The best full frame DSLR in 2024: top cameras for enthusiasts and pros

The best full frame DSLRs have always been a favorite among pro photographers. While mirrorless cameras get most of the attention today, a DSLR is still tough to beat if you want a reliable, mechanically sound camera that works and keeps working, with a wide range of lenses and accessories.

Full-frame sensors are bigger than APS-C or "cropped" sensors, which means they can capture more light and detail for sharper photos, particularly in low light. Full frame cameras also use longer focal length lenses to get the same angle of view, which means the depth of field you get is shallower – great for background defocus effects with the best camera lenses.

DSLRs have a loyal following, thanks to their optical viewfinders and long battery life – but which one is right for you? I've been using full-frame DSLRs from Nikon and Canon for over ten years, and I'll help you find the best option for your budget.

When putting together this list, I haven't put the newest and most advanced cameras at the top. I've weighed up all the different factors that you're likely to consider when choosing a camera, including price. Our separate guide to the best DSLR provides a broader range of affordable mid-range or beginner models. If you're still not sold on getting a DSLR, our DSLR vs mirrorless camera article can help you decide.

Jeremy Flint
Lauren Scott

Lauren has previously served as the Managing Editor at Digital Camera World, Editor of Digital Photographer and a features writer for the likes of Tech Radar, Canon Europe and Stuff magazine. With over ten years of experience in the photo industry, she started shooting with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D800 DSLRs and always comes back to a full-frame DSLR for comfort and quality.

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The best full frame DSLRs in 2024

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Best full frame DSLR overall

(Image credit: Canon)
The best full frame DSLR for most

Specifications

Megapixels: 30.4MP
Screen: 3.0in fixed touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Great 61-point AF system
+
Fast live view autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Big crop factor for 4K video
-
Inefficient Motion JPEG format
Buy it if:

✅ You want a classic Canon: the Mark IV comes from a long line of pro DSLRs, and has inherited sensible controls and menus from its predecessors. It'll be familiar to most Canon users, even those upgrading.
✅ You shoot a bit of everything: this is a bit of a goldilocks camera, in that it's quite good everywhere but doesn't excel in one. If you shoot a range of subjects, it's well-specced for generalists.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want full 4K footage: the 5D Mark IV offers 4K video but at a big 1.64x crop. This is disappointing compared to modern mirrorless cameras at half the price.
❌ You're after an exciting design: DSLRs have shared similar designs for decades. If you're after smooth lines and a striking style, look to Fujifilm and Leica for that.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is what you'd consider an old camera, having been released in September 2016. It isn't the highest-resolution DSLR in this guide or the one with the fastest autofocus system. It doesn't even have an articulating screen. But for the price point, it offers a blend of advanced specs for professionals, like a 30MP CMOS sensor and 4K video recording. Live view autofocus is also excellent, thanks to Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. 

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III was one of my favorite all-rounder DSLRs ever, and the Mark IV builds on its successes. Its fully weather-sealed body is designed to withstand harsh shooting conditions – great for landscapes and travel work – and the 3.2-inch touchscreen lets you speed through Canon's menus and change most settings on the fly. 

There’s Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS for greater connectivity, particularly for sending images to the Canon app for sharing. The biggest problem for the EOS 5D Mark IV is the Nikon D850 (below), which is better in many respects, and almost the same price. The 5D Mark IV has the same 61-point AF system as the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II, but it lags behind the blistering subject acquisition speed that the 1DX Mark III can achieve.

The 5D Mark IV isn't the best 4K camera or DSLR, thanks to a heavy crop factor and the somewhat inefficient Motion JPEG format, but it still produces excellent quality video thanks to the cinematic DCI format (4096x2160 resolution) at 30/25/24fps internally, plus Full HD recording at 60fps. Image quality is undeniably fantastic when you pair the 5D Mark IV with Canon's L-Series lenses. If you shoot a bit of everything or want a full-frame DSLR with the best balance of price and specs, the 5D Mark IV is the ideal model. 

Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review

Best entry-level full frame DSLR

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
The best entry-level full frame DSLR, while it's still available

Specifications

Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3.2in touch, pivot 1,040,000 dots
Max burst speed: 6.5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
High-performance autofocus system
+
Fully articulated touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
Viewfinder coverage less than 100%
-
No 4K movie capture 
Buy it if:

✅ You're on a budget: if you want an affordable full frame DSLR, the 6D Mark II is the lowest price point on this list. It's an even better proposition if you can find a second hand model.
✅ You're still learning: the camera is a great "beginner" full frame camera. It doesn't overwhelm you with tech you don't need, but you do get useful features like Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a content creator: the Full HD video resolution on offer here is limited, and way behind what most mid-priced mirrorless cameras can now achieve.
❌You want the latest AF tech: the 6D Mark II has been superseded by the R6 and R6 Mark II mirrorless models. It's slower and less agile than both cameras by comparison.

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has been discontinued officially, but as it's still on sale at several big retailers I've kept it on this list. For enthusiasts turning pro or hobbyists who want a small full frame DSLR, it offers some great specs.

As a hybrid full frame DSLR, it can capture 26.2MP stills, but Canon hasn't included the option of 4K video, probably to preserve some difference between the more expensive EOS 5D Mark IV. You get Full HD video at up to 60fps, but by modern standards, this is underwhelming, especially when mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X-S20 offer 6K for just over $1,000/£1,000.

Still, the 6D Mark II is capable of shooting well-balanced, dynamic images. Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor can deliver fast phase-detection autofocus in Live View mode, which is much smoother than the contrast autofocus system in previous iterations. Handling-wise, the fully articulated touchscreen looks great from any angle and works as a treat for selecting AF points on the fly, content creation at unique angles, and navigating the intuitive ‘Quick’ menu.

I always loved the 6-series DSLRs, given that the Canon EOS R6 was my first "proper" digital camera. If you're an enthusiast who isn't interested in shooting video, and you're looking for your next sensibly-priced full-frame DSLR, the 6D Mark II continues the lineage of great all-rounders.

Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review

Best full frame DSLR for enthusiasts

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
A great value full frame DSLR for enthusiasts

Specifications

Megapixels: 24.4MP
Screen: 3.2in tilting screen, 2,359,800 dots
Max burst speed: 12fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive live view AF
+
Dual UHS-II card slots

Reasons to avoid

-
Some fiddly controls
-
Spec solid but not exceptional
Buy it if:

✅ You can't afford the D850: the D780 sits below the more expensive D850, for photographers who don't need the mega-high resolution, but need an all-rounder.
✅ You've owned Nikon DSLRs before: if you prefer the way a DSLR handles or have a collection of F mount lenses already, the D780 is one of the best full frame DSLRs Nikon has made.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You need a fast buffer: the two card slots allow you to shoot up to 68 Raw files or 100 JPEGs continuously. This isn't bad, but it's nowhere near the D6 or EOS-1D X Mark III.
❌ You want a vlogging screen: the D750's tilting screen is still useful for composing at low angles, but a fully articulating screen would have been better for video pieces to camera.

The Nikon D780 was one of the last DSLRs that Nikon released, but it remains one of the best enthusiast models. With uncropped 4K video, 12fps continuous shooting speed, and a host of small but valuable improvements like USB-C charging, the D780 is ideal if you want a full-frame sensor and access to Nikon's huge range of F-mount lenses (but don't want to pay a fortune).

Our reviewer felt that the D780 combines a long list of desirable qualities in a well-made, versatile and affordable camera. It doesn’t break any new ground anywhere. Still, the resolution is good enough, the continuous shooting is better than you’d expect, and the wide ISO range can cope with low light excellently.

The D780 handles well, too. It inherits the ergonomic design and handling of Nikon's classic DSLRs, featuring a comfortable grip, intuitive controls, and a tilting touchscreen LCD, making it user-friendly for photographers transitioning from other Nikon models or upgrading from entry-level DSLRs.

I always found the D780 a pleasure to use and handle, with a grip that's comfortable to use for long periods. Interestingly, the camera borrows a similar Live View AF system from the mirrorless Nikon Z6 and Z7, which means that live view previews are just as good on the LCD screen as through the optical viewfinder.

For videographers, the D780 offers flexible 4K UHD video recording at 30/25/24fps and Full HD at 120fps, and focus peaking and zebra stripes to enhance the overall experience and help you check your footage.

Having dual card slots adds versatility for photographers shooting images simultaneously or serves as an overflow for weddings and events. To my mind, the D780 delivers far beyond its price tag for stills and video shooters.

