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Best full frame cameras in 2021: the top cameras from the top brands

Best full frame cameras
(Image credit: Nikon)

Every photographer eventually gravitates towards a full frame camera, and these are the ten best full frame cameras you can buy today, whether you are a pro or an ambitious amateur, a sports photographer, commercial/fine art photographer or a filmmaker.

These cameras tend to be expensive because of what they can do and who they are aimed at, but you don't have to pay a fortune to get a full frame camera. We have a separate guide to the cheapest full frame cameras on the market which has some really good cameras in it, at really good prices.

This guide contains a mix of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but if you've already decided which type you want, we've got that covered too, with separate guides to the best full frame DSLRs and the best full frame mirrorless cameras to get right now.

Most people looking for the best full frame camera will already have a brand in mind, or will be upgrading a system they've already invested in, which is another reason to stick to a specific brand. With this in mind, we've split our guide up into four sections, one each for the best full frame cameras from Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony.

There are some cameras we haven't included which are interesting nonetheless. We'll mention some as we go through, but there are two in particular that deserve a special mention:

• The Pentax K-1 Mark II is an old-school DSLR with limited video capabilities and continuous shooting performance, but cast iron construction (it's not, but it feels like it) an excellent 36-megapixel sensor, a remarkable scissor-action rear screen and some very powerful stills photography features.

• The Sigma fp is an intriguing pint-sized full frame camera (smaller even than the new Sony A7C)  that would sit beautifully at the center of a video rig but also takes rather good 24MP stills. It shares the L-mount developed jointly by Leica, Panasonic and Sigma, so it can already use a wide variety of lenses

Canon full frame cameras

Canon makes full frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Recently, it's been switching most of its attention to its mirrorless EOS R range, but that doesn't mean the DSLR design is done just yet, as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is an absolute powerhouse for sports photography. Canon DSLR owners can gradually switch to mirrorless via the inexpensive EF-EOS R adaptors, which are often bundled with new mirrorless cameras by retailers. 

See also:

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review: it's not on our list here, but the EOS 5D IV is a tried and trusted Canon DSLR classic, especially amongst pros.

Best Canon cameras: not just the top full frame Canons, but enthusiast models too.

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1. Canon EOS R5

Astonishing 8K video is only one of the EOS R5's groundbreaking features

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45MP | Monitor: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2,100k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 8K DCI or UHD at 30p | User level: Professional

Incredible image quality
Exceptional 8K video
Recording limits
4K video is average

The EOS R5 is Canon's latest flagship mirrorless camera, and seems to be trying to corner every segment of the market at once. Its brand-new 45MP sensor produces images of incredible detail, and it has the class-leading autofocus system of the EOS-1D X Mark III (below), with a whopping 5,940 AF points for photography and 4,500 for video. As if that wasn't enough, it also offers 12fps continuous shooting. The EOS R5's video specs are nothing short of next-generation, includiing uncropped 8K Raw video internally at up to 29.97fps in 4:2:2 12-bit Canon Log or HDR PQ (both H.265) in both UHD and DCI – this is cinema-quality stuff – though the R5 is affected by heat buildup and recording limits. 

Read more: Canon EOS R5 review

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2. Canon EOS R6

One of the best all-rounder cameras around, with class-leading AF

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Monitor: 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1,620k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic shutter | Viewfinder: 0.5-inch OLED EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Mind-blowing autofocus
Superb stabilisation
Is 20MP enough?
4K recording limits

If you are a wedding photographer, the 45MP images of the EOS R5, and its recording limits, are probably going to be a hindrance rather than a help, and the new EOS R6 could prove the better choice. It has more sensible 20MP resolution with bags of detail from the full frame sensor but much more manageable file sizes and storage demands. It has atop shooting speed of 20fps, and autofocus that borrows the deep-learning tech from the EOS-1D X Mark III, meaning it gets better as you use it. The resolution is just 20.1MP, which might be too low for some tastes, but this does mean that the pixels are able to be larger, which has big implications for low-light performance. Indeed, the R6 even edges out the R5 in this department, with a standard ISO range of 100-102,400 that's expandable to 50-204,800. When you combine this with the introduction of Canon's 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system that provides up to eight stops of effective compensation, this is a seriously capable low-light camera.

Read more: Canon EOS R6 review

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3. Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

This pro DSLR is STILL the bee's knees for sport photography

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2in fixed, 2,100,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 16fps / 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Super-fast, reliable shooting
Uncropped 4K
Fixed LCD screen
Expensive, of course

The amazing Canon EOS-1D X Mark III turned out to be much, much more than we were expecting. Not only is it an update to the 1D X workhorse series beloved by professionals worldwide, it's also an important step forward for DSLRs generally, boasting deep-learning AF, uncropped 4K (something that had been missing from Canon cameras for quite some time), a revamped control system and much more besides. If you need a camera that just shoots and shoots, with whip-smart AF and an indomitable burst rate... well, you probably don't need us to tell you twice. But we'll do it anyway: the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is an astonishing camera, and thanks to its on-sensor Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it's also a match for any mirrorless camera.

