Long exposure photography is one trick I have been trying to master for the last couple of years. And fortunately, I can say that I am proud of how far I have come. But which is the best camera for long exposure?
Typically, I use long exposures to capture landscapes. I feel that this technique is best applicable in scenarios where you want to capture something in motion and depict that movement. I hope I have been able to explain it in a way that makes sense, but if not, let me try again.
Let us suppose that there is a stream of water flowing in front of you or fluffy clouds floating in the sky. There is a movement going on, but instead of freezing it, you want to showcase that movement and capture the perfect shot.
This is where long-exposure photography comes into play. The trick is a slow shutter speed, which will smooth the movement in water and clouds, giving it a surreal look. The slightly blurred effect can be stunning if you manage to get it right.
However, the right camera is essential to get those perfect long-exposure shots. And when there are so many options on the market, it can be hard to decide. After using and trying out a fair share of cameras myself over the past few years, I have compiled a list of recommendations to help you find the best camera for long exposure photography.
So let’s dive right into it!
- 1 9 best cameras for long exposure photography
- 1.1 1. Sony Alpha 7R III Mirrorless Camera
- 1.2 2. Nikon Z50+ Z DX 16-50mm Mirrorless Camera Kit
- 1.3 3. Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera
- 1.4 4. Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera
- 1.5 5. Panasonic Lumix S5 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
- 1.6 6. Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera
- 1.7 7. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
- 1.8 8. Nikon D3200 Digital SLR
- 1.9 9. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
- 2 Can all cameras do long exposure?
- 3 How do you take good long exposure photos?
- 4 Verdict
9 best cameras for long exposure photography
If you are trying to perfect the art of long exposure or are interested in it, here are my recommendations to help you pick the best camera for long exposure photography.
Each of these bad boys is packed with exciting features, and we will discuss both pros and cons to help you make the best decision according to our requirements.
1. Sony Alpha 7R III Mirrorless Camera
Well, I am starting this list with a bang. Sony is a good brand in itself, and this camera has a soft spot in my heart because of its incredible performance. And it’s not just me; it has received lots of love from everyone I have recommended. Honestly, it does an epic job of shooting stunning landscape images.
I haven’t used a lot of mirrorless options, but then again, I don’t think the mirrorless factor plays a significant role in determining how good a shot looks. Sony has done a terrific job with the 42.4 MP full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor, which deserves all the credit.
I feel this camera offers another significant advantage where you can click up to 10 frames per second, making sure you get to capture every single detail.
When you shoot landscape pictures, it is evident that you do a lot of outdoor visits. And during trips like these, the build quality of a camera matters to me a lot. I feel Nikon is slightly ahead in terms of build quality, but Sony has significantly improved the body of their newer models. And you probably should not have any complaints about the Alpha 7R III in that department.
The enhanced EyeAF feature monitors an eye very precisely and is handy while shooting portraits. If you want to explore the woods in pin-drop silence, this camera will be a great companion as it allows silent shooting. The Alpha 7R III supports 4K HDR images, features stunning resolution, and has a broad dynamic range.
Overall, I believe this is one of the best cameras you can get your hands on for long-exposure shots, and it will not disappoint you.
- A high-quality 42.4 MP sensor.
- It allows you to capture up to 10 frames per second.
- The camera features silent shooting mode.
- 4K HDR video support.
- 3″ LCD screen to view the footage.
- Multiple connectivity options include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, HDMI, and NFC.
- The menu options seem a little complicated.
- The monitor resolution could be better.
- The lock on the exposure compensation knob is missing.
2. Nikon Z50+ Z DX 16-50mm Mirrorless Camera Kit
Without a Nikon model, I can’t build a list of the best cameras. This brand has had my heart since the days I stepped into photography, and it has still managed to keep its hold after so many years.
I especially love the Nikon Z50+ Z DX because the lens is lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. The build quality is primarily plastic, and coming to the price range, it is one of those stunning budget options.
Moving from the design, let me review the specifications quickly so you can understand what you are getting into. The focal length of the lens is between 16-50mm. And I can vouch for the superb image quality, the credit for which goes to the 20.9MP DX-format CMOS sensor.
You also get a high-resolution LCD monitor to view the footage, and let me add a cherry on top- you can tilt the screen according to your preferred angle! This feature has been immensely helpful for me, and I appreciate the brand for putting that amount of thought into the design.
The low-light shots are decent, and I had no issue while filming in motion. There is another exciting feature in this camera, and it’s the complete electronic autofocus system.
The autofocus feature is activated only when the camera is on and helps you get a clear shot without demanding much effort. But there is a slight disadvantage to this feature as well. It was somewhat frustrating to see that it would reset the focus every time I turned off the camera.
