Best Camera For Long Exposure Photography

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Long exposure photography can be a lot of fun and produce some of the most compelling and epic images.

The best part is that it can be done without a really expensive professional-level camera as long as you have a good set of neutral density filters.

But you came here looking for the best cameras for long exposure photography, so here are the options I would recommend based on your specific use and needs.

All of the cameras below have the functions necessary to take long exposure photos (manual shutter, bulb mode, ability to add ND filters).

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Best Overall
Sony A7RIII

Budget Option For Canon Shooters
Canon EOS M200

Budget Option For Nikon Shooters
Nikon Z50

Budget Option For Sony Shooters
Sony a6400

Runner Up
Nikon Z6

Super Compact Option
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII

Best Overall | Sony A7RIII

Even though I usually use Nikon gear, this camera has me a little jealous, especially when it comes to shooting landscapes like long-exposure images. A favorite of pro landscape photographers, the Sony A7RIII has everything you need to create epic images.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • 61.2MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor
  • Powerful yet easy-to-use AF tracking system
  • 10 fps burst shooting (JPEG or Compressed Raw from 12-bit readout)
  • 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder
  • CIPA rated to 315 shots per charge, USB charging
  • 4 or 16-shot high resolution modes (up to 240MP images for static subjects)

Let’s just get this mirrorless/DSLR debate out of the way before we get too deep into this list. They’re both just ways to put a body around an image sensor. Neither one has anything to do with image quality…that’s all about the sensor.

But, if you are investing in a new camera right now, it looks like all the innovation when it comes to new cameras and (more importantly) new lenses is going into the mirrorless lineups for each manufacturer. So I do think that mirrorless is the way to go with a new camera, not because they are “game changers” or “revolutionary” or any nonsense like that, but because you want to be able to upgrade your lenses in the future and you’ll have better options going forward with a mirrorless system.

Now let’s talk about the Sony A7RIII.

One of the big knocks on Sony cameras when it came to outdoor and landscape photography is that they fell short of Canon and Nikon in the build quality. However, the fourth generation of the A7R really improved on the ruggedness of the body compared to prior models.

The biggest draw of the A7RIV when it comes to shooting long exposures is the massive 61.2 megapixel sensor. High resolution is a big deal when shooting any kind of landscape photos.

One feature that can be really helpful for shooting long exposures is the Imaging Edge Mobile app. That lets you control the camera from your smartphone and set long exposure timers all without having to touch the camera.

I can’t count how many remote timers I’ve lost. They’re tiny, fall to the bottom of your camera bag, and disappear without a trace. So having that control built into your smartphone makes things a lot easier.

Overall, this is one of the best landscape cameras out there so if you are planning to shoot a lot of long exposures and want the highest quality, most megapixels possible, cameras on the market, then the Sony A7Riii deserves a real close look.

Budget Option For Canon Shooters | EOS M200

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • Compact for travel, good megapixels, upgradeable lens system with Canon’s newest lenses
  • 24MP APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus
  • Face and eye detect autofocus
  • 3″ tilting touchscreen
  • CIPA rated to 315 shots per charge, USB charging
  • Wi-FI and Bluetooth

Canon has stepped up its mirrorless offerings recently and the M200 is a great affordable option for those of you that want to get into landscape shooting but don’t want to break the bank.

This camera sports a lot of features that make it a great affordable option for taking on hikes and photo trips where you may want to shoot some long exposure photos.

To start with, it is very compact, light, and portable. The body by itself is a little larger than a deck of cards. You can get it with a 15-45mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens that is also pretty compact. It’s not a perfect lens by any means but its pretty good considering the price and compactness.

One downside compared to some of the other options on this list is that it doesn’t have a lot of physical buttons and dials to control your exposure. This makes it a little less usable out in the field, especially when you need to make some quick exposure adjustments. However, the touch screen is pretty solid and you can control a lot of the camera features using the screen.