Read more: Canon EOS-1D X Mark III review

Nikon full frame cameras

Like Canon, Nikon has introduced a mirrorless camera system alongside its DSLRs. And, like Canon, it supplies an affordable FTZ adaptor that lets Nikon fans use their DSLR lenses on the new Nikon Z bodies. The Nikon Z6 and Z7 were the first to be launched and are still among the best Nikon full frame cameras. But it's a little too early to rule out Nikon's formidable DSLRs, as they still have what it takes to compete with mirrorless cameras, especially if you like the handling, balance and 'heft' of the DSLR design.

Honorable mentions:

Nikon Z6 review: it doesn't have the resolution of the Z7, but it's built just as beautifully and is better for video

Nikon Z5 review: not quite high-end enough to make this list, nor cheap enough to get in our list of the cheapest full frame cameras, but a great new camera for enthusiasts nonetheless.

• See also: Best Nikon cameras

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4. Nikon Z7

Huge resolution, high-speed shooting and 4K video... brilliant

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Viewfinder: EVF | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Great handling
Superb electronic viewfinder
Not many Z-mount lenses yet
Single XQD/CFexpress card slot

The Z7 was Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera, and an instant classic. It combines an ultra-high-resolution 45.7-megapixel sensor with a 493-point hybrid autofocus system and the ability to capture images at up to 9 frames per second (without needing a battery grip). It even surpasses Nikon's top pro DSLR, the D850 (below), though the Nikon Z7's use of just a single memory card slot has proved controversial and being a mirrorless camera it has a much shorter battery life. If you value video above outright resolution, get the cheaper Z6 (the Z7 shoots 4K, but cropped); otherwise, the Z7 is just a beautifully made camera capable of extremely high quality captures, and at a very competitive price.

Read more: Nikon Z7 review

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5. Nikon D850

This is the ultimate Nikon pro DSLR, the camera with everything

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Lens Mount: Nikon F | Screen type: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,360,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Professional

High MP and fast burst shooting
Solid, weather-sealed body
Better battery life than mirrorless models

Mirrorless camera fans will often complain about the size and weight of DSLRs, and they have a point. The Nikon D850 is a big bruiser of a camera compared to the new Nikon Z models. But this size works in your favour if you're shooting with big, heavy lenses, and most pro lenses are big and heavy! This is a handling factor that many mirrorless users don't take into account. Being a DSLR, the D850 has a bright, clear optical viewfinder that many photographers still prefer over a digital display, no matter how good. The D850's 45.7-megapixel sensor produces quite superb image quality, yet it can still maintain a shooting speed of 7 frames per second, or 9 frames per second with the optional battery grip. Even without the grip, the D850 has an amazing battery life of 1840 shots – far more than any mirrorless rivals – and it comes with two memory card slots; one for the new XQD card format and one for regular SD/SDHC/SDXC.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

Best professional camera: Nikon D6

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6. Nikon D6

Nikon’s answer to the EOS-1D X Mark III is more conventional

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 20.8MP | Autofocus: 105-point AF, all cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch, 2,360,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 14fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Professional

Sturdy build
Pro connectivity and workflow
14fps shooting and 4K video
Its speed doesn’t come cheap
AF system yet to be tested fully

Canon made some big technological leaps with the EOS-1D X Mark III, but the Nikon D6 is more conventional. Nikon will no doubt have wanted to make sure that owners of the D5 will be able to make a seamless switch to the new camera, which has a band new 105-point AF system, 14fps continuous shooting and a 10.5fps silent mode. Nikon has also concentrated on professional workflow and connectivity options, not just headline-grabbing technologies. If you're buying your first pro sports DSLR, the Canon has the edge, but if you're a long-time Nikon user with a bag full of Nikkor DSLR lenses, the D6 is the obvious candidate for your next upgrade... though we suspect the writing is on the wall for Nikon's top sports DSLR.

Read more: Nikon D6 review

Panasonic full frame cameras

Panasonic took a bold step into full frame mirrorless cameras back in 2018, and has hardly looked back. It continues to make its smaller Micro Four Thirds format Lumix G cameras, feeling that they continue to cater for a very different kind of user – the only snag is that there is no upgrade path between the two. There is no adapter to use Lumix G lenses on Lumix S cameras, or vice versa.

Honorable mentions:

• The brand new Lumix S5 is priced like an amateur camera but practically matches the specs of the mighty S1H.

