Looking to capture that perfect shot with the best low light camera Android phones available on the market today? Here’s a complete breakdown of mobile devices available right now that have been highly rated for low light photography, based on varying budgets.
The way we communicate with each other all across the world has been revolutionized by mobile phones. Apart from making phone calls and being able to send and receive text messages, the modern smartphone is a multimedia device, entertainment system, social media platform, and even a payment system, all packed into one. But one of the most resourceful elements that smartphones have been equipped with is a high-quality camera, changing the game of personal photography for good.
Initially pioneered by the biggest names in the tech industry such as Sony and Samsung, mobile phone cameras have continuously evolved to become faster and smarter. The ability to create stunning still motion pictures with just a tiny camera is now made possible by the advancements in the image sensor hardware and picture rendering software. From creating slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second, to shooting macro shots that could compete with dedicated cameras of the past, mobile phone cameras are getting better each year.
But the biggest leap in mobile photography comes through the best low light camera phones that have been introduced in recent years. From the iPhone 7 which began to make low light photography a mainstream feature that users wanted to add to their daily clicks, to the mighty Google Pixel that redefined the category with its Night Sight feature, there are plenty of claimants out there who deserve the top spot.
What is Low Light Photography?
Whether you’re an avid photographer who knows their way around a camera or just someone who likes to point and shoot at things, you must know that taking pictures without a proper light source can be harrowing. Whether the outdoor weather conditions are too cloudy, or you’re just not taking that selfie in a well-lit room – there are plenty of ways the perfect shot can be ruined when there’s the absence of good lighting.
However, capturing those fleeting moments in dark scenery can also bring back stunning results at times. The combination of a high ISO setting and slow shutter speed that allows more light to enter the frame is what results in an excellent low light photograph. While this feat of photography was popularized by large and expensive DSLR cameras, the modern range of smartphones has mastered the art and bring it to you in a compact form.
As the demand for faster and better phones is at its peak, manufacturers are working round the clock to produce devices that are capable of outperforming their predecessors by a mile. When it comes to the camera, the biggest names in the business are doing trying everything from wide-angle lenses to triple-camera setups. In addition to the powerful hardware, machine learning and algorithms to render better pictures is the key
Premium Low Light Camera Phones
With the competition for the best Android flagship heating up, every premium smartphone today sports a formidable camera setup. Let’s take a look at some of the most renowned mobile phones of the year and ranked them based on their camera performance in low light conditions:
Huawei P30 Pro
Despite the uncertainty that looms around this Chinese tech brand, Huawei has released the P30 Pro as one stunner of a smartphone. A flagship Android device, by all means, the P30 Pro is a heavyweight when it comes to the hardware, especially the unreal quadruple camera setup on the back. The smartphone comes packed with a 40MP main sensor for vibrant and crisp shots, a super wide-angle lens to take landscape pictures like no other, a time-of-flight camera that makes in-depth photography possible, and the one-of-a-kind 5X zoom periscope lens.
The 10x hybrid zoom feature of the Huawei P30 Pro beats every other player in the market, combining the hardware and software to take stable and detailed shots from far away. The f/1.6 aperture of the primary camera on the P30 Pro allows you to capture a surreal amount of light even in dark settings, and the image processing does a great job of clearing out the noise that is usually expected from low light shots on smartphones. Whether you’re trying to take a selfie inside your car, or a scenic portrait in a dark room, the Huawei P30 Pro rises to the occasion.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Each and every year Samsung releases a flagship Galaxy phone, it acts as a disruptive force in the market, and this year around, there were three variants of the Galaxy S10 to do so. The top model among them has been the Galaxy S10 Plus, integrated with the top of the line hardware processing power, and a triple-camera setup that is built to rival the best ones out there. Offering a 16MP wide-angle camera, a 12MP standard shooter that allows a 77-degree FOV, along with a 12MP telephoto lens that offers 2X zoom, the Galaxy S10 Plus also includes a dual-camera setup on the front with a 10MP sensor + 8MP depth sensor for those highlighted portrait selfies.
Apart from including plenty of powerful hardware in regard to the cameras, even the software for image processing has been upgraded. In comparison to the older Galaxy devices, the colors produced from the pictures taken with the Galaxy S10 Plus are muted to seem more natural. The variable aperture of the flagship from Samsung comes in at f/1.5 and f/2.4, which allows you to take some fairly decent low light pictures, but the post-processing of the images has been noted to be a tad bit aggressive, which the company can surely resolve with an update to the software.