Read our full Nikon D780 review

Best full frame DSLR for professionals

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
The best full-frame DSLR for pros

Specifications

Megapixels: 20.8MP
Screen: 3.2in fixed touchscreen, 2.359million dots
Max burst speed: 14fps (mechanical shutter)
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Faultless stills AF
+
Rugged tank of a body

Reasons to avoid

-
Video focusing isn't great
-
Rivals are better overall
Buy it if:

✅ You shoot fast targets: autofocus is arguably the best of any Nikon DSLR, and the 14 fps continuous shooting speed means fewer missed opportunities.
✅ You need speedy transfers: with gigabit ethernet supporting 1000BASE-T, GPS and 5GHz Wi-Fi built-in, the D6 can send images to picture editors or libraries rapidly.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're not wedded to a DSLR: if you’re not already invested in the Nikon system or a DSLR, you might experience better performance from the Sony A9 II.
❌ You shoot video: the D6 is let down by poor video performance overall, both for resolution and live view focusing, which is erratic at best.

 If you're a professional photographer, shooting mostly (or entirely) stills and you already own a lot of Nikon lenses, the D6 is a very good choice. This workhorse tank of a camera is built solidly, which means you can throw it around on outdoor shoots without worrying about causing damage. It'll last years, but it's certainly not portable (1,45kg with a battery and two CFexpress cards) or affordable.

With 105 cross-type autofocus points, the Nikon D6 is geared toward capturing fast action. Our reviewer found that the autofocus provided the sort of intelligent tracking and acquisition that you need in split-second moments. And when the view of a subject was interrupted, the D6 was still intelligent enough to keep up.

Eye AF is available in 3D tracking and Auto AF area modes, with an extra 17 customizable group area AF choices to make subject acquisition even more accurate. And if you need to send shots to clients rapidly, the D6 has built-in 5GHz Wi-Fi, GPS, and gigabit ethernet – that's pro connectivity that goes beyond the majority of models in this guide, except perhaps the mighty Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

While the D6 offers 4K video resolution, our reviewer also felt that video focusing could be better. The fixed touchscreen offers little versatility for content creation or interesting angles, but then, the video element feels like an add-on here, as the D6 is still among the best professional cameras for pro sports shooters. That’s backed up by the 14fps continuous burst rate, and ISO Range up to 102,400 (Expandable to 3,280,000) for exceptional low-light performance in stadiums, racetracks, and anywhere else you’d want to challenge this epic DSLR.

Read our full Nikon D6 review

Best full frame DSLR for resolution

(Image credit: Future)
The best full-frame DSLR for high-resolution images

Specifications

Megapixels: 45.7MP
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2.6million dots
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Superb image quality
+
Acclaimed AF system

Reasons to avoid

-
Buffer drops when shooting 9fps
-
Pedestrian live-view AF
Buy it if:

✅ You want high-resolution: if you're looking to make fine art and large format prints from your images, the D850's 45.7MP resolution and dynamic range is sure to impress.
✅ You want to angle the screen: unlike the EOS 5D Mark IV, the touchscreen is tiltable. This brings it in line with modern camera design and makes it easier to angle creative shots.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You shoot pro video: there are better Nikon cameras for video. The Nikon Z 7 II matches the D850's resolution, but offers N-Log and HDR (HLG) movie output to give you more flexibility with your footage.
❌ You want speedy editing: with great resolution comes great file size. Images are around 50MB with lossless 14-bit compression, which could strain older PCs when editing.

 The Nikon D850 made a real impact upon release, balancing both high-resolution imagery and speed and sensitivity in its specs list. I replaced my old Nikon D800 with the D850, and its 45.7MP sensor, 7fps burst shooting mode, and 153-point AF system made it an incredibly versatile combination, whether I was shooting wildlife, portraits, or fine-art work in high resolution. The buffer capacity of 51 uncompressed 14-bit Raw files is impressive, but only achievable with a multi-power battery pack. Either way, it makes the D850 a very capable sports DSLR, too.

The D850's battery is fantastic even by DSLR standards. I regularly got more than 1,800 shots out of a single charge, which is about three times the amount I now get from my advanced mirrorless camera. Although the D850 isn't as big or heavy as a sports camera like the Nikon D6 or Canon EOS-1D X III, it’s still a big camera – especially when fitted with a professional zoom lens. It has two fast card slots – one for XQD cards, and one for UHS-II SD cards – but XQD slots have never taken off in the same way as CFExpress, and can be expensive to get hold of.

