Best full-frame DSLR: 8 cameras from Canon, Nikon and Sony compared

Top pro and consumer models rated

Best full frame DSLR

Price: £1,900/US$2,800/AU$3,380 (body only)
Specs: 36.3MP, Full HD video: 1080p, 51-point AF, ISO 50-25600

Weighing in at exactly a kilo, the Nikon D800 is about a third heavier than the Canon 6D and feels more robust than the slightly smaller D600. Classed as a professional body, it has a tough magnesium alloy build and controls that will be instantly familiar to users of Nikon's more upmarket cameras.

These include dedicated buttons for image quality, bracketing, ISO and white balance, all built into the top of the drive mode dial.

In keeping with the Nikon D3x, D4 and other professional Nikon bodies, shooting modes such as P,A,S,M can be cycled through using a separate 'mode' button, while scene modes are omitted.

Unlike the D3x and D4, though, the Nikon D800 retains a pop-up flash, with versatile controls for use as a wireless commander with remote flashguns. Also unlike the more exotic D3x and D4, there are no duplicated shooting buttons for comfortable portrait-orientation shooting, but this gives the advantage of a more compact, lightweight build.

Best full frame DSLR

There's plenty of crystal clarity from the class-leading 36.3MP sensor, with an Expeed 3 image processor. Coupled with a top-quality lens, the Nikon D800 can produce extraordinary levels of detail.

Naturally, the potential drawbacks of ultra-high resolution sensors are an increase in image noise and a decrease in dynamic range, but the D800 scores fairly well in both areas. Even so, there's no getting around the increased data size of its very high-resolution images. Continuous drive mode is sluggish, with a maximum rate of just 4fps.

Autofocus is super-fast and unerringly accurate, based on the same 51-point AF sensor that's fitted to the Nikon D4. This includes 15 cross-type points, which really come into their own for focusing on tricky targets or in very low light conditions.

As with the other Nikon cameras on test, metering is uncannily accurate even in difficult conditions, and works very well with Active D-Lighting for taming high-contrast scenes.

Outdoor images

Best full frame DSLR

A little less exuberant than the Nikon D600, contrast and colour rendition tend towards accuracy rather than punchiness on the Nikon D800.


Best full frame DSLR

Thanks in part to its 36.3MP sensor, the D800 reigns supreme in the resolution stakes, claiming the highest scores in the group.


Best full frame DSLR
ISO 6400

Image noise is slightly more visible in the Nikon D800's images than in the D600's at ISO 3200, while retention of fine detail isn't quite as good.

Colour error

Best full frame DSLR

Very good overall, accuracy is impressive and saturation tends to be a little more modest and natural than with the D600.

Image test verdict

A good compromise between natural and punchy images, the D800 delivers pleasing results. There's certainly no lack of image resolution.

Read our Nikon D800 review