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Best full-frame camera 2020: the 12 best premium DSLRs and mirrorless cameras

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re searching for the best full-frame camera you can buy, this is the list you need. We’ve rigorously tested all of the latest and greatest full-frame models to find the top options for every kind of photographer. Whether you’re in the market for your first serious camera, upgrading from an APS-C model or simply looking for the ultimate large-sensor option, you’ll discover your ideal camera in the buying guide below.

Compared to APS-C, Micro Four Thirds and compact cameras, the main advantage of the full-frame format is sensor size: with more space on the sensor, pixels are larger and can gather more light. That translates into outstanding image quality in low light and at higher ISO sensitivities.

Once the preserve of pro photographers, full-frame cameras now enjoy much broader appeal. The advent of full-frame mirrorless models, with advanced features such as autofocus across the entire frame, has ignited a fierce competition between manufacturers. Sony and Panasonic have launched a range of options to rival the best efforts of the old guard, with Nikon and Canon also enjoying a full-frame resurgence.

Canon has cemented its commitment to the genre with the announcement of the high-performance Canon EOS R5 and R6 this year, while Nikon continues to develop its line-up with the likes of the entry-level Nikon Z5. We comprehensively test all of the latest releases and regularly update this list to include the top contenders.

Our current favorite full-frame mirrorless camera is the Nikon Z6. Combining excellent performance and a range of features in a light body, it’s one of the most versatile options on the market. It’s a good choice for video, too, and the price is reasonable considering everything it offers.

That said, there might be a model in the list below that’s better suited to your expectations and experience. Such is the pace of change in the full-frame market that models from just a year ago now offer outstanding value, such as the Canon EOS RP and Sony A7 III. Read our full buying guide and you’re sure to find the best full-frame camera for your needs and budget.

Best full-frame cameras 2020 at a glance:

  1. Nikon Z6
  2. Sony Alpha A7 III
  3. Sony Alpha A7R IV
  4. Sony A7S III
  5. Canon EOS R5
  6. Nikon Z5
  7. Nikon D780
  8. Nikon Z7
  9. Canon EOS RP
  10. Panasonic S1R
  11. Nikon D850
  12. Sony A9 II

Best full-frame cameras in 2020:

Nikon Z6

1. Nikon Z6

All the goodness of Nikon's DSLRs and a heap of extra tech on top

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 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
Excellent handling
Limited buffer depth
Only one card slot

Nikon's Z6 was the first of two cameras in Nikon's Z system, and while it's no longer the newest model around, it retains its spot at the top of our best full-frame camera list. It's our pick thanks to 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 works very well and has excellent frame coverage. There's also an impressive 12fps burst shooting mode, sensibly laid-out controls, and a large, 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.

Sony A7 III

(Image credit: Future)

2. Sony A7 III

One of the best full-frame cameras for the price

Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 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

Advanced 693-point AF system
10fps burst shooting
Limited touchscreen control
Battery life could be better

The A7 III has become a firm favourite among enthusiasts and pros these last couple of 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 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.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Sony A7R IV

An incredible, high-resolution full-frame powerhouse

Sensor: 61MP Full-frame CMOS | Lens: 24-105mm, f/4 (kit) | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K 30fps | User level: Expert

Superb detail - highest MP full-frame sensor
Speedy and intelligent AF system
Rolling shutter in videos
Touchscreen could be better

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. 

Sony A7S III

(Image credit: Future)

4. Sony A7S III

The new king of 4K video and low light shooting

Sensor: 12MP Full-frame CMOS | Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.44m-dots | Viewfinder: 9.44m-dot EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Movies: 4K (up to 120p) | User level: Expert

Class-leading low light quality
New Touch UI
A bit low resolution for stills
Pricier than predecessor at launch

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.  

Canon EOS R5

(Image credit: Future)

5. Canon EOS R5

Canon’s best ever camera delivers ultimate stills performance

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45MP | Autofocus: 5940-point Dual Pixel AF | Screen type: 3.15-inch articulating touchscreen, 2,100K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Movies: 8K at 30p | User level: Enthusiast

Hugely versatile stills camera
Incredible autofocus
A serious investment
Video recording limits

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.

Nikon Z5

(Image credit: Future)

6. Nikon Z5

The top entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera right now

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Autofocus: 273-point hybrid AF | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 4.5fps | Movies: 4K at 30p | User level: Beginner

Great to hold and use
Very capable autofocus
Low burst speed
Average video specs

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.

Nikon D780

(Image credit: Future)

7. Nikon D780

A superb mix of DSLR and mirrorless powers

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.5MP | Autofocus: 51-point AF | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K at 30p | User level: Intermediate

Great image quality
Fast live-view focusing
Superb battery life
No IBIS
Big and heavy
Expensive

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.

Nikon Z7

8. Nikon Z7

The more senior Z-system option adds a whole lot of pixels

Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 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

Very responsive
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, 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. Like what you see but cash is tight? The 24MP Nikon Z6 (position 1) deserves your attention.

Canon EOS RP

(Image credit: Future)

9. 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, 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 sensor 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. 

Panasonic S1R

10. Panasonic S1R

Fancy taking 187MP images? The S1R delivers that and plenty more

Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 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

Incredible viewfinder 
Very strong video quality
Contrast-detect-only AF
Big and heavy

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.

Nikon D850

(Image credit: Nikon)

11. Nikon D850

Still a fantastic DSLR for pros

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 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

Breathtaking results
Excellent performance
Live View AF could be faster
SnapBridge still needs work

The D850 may have had some of its thunder stolen by the similar Z7 (position 3) but it retains a lot of appeal. It's one of the most advanced DSLRs we've ever tested, with the winning combination of a 45MP full-frame sensor and 7fps burst shooting at its heart, and a wonderful 153-point AF system that makes light work of keeping up with moving subjects. Videos are recorded in 4K quality and are top notch, while build and design are as close to perfect as it gets right now. Its weight and size make the Z7 a little more desirable for most users, but if you're shooting sports or other moving subjects and plan on getting the most out of that focusing system, it's a cracking option.

Sony Alpha A9 II

(Image credit: TechRadar)

12. Sony A9 II

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: 500 shots | Weight: 678g

Superb AF performance
No viewfinder blackout
Fiddly menu system
Limited touchscreen control

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.

Also consider...

Looking for something a bit cheaper? Here's a great value full-frame option:

(Image credit: Future)

Great value option: Canon EOS 6D Mark II

A top full-frame option if you're on a budget

Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 26.2MP | Autofocus: 45-point AF | Screen type: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Movies: Full HD at 60p | User level: Intermediate/expert

Good image quality
Advanced features
4K timelapse
Full HD video only
EVF covers 98% of frame

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 excellent value for money. The incoming Canon EOS R6 is its spiritual mirrorless successor, but that will cost $2,499 / £2,499 / AU$4,499 when it goes on sale later this year. 

Not sure whether to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Check out our guide video below.