Full-frame cameras are aimed at photographers who want the best image quality possible without resorting to medium format cameras. So what's the best full-frame camera right now?
It used to be a fairly easy decision to make, as there were only full-frame DSLRs made by two manufacturers and not many people could afford them. Slowly other brands joined, and full-frame cameras got cheaper and cheaper. Full-frame sensors also started finding themselves inside the odd compact camera too, before Sony and Leica started to bring full-frame mirrorless models to the market.
Today, those manufacturers are joined by the likes of Canon, Nikon and Panasonic in the mirrorless market, and all are now racing to get their systems populated with tempting camera bodies and lots of lens options. There's no doubt that full-frame photography is not only more exciting than ever, but more accessible too.
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.
Top 5 full-frame cameras
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.
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 II review
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 review
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
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 in large part to the excellent 24.2MP full-frame sensor. The advanced 693-point AF has been borrowed from the flagship Alpha A9, while the 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 also packs 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.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 III review
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
Not cheap by any measure, but as soon as you pick it up and start shooting with it you see just how much camera you're getting for your money. The D850 is a superbly built, reliable DSLR that produces excellent high-resolution stills and cracking video to boot. The AF system is fast and accurate, while battery life is far higher than what most mirrorless cameras can manage too. Add to that a huge assortment of lenses that stretch back decades and you start to see just how versatile a camera it is, whether you're shooting landscapes or still life right through to sports and events. Pros love it – and so do we.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D850 review
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 review
5. Sony Alpha A7R III
Sony's megapixel monster
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R III review
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review
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
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, together with a far nicer price, means that it's 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.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS RP review
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
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, the D750 is well worth considering – particularly at this price.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D750 review
9. Panasonic S1R
Fancy taking 187MP images? The S1R delivers that and a whole lot more
Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 47.3MP | 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
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. The 47.3MP sensor has the highest number of pixels on any full-frame mirrorless camera too, but its main party trick 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 where necessary. 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
10. 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
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.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 6D Mark II review
Nothing from the above take your fancy? There are a couple of other options that you may want to look at.
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
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.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D5 review
Hands down the best mirrorless camera for sports and action
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame back-illuminated stacked CMOS | Lens mount: Sony FE | Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Autofocus: 693-point AF | Video: 4K | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth | Battery life: 480 shots | Weight: 673g
The A9 may now be two years old, but for sports and action shooters it's still pretty much the best option around. Part of that is down to the core specs, which include a superb 693-point AF system, a huge buffer, oversampled 4K video recording and 20fps burst shooting with no viewfinder blackout. But another reason is because of how Sony has continued to support it throughout its lifetime, recently blessing it with firmware that radically improves the stickiness of the autofocus system. The camera is capable of not just keeping an excellent lock on subjects as they move around, but also maintaining this as obstacles present themselves, and that huge buffer lets you keep shooting for extended periods of time. It's not cheap, but if you're shooting action, you won't find a better mirrorless body right now.
- Read our in-depth Sony A9 review
Not sure whether to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Check out our guide video below.