Northern lights are one of the most beautiful natural sceneries that we can observe from the earth. That being said, catching this mysterious feat in the frame of your camera is no easy job. The basic DSLR or smartphone cameras won’t do justice to it; you need the best camera for northern lights photography to capture the moment.
The main problem with capturing something like the Aurora Borelius is that it’s not a specific object, rather a widespread starry painting all over the sky. This is why you need a specialized camera with a manual mode to capture the whole scene. Throughout this article, we’ll help you out in selecting a viable camera for you.
- Best Pick: Sony Alpha a6000
For people with a limited budget but unwilling to compromise on quality, capturing something as beautiful as northern lights through their lenses can be problematic. However, with this one, you’re getting a mirrorless lens camera that can click the moment incredibly well. Pair it up with the Rokinon 12 mm f/2, and you get the perfect camera for you!
- Runner’s Up: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
We’ve picked this DSLR from Canon as our Runner up, and deservedly so. In order to get the best out of a northern lights scenario, you need a camera that gives you top performances in low-light conditions. This one gives you that and many more. Hence we’ve chosen it to be the best camera for aurora borealis. We recommend the Canon EF 14 mm f/2.8L lens to use with it.
Comparison Table for Aurora Borelius Camera
|Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera 24.3MP SLR Camera|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body|
|Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless Camera Body - Black|
Best APS-C Camera
Buying Guide For Northern Lights Cameras
Now that you’re quite aware of the top northern lights cameras, time for you to know the features we looked for in the best possible options. We’ll also let you know the additional camera gear you will need to get the perfect shot of northern lights.
Perhaps the most important feature you need to look for in a camera for northern lights photography is autofocus. You need to buy a camera that has great coverage across the frame. Apart from that, your AF tracking system needs to at least be able to focus on subjects even in poor lights.
You’ll have to keep in mind that you’re capturing something as wide as the northern lights, so having a wide-angle lens alongside the camera is a must. Most cameras on our list will support different lenses with different price ranges. Then again, the new mirrorless cameras don’t suit a lot of extensive lenses; you need to keep that in mind too. Try to go for a wide lens with a focal length close to 8-18 mm for night photography. Also, it would be great if they are fast lens as they are essential for taking the best images of aurora polaris.
Buffer depth refers to the number of continuous shots a camera can take before pausing. It goes without saying, the more the buffer, the better are your chances of capturing a perfect photo of the Northern lights! But buffer depth isn’t the only thing here; you need to consider the write speed of the memory card here as well, alongside other factors.
Let’s be honest- northern lights are one of the toughest sceneries to perfectly frame in the lens of a camera. They’re not like usual clouds; these are rays of light that moves all the time. This is why you need a camera with a decent burst mode to take a series of shots within seconds to ensure you get to photograph the aurora perfectly!
Although most modern DSLRs come with a plethora of customizable shooting modes, you can make certain of them. The camera must have manual shooting mode with an image set that allows you to click photos in raw format. Thanks to the manual mode, you’ll be able to manually adjust the DSLR camera settings to capture the natural light display in raw files.
The whole magic of capturing aurora borealis comes with the changes in shutter speed, so make sure your camera has multiple shutter speed options too.
Last but not the least, getting a hold of your camera requires the help of a tripod when northern lights occur. But you don’t have to worry much about them- just get a sturdy, carbon fiber tripod with an adjustable ball head. The legs need to be solid to reduce vibration as much as possible for photographing the northern lights.
Best Cameras for Northern Lights Photography Reviews 2021
After doing extensive research on cameras that are suitable for capturing northern lights, we have come up with a list of the top cameras that can do the job seamlessly. Time for you to give them a good look.
1. Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Taking the perfect shot of northern lights doesn’t just require good cameras; you need to have the creative eye for it. For the creative ones out there, Sony came up with this mirrorless DSLR that helps you take artistic shots in a flash! Sony claims they have the world’s fastest AF incorporated here; the rest is up for you to try and decide.
Coming with a 24.3 Megapixel detail, this device can shoot none less than 11 photos in a second. The two quick-access dials of this compact camera enable you to change settings easily. This here is a camera that is actually half the size of a usual DSLR, but with the same APS-C image sensor and even faster autofocus! So, yes it can capture the northern lights dancing over the night sky.
When you’re out to take photos of northern lights, you need a few features like E-mount systems and interchangeable lenses- and you get both with this one. The camera has an astounding 11 FPS alongside 179 AF points, so taking photos of a moving object got a lot easy for you. Its BIONZ X image processor is known to produce true-to-life images.
Most importantly, this mirrorless camera has an ISO range of 100-25600, which is more than enough to take quality low-light photos with high detailing. To sum up, this is easily the best compact camera for the northern lights.
- ISO (100-25600) helps click great low-light photos
- Hybrid AF alongside 179 points helps you catch moving objects
- The camera can click 11 photos in one second with 11 FPS
- 3-inch tiltable LCD for easy usage
- Anti-dust protection system on the optical filter for safety
- Almost half the price of other DSLRs with similar features
- Can’t record videos on 4K resolution
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon’s 5D series has long been one of the most talked-about camera series, and this one is no exception. The Mark IV gives you refined image quality and great performance, especially if you’re a nature photographer. Be it photography or videography- capturing nature has never been easier!
