Searching for the best full-frame camera? This is the list for you. From DSLR cameras to flagship mirrorless models, we’ve tested all of the top full-frame options from the biggest names in photography. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or upgrading from an older model, the buying guide below features our pick of the very best full-frame cameras you can buy in 2021.
There are many reasons why you might want to buy a full-frame camera. As the name suggests, the primary advantage is sensor size. Pro photographers have long favored the superlative image quality and low-light performance you get from a full-frame sensor, which is significantly larger than what you’ll find in APS-C and Micro Four Thirds models.
But the full-frame format is no longer reserved for professionals. From Canon and Nikon to Sony and Panasonic, a whole host of manufacturers are competing to deliver more advanced, better value full-frame cameras. As a result, there's never been more choice when it comes to picking your perfect full-frame camera.
Right now, our top pick for the title of best full-frame camera is the Canon EOS R6. It launched in 2020, together with the pricier Canon EOS R5. Both are at the forefront of the company’s full-frame resurgence, laying down a benchmark for rivals to match. Its 20MP resolution might not be the biggest, but the R6 is pretty much the complete package for stills photographers, thanks to outstanding autofocus and excellent in-body image stabilization.
That said, there could be another option that’s better suited to your needs. If you’re a Nikon fan, for example, you might prefer the Z6 II – a polished full-frame all-rounder which ticks all the performance boxes. It’s a close rival to the R6, delivering fantastic image quality and top-notch handling. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an entry-level full-frame camera, the Nikon Z5 is a solid choice.
Equally, the likes of Sony, Panasonic and Leica all have plenty to offer, depending on your particular requirements. The recently released Sony A1, for example, offers world-beating performance with a price tag to match. Similarly, Leica’s Q2 Monochrom delivers a uniquely brilliant black-and-white experience, for those who can afford it. Or if you’re looking for a full-frame camera with a compact body, the Panasonic Lumix S5 squeezes impressive video specs into a smaller shell.
The list below features recommendations to cover all bases and budgets. There are 8K mirrorless models for videographers, full-frame DSLRs for those who crave their fabled handling, and high-end flagships to suit those who simply want the best. Each and every camera featured below has been picked because it offers a brilliant full-frame photography experience. So whatever you want from a full-frame camera, this buying guide will help you find it.
Best full-frame cameras in 2021:
A more affordable version of the powerhouse EOS R5, Canon’s EOS R6 might well become Canon’s most popular camera – and for good reason. An ergonomic design means the R6 is comfortable for all-day use and, paired with Canon’s outstanding first effort at in-body image stabilization, proves an absolute pleasure to shoot with.
Its video specs can’t rival the R5’s 8K skills, but shooting 4K/60p across the full width of the sensor is hardly shabby. In any case, Canon has made clear the EOS R6 is a stills camera first and foremost. And it’s an excellent one: 12fps mechanical burst speeds jump to 20fps when you switch to the electronic shutter, while the addition of Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus to the 20.1MP sensor results in a significant improvement to autofocus and tracking performance.
The EOS R6's sensor resolution won’t grab headlines and JPEG dynamic range can be a little disappointing, with a lack of detail in highlights and shadows, but overall image quality is still darn good. There’s no question that the EOS R6 represents a massive upgrade from the EOS 6D Mark II – or even the EOS R and EOS RP – though its performance doesn’t come cheap.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS R6 review
With a great blend of performance, handling and value, the Nikon Z6 was one of our favorite full-frame mirrorless cameras. The Z6 II takes that very capable base and smooths out a few wrinkles to deliver an even more polished shooting experience.
Unchanged is the 24.5MP CMOS sensor, which continues to capture excellent detail and plenty of dynamic range. The main addition is a second EXPEED 6 image processor, which boosts burst shooting to a maximum of 14fps and improves autofocus performance. Video has also been enhanced, with a firmware update due in February 2021 set to unlock 4K capture at 60p, to compliment the new 10-bit HLG HDR output option.
