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The best full frame cameras in 2022: from budget buys to high-end pro cameras

Best full frame cameras: Nikon Z5
(Image credit: Adam Waring/Mike Harris)

The best full frame cameras have a reputation for image quality. They're the cameras that enthusiasts aspire to and professionals rely on. Full frame cameras have large sensors for excellent image quality, and they also have some of the widest and best lenses. But they are not as expensive as you might think! Entry-level full frame cameras can be perfectly affordable for enthusiasts and even keen novices.

Related articles

Best professional cameras (opens in new tab)
Best full frame DSLRs (opens in new tab)
Best full frame mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab)
Cheapest full frame cameras (opens in new tab)
Best enthusiast cameras (opens in new tab)

When you're shopping for the best full frame camera, there are three key things to think about:

What system you want to buy into?
What your photographic speciality is
How much you want to spend!

Choosing the right system is important because this is a long-term decision. You'll also be buying lenses to go with your camera, and you're likely to have these for a long time. Camera bodies come and go, but your lenses could be with you for years. 

This boils down into camera types and brands. Canon and Nikon make both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but while DSLRs are popular and capable cameras, it's mirrorless cameras that have take the lead – and while you can use DSLR lenses on mirrorless cameras with adaptors, it's not an ideal long-term solution. Pentax ONLY makes DSLRs right now, so that's one less decision for Pentax fans.

So then it's all about brands. Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic all make full frame mirrorless cameras. Each one has its own lens mount and its own lenses, though third party makers like Sigma, Tamron, Samyang and Laowa makes lenses in many different mounts.

The other decision is what you want your camera for. There are some great all-rounders that can do a bit of everything, but if you have a particular speciality you need a camera designed for the job. See our guides to the best cameras for sports (opens in new tab) and the highest resolution cameras (opens in new tab), for example. 

So this brings us to the third factor: how much you want to spend. With this in mind, we start out with more affordable options for enthusiasts and work up to the more advanced and more expensive dream cameras that we secretly all want. If price is your biggest decider, you might also want to check out our guide to the cheapest full frame cameras (opens in new tab) right now.

Best full frame cameras in 2022

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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It's the first DSLR on our list, and we love the D850's chunky handling and superb image quality

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

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 is one of our favorite DSLRs of all time, and 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 always 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 CFexpress and one for regular SD/SDHC/SDXC. Over time, this has for us become a DSLR classic.

• Read our full Nikon D850 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Adam Duckworth)
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The Lumix S5 is our top recommendation for enthusiasts who want to shoot both stills and video

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 1,840k dots
Viewfinder: Electronic, 2,360k dots
Lens: L-mount
Continuous shooting speed: 7fps
Video: Uncropped 4K UHD up to 60/50p
User level: Intermediate/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Best in-class video performance
+
Magnesium frame and vari-angle screen
+
Dual SD card slots

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the best video AF

Despite its compact size, the Lumix S5 shares the impressive 24MP CMOS sensor housed in the more expensive Lumix S1, but with improved autofocus. It also has a tough weather-resistant body and delivers up to 6.5-stops of image stabilisation with compatible lenses. Its standout features include class-leading dynamic range and 4K video recording, as well as 96MP high resolution RAW+JPEG capture. It really is tough to beat at this price. As we note in our Panasonic Lumix S5 review, its contrast AF system isn't ideal for fast moving video capture, but that's a small flaw in a camera that's as impressive for its value as it is for its performance.

• Read our full Panasonic Lumix S5 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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The Leica SL2 costs a lot more than the Lumix S1R it's based on, but its build, design and interface are works of art

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Full frame
Megapixels: 47MP (effective)
Lens mount: L-mount
Continuous shooting: 10/20fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Superb resolution
+
High speed continuous shooting
+
Excellent 4K video features
+
Beautiful design and interface

Reasons to avoid

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Fixed, non-tilting rear touchscreen

Plenty of Leica cameras form an unusual hybrid where their insides are essentially the same as cameras from other manufacturers, while their outers are all Leica. Some of these are simple rebadgings, but the Leica SL2 is something a little different. On the inside it's extremely similar to Panasonic's Lumix S1R, a superb mirrorless full-frame camera, but the outside is completely different, a sleek and minimalist design with few controls, designed to completely immerse you in the shooting experience. The interface is a revelation, classy and elegant and so intuitive it put a grin on our face straight away. With the future looking bright for L-mount lenses (see the L- mount lens roadmap (opens in new tab)), this 4K-capable camera is a fantastic buy for any prospective Leica owner. 