Budget Option For Nikon Shooters | Nikon Z50

The Nikon Z50 is Nikon’s crop sensor mirrorless body. It’s not as much of a budget option as the Canon EOS M200, but for now, it is the most affordable entry into the Nikon mirrorless system.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • Compact for travel, upgradeable lens system with Nikon’s newest mirrorless lenses
  • 21MP APS-C sensor
  • Face and eye detect autofocus
  • 3″ tilting touchscreen that folds down 180 degrees for shooting or filming yourself
  • CIPA rated to 320 shots per charge, USB charging
  • Wi-FI and Bluetooth

It sports the Nikon Z Mount, which means it looks kind of huge on the small Z50 body but also means that you can upgrade to the more expensive full frame Z lenses before investing in a full frame Z body like the Z7 for your landscape photography.

In my opinion, the new Z mount is the biggest draw to the Nikon Z series of mirrorless cameras. It is the widest and closest to the sensor among it’s Canon and Sony competitors. This allows Nikon a lot of flexibility when it comes to engineering new lenses which will result in some of the best quality lenses out there.

The Z50 is a solid all-around performer as well. It’s a crop sensor camera but it handles low light pretty well.

The best part about the Nikon Z50 is that Nikon made sure to design the ergonomics the same way they do for their higher end full-frame cameras. This is one of the few mirrorless crop sensor cameras I have used that fits well in my hand and doesn’t feel like I am going to drop it.

The body is pretty rugged as well compared to other similarly priced crop sensor cameras.

The 20 MP sensor falls short of the 24 MP sensors in the Sony a6400 and the Canon M200, however, I think fewer sensors in the same area give you a little more dynamic range which can be very helpful when shooting long exposures as they often require more range than your average snapshot.

The overall image quality is excellent. Nikon is well known for their color science and this camera is no exception.

So whether you are looking for your first interchangable lens camera or looking to add a backup to your full frame Nikon, the Z50 is an excellent and relatively affordable option.

Budget Option For Sony Shooters | a6400

The Sony a6400 is a few models from the most recent a6600, but since Sony puts out new cameras at a breakneck pace, it isn’t outdated at all and gives you a tremendous amount of capability for much less than the newer crop sensor models from Sony.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • 24MP APS-C sensor
  • 425-pt phase detection AF system with Real-Time Tracking
  • Tilting screen, 180° up, 90° down
  • 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Interval shooting option added
  • 410 shots per battery charge (per CIPA)
  • Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth

Sony’s crop sensor cameras are more expensive than most. But if you are looking for a budget model, go back a couple of models from the latest a6600 and take a look at the a6400. You’ll get 90% of the capability at a lower price.

Sony is definitely the current leader in innovation and other brands like Nikon use Sony sensors in their own cameras, so you know you are getting a high quality camera when you buy a Sony.

The 24 MP sensor is very good for a crop sensor. It has good dynamic range and low light performance.

In my opinion, the Sony cameras don’t do as well with color rendering as Nikon or Canon, but they are getting better. With the a6400 being an older model, it isn’t as good in this department. But for anyone but the most critical eye, you won’t even notice a difference.

The big downside to the Sony crop sensor cameras for me is the ergonomics and handling.

They are smaller but just don’t fit in your hand as well as other similar cameras like the Nikon Z50 and they aren’t as well weather sealed as the full frame Sony cameras. So if you take this camera out in bad weather, be sure to cover it up.

Sony also catches a lot of criticism for their menu system. I think it’s fine once you get used to it, but users switching over from a Canon or Nikon may find it quite frustrating.

Overall, the Sony a6400 is going to give you excellent image quality for your long exposure shooting, even though it’s ease of use may fall a little short.

Runner Up | Nikon Z6

So why the Z6 and not the Z7? While it has fewer megapixels, the Z6 is much more affordable and more versatile as an overall camera. However, if you are really keen on maximizing the megapixels then the Z7 is also a great camera.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • 24.5MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
  • Hybrid autofocus system w/273 phase-detect points
  • Up to 12 fps burst shooting (Raw + JPEG)
  • 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
  • 2.1M-dot tilting touch LCD
  • OLED top plate display
  • Single XQD card slot
  • SnapBridge Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth

If 42 MP is overkill for you and you are looking for something a little more affordable but that still will give you professional-level quality, the Nikon Z6 is a great option.

The Z6 is kind of Nikon’s mirrorless version of the D750 (a camera I have used as a professional photogrpaher for years and still use now).

