus and has excellent stars wide open for astrophotography. Star quality is the toughest test of a lens, and this lens and the 300 f/2.8 above excel.
For moderate wide angle and amazing light collection, I use the Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. I use this lens for both deep sky astrophotography and nightscapes (see galleries).
My wide angle low light lenses are:
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras (B&H).
Search Amazon for Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens: Sigma 35mm DG HSM Art Lens
This is my preferred lens for nightscape and meteor photography, as well as for indoor low light people images, including moving subjects.
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF DSLR Cameras (B&H).
Search Amazon for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens: Sigma 24mm DG HSM Art Lens
On a full frame camera, I would crop the images a little, but this lens is excellent for wide field nightscapes.
The Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS lens is my all-around wide to short telephoto lens.
If I am on a trip and can carry only one lens, this is the lens I take.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens
The above is my main kit, which I take on many trips. For more specific recommendations and for other lenses, see the links at the top of this page.
This page URL: http://www.clarkvision.com/best_gear
First Published December 3, 2016.
Last updated October 11, 2021