I prefer the Nikon Z50+ Z DX to shoot during daylight because the maximum aperture is slow. It creates minor issues while shooting in low light conditions because sufficient light cannot reach the camera to compete with the fast shutter speeds. But even in scenarios like these, the optical image stabilization feature saves the day by reducing the shakiness and improving the overall quality.
- Large and high-quality 20.9MP sensor.
- 4K video, time-lapse sequence, and slow-motion footage support.
- Smooth and ultra-sharp electronic viewfinder.
- Tilting LCD monitor with touch screen functionality.
- It offers quick and quiet autofocus operation.
- The quality of images in low light conditions is very good.
- The camera is lightweight and compact.
- The flip screen does not feel very sturdy.
- The replacement battery is very expensive.
- The build quality could be better.
- The maximum aperture is slow.
3. Sony RX100 VII Premium Compact Camera
We have another Sony member on this list, and I got the opportunity to try out this baby via a close friend. When I read the specifications of this camera on paper, it immediately seemed very appealing to me. However, after trying it out, I felt Sony could have done slightly better with this one.
The Sony RX100 VII sports a reasonably decent 20.1MP type stacked CMOS sensor. It also features the latest real-time tracking AF and real-time eye AF. Another feature I loved was 20 frames per second, blackout-free shooting, which you do not always get.
The design factor somewhat disappointed me a little. Yes, it is compact and lightweight. But the grip was not secure enough for me and kept slipping off. I feel the entire situation could have been better if the body had been wider. You may not enjoy the small buttons if you have big hands. The ability to control the entire camera lies on the menu and touch screen display.
The Zeiss 200mm lens performs the job well, and you will experience good image quality. The high magnification zoom lens works better in terms of still photos, but not so much when it comes to videos. The continuous shooting feature is my favorite because of its smoothness and accuracy. The autofocus feature is again brilliant with its speed.
- 20.1MP CMOS sensor with a high magnification zoom lens.
- It supports 20fps continuous shooting.
- Real-time eye AF to capture both humans and animals.
- Image stabilization in 4K video recording.
- Pro phone input to capture audio for movies and vlogs.
- It includes a tilted LCD monitor and a push electronic viewfinder.
- The grip on the body feels slippery.
- The buttons and controls are very tiny.
- The details on full zoom do not look very impressive.
- There is only one UHS I-card slot.
4. Canon EOS M200 Compact Mirrorless Digital Vlogging Camera
This one is worthy of competing for the title of the best camera for long exposure photography, but it is more suitable for beginners. Do not think it is inefficient when I say it is beginner friendly because the features are pretty decent, and you’ll enjoy using it thoroughly.
The first thing I love about the Canon EOS M200 is its compact size, making it the perfect companion while traveling. It has a 24.1MP dual-pixel CMOS sensor and lets you record 4K videos. When I started using this camera, I was not a beginner per se, but I still enjoyed carrying it around because I needed a small one then. In other words, the size is a plus factor here.
The EOS M200 allows 6.1fps burst shooting along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support for connectivity. Like most other cameras, you get a 3-inch touch panel LCD screen, which you can tilt for up to 180 degrees. If you are a vlogger, you will enjoy the vertical video support to explore various camera angles and create unique footage.
Overall, it is a decent camera, and the features are great and easy to use. It has some limitations regarding autofocus, but it does the job well for the price range you get.
- Small and compact.
- You get 4K video and 4K time-lapse support.
- Tilted touch panel LCD screen.
- It offers vertical video support.
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF and eye detection AF.
- Bluetooth pairing lets you geotag what you capture.
- Canon Camera Connect app support for controlling the camera remotely.
- Feature assistant to guide you to shoot great pictures.
- The camera allows shooting in silent mode.
- Experienced photographers may require more hands-on control.
- It does not include microphone input.
- The 4K video is cropped.
- The plastic build quality feels cheap.
5. Panasonic Lumix S5 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
I have tried a lot of different models from this brand, but they did not seem very special to me. However, the Lumix S5 turned out to be quite a decent pick for the best camera for long exposure, so I would like to add it to my list of recommendations.
The primary USP of this camera is that you get to enjoy that perfect balance between a full-frame sensor and a compact body. This is one combination you do not get to see typically, and that is what makes it so appealing. Using the camera with the 20-60mm lens kit becomes a great option to use regularly. But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. The perfect balance comes with a few compromises.
The 2.36 million dot resolution electronic viewfinder was a slight letdown to me after using the 5.76m-dot one in older models. 4k/30p shooting support takes it up a notch in the eyes of YouTube creators and vloggers. There are dual memory card slots and multiple input and output ports for your headphone, USB, and microphone.
The 7fps burst shooting is fabulous for capturing tiny movements, and the autofocus performs pretty well. You can easily use this camera for a whole day with moderate use.
However, when I go outdoors for a shoot day, I tend to click a lot of 4K clips. And hence I like to keep a second battery handy. I like the image stabilization performance and how you can keep your shots smooth using that.