• Read our full Leica SL2 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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We think the Sony A7 IV is a magnificent all-rounder, but it could be complicated to masteer

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 33MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/expert

Reasons to buy

+
Autofocus performance
+
33MP resolution
+
Huge burst mode buffer depth

Reasons to avoid

-
Complex matrix of video options
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Pro/semi-pro pricing

The Sony A7 IV signals a step up in ambition for Sony's ‘vanilla’ A7 model. Traditionally, the Sony A7 has been the range’s entry-level camera, with the ‘R’ models adding resolution and the ’S’ models adding speed/sensitivity. But there’s nothing ordinary about the Sony A7 IV, and while it does technically supersede the A7 III, it’s an altogether more advanced camera that, we think, targets a higher-level audience. Compared to the A7 III, the A7 IV is a major step up – but in price as well as features. The A7 III will keep going for now, so it makes for a tricky buying decision! After using it, however, we think it's well worth the extra outlay, both for stills photographers and for videographers.

• Read our full Sony A7 IV review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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We think it's time Sony refreshed its A7-series design and ergonomics, but the A7R IVA's performance is spectacular

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Compact for full frame
+
Highest full frame resolution yet
+
Still capable of 10fps

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor balance with larger lenses

The A7R IV was Sony’s highest-resolution full frame mirrorless camera when we first reviewed it, and that hasn't changed! 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. Its limited buffer capacity means it's not as good as the Sony A9 II (opens in new tab) and Sony A1 (opens in new tab) for action, and its video capabilities don't match those of the Sony A7S III (opens in new tab) (or A1), 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 our full Sony A7R IV review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)
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We agree that Leica's M-series rangefinders take some getting used to – and the price! – but they are exceptional cameras

Specifications

Type: Rangefinder
Sensor size: Full frame
Megapixels: 60.3MP (effective)
Lens mount: Leica M
Autofocus: None, manual focusing via rangefinder or Live View
LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.04 million dots
Viewfinder: Direct Vision
Continuous shooting: 4.5fps
Max video resolution: None
User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Super 40MP resolution
+
Quiet shutter action
+
Premium rangefinder design

Reasons to avoid

-
No video capture
-
Takes skill and practice to master

Leica M rangefinders take some learning. First-timers will struggle with the viewfinder and focusing and the stripped down features, but the longer you use these cameras the more they grow on you – and carry on growing. The M11 isn’t quite perfect, but it’s a real class act that can capture very sharp images in the right hands, and subtly changes the way you see, compose and capture images. The Leica M11 is perhaps the ultimate dream camera, with killer looks, beautiful engineering and superb lenses with their own special Leica 'look'. We were amazed at the precision and accuracy of the rangefinder focusing system, and Leica M lenses, while very expensive, have a unique 'look', especially wide open.

• Read our full Leica M11 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Artaius)
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We think the Pentax K-1 II is an underrated classic, packed with clever features you won't find anywhere else

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 36.4MP
Screen: 3.2in pivoting screen, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Max burst speed: 4.4fps (6.4fps in APS-C crop mode)
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Mega 36MP resolution
+
Full frame sensor
+
Sturdy construction  
+
Ergonomic controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor video features
-
Only 4.4fps continuous shooting

The Pentax K-1 II has been around for a while now, but its 36MP sensor is still a step up from an entry-level full frame camera and it packs in a lot of features while handling in a familiar manner for DSLR fans. Again, with this being a Pentax, we get built in shake reduction, but are in awe the cleverness and sheer robustness of its ‘scissor action’ articulating rear screen and extended exposure modes, along with twin SD card slots. It’s not all great news; the camera offers only a modest 4.4 fps maximum burst speed when shooting in full frame, which, while adequate, won’t impress sports or action photographers. There’s also no hybrid phase detection AF system for its live view mode and only full HD video rather than 4K. But if you're primarily a stills shooter and a Pentax fan especially, then we think you'll like this camera as much as we do.