This camera has every feature you’d require to take proper northern lights photos. From the 30.4 Megapixel full-frame sensor to the 61-point AF system, it’s basically made for capturing shots from a long range. The 4K video feature assures you of its video quality, as northern lights aren’t just a view to capture; it’s a sight to record as well.
Canon and their trademark Dual Pixel CMOS AF is a part of this exceptional camera, and with the easygoing LCD touch panel, using this device shouldn’t be of any trouble! Their DIGIC 6+ image processor ensures continuous shooting up to 7 fps- which immensely helps in taking photos of northern lights.
Overall, with a high ISO setting and excellent picture quality even in low-lights, the Mark IV is definitely an excellent pick for capturing northern lights. That is if budget isn’t an issue for you.
- 30.4 Megapixel full-frame sensor for shooting in any light conditions
- 4K video quality with different video options including FHD up to 60p
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF to ensure smooth focus during a video shoot
- Shooting speed up to 7.0 FPS lets you take more photos in less time
- DIGIC 6 plus image processor brings out an excellent quality image
- Might be a little too expensive for people with a limited budget
3. Fujifilm X-T4 – Best Aps-c Camera
The most common problem while capturing the northern lights is to keep the camera steady amidst all the excitement. Given that it is one of the most astonishing scenes in the world, it’s only natural that you’d be excited. Fujifilm considered the emotion and designed the X-T4 with a five-axis IBIS that will give you as many as 6.5 stops of image stabilization.
When it comes to the mechanical shutter, this one has outdone all its predecessors with a 15 FPS speed and a rating of 300,000 actuation. Then comes the vari-angle full-touch LCD that is crucial to catch the perfect northern lights image. It’s important because this display helps you find the right angle to take the photo.
But northern lights isn’t just about the photos; it’s about videos as well. In that regard, X-T4 is a hybrid device that can switch to movie mode anytime. This camera is capable of shooting in 4K/60P and FHD/240P, that too in super slow-motion!
Fujifilm has long been famous for the quality and vibrant color of its images, and this one is probably one of their finest creations ever. The X-T4 comes with Eterna Bleach Bypass, which is yet another new film simulation mode to enhance the vibe of your photo! Overall, we can easily say that this is the best aps-c camera for shooting the aurora borealis!
- Five-axis in-body image stabilization for clicking stable photos in motion
- Comes with a 1.62 MP LCD screen that helps find the right angle
- Rated for 300,000 actuation alongside 15 FPS
- Camera able to shoot videos in FHD/240P or 4K/60P
- Easy image manipulation with a few very effective film simulation modes
- The autofocus feature while shooting videos might be problematic
4. Nikon Z 7II FX-Format Mirrorless Camera Body
Nikon has long been the pioneer of DSLRs in the world, and their cameras are still one of the top-quality cameras on the market. This one is no different with its 45.7 MP sensor and excellent dynamic range. It is a full-frame mirrorless camera with ultra-high resolution and a strong AF performance. In fact, many consider it one of the best DSLR cameras for capturing polar lights.
While capturing the northern lights, you need to have a wide frame to catch the whole scene, and this DSLR camera from Nikon does exactly that. This one is quite advanced and actually has the largest full-frame mount amongst the other brands, so catching every single detail of the natural lights shouldn’t be any problem for you. It is often described as the perfect option for high-resolution imaging.
Nikon Z 7II comes with powerful AF modes with eye detection features alongside dual processors and two card slots. Shooting the videos of northern lights is quite simple with its 4K UHD ability at 60p. Moreover, the buffer capacity is 3.3x more than its predecessor! The efficient dual card slots help you capture photos for a longer period without interruptions.
Last but not least, its vertical battery grip ensures you have a much easier shutter operation even when shooting vertically. So you can easily consider this camera as a versatile option for covering northern lights.
- 45.7MP sensor alongside powerful AF gives you top-notch image quality
- Vertical battery grip ensures you to comfortably shoot vertically
- The largest full-frame lens mount ensures compatibility
- Dual processor with dual card slots for versatility
- Has the ability to shoot 4K Ultra-HD videos at 60P
- Doesn’t come with an FTZ mount adapter; you need to buy it separately
5. Sony α7R IV Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
You’re going to catch the northern lights in your frames- and to get a proper click, you might want to go for a premium camera. One that’s expensive but worth every penny. This model from Sony can be your elegant pick as it’s the best camera for aurora photography. It has an impressive 61 MP back-illuminated CMOS image sensor with excellent image processing ability.
The camera has a shooting speed of up to 10 FPS and a full AE/AF tracking system. What we really liked about it is the vibration-free shutter, so the images will have the maximum resolution. Its 5-axis image stabilization goes well with the high-resolution 61MP sensor. The area-specific noise reduction feature also caught our eye as sometimes you need full tranquility to take a proper photo during the night.