Our reviewer felt that the contrast-based autofocus in live view mode stops the D850 from being one of the best 4K cameras for filmmaking. But its uncropped 4K video certainly makes it one of the best DSLRs for video. When you factor in its build quality and all the customization you need, you can see just how much the D850 appeals to a landscape photographer, wedding, or event shooter. It's a versatile and incredibly high-quality DSLR, it's just not built for traveling light.

Read our full Nikon D850 review

Best full frame DSLR for video

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
The best full-frame DSLR for video

Specifications

Megapixels: 20.1MP
Screen: 3.2in fixed touchscreen, 2.1million dots
Max burst speed: 16fps (mechanical shutter) / 20fps (Live View + mechanical or electronic shutter)
Max video resolution: 4K (5.5K RAW)
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Revamped control system
+
Deep Learning autofocus works

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed LCD screen
-
Relatively low resolution
Buy it if:

✅ You need a hybrid: it's possible to record RAW and MP4 video simultaneously to two separate memory cards, which is a revelation for pros who shoot both stills and video for clients.
✅ You want sharp eyes: eye and face detection on this camera is impeccable, and the deep-learning algorithms can track subjects even through googles or helmets.

Don't buy it if:

❌ Stabilization is important: if you handhold a lot and need some extra leeway, stabilization can be important. Canon hasn't included IBIS on the EOS-1DX Mark III.
❌ You need the fastest Wi-Fi: if you're going to be transferring images via Wi-Fi, 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi is supported, but for 5Ghz Wi-Fi you need a separate module.

After Sony threw down a colossal gauntlet with the A9 II, many photographers wondered if there could be any serious competition, particularly in the world of DSLRs. The answer turned out to be a stonking "Yes", as Canon took the wraps off the incredible EOS-1DX Mark III. It combines the advantages of both DSLR and mirrorless technology to produce an amazing professional hybrid body. 

The standout features that set it apart from other DSLRs in this guide is the deep learning autofocus, which essentially improves as you use it, plus a Smart Controller that makes using the camera an infinitely better experience. These mirrorless-style trappings come in a rugged body, but you also get an optical viewfinder and exceptional battery life.

The autofocus is affected by whether you use the optical viewfinder or Live View. Through the viewfinder, there are fewer AF points, lower resolution and you don’t get eye detection. In Live View, though, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor and Digic X processor combine for subtle focus shifting and eye detection. The EOS-1DX Mark III uses the same tech as eye detection on the EOS R, and our reviewer found it to perform just as well.

Although designed for sports and heavy use, with epic weather-sealing throughout the EOS-1DX Mark III is also one of the best DSLRs for shooting high-end video. It has the best resolution of any DSLR in this guide, with uncropped 12-bit 4K 60p footage that extends to 5.5K RAW. In short? If you use this camera with one of the best DSLR gimbals you'll have an exceptional pro rig for a host of creative applications. 

Read our full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III review

Best alternative full frame DSLR

(Image credit: Pentax)
The best tough full-frame DSLR with a chunky build

Specifications

Megapixels: 36.4MP
Screen: 3.2in pivoting screen, 1,037,000 dots
Max burst speed: 4.4/6.4fps
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
5-axis sensor-shift stabilization
+
Tough weather-sealed build

Reasons to avoid

-
Sluggish full-frame bust rate
-
No 4K movie capture
Buy it if:

✅ You're an astrophotographer: using the camera's clever "Astrotracer" mode, you can capture sharp stars and  celestial subjects without a motorised mount. It's ideal for night sky photos with less gear.
✅ You like direct controls: if you like quick-access to settings without having to dig through menus, the K-1 Mark II is adorned with buttons and controls, including a Smart Function dial on the top plate.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want a small camera: if you're after a compact companion, the K-1 Mark II isn't it. It's around the same weight as the Nikon D850 at just over a kilo.
❌ You're a hybrid shooter: video on the K-1 Mark II is an afterthought at best. Its limited to Full HD resolution, and you don't get faster phase-detect autofocus.

Pentax doesn't have the same brand awareness as Canon and Nikon, but the K-1 Mark II is still worth a look, particularly for outdoor shooters wanting a robust, solid, and dependable body, featuring a full set of weather seals. The megapixel count is impressive at 36.4MP, and the tilting rear LCD is similarly high-res, although I was sad to discover it wasn't a touchscreen. 

