Looking for the best full-frame mirrorless camera you can buy right now? What was once a simple task now requires some consideration, because there are many models in what was once a pretty niche market.
Full-frame cameras are renowned for their large sensors, and the superior image quality – particularly for those shot at high ISOs – that usually results. Traditionally, full-frame sensors were found only in the heftier shells of DSLR cameras, until Sony launched the first mirrorless full-frame model, the Alpha A7, back in 2013.
Only in 2018 did the big players decide to enter the fray, as Canon, Nikon and Panasonic all announced mirrorless cameras with full-frame sensors. Now, two years later, buyers are spoilt for choice when it comes to both bodies and lenses. Which is good news, because mirrorless full-frame cameras combine the fabled quality of those larger sensors with the advanced shooting features associated with modern mirrorless cameras.
Want the quick answer? At the moment, we reckon the Nikon Z6 is the best full-frame mirrorless camera you can buy. It offers excellent performance, yet its small, light shell is fantastic to handle – and it’s relatively affordable, too.
Then again, with such a growing crop of capable cameras to choose from, there’s every chance you’ll find something more suitable for your shooting preferences in the list below. The Sony A7 III, for example, is a great all-rounder at a sensible price. And the Canon EOS R5 is shaping up to be a trailblazing, if pricey, all-rounder that could change the game again.
Still, right now, here are the best full-frame mirrorless cameras you can buy.
Best full-frame mirrorless cameras 2021 at a glance:
- Nikon Z6
- Sony Alpha A7 III
- Sony Alpha A7R IV
- Nikon Z7
- Canon EOS RP
- Panasonic S1R
- Sony A9 II
- Canon EOS R
- Sony A7S II
- Panasonic Lumix S1
Best full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2021:
The more junior option to the higher resolution Z7, Nikon's duo of full-frame mirrorless cameras made their debut in summer 2018. It gets our vote because it does pretty much anything the Z7 can do, but for less money. In some ways, it's actually better than the Z7 too - it has a faster burst shooting rate, along with a better setup for video recording, too. Handling is identical since both the bodies use the same construction, so you also get the same excellent viewfinder and useful tilting screen. Another plus point is built-in five-stop image stabilization, which is a huge benefit over Nikon's DSLRs. In fact, just about the only major gripe we have here is the single card slot, which also happens to be XQD in format – but it does mean that the camera will take advantage of the CFexpress format that's likely to go mainstream fairly soon.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 review
Although it may not be the newest camera on this list – far from it – the Sony A7 III remains very much the "Goldilocks" option right now. It offers just the right balance of features and performance at a good value price point. You can expect masses of detail from the 24MP sensor, while low-light performance is also great. The more modest resolution also pays dividends in producing smaller, less data-hungry files, too. Other specifications worth your attention are five-axis image stabilization, and high-quality video recording. You can pick up the Sony A7 III at a fantastic price - it's dropped significantly since its launch, especially with more competition now in the marketplace. Finally, the exhaustive array of Sony lenses available for the E mount should mean that you never struggle to find the right glass for your favorite subjects. We love it.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 III review
The newest of Sony's A7 models, the R in this line stands for "resolution", and you won't find anything higher than this. Indeed, at 61 megapixels, it's pretty much medium format territory. All those juicy pixels give you chance to realize the full optical excellence of Sony's premium G master lenses. This is the fourth iteration of the A7R, and the A7R IV builds on the foundations set out by the very popular A7R, A7R II and A7R III. There's crisp and impressive 4K video, effective five-axis image stabilization and a beautiful 5.76 million-dot viewfinder (the best on the market). Couple all of that with 10fps burst shooting, a hybrid AF system boasting a blistering 567-points, dual card slots, Eye AF and masses more and there's not much to dislike about this model. Battery life has even been improved when compared with the previous model, now offering 530 shots per charge (that's the CIPA rating, so no doubt you'll get even more from it). While we can't help but fall in love with the 61 megapixel files, you're definitely going to need some hefty storage options if you invest in this camera - while if you're computer is on the slow or old side, it may struggle to cope with processing the files. If you're keen to get the detail, but don't have the capacity, budget or supporting tech, it's worth checking out A7R IV's predecessor, which is still on sale.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R IV review
The Z7 is currently the flagship option in Nikon's Z system, with its main draw being a 45.7MP sensor. That's the same as the established and highly respected D850 DSLR, so what exactly does anyone switching from that camera to this one gain? Lots, as it happens: a big, bright and detailed electronic viewfinder; a 2.1 million-dot tilting touchscreen; sensor-based image stabilization, and 4K video recording, all inside a much smaller and lighter body. On top of this you get a 493-point AF system that covers a much larger area of the frame than the D850's, and a very respectable 9fps burst shooting option. We found lots to love when we came to review this camera, and we still rate it just as highly.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 review
An alternative to the flagship EOS R (featured later in this list) that arrived right at the start of Canon's latest mirrorless line, the EOS RP is simply a much better option for many more people right now. While not quite as powerful in some areas, it's smaller, lighter and a heck of a lot cheaper, and it's blessed with very good autofocus, a generous buffer and a great touchscreen that flips out all the way to face the front. It wouldn't be our first choice for video, and the current native lens selection is still somewhat limited, not to mention somewhat incongruous with such a petite body – but you can use masses of EF lenses through an adapter, so it's a no-brainer for existing Canon users looking to make the switch to mirrorless without dropping a fortune in order to do so.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS RP review
The Panasonic S1R has some incredible features. Its High Resolution mode captures images at up to 187MP, the in-body stabilization is extremely effective, and it can capture video at not just 4K, but 4K/60p. The Sony A7R IV has nudged ahead in pure resolution terms, but detail capture is excellent whether you use standard shooting or the multi-exposure High Resolution mode. Size is one obvious hurdle. The Panasonic S1R feels similar in size to a traditional DSLR, therefore losing some of the appeal of mirrorless. Button placement could be a little better too, and low light focusing isn’t as quick or reliable as some rivals. It goes to show how hard the competition is in the full-frame mirrorless sector, but the S1R remains a very impressive camera.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic S1R review
The Olympics may have been postponed due to the global pandemic, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to get treated to a new wave of professional sports cameras – this is Sony's entry into the competitive field. An update on the original Sony A9, it builds on that model's incredible speed and power in a measured rather than mind-blowing way. That said, its dozens of little improvements make it a serious rival to the incoming giants of the sporting sidelines, the Canon 1DX Mark III and Nikon D6. The biggest improvements are the larger, deeper grip – which makes the Sony A9 II much more comfortable to hold for long periods – and the ability to shoot twice as fast as its predecessor. Using the mechanical shutter, the Mark II can rattle off 10 frames per second – not quite as quick as the Canon 1DX Mark III's 20fps, but fast enough for most. The only downers are the limited touchscreen functionality, which remains a curious achilles heel for Sony, and the absence of XQD or CFExpress card slots to help support that speedy burst shooting. But otherwise the Sony A9 II is the most powerful mirrorless camera you can buy and a fine choice for sports and wildlife.