Google Pixel 3
Back in 2016 when the first Google Pixel came out, it reshaped the mobile phone camera space for good, and three years later, the trend continues. Rather than focusing on the hardware aspect of how mobile photography can be improved, Google Pixel 3 depends on the software prowess of its manufacturer to integrate machine learning and post-image processing to make those still capture better. While Google has introduced a dual-camera setup this time around, it has done so for the front camera, while the rear camera continues to be a single-lens setup.
The Google Pixel 3 features an 8MP standard and an 8MP wide-angle camera on the front, with a 12.2MP camera on the rear with both, OIS and EIS. The f/1.8 aperture is among the lowest in comparison to the other top-notch flagships on the list, but the software improvements through Google Camera certainly make up for it. Google Camera comes with a dedicated feature called Night Sight, allowing bright and detailed shots in extra dark environments while creating minimal noise.
Budget Low Light Camera Phones
There are plenty of options to choose from among the flagship Android phones when it comes to low light photography, but what about those among us who are on a budget? Here’s a list of the best Android phones in the market right now that are easy on your wallet, but outperform when it comes to low light photography.
Google Pixel 3a
If you have ever tried out the Google Pixel 3 and loved the way its camera handles motion and still photography, then you’ll certainly fall in love with its younger sibling. Released only recently as an entry into the mid-range Android smartphones market, the Google Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL are identical, yet cheaper variants of the brand’s flagship devices, that cut corners in terms of build quality and hardware firepower for a smaller price tag. While there are compromises made on the Google Pixel 3a, one area where there are none is the camera.
Similar to the flagship device, the Google Pixel 3a comes with a 12.2MP rear camera boasting a f/1.8 aperture that is designed to take some stunning shots. Packing every feature that its premium model offers, you get integration from Google Lens as well, along with the Night Sight feature which makes it one of the best low light camera Android phones on a budget. While the slower processor compared to the Google Pixel 3 does make this affordable smartphone a tad bit slower in processing HDR images, for a device that costs $400 less, that is a fair tradeoff.
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE
The Chinese tech giant has certainly spread across the tech industry and made a name in every sub-category, but it still struggles to become a market leader in the Android flagship arena. In an attempt to cater to the customer base that prefers affordable smartphones, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE has been released to fill in the void, offering a flagship experience at a significantly lower price. While the Mi 9 SE does choose to cut costs by selecting the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 SoC, which certainly is an underdog compared to the Mi 9 that offers the Snapdragon 845, it is the camera hardware where you won’t see any compromises made whatsoever.
Packing a triple-rear camera setup that is unique in its price range, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE offers a massive 48MP main lens, a 2X telephoto camera, and an additional wide-angle 13MP lens for those gorgeous landscape shots. The f/2.0 aperture on the Mi 9 SE may not offer the best hardware to take low light shots that match the quality of the premium flagships. However, there is plenty of post-image processing that helps bring the best out of photographs, alongside the Night Mod on the device that allows you capture images in great detail, offering minimal noise and plenty of brightness to see colors and textures in the ideal way.
Ever since Lenovo look over the mobile division of Motorola, the brand has become a formidable name in the mid-range budget smartphone category. Updated with the notch display in focus and three different models to choose from, the Moto G7 camera is an upgrade from its predecessor, with a dual-camera setup on the back that includes a primary 12MP lens with an f/1.8 aperture, alongside a 5MP depth camera that helps bring out portrait-style images, but nothing to support wide-angle shots.
The camera app is designed to be simple, but does give you variable controls to take pictures in a manual setting as well. The wide aperture works ideally in taking low light shots, although the images can come out to be grainy at times, but for a budget smartphone, it holds up pretty well. Additionally, the ability to record videos in 4K QHD resolution is an upgrade from the previous generation of the Moto G series, and certainly brings up the Moto G7 to the big leagues.
When you’re looking for a phone that is capable of taking some great low light pictures, the megapixels don’t matter as much as the aperture does. Although some of the best low light camera phones on this list may not necessarily have the highest megapixel count, the wider aperture is what really matters. The lower the f-stop number, the wider the aperture, which in turn translates to more light being able to enter the frame. All of this adds up to the sensor being able to capture better shots even in low light conditions.
Just because the sensor or the lens of a smartphone has been updated, does not mean that the phone is necessarily better for low light photography. As long as the smartphone you’re choosing has a wide aperture, you can expect some stunning in-the-dark pictures. Which one of these low light camera phones is going to be your daily driver for taking those stunning low light pictures? Be sure to share your thoughts and for any questions, reach out to us using the comments section that is listed down below.