Full-frame cameras are aimed at photographers who want the best image quality possible without resorting to medium format, and the good news is that there’s never been more choice. Read on to find out the best full-frame cameras you can buy right now.
There’s a bit of a buzz around full-frame cameras right now. Panasonic has unveiled two new full-frame models in a fresh ‘S’ system, while Canon and Nikon have both recently launched full-frame mirrorless cameras too. These latter two companies also still offer many full-frame DSLR cameras alongside these, and when you stack them on top of Sony’s extensive range of models along with those from Leica and Pentax, you end up with a varied pool of options at all kinds of price points.
So what makes a full-frame camera so special? Most entry-level and mid-price DSLR and mirrorless cameras sport an APS-C sized sensor, with the physical dimensions of the chip measuring 23.6 x 15.7mm. A full-frame sensor on the other hand has larger dimensions of 36 x 24mm – the same size as a frame of 35mm film, hence the name ‘full-frame’, and offering a surface area 2.5x larger than an APS-C sized sensor.
This allows for larger photosites (pixels to you and I) on the sensor, delivering better light gathering capabilities, which in turn means better image quality – especially at higher sensitivities.
Full-frame DSLRs used to be the preserve of professional photographers, but as the costs have dropped and lower-cost models have started to appear, many serious amateurs and enthusiasts can now enjoy the benefits of full-frame photography.
But it’s no longer just DSLRs that enjoy full-frame sensors. Sony muscled in on the full-frame market with its Alpha A7 range of full-frame mirrorless cameras, and as we’ve just touched upon, both Canon and Nikon have recently launched rival full-frame mirrorless cameras (supplementing but not replacing each company’s DSLR range). Panasonic is the latest company to throw its hat into the same ring, and it seems Sigma will shortly have something for us too.
To get an idea of what kind of DSLR or mirrorless camera you can get at different price points, try Best DSLR and Best mirrorless camera buying guides. Otherwise, here’s our pick of the best full-frame cameras, both DSLR and mirrorless, you can buy right now:
Great value option: Sony Alpha A7 II
A brilliant full-frame option if you’re on a budget
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 117-point AF | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,228K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: Full HD at 50p | User level: Intermediate/expert
Great image quality
Full HD video only
Poor battery life
Our top ten list of best full-frame camera starts just below, but we wanted to highlight a camera that, while it’s not the the latest and greatest, we still think is a great buy. Sony’s Alpha A7 II has since been replaced by the A7 III (which is in our top ten below), but is a great option if you’re on a bit more of a budget, or you want to spend more money on lenses. Still available (as is the even more affordable Alpha A7), the A7 II includes a great 24.2MP full-frame sensor, a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a very capable AF system. Handling isn’t quite as refined though as the newer camera, but for the incredibly tempting price, this can be overlooked. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better full-frame camera for your money right now.
Best full-frame cameras in 2019
1. Nikon Z6
Nikon’s budget full-frame mirrorless option is our pick of the bunch
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.5MP | Autofocus: 273-point AF | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K at 30p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
Solid video and stills quality
Limited buffer depth
Only one card slot
Nikon’s Z6 is one of the newest cameras here and jumps straight in at the top of our best full-frame mirrorless camera chart. It’s our pick thanks for a brilliant blend of features, performance, handling and price. The 24.5MP sensor delivers beautiful results with great color reproduction and fine detail, while the 273-point AF system is more than up to the job. There’s also an impressive 12fps burst shooting mode, sensibly laid-out controls and a lovely large and bright electronic viewfinder. Existing Nikon user? The FTZ adapter means you’ll be able to use your existing F mount lenses too (though check compatibility for older lenses). All this makes the Z6 a brilliant choice for the enthusiast photographer or pro photographer looking for a second body. We can’t wait to see where this system goes from here.
2. Sony Alpha A7 III
One of the best full-frame cameras for the price
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 693-point AF | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/expert
693-point AF system
10fps burst shooting
Limited touchscreen control
Battery life could still be better
The Alpha A7 III might be the entry-level full-frame camera in Sony’s mirrorless range, but it’s no poor relation. This is a brilliant camera for both enthusiasts and professionals thanks to the excellent 24.2MP full-frame sensor, advanced 693-point AF (borrowed from the flagship Alpha A9) and 10fps burst shooting should mean you’ll never miss another shot. It can also shoot uncropped 4K video, features a very good 5-axis image stabilization system and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. Until recently, this has been our pick of the ‘entry-level’ mirrorless cameras, but it’s just been pipped by the Nikon Z6. Still, as a rare winner of a full five stars in our recent review, it’s just as worthy of consideration if you’re not tied to any particular system right now.
3. Nikon D850
The best DSLR we’ve tested
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 45.4MP | Autofocus: 153-point AF, 99 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Live View AF could be faster
SnapBridge still needs work
It may be pricey, but the Nikon D850 is the ultimate full-frame DSLR you can buy right now and possibly the most complete DSLR we’ve ever seen. A bold statement, perhaps, but when you look at the spec, you can see why. The 45.4MP full-frame sensor delivers detail-rich images with brilliant dynamic range and excellent high ISO noise performance, while the advanced 153-point AF system is hard to beat. Add in 7fps burst shooting, a rock-solid build and refined handling and the D850 is pretty much at the top of its game for any subject you want to shoot. A brilliant piece of kit that won’t disappoint.