That makes this an all around camera that does everything well. The lower resolution means more dynamic range, faster burst shooting (not that you would need that for long exposures), and files that are more manageable if you don’t have a high end photo editing computer.

That versatility is the main reason I am recommending the Z6 here.

Most of us that like shooting long exposures also want to shoot other things (including things that aren’t landscapes and don’t require 40+ MP). So having that versatility is more valuable to most of us than having a high res specialty camera.

The Z6 is also quite capable with video too if you’re interested in dipping your toes in that pool.

The rugged build and weather sealing also make this a great camera for taking anywhere with you.

Lastly, it uses the Nikon Z mount, which, like I said above, is the most exciting mount out there (at least for us nerds that get excited about things like camera mounts).

So you know know that you’ll have great lens options moving forward.

Super Compact Option | Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 VII

While the Sony RX100 VII actually costs more than some of the crop sensor interchangeable lens cameras above, what you are getting for that price is an ultra-compact camera that is easy to take with you anywhere and still get high-quality images.

Click below to compare prices and check availability…

Specs

  • 20MP 1″-type stacked-CMOS sensor with phase detection and built-in DRAM
  • 24-200mm equivalent F2.8-4.5 zoom
  • Retractable 2.36M-dot EVF with 0.59x equiv. magnification
  • 3″ touchscreen LCD (flips up 180° or down by 90°)
  • Intervalometer
  • Wi-Fi with Bluetooth and NFC

While the prospect of only having to carry with you a super compact camera for those long exposure opportunities, they do pose a significant hurdle to long exposure photography. Most such cameras don’t have built in filter threads.

While the Sony RX100 VII is no exception to that (it has no filter threads), it is an exceptionally high-quality compact camera with a 20MP 1″ sensor that makes it ideal for keeping your bag light on excursions AND you can get a very inexpensive adapter that lets you add filters to the camera.

The Lensmate Quickchange Filter Adapter Kit let’s you easily add any 52mm filter to the front of either the RX100 VI or the RX100 VII.

CLICK HERE to check it out on Amazon.

So while the Sony RX100 VII does fall short of the other options on this list, it makes up for that by being compact enough that you can always have it with you.

What To Look For In A Camera For Long Exposure Photography

Long exposure photography is basically just a form of landscape photography, so much of what you want in a camera for these types of images will be the same things that any landscape photographer is looking for.

Here are some of the most important factors.

Resolution

Any time you are shooting a landscape image, more resolution is a bonus.

More megapixels means that you can make larger prints without losing quality, you can crop in more for compelling compositions, and the overall image quality tends to be better in general when you have more pixels to play with in post-production.

Of course, more megapixels comes with a higher price tag, so you need to balance that out with your budget.

I have found that the 24 MP range is plenty to get very high quality images in almost all situations. Of course the 40+ MP beasts like our top pick here will give you a lot more flexibility and detail, but often it can be overkill.

Durability and Handling

If you are taking your camera out on hikes and excursions to find that next epic long exposure composition, then you need a camera that can stand up to the elements and stand up to human clumsiness too.

Build quality, weather sealing, and overall durability is important for any landscape photographer.

Good handling (or ergonomics) in a camera means that it is easy to hold and easy to access the features you need without digging into the menus on the camera.

That’s why higher end cameras have more buttons and dials. You want to be able to make changes quickly and intuitively when you are out in the field.

Portability

Long exposure photography often means carrying your camera gear to a location.

Which makes a lighter, more compact camera a great option. All of the cameras on this list are relatively compact and easy to take with you on yoru next excursion. But some are more compact than others.

The higher quality cameras and lens systems are always going to be bigger so you need to balance that out with the portability factor.

Price

We can’t talk about cameras without talking about price.

A new camera is an investment, so you need to figure out how much you are willing to invest.

I tried to give you a good range of price options above.

For the most part you get what you pay for but all of the cameras above will allow you to create compelling long exposure images.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is long exposure bad for a camera?

No, long exposure is not bad for a camera. Cameras, especially higher end cameras, are designed to handle exposures of many minutes without experiencing any harm. However, once your exposures reach over a few minutes, you may start to see “hot pixels” in the resulting image. This doesn’t mean there is any damage to the sensor but it’s not ideal to have in your image.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.
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