Working well in low lights is a prerequisite for cameras that you’ll use to capture northern lights, and this one has AF precisions even in low lights of the level EV-39. The 4K HDR video is another quality feature of this full frame camera. Paired with a wide 15-stop dynamic range, videography got a lot easier with this camera.
Be it the northern lights or any other wide sceneries of the world- this premium and the easy-to-hold camera can work well everywhere.
- World’s first and highest 61 MP full-frame image sensor
- 425 contrast AF points and 567 Phase detection AF points for covering more area
- Real-time eye AF and real-time tracking to keep focus while shooting
- 4K video recording in 35mm mode gives you excellent quality videos
- 15-stop dynamic range for greater color reproduction
- Way too expensive for beginners or people with a low budget
6. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
You won’t get to see the northern lights from your fancy apartment in New York City; it’s not really an urban phenomenon. If you want to catch the northern lights, you need to get close to nature, away from the technologies of the city. But you still plan to take good photos, so you need an all-rounder camera that just about does all the work for you.
This is where the Nikon D850 comes in. Upon its introduction, it has set a benchmark for image quality among DSLRs. With 45.7 MP resolution and a BSI full-frame image sensor, this is surely one of the most advanced DSLRs out there. Silent photography, something very essential in northern light photography is enabled here.
The camera has an outstanding dynamic range and continuous shooting speed of up to 9 FPS. It doesn’t have the risk of moiré, and you get to shoot videos with decent autofocus performance. Time-lapse videos are a common feat to do while watching the northern lights, and you can do that with your camera- in 4K!
But that’s not all. The reason we call it the all-rounder option for aurora photography is because it has excellent battery performance, a tilting touchscreen, and a focus shift shooting mode alongside the high-resolution imaging. Impressive, isn’t it?
- BSI image sensor without an optical low pass filter
- Impressive dynamic range with 45.7 MP resolution for quality imaging
- Full AF performance alongside 9 FPS for continuous shooting
- Amazing battery performance to help you shoot/click uninterrupted
- 4K UHD video recording with time-lapse and slo-mo features
- The AF often fails to properly focus on subjects while shooting
7. Pentax K-1 Mark II Full Frame 36MP Weather Resistant DSLR
Northern Lights are famous for the astounding blend of color in the sky. In order to capture the beauty of it properly, you need a camera that has a well-defined depth sense, subtle shades, and most importantly- rich colors. Lucky for you, the camera we plan to conclude the list with has all of the features and will give you top-notch imaging performance.
It’s safe to say that the image processing of the Pentax Mark II is by far one of the best on our list for shooting the northern lights. Pentax really worked on this device, as it has a much better noise reduction system than its predecessor. Its top sensitivity can go up to ISO 819200 and provide you with high-graded and top-quality photographs. Moreover, this brand is well-known for producing quality prosumer video cameras.
The 36 MP shake reduction sensor alongside the weather-resistant body helps you comfortably take photos of northern lights. This camera is blessed with a hand-held pixel shift resolution which compiles 4 images into a better quality image. Alongside that, you get an extended exposure mode for custom choosing your type of photography!
- Pixel shift resolution for increasing the sharpness and color rendition
- Magnesium alloy body that is weather-resistant ensures durability
- Advanced engine accelerometer to focus faster, reduce noise, and enhance sharpness
- 36 MP filterless sensor that’s compatible with K-mount lenses
- Astro Tracer extended exposure mode ensures more photography options
- You cannot quickly switch to HD videos
- No data cable/cord is included for file transferring
FAQs About Northern Lights Cameras
1. Do you need a special camera for the Northern Lights?
Ans: Depends on how good you want the photos to be. If you’re happy with blurry, dark, and out-of-focus mobile photos of the northern lights, then no, you don’t need one. But if you’re into photography and you want to capture the scene as you see it, you need a camera specialized in low-light photography. Also, alongside the camera, make sure you get a clear sky to capture amazing aurora photos. They’ll look great on social media like Instagram and Facebook.
2. What color balance should I keep while taking the photos of Aurora?
Ans: Your goal should be to neutralize the color you see on the camera to match with the real sight. So in the Kelvin setting, you should set the white balance to 3000-5000; that should be more than enough for landscape photography.
3. What should be the shutter speed when shooting northern lights?
Ans: It entirely depends on the speed at which the elusive Aurora Borealis is moving. We would recommend a shutter speed of 1-15 seconds, but it will definitely change according to the movement of the Aurora.
4. What ISO should I set for clicking Aurora photos?
Ans: It depends on the brightness of the lights. A range of 500-2000 ISO should be enough to cover the northern lights. That being said, the change in brightness will bring changes in the ISO settings as well.
5. Should I set my camera focus during the day?
Ans: If it’s the first time you’re doing northern lights photography, then we’d suggest setting the camera focus on daylight will save you from a lot of hassle and confusion. Use wide focal lengths, set the f-stop to f/4, or f/2.8 and that’s it!
You can’t expect to click award-winning photos just because you bought the best camera for northern lights photography. It takes time to master the art of capturing one of the most complex natural scenes in the world. That being said, with patience and practice, you can be an expert in this field of work.
We hope our meticulously made list of the top cameras was of help to you. Best of luck on catching the perfect image of the northern lights!