In the hand, magnesium alloy body parts, weather sealing and a comfy grip make the Z6 II feel more durable than rivals, while a new UHS-II SD card slot resolves one of its predecessor’s key weaknesses. Though the updates might seem relatively modest, the Z6 II is an even more competent all-rounder as a result, making it the most consistent full-frame camera you can buy.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 II review
As its spec sheet confirms, the new Canon EOS R5 is an incredibly powerful tool. In fact, it’s Canon’s best mirrorless camera to date. The 45MP full-frame sensor is exceptional, producing superlative images in low light, with fantastic noise-handling even past ISO 4000.
Next-gen Dual Pixel autofocus, backed up by Canon’s Digic X processor, is similarly excellent, with outstandingly accurate tracking and animal detection skills that will blow away safari shooters. The electronic shutter also delivers rapid 20fps continuous shooting, completing a package that’s as capable on the street as it is in the studio.
Less solid are its hybrid credentials: while it’s hard to ignore 8K footage at up to 30fps – and 4K at up to 120fps – the R5’s versatility for videographers is limited by heat restrictions on recording times, with long ‘cool down’ periods. What’s more, the EOS R5 represents a serious investment, especially if you shell out for the speedy CFexpress cards needed to unlock its ultimate performance. But if money is no object, it’s arguably the top full-frame option for stills photographers.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS R5 review
It might seem like a modest upgrade over the original Z7, but this second-generation of Nikon’s mirrorless model features just enough tweaks to make it a compelling proposition.
Physically it’s very familiar, retaining the excellent form factor and handling of the Z7. Also the same is the 45.7MP full-frame sensor we raved about before, which continues to deliver sharp detail from edge to edge, as well as class-leading dynamic range. One of the key revisions is processing power: twin Expeed 6 chips serve up speedier all-round performance, with improved autofocus, including quick and reliable eye-detection AF.
Deeper buffers mean 10fps burst rates can be sustained for longer, while a pair of SD/CFexpress card slots enhance versatility. Video features have been improved, too, with internal 4K 60fps and Full HD 120fps now possible. Sure, it might not tread much new ground, but aggressive pricing adds to the appeal of the Z7 II, as does a growing catalogue of Z system lenses and accessories. If you’re looking to switch from a Nikon DSLR, it’s well worth considering.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 II review
Remarkable in every respect, the Sony A1 is all the camera you could ever want – provided you’ve got deep pockets. Its 50.1MP full-frame sensor delivers image quality that’s second-to-none, backed up by ultra-rapid autofocus and blistering burst speeds. Besides capturing incredibly detailed high-resolution stills, it can also shoot 8K raw video at 30fps, while pro connectivity options allow for high-speed workflows. Physically, the A1 is a familiar, well-balanced blend of the best bits from Sony’s A7 and A9 series models, complimented by a 9.44-million-dot OLED EVF which more than makes up for the average screen. If you can get to grips with the slightly complex menu system, the A1’s outstanding skills set a new benchmark for mirrorless performance – whether you’re shooting studio portraits, sports action or wildlife footage. There are specialist cameras which offer better value, but for the ultimate in full-frame versatility, the Sony A1 is top of the pile.
- Read our in-depth Sony A1 review
Combining a full-frame sensor with a compact but ergonomic body, the Lumix S5 shows that Panasonic has learnt lessons from its early full-frame mirrorless models.
At its heart is the same 24.2MP sensor found in the S1, which we already know is capable of producing fantastic imagery. Paired with improved autofocus, a fully articulating touchscreen and the option to shoot uncropped 4K at 30p – plus 10-bit internally – the Lumix S5 makes an excellent travel camera for vloggers and stills photographers alike.
There are, of course, a few compromises as a result of its smaller, lighter body: the 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder offers less than half the resolution of the S5’s older siblings, while the maximum continuous frame rate is fairly pedestrian at 7fps. Plus some of the larger L Mount lenses significantly increase the size of the whole system.