• Read our full Pentax K-1 Mark II review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Mike Harris)
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We know it's not Nikon's most powerful Z-series camera, but it's brilliant for full frame beginners

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 24MP
Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage
Continuous shooting speed: 4.5fps
Viewfinder: EVF
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to get to grips with
+
5-axis IS system

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 4.5fps burst shooting
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4K video gets a 1.7x crop

The Z5 is Nikon's entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera and even though the specs are quite modest, we think it's a terrific camera for the money. Rather than starting with a clean sheet of paper, Nikon's pretty much used the same design for the Z5 as it did for the original Z6 (and Z7 for that matter). The most noticeable thing on the body that differs from the Z6 is the arrival of a more beginner-orientated mode dial in place of the LCD top-plate display, but we don't mind this as it suits the user this camera is aimed at. The Z5 also borrows much of the tech inside the Z6, with the most noticeable difference being the sensor. The resolution might be the same, but the Z6 benefits from a back-illuminated chip and images from the two are very similar, with the Z6 having the edge at higher ISOs. We found the 4K video is a little restrictive with a 1.7x crop, while the burst shooting speed is a modest 4.5fps, but the Z5 is better than budget rivals like the Canon EOS RP and Sony Alpha A7 II, and steady price drops have made it a really attractive buy, even up against cheaper APS-C models like the Z50 (opens in new tab) and Z fc (opens in new tab)

• Read our full Nikon Z5 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Future)
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Canon's entry-level EOS RP might look basic, but it's affordable and cute, and we really like it!

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Monitor: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 5fps
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36 million dots
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Size, weight and low cost
+
Fully articulating screen

Reasons to avoid

-
1.6x crop and no Dual Pixel AF in 4K
-
Weak battery life

When we reviewed the EOS RP, it was Canon's second full frame mirrorless camera, and it's smaller, lighter and a lot cheaper than all of the others. It's designed to be a compact, affordable and easy to use entry point into Canon's full frame mirrorless system, and it succeeds brilliantly. We think its small dimensions mean it can sometimes feel overbalanced by larger lenses, though, and the 4K video mode comes with some caveats – the image frame is cropped by a factor of 1.6 and you can't use Canon's speedy Dual Pixel CMOS AF system unless you drop the resolution to full HD. On the upside, the vari-angle touchscreen display is a real advantage for both stills and video, and the inclusion of an EF lens adaptor means you can use existing Canon DSLR lenses alongside the new but growing RF lens system. The EOS RP has an old-ish 26MP sensor and no in-body stabilization, but for beginners or full frame first timers it's still a great camera – especially at today's knock-down prices!

• Read our full Canon EOS RP review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Artaius/Digital Camera World)
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The Canon EOS R5 has been matched now by the Sony A1 and Nikon Z9, but we love its design and handling

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible image quality
+
Exceptional 8K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Recording limits
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4K video is average

The Canon EOS R5 was Canon's latest flagship mirrorless camera when we reviewed it, and seemed 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, 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, including 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. Recent competition from the Sony A1 (opens in new tab) and Nikon Z9 (opens in new tab)  and Canon's own EOS R3 means that the R5 is now only one elite camera amongst many, but its pricing is very competitive.

• Read our full Canon EOS R5 review (opens in new tab)

What about the rest?

There are some cameras we have not included because they are rather specialized, high end models. They are also amongst the best mirrorless cameras you can buy, but definitely aimed at pro users who know exactly what they need and are prepared to budget for the cost.

They included the remarkable Sony A-1, which can shoot 8K video, 30fps bursts and 50MP still images. There's the equally remarkable (but in a different way) Canon EOS R3, which has changed perceptions about what mirrorless sports cameras and autofocus systems can do. And then there's the jaw-dropping Nikon Z9 with its 8K video and fully electronic shutter. We live in exciting times!

If it's specifically video you're interested in, check out the Panasonic Lumix S1H and Sony A7S III. Alternatively, check out our guides to the best 4K cameras, best cameras for vlogging and best cinema cameras.

How we test cameras 

We test DSLR and mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.

Read more:

Best professional cameras (opens in new tab)
Best full frame DSLRs (opens in new tab)
Best full frame mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab)
Cheapest full frame cameras (opens in new tab)
Best enthusiast cameras (opens in new tab)

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