The Pentax has a 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system that works for stills instead of just for movie capture. There are advanced modes for anti-aliasing correction, and for enhancing the capture of fine detail. For astrophotography, the unique ‘astrotracer’ mode employs the built-in GPS module, electronic compass, tilt sensors, and the stabilization system, to stop heavenly bodies streaking across the sky during long exposures. 

There are downsides, though. The sensor-based autofocus for live view and movie capture is poor, and the movie resolution of 1080p feels ancient, as does the full-frame burst rate of 4.4fps. There's a reasonable range of full frame Pentax lenses to choose from, but you just don't get the same range as with Canon and Nikon.

The K-1 Mark II is a heavyweight, too, weighing over a kilogram before you fit a pro-grade lens like the HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 ED SDM WR. That said, our reviewer noted how the size of the camera provides you with a good, solid grip, and has space for direct hands-on controls. Many traditionalists enjoy having settings buttons at their fingerprints, and the K-1 Mark II has them in spades. 

If you’re shooting at night, it even has small LED lamps to illuminate the lens mount, screen and memory card slots. This DSLR is unique among the dwindling number of DSLRs on the market. It’s not shiny, and it’s not that fast, but it’s practical and dependable for your outdoor photography adventures. 

Read our full Pentax K-1 II review

How to choose the best full frame DSLR

Choosing the best full frame DSLR for you means thinking about your needs, budget and shooting style. Full-frame models are typically more expensive than crop sensor cameras already, but if you're on a tight budget then look at the entry-level models in this guide.

It's important to consider the camera's resolution (amount of megapixels), but you'll only benefit from having a high-res sensor if you want to make big prints from your work or crop in closely. Remember that images with more megapixels also take up more room on memory cards and can take longer to process at the editing stage.

The camera's autofocus capabilities determine how quickly you'll be able to detect and track targets, for both stills and video. It used to be that if you shot action, sports or wildlife, phase detection was more accurate than contrast detection autofocus systems (which are good for stationary subjects like landscapes). But each brand also has its own focusing systems; Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF aims to improve autofocus speed for stills photography and shooting video, and you'll only find it in more expensive full frame DSLRs.

Canon and Nikon are the two main DSLR brands remaining (although Pentax has a minor share of the industry). Both systems have a similarly large ecosystem of lenses and accessories to choose from, but if you're already with one brand then it makes more sense to stick with it as you upgrade.

You can carefully weigh up the specs, but it's worth reading our full reviews to get a better picture of what the camera is like to use in real life, make an informed decision and select the best full frame DSLR for you.

Is a full frame DSLR better?

Full-frame DSLRs offer better image quality than crop sensor cameras, especially in low light, and give you a shallower depth of field and background blur for creative applications like portraiture. 

They also give you a wider field of view with landscapes and architectural photography. For pros or serious enthusiasts who want the best image quality and more creative control, full frame DSLRs are an excellent choice. However (as I've noted below) they also tend to be more expensive, heavier, and chunkier.

What is the disadvantage of full frame camera?

The obvious disadvantage of full frame cameras is that they cost more than crop sensor cameras, and that can put them out of the price range of many photographers. Full frame lenses come at a premium price, too, because of their higher build and image quality.

Full frame cameras are usually thought of as being heavy and bulky, which isn't what you want when travelling. They're generally bigger, to accommodate the larger sensor, while the extra weight comes from materials like magnesium alloy being used over plastic to make the camera more robust in adverse shooting conditions.

How we test the best full frame DSLR

Wondering how we test the full-frame DSLR cameras for inclusion in this buying guide? All models, regardless of brand, undergo comprehensive testing in real-world shooting scenarios as well as controlled lab conditions. These rigorous evaluations, combined with user feedback, shape our buying guide coverage recommendations for full-frame DSLR cameras.

Our expert reviewers will carry out shoots to test the camera's intended purpose, such as testing high-speed capabilities on fast-moving subjects or high-resolution capabilities on detailed scenes. They'll use the camera extensively over days or even weeks to provide helpful insights into everyday performance, user experience, handling, and ultimately, how well the camera does what it was designed to.

Inside our testing lab, we 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.

Find out more about how we test and review at Digital Camera World.