Overall, getting this camera may be good if you play with a fair amount of still images and videos. The video skills are not extraordinary, but the performance is decent.
- The camera is small and lightweight.
- 4K 60-p, 10-bit video support.
- 96MP high-resolution mode and dual native ISO to reduce noise.
- Live view composite mode combines multiple live shots and creates one final standing image.
- 6.5-stop dual image stabilization.
- The camera body is dust and splash-resistant.
- The autofocus lags at times.
- The quality of the viewfinder could have been better.
- It does not include a full-sized HDMI port.
- The size of the lens is not appropriate for the compact body.
6. Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera
If you are someone who has been in the photography department for a while now, you must have heard about the Rebel T7. This baby is popular, and rightfully so. It has been a while since I used it last, but it is one of my favorites and deserves a spot on this list.
This DSLR is pretty tiny and one of the most compact ones you will find on the market. It is lightweight, and the textured rubber makes for a good grip. I like the menu system in this one as the categories are color-coded, and you know the buttons you need to reach out to.
Despite being an affordable option, I feel the Rebel T7 offers solid picture quality. The credit goes to the 24.1MP CMOS sensor and the DIGIC 4+ image processor. The colors are vibrant, stand out perfectly, and are well-saturated.
The autofocus and continuous shooting speed are decent and worked well in most scenarios. The 3fps feature is average, and you will need good practice since this camera is not extremely fast. The Rebel T7 supports full HD video at 30fps and features a fully automatic mode to make your job easier. You can even switch to manual mode to adjust shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
Whether a newbie or an experienced photographer, you will enjoy this beast as it has the required features and is priced accordingly. I feel the interface is easy to use, but do not keep extremely high expectations.
- 24MP CMOS sensor.
- Built-in connectivity options via Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi.
- DIGIC 4+ image processor.
- The camera can be controlled remotely using a compatible smart device.
- Full HD video support.
- The price range is affordable.
- It is easy to use and beginner friendly.
- Continuous shooting is slow at 3fps.
- The LCD screen is fixed, cannot be tilted, and does not offer touch screen functionality.
- The camera does not support 4K video.
- The Automatic mode is not impressive in low light conditions.
- The autofocus feature is not that great.
7. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
This one almost makes me feel nostalgic as it is from my initial days, and you can call it an irreplaceable option on my list. It is much sharper with better improvements as compared to its predecessor. The best part about using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is that the brand has managed to strike the balance between the features and the camera size.
The 20MP MFT sensor is fantastic, and I love the target audience of this particular model. Whether you are enthusiastic about photography or on the way to becoming a professional photographer, you will enjoy this camera, and I am 100% sure of it.
The build quality is solid it is well protected from dust and splash. You get 10 frames per second continuous shooting along with the mechanical shutter. But when you switch to the Pro Capture mode, that’s when the magic happens.
You get 15fps continuous shooting or 30fps if the focus is fixed on the first frame. Another feature that caught my attention is that the camera starts buffering the images even by half as soon as you press the shutter.
The OLED screen at the back is not just tilted; you can even flip it around. I love the smoothness of the autofocus. Even though you might feel that the sensor is small and the megapixel count is low, trust me, this camera can go head to head with some of the high-end rivals on the market.
- Small and compact size.
- 20MP live MOS sensor.
- The body has a weather-sealed design.
- Good 5-axis image stabilization power.
- 30fps continuous shooting speed.
- It offers handheld shooting support eliminating the need for a tripod.
- Live composite mode.
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity support.
- The body feels lightweight and plasticky.
- The default sharpness setting is too high.
- The battery life could have been better.
8. Nikon D3200 Digital SLR
If I have to give the tag “old but gold” to any camera, the Nikon D3200 would probably win it. This was one of the first cameras I ever used, but since it is still popular today, you can imagine the performance it delivers. However, getting your hands on this camera is not always easy, as Nikon came out with newer versions later.
The Nikon D3200 has a 24.2 MP sensor and the Expeed 3 processing engine. The main advantage of having this engine is fast processing, the ability to record full HD videos, and low noise. This is another camera that caters to entry-level users and contains guides to help you click the best quality images without having too much prior knowledge.
Another feature that might appeal to you is purchasing an extra Wi-Fi adaptor that lets you connect your smartphone and tablet to the camera and upload the images on your preferred social media platform. The build is okay, in my opinion, and the 11-point autofocus does the job decently.
Overall, you will enjoy this one just like I did during my initial days in photography. If I give you one reason to go for this, it would be the innovative guide mode.
- 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor.
- EXPEED III image processing.
- Innovative and easy-to-understand Guide mode.
- Full HD video support.
- Six different scene mode options.
- 11-point autofocus system.
- Wi-Fi connectivity support.
- Connectivity options are limited.
