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The best full frame mirrorless camera in 2021: Sony vs Canon, Nikon & Panasonic

Best full frame mirrorless camera
(Image credit: Panasonic)

The list of the best full-frame mirrorless cameras is only getting longer and longer. As mirrorless cameras continue to shape the future of photography and consumer video, more manufacturers are getting in on the action. It feels as though the last few years have been a breathtaking ride for mirrorless enthusiasts, as multiple new lines of full-frame cameras have been unveiled.

It all started with Sony. All the way back in 2013, the firm debuted the full-frame mirrorless Sony A7, along with its two cousins, the high-resolution A7R and the low-light wonder, the A7S. Since then, all of these cameras have had multiple updates, and there's also been the introduction of the downsized rangefinder style Sony A7C, and the super-speedy sports-oriented A9 series. But Sony hasn't had the whole pie to itself. Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Leica and Sigma have all since produced their own full-frame mirrorless models, and now it's a crowded field indeed!

• Read more: Sony A7R IV vs A7R III vs A7R II

Recent success stories include the Canon EOS R5 , which stole headlines and redefined the expectations of mirrorless cameras, despite some issues with overheating. Panasonic launched the Lumix S5, a camera that rivalled the performance of the firm's own S1H cinema camera, coming at a fraction of the cost Nikon, meanwhile, has carved out its own professional niche with the speedy, silent Z series. 

Of course, there are always more surprises in store. 2021 saw the arrival of the astonishing new Sony Alpha A1. The only reason it doesn't have its own entry in the list below is because we've yet to test it ourselves – but don't worry – we're working on it!

There's Leica, too, who actually pre-dated the big full-frame mirrorless boom with their original Leica SL, which quietly launched in 2015. Its replacement, the Leica SL2, borrows some high-end imaging and video tech of the Panasonic Lumix S1R while adding in Leica's own unique styling and design. It's certainly one of the best Leica cameras you can get right now and gets a place on this list too. What's especially interesting is that this is a comparably affordable Leica and it's backed by the momentum of the L-mount Alliance, with a growing lens range already and more to come. And then, late in the year, came the even more affordable 24MP Leica SL2-S.

Sigma have stopped in for a chat as well. Their most recent full-frame mirrorless effort is the Sigma fp L, a real curiosity of a camera. Tiny, but powerful, this is both a 61MP stills camera and a pro-grade cine camera...

So if you're looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera, you've got a lot of options. Some of the best cameras for professionals are mirrorless, and the best 4K cameras for filmmaking are almost all full-frame mirrorless models. They've also made full frame photography more affordable for hobbyists and enthusiasts (especially Sony) and feature heavily amongst the cheapest full frame cameras you can get right now.

We've divided this guide up into sections to make it easier to navigate depending on what you're looking for? Want as many pixels as you can get for super-detailed images? Then you'll want to look at the Best resolution cameras. Need fast burst rates for capturing action? We've selected the full-frame mirrorless cameras that are Best for sports. For the filmmakers, we've included the cameras that are Best for video, and finally if you're on a budget, take a look at the full-frame mirrorless cameras that are Best value.

So let's get started!

Best resolution

The Sony A1 is a new candidate for our list and it's so good at everything that it could have gone in three of our categories – resolution, speed AND video – but we had to choose somewhere so we've put in in the 'best resolution' category. It's an amazing camera, but only for those who can afford it and justify the cost.

Best full frame mirrorless camera: Sony A7R Mark IV

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony A7R Mark IV/IVA

It's the highest resolution full frame camera yet, but that's not all it does

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 61MP | Lens mount: Sony FE | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic, 5.76m dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Video: 4K cropped(oversamped)/uncropped up to 30/25p | User level: Professional

61 megapixel resolution
10fps continuous shooting
Advanced Eye AF
Unbalanced with bigger lenses
Expensive, naturally!

* Note that the A7R Mark IV is being swapped for a newer A7R IVA version, with the same basic specs but a higher resolution rear screen and improved battery life. Make sure you now which you are getting when you order.

With its 61-megapixel sensor, the Sony A7R Mark IV inevitably comes top of this particular category. The 'R' models in Sony's A7 series cameras are designed first and foremost for resolution – and the Sony A7R Mark IV certainly delivers. The previous A7R Mark III set the standard for a time, but the A7R Mark IV brings a new record-breaking 61-megapixel that has the highest resolution of any Sony – or indeed any full frame camera. Its other specs include 10fps continuous shooting – an amazing achievement at this resolution, advanced Eye AF and 4K video. The 10fps frame rate doesn't make it a sports camera, though, as it lacks the outright speed, responsiveness and buffer capacity for that, and Sony's 4K video seems stuck in a bit of a timewarp right now compared to the advances being made by rival makers. The Eye AF and Real-time tracking are excellent, but having to switch to the Super 35mm crop format for the best quality video is a nuisance. But still, this is the only full frame mirrorless camera to beat the mighty new Sony A1 for resolution.

Read more: Sony A7R Mark IV review

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony A1

This incredible powerhouse of a camera has a price to match!

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 50.1NP | Lens mount: Sony FE | Screen: 3-in tilting, 1.44m dots | Viewfinder: Electronic, 9.44m dots | Max burst speed: 30fps | Max video resolution: 8K | User level: Professional

50MP resolution
8K video
30fps continuous shooting
Stratospheric price!

The Sony A1 is everything that Sony says it is. It’s a technological triumph, a camera that really can do everything. Previously, cameras might offer speed, resolution or video capability, but the A1 offers all three, and even beats dedicated sports and video cameras at their own game. So is this the perfect camera? Not quite. The price is, and will remain, a major obstacle, and its appeal is limited to photographers who need everything it does, not just one or two of those things. This, together with its huge price, prevent it from being right at the top of this list. If you want resolution, the Sony A1 is second only to Sony's own A7R IV/IVA and the quirky Sigma fp L, but if you also want super-fast burst speeds and 8K video, then the A1 is the absolute king of the hill.

Read more: Sony A1 review

(Image credit: Canon)

3. Canon EOS R5

As if 45MP wasn't enough, there's the astonishing 8K video...

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. We've put the EOS R5 in our 'Best for resolution' section, but it could also go in 'Best for video', 'Best for sport' or 'Best of just about anything'! This also applies to the brand new Sony A1, which has another five million pixels, but also another $2,000+ on the price!

Read more: Canon EOS R5 review

Best full frame mirrorless camera: Panasonic Lumix S1R

(Image credit: Panasonic)

4. Panasonic Lumix S1R

The Lumix S1R is built for quality and performance, not size or cheapness!

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 47.3MP | Screen: 3.2-inch, 2,100k | Viewfinder: Electronic, 5,760k | Lens: L-mount | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Video resolution: Uncropped/cropped (oversampled) 4k UHD up to 60/50p | User level: Expert/professional

Huge resolution
Excellent build and controls
High-end 4K video
Heavy and expensive

If you need top-quality stills photography and 4K video features (including a full-frame first – 60/50p 4K capture), the Lumix S1R is a close rival to the Nikon Z7 II. It costs substantially more than the cheaper Lumix S1, but the extra resolution is likely to prove well worth it. Both are pretty big, hefty cameras, though, and the same goes for the L-mount lenses we’ve seen so far from Panasonic and Sigma (also part of the new L-mount alliance, along with Leica). If you thought mirrorless