- Read our in-depth Sony A9 II review
Canon's EOS RP, featured earlier in this list, might be the better option for budget-conscious users and those not needing flagship performance, but the EOS R is Canon's most advanced mirrorless camera to date. On top of what the EOS RP offers, it boasts a larger and more detailed electronic viewfinder together with a better LCD screen, a higher-resolution sensor and faster burst shooting. The larger body also better supports the fairly hefty lenses released in the accompanying RF line so far, while the various adapters released by Canon ensure that you can continue using your EF lenses without any issues, with autofocus and auto-exposure working as you'd expect. Until the much-rumored advanced Canon EOS R comes out, this is the best possible option for Canon users who are keen to ditch the DSLR.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS R review
Rumors are growing (yet again) about the possible arrival of a Sony A7S III, though we'll remain dubious until we see official news of that long-awaited camera. In the meantime, the Sony A7S II remains a surprisingly competitive option for those who mainly want to focus video and low-light shooting, despite this model being four-and-half years old. At its heart is a 12.2MP sensor that can be ramped up to ISO102,400 natively and ISO409,600 on its expanded setting, while 4K video captured with full pixel readout and five-axis image stabilization sit alongside. On the downside, its contrast-detect-only AF system and lack of a touchscreen show the camera's age somewhat, although these shortcomings haven't prevented it from remaining a favorite among pro photographers who need that huge dynamic range and superlative low-light performance. If you're keen to wait until the next one is announced, here's everything we know about the Sony A7S III so far.
- Read our in-depth Sony A7S II review
Kicking things off for Panasonic's S series, along with the S1R, the S1 is the more affordable option, but still packs some seriously impressive tech. There's the 24MP full-frame sensor that performs brilliantly when shooting stills and 4K video, together with a sensor-based image stabilization system that does exactly what it should, and does it well. Operation is swift, build quality is excellent, and it's no exaggeration to say that the viewfinder is stunning – it's definitely the best right now (the same unit is inside the S1R). It's just a little too big and heavy, and somewhat awkward to operate at times, while the autofocusing system is a touch behind the competition. But this is still a model that delivers far more to get excited about than many others manage to.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic S1 review
It's neither a DSLR nor a traditional mirrorless option like those listed above, but the M10 is something else to consider if you have a bit of money to spend and you prefer to go about your picture-taking the old-fashioned way. It continues the classic M-series style, rangefinder system of focusing and compatibility with very high-quality M-series lenses enjoyed by many iconic photographers over the years. Sure, you miss out on video recording and a tilting touchscreen – and indeed, autofocus – but then if you need such features, there are many other places to turn.
What to look for in a full-frame mirrorless camera:
Many of these systems are still getting established, so what should you look for? There's obviously the sensor at the heart of the camera, but it's also worth looking at the current lens options available, and what lenses manufacturers have said are in development.
While Sony has been producing full-frame mirrorless options for quite a while now, others in this list are a lot newer to the game. That means that the lens and accessory line-up can be a little more limited - it's worth looking at what's currently available, at well as what is promised for the future.
There's not a lot of point in buying a great camera if the lenses you'd like to use don't exist or are out of your price range. You might also be able to use existing lenses from anything you're currently using, via an adapter, so it's always worth checking out the adapter situation too.
If you capture bursts of images frequently, make sure to check not only the burst rate but also the burst depth – the first spec tells you how many images you can shoot per second, while the second tells you how long you can keep shooting for in terms of the number of frames. Continuous focus may decrease these figures, so look out for that in the spec sheet too.
If you're somebody who shoots burst of images frequently - for example sports and action photographers - make sure you not only check the burst rate, but also the burst depth. The latter specification will indicate how long can you keep shooting for, and is also very important to consider. Continuous focus may decreases these figures, so keep an eye on that in the spec shoot, too.
For video-lovers, you may find that you'll be better served by a camera with a lower-resolution sensor rather than a very high pixel count one. Make sure to also check the shooting options you have in terms of video frame rates, as well as ports for microphones and headphones. If you do a lot of video shooting, you might want to check out our best 4K camera guide for more video-focused suggestions.
The design and resolution of electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and LCD screens vary considerably across these models. Some EVFs are large and detailed, others less so. The LCD screens also sometimes tilt, sometimes swivel and occasionally do neither, although almost all now are touch-sensitive – great for things like setting the focusing point.