- It is hard to access a new camera now.
9. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
Did I save the best camera for long exposure for the last? Well, you will know that after reading my verdict! But the Nikon D850 is one of those perfect cameras with features that even professional photographers enjoy. And the price range it is available in will attract anyone enthusiastic about photography. It came out in 2017 and has been only stealing hearts since then.
It packs a punch with an incredible 45.7MP sensor and a 153-point autofocus system. There are hardly any compromises you will have to face with this beauty. It allows 9fps continuous shooting at full resolution, and the body is entirely weather sealed. So if you are like me, who is into outdoor photography, the Nikon D850 is a perfect match.
This camera supports 4K time-lapse movies, and you can view your footage on a tilting touch screen. I have another favorite design factor in this one. The sensor you get in the camera is a backside illuminated full-frame one. I love how it can capture the required texture in long exposure shots.
Nikon has thoroughly impressed me with this incredible camera, and I am sure you will be too when you use this.
- 45.7 MP sensor, which can capture every stunning detail.
- 9fps continuous shooting at full resolution.
- Tilting touchscreen.
- 4K Ultra HD video recording support.
- It offers silent photography mode in live view.
- Fabulous autofocus performance.
- Bluetooth connectivity support.
- The Wi-Fi connectivity is not extremely smooth.
- The features and the menu can be a little complicated for beginners.
- The battery could have been better.
- It does not have GPS functionality.
Can all cameras do long exposure?
Yes, almost all SLR and DSLR cameras can capture long exposure shots. The main thing you need to focus on is using the proper modes and settings. For example, long exposure shots typically use a slow shutter speed, and you will get better images with the camera having a manual and a bulb mode. Even mirrorless cameras work great in this department.
Always remember that you do not have to invest in the most high-tech and expensive camera to take long-exposure shots. It will make your job much easier if it has a quality camera, manual, and bulb mode.
Now, if you want to take it up a notch, you can go for one with a remote shutter release. This feature will let you release the shutter even if you are at some distance from the camera. A tripod will also come in handy while clicking long exposure shots to keep your camera steady.
How do you take good long exposure photos?
If you want to perfect taking long-exposure photos, it will require skill and a good balance of light and composition. Well, nothing beats getting a tutorial in person, but here are a few tips that can help you take good long-exposure shots.
- When taking long-exposure pictures, you want it to be very smooth, as shaky hands can ruin the shot. Use a tripod to keep the camera study. Trust me; you will thank me for this tip later on.
- To master long exposures, you must manually adjust the settings. A bulb mode can be very handy in this scenario as it allows you to set the exposure time, ISO, aperture, etc. Moreover, this mode allows you to keep your shutter open for as long as you prefer.
- Long-exposure photography needs to capture something in motion. It can be the moving clouds in the sky or a river flowing through the plains. Depending on the motion you want to shoot, it can take a few seconds to even hours to get that perfect picture.
- As I said above, getting the perfect long exposure shot depends significantly on the camera’s light. Even though it is possible to achieve it without any filters, neutral density filters can help regulate that quantity of light.
These are especially handy during the daytime. The darkness of the filter will help you determine how long you need to extend the duration of exposure and how slow you need to go with the shutter speed.
- They say practice makes perfect. And that is true in this scenario as well. If you are a beginner in taking long exposure shots, it will take some practice to master the art. And I am saying that from personal experience. Try taking some test shots when you go for a leisure photography session and explore the frames and compositions.
- As a quick tip, you can try setting the shutter speed to 1/1000 and taking a test shot. It could be of someone just walking across the frame. Next, switch the shutter speed to 1/500 and try repeating the process.
Keep slowing down the shutter speeds and try to see the differences in the shots. When you bring it down to one second, you will notice that the object in motion looks blurry. You can try the same trick on any river nearby to check how your long exposure shot is looking.
Long-exposure photography is fun, and once you get the hang of it, you can explore more techniques and tricks to make your shots even better.
Hopefully, this article has helped you gain much better clarity on long-exposure photography and the tips and techniques you can try. But of course, you need appropriate gear to capture those pictures. And that is where the best camera for long exposure comes in.
If I have to pick a winner out of all the recommendations mentioned above, it will be the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. This one is extremely lightweight and compact but comes with a weather-sealed body. The 20MP sensor does a great job, and I feel it has this perfect combination of affordable price, features, and performance that you will fall in love with.
You get 10fps continuous shooting, 30fps in bro capture mode, and good image stabilization. And my favorite feature is the live composite and live bulb modes which are very convenient while taking long exposure shots. I have rarely seen such features in this price range, even considering the high-tech DSLRs on the market.
Yes, the sensor rating might seem a little less compared to many other cameras, but I assure you, I could hardly see any difference when you click pictures in the real world. Overall, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, hands down, wins the title of the best camera for long exposure for me.