4. Nikon Z7
The more senior Z-system option adds a whole lot of pixels
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 45.7MP | Autofocus: 493-point AF | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Excellent image quality
XQD cards still pricey
Modest official battery life
Nikon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera along with the Z6, the Z7 is triumph. As a first-generation camera we should expect the odd hiccup, but the Z7 has been crafted with consideration and it behaves far better than we would expect. A solid sensor, combined with effective image stabilization, together with a beautiful EVF, excellent handling, very competent AF performance and great response throughout form the bones of what make this camera such a pleasure to use. The fact that Nikon allows you to use F-mount lenses through the FTZ adapter also makes the journey from DSLR to mirrorless relatively painless if you’ve already built up a collection of lenses.
5. Sony Alpha A7R III
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 42.2MP | Autofocus: 399-point AF | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
10fps at 42.2MP
Fast AF performance
Limited touchscreen control
Battery life could be better
Like the look of the A7 III but want more pixels? Then the 42.2MP Alpha A7R III is the answer. Not only do you get twice the number of pixels, but Sony’s managed to keep the burst rate at 10fps. And while the 399-point AF system isn’t quite as advanced at the 693-point system used in the Alpha A9 and A7 III, it’s still performs brilliantly – especially with the camera’s EyeAF mode that locks onto your subjects eye. Like the Nikon D850 above, the Alpha A7R III means you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain as in a studio or shooting action.
6. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
One of the most capable DSLRs we’ve seen
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Autofocus: 61-point AF, 41 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Advanced AF system
Expensive compared to rivals
4K video options limited
The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything the Mark III offered. This includes a brilliant 30.4MP sensor that delivers pin-sharp results, together with an advanced and sophisticated 61-point AF system, a pro-spec performance, 4K video and some very polished handling. Put this all together, along with a host of other features and it all combines to make the EOS 5D Mark IV one of the best DSLRs we’ve seen. Now overshadowed by the mighty Nikon D850 (above) as our full-frame DSLR of choice.
7. Canon EOS RP
Canon’s second full-frame mirrorless camera impresses
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 26.2MP | Autofocus: 5,655-point AF | Screen type: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
Great value for money
Tiny and light body
Limited native lens selection
4K video limitations
Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R, delighted in some ways and frustrated in others, but the EOS RP made a much more positive impression. While technically a more junior model and not as fully featured, its much smaller and lighter body and nicer price meant that it was far more accessible for those who were hoping to make the jump to mirrorless but didn’t want to stretch all the way to the EOS R. Without only around 4MP difference between the two you’re not really sacrificing much in terms of resolution, while the responsive touchscreen, fast autofocus and deep buffer makes it a pleasure to use in all kinds of situations. Let’s hope Canon fills out the lens range with some smaller and more affordable options, as most current options aren’t quite the most suitable partners.
8. Nikon D750
A full-frame DSLR packed with features for a reasonable price? Yes please
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Autofocus: 51-point AF, 15 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilting, 1,228,800 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
Excellent noise/dynamic range
High performance AF system
Disappointing special effects
Tiltable screen doesn’t fully articulate
By the standard of today’s DSLRs and mirrorless camera, the D750 is somewhat dated. It employs Nikon’s older (but respected) 51-point AF system, for example, and it can’t capture 4K video, only Full HD clips to 60p. It doesn’t even have a touchscreen, but it’s still well worth its place on this list thanks to its excellent build, great handling, solid 24.3MP sensor and affordable price. If you don’t need the tricks of modern DSLRs but you just want something reliable that produces excellent images in good light and bad, this is definitely one to should consider.
9. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Canon’s enthusiast-focused full-frame DSLR gets an overhaul
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 26.2MP | Autofocus: 45-point AF, all cross-type | Screen type: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
Excellent Live View focusing
Refined touchscreen control
Poor dynamic range
Limited AF coverage
Canon has certainly made some significant improvements over the outgoing EOS 6D, packing in a host of new features including a fresh sensor, a faster processor, a much more credible AF system and a stronger burst rate. It’s a much more well-rounded and better specified camera than the EOS 6D, but it’s not without its issues. These niggles dull what is otherwise a very nice full-frame DSLR that’s a pleasure to shoot with. It will certainly please Canon users looking to make the move into full-frame photography, but others might be better served elsewhere.
10. Nikon D5
Nikon’s flagship DSLR has the best AF system we’ve ever seen
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 20.8MP | Autofocus: 173-point AF, 99 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Incredible AF performance
Massive ISO range
4K recording limited to 3mins
The D5 is Nikon’s latest flagship DSLR, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. 20.8 megapixels might seem a bit stingy, but it means the D5 can shoot at 12fps continuous shooting, while the extended ISO range of ISO 3,280,000 has never been seen before in a camera. That’s even before we get to the autofocus system; with a coverage of 173 AF points (99 of which are cross-type), the sophistication and speed of the AF is staggering. The ability to shoot 4K video is restricted to three minutes however, but that aside the D5 is a phenomenal camera that’s used by professionals the world over.
Nothing from the above take your fancy? There are a couple of other options that you may want to look at.
Somewhat first generation in feel but some very impressive features nonetheless
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 225-point AF | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,100,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Very strong video quality
Massive and heavy
While we haven’t yet fully tested the more senior S1R in Panasonic’s fresh S system, we have had enough time with the S1 model positioned beneath it to know what it’s all about. And what we’ve found is that, a few issues aside, it offers some very impressive tech in a supremely rugged body. The 5.7million-dot viewfinder is, without question, the most impressive on the market, while stellar video quality, great image stabilisation and a huge buffer all put a big smile on our face too. It’s somewhat big and heavy, and hampered by one or two ergonomic issues, but as an entry point into a system that’s likely to grow real big real fast, the S1 has an awful lot of pieces in the right place.
Not sure whether to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Check out our guide video below.