All the same, the Lumix S5 is an extremely functional full-frame hybrid. It’s comfortable to shoot with and capable of producing excellent results in a range of lighting conditions, yet takes up less satchel space than the GH5.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix S5 review
The A7R IV is the studio-friendly camera in Sony’s full-frame line-up, albeit one that's just as at home shooting action or landscapes. It has an extremely high resolution 61-megapixel sensor, up from 42.4 megapixels in the last version. Such a high pixel count lets the camera retrieve incredible amounts of detail when mounted to a sturdy tripod, in controlled lighting. Noise predictably creeps in more quickly than in a lower-resolution full-frame model, but this is an excellent all-round camera. And while it demands careful shooting for the best results, effective stabilization means it still works well handheld. 4K video quality is great too, aside from some rolling shutter effect.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R IV review
It was a long time coming, but the Sony A7S III was well worth the wait for video shooters. A complete overhaul of its predecessor, this video-focused full-framer brings a new articulating touchscreen, touch interface, full-sized HDMI port and improved in-body image stabilization. Perhaps most importantly, the combination of a new back-illuminated 12.1MP full-frame sensor and Bionz XR processor delivers hugely impressive image quality, particularly at high ISOs, plus a powerful autofocus system that gives you more granular control than before. Yes, that 12.1MP resolution is a touch on the low side for stills shooters, but the A7S III certainly shouldn't be discounted as a hybrid camera, particularly if you mainly take photos for social media or thumbnails for your video content.
- Read our in-depth Sony A7S III review
A dead-ringer for the Nikon Z6 (above), Nikon’s latest large-sensor effort is the best entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera on the market. As a beginner’s option, it ticks a lot of boxes. Its weather-sealed body features a big, comfy grip and a neat control layout that’s accessible in the hand, with a 3-inch tilting touchscreen that makes menu navigation a cinch. The 24.2MP full-frame sensor inside serves up lovely images in a range of shooting scenarios, while the large, bright EVF is fantastic for framing shots. Autofocus is very impressive, too, with the 273-point hybrid system working well for both static and moving subjects. There are some compromises, though: the 4.5fps burst speed is underwhelming, while a 1.7x crop on 4K footage is disappointing. And if you regularly shoot in low-light, the back-illuminated sensor of the Z6 performs better at higher ISOs. Still, the Z5 delivers plenty for those looking for their first full-frame camera – provided you have a healthy budget. It’s pricier than several rivals and, as the cost of the older but more capable Z6 continues to fall, buyers will have a tricky choice to make.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z5 review
The A7 III has become a firm favorite among enthusiasts and pros these last few years, and for good reason. In contrast to the more niche A7R IV and A7S II, the A7 III is a camera for everyone, whether they shoot stills or videos, action or static subjects, indoors or out.
The sensor has a modest 24MP resolution, but its backlit design makes for better light gathering, while the advantage of sensor-based stabilization means you don't need to worry about this being in your lenses, which is something many other mirrorless cameras don't have as standard.
Add to that a 710-shot battery life – impressive for a mirrorless camera – a slew of video-specific features and the EyeAF feature for tack-sharp portraits and you have yourself quite some camera, despite its relative old age. The rumors of a Sony A7 IV successor are growing, though, so it might be wise to hold fire for now.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 III review
Don’t believe the naysayers: the DSLR isn’t dead and the Nikon D780 proves it. One of the best full-frame cameras you can buy, it delivers a fantastic shooting experience that should appeal to fans of DSLR handling, while also offering many modern features familiar to mirrorless users. Its sturdy, water-resistant magnesium alloy body might be big and heavy, but the trade-off is a satisfyingly chunky grip. Image quality from the D780’s full-from 24.5MP sensor is truly fantastic, too, aided by Nikon’s EXPEED 6 image processor. Exposures are nicely balanced, courtesy of a metering and scene recognition system borrowed from the D850, while the 273-point on-chip phase detection system – as used by the mirrorless Z6 – ensures fast and reliable autofocus performance when using Live View on the tilting touchscreen. The lack of in-body image stabilization is a shame, but superlative battery life rounds out what is a superb – if pricey – full-frame all-rounder.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D780 review