• See also: Best Panasonic cameras

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7. Panasonic Lumix S1R

The Lumix S1R is a big, hefty, camera that impresses with its quality

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 47.3MP | Lens mount: L-Mount | LCD: 3.2in tri-axial touchscreen, 2.1million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

47.3MP resolution
Superb EVF
Waiting for new lenses
Only 6fps with continuous AF

The new Lumix S range is a very interesting proposition for professional photographers, especially now that the range of L-mount lenses available is now quite good, and growing fast. The Lumix S1R is perhaps the most enticing proposition for pros, combining 4K video capture with a high-speed 6K photo mode and huge 47.3MP resolution. The 5.76-million dot electronic viewfinder is amazing, and the S1R handles very well too. The 24MP Lumix S1 is cheaper and a little better at video, but that's a cost decision – and if you're really serious about video, the pricier Lumix S1H (below) is the one to go for. 

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1R review

Best 4K camera for filmmaking: Panasonic Lumix S1H

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8. Panasonic Lumix S1H

Panasonic's video-centric Lumix S has impressive credentials

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Sensor resolution: 24.2MP | Lens mount: L-mount | 4K frame rates: 60, 50, 30, 25, 24p | 4K sensor crop factor: 1x | Standard ISO range: Dual Native ISO, 100-51,200 (50-102,400 exp.) | Memory cards: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS II)

6K video capture
Effective as a stills camera too
V-Log, LUTs and cinema features
No raw video capture
Continuous AF not that reliable

With the Lumix S1H, Panasonic has used its considerable video experience to bring many of its high-end VariCam features to the Lumix S range. The controls, the interface and certainly the hardware have been build for video and cinematography, and the fact it’s also a very serviceable 24MP stills camera is a bonus. It’s a truly compelling ‘bridge’ between conventional system cameras and higher end cine gear, especially for existing Panasonic videographers – and a recent upgrade to offer ProRes RAW output via HDMI to Atomos Ninja V devices adds to the credentials of the S1H as a cinema camera offering at a regular camera price point. If you shoot video first and stills second, this is a very compelling option.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1H review

Sony full frame cameras

Where do you start with Sony? It's A7 series practically invented the whole full frame mirrorless camera market, and while rivals have caught up with Sony in many respects (and even overtaken it for video), Sony's AF technology still leads the way, and it has both the highest resolution full frame camera on the market (the A7R IV) and the best 4K camera (the A7S III). Sony's APS-C cameras use the same E-mount and the lenses are interchangeable, but while Sony is still developing the smaller format, we'd have to say that the full frame camera's are where it's at.

Honorable mentions:

Sony A7S Mark III review: the A7S does not have the 6K capability of the Lumix S1H or the 8K of the Canon EOS R5, but for 4K video it is just superb.

• See also: Best Sony cameras

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9. Sony A7R IV

A stunning blend of resolution, speed, 4K video and even value

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 61MP | Lens mount: Sony | LCD: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.44 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 5.76m dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Compact for full frame
Highest full frame resolution yet
Still capable of 10fps
Poor balance with larger lenses

The A7R IV is Sony’s highest-resolution full frame mirrorless camera, with a record-breaking 61 million pixels and yet still capable of shooting continuously at 10fps. It also has Sony's usual very good 4K video capabilities, though still capped at 30p. The latest iteration of Sony's eye AF, however, is stunningly effective at tracking portrait subjects, even in continuous AF. While the Sony A9 II (below) is designed for out-and-out speed and responsiveness, the A7R Mark IV is much more suitable for all-round photography at the highest quality levels. Its limited buffer capacity means it's not as good as the A9 II for action, and its video capabilities don't match those of the Sony A7S III, but even if the highest possible still image quality is this camera's priority, it can still handle those other jobs pretty well too.

Read more: Sony A7R IV review

Best professional camera: Sony A9 Mark II

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10. Sony A9 Mark II

Sony’s flagship is a very strong rival in the pro sports photography arena

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full Frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | LCD: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.44million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps electronic shutter, 10fps mechanical | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Blistering burst shooting
Best AF we've used... so far
Unrivaled connectivity
Menus remain obtuse
Isn't it time for CFexpress?

To quote from our own review, the Sony A9 II is the fastest, most ferocious full-frame sports camera we've ever used – though this was before we tested the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. Nevertheless, the Sony A9 Mark II's blistering speed and autofocus performance are impressive, and matched only by its phenomenal connectivity, which promises to be a game changer for pro shooters. We would love to have seen Sony implement something akin to Olympus' Pro Capture feature, so that you never miss the critical moment. If anyone ever doubted that mirrorless cameras could match DSLRs for sports photography, the Sony A9 II is the camera that proves them wrong.

Read more: Sony A9 Mark II review

More articles:

Best professional cameras
Best full frame DSLRs
Best full frame mirrorless cameras
Cheapest full frame cameras
Best enthusiast cameras

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio. Previously he has been Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. 

Rod's near-encyclopedic knowledge of cameras both old and new makes him an invaluable resource, whether we need to ask a question about transparencies or the latest X-Trans sensor. He owns all manner of cameras, from Nikon DSLRs through Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm bodies, and on any given day you'll see him using kit from just about every manufacturer.