The S1R offers some very impressive tech in a supremely rugged body. The 5.7million-dot viewfinder is, without question, the most impressive on the market right now, while stellar video quality, great image stabilisation and a huge buffer all put a big smile on our face too. At the time of its release, the 47.3MP sensor had the highest number of pixels on any full-frame mirrorless camera too, although it's now been beaten by the Sony A7R IV. Its main party trick, however, is the ability to output 187MP images; quite how often you'll need to print your images to the size of a small country is another matter, but this clearly gives you massive scope for extreme cropping, enlargements to all sizes and homing in on the smaller details in the scene. We have some reservations with the autofocus system, and it's a little on the beefy side too, but for its combination of build, features and overall execution, the S1R scores many points.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic S1R review
The main mirrorless rival to the incoming Canon 1DX Mark III and Nikon D6 for pro sports photographers, the Sony A9 II builds on the considerable foundation laid by its predecessor, adding dozens of improvements that collectively make it a one of the best cameras we've tested. The main improvements are its deeper grip and boosted 10fps burst shooting with the mechanical shutter. These are added to the refined 693-point AF system, which now offers even better subject tracking than the original Sony A9 and is perfect for sports and wildlife. It's not cheap, of course, but if you're an action fan, you won't find a better mirrorless camera than this.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A9 II review
Leica’s most mainstream mirrorless camera to date, the SL2 still offers a look and feel like no other full-frame mirrorless camera.
It’s a weighty beast, but a redesigned handgrip and control panel layout promise excellent ergonomics, complimented by a minimalist array of unmarked, fully customizable buttons and a refreshed user interface. It handles comfortably and feels wonderfully premium, with a distinctive shell milled from durable aluminum and magnesium alloy.
There’s been an even greater overhaul on the inside: the Leica SL2 gets a new 47MP sensor, a new Maestro III processor, a new 225-point autofocus system and a new EVF. It all makes for a package that’s as fast and accurate as any of its Japanese rivals, delivering crisp images, plenty of dynamic range and excellent color reproduction.
Add sensor-shift in-body image stabilization into the mix, together with 5K footage at 30p and full-width 4K DCI and UHD at 50p, and the SL2 shapes up as an impressively versatile tool. The price reflects both the camera’s quality and that undeniable Leica experience – but the SL2 is also refreshingly accessible, and delivers some pretty special results.
- Read our in-depth Leica SL2 review
For most people, the Leica Q2 Monochrom makes no sense. It only shoots in black and white, yet costs more than its very capable and full-color Q2 cousin – which means it’s extremely expensive. But in the slim niche that it occupies, the Q2 Monochrom is also an outstanding camera.
If you’ve long lusted after Leica machinery, it represents a more affordable option than an M10 or M10 Monochrom. Despite its compact shell, the Q2 Monochrom is heavy in the hand, with a solid build that oozes class. Its matte black body and minimalist control interface are Leica hallmarks, yet an intuitive menu system, together with ‘modern’ features such as autofocus and Wi-Fi, make shooting and sharing simpler. The Q2 Monochom’s unique combination of a 47.3MP full-frame sensor with a fixed focal length Leica Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens produces exceptional results.
With no color array and no interpolation algorithm, still images have an outstanding purity. There’s significantly less noise than standard cameras, so it’s safe to shoot at the maximum ISO of 6400 in everyday scenarios, making the Q2 Monochrom perfectly suited to street photography. The ‘standard’ Q2 is more mainstream, but if black and white is your bag, the Q2 Monochrom certainly makes a statement.
- Read our in-depth Leica Q2 Monochrom review
Looking for something a bit cheaper? Here's a great value full-frame option:
When the original EOS 6D launched, it offered the best bang for your buck and that trend continues with the second generation DSLR – the EOS 6D Mark II still offers an an excellent entry into the full-frame market. Released in 2017, it has a significant bump in features over it's predecessor, including a higher sensor resolution at 26.2MP, a better autofocus system with 45 cross-type AF points, 6.5fps burst speed and introduces touchscreen functionality to the 6D line. Performance in the real world is smooth and you won't find much to complain about in terms of image quality. And you get all that for around $1,500 / £1,349 / AU$1,999, which is very good value for money.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 6D Mark II review
Not sure whether to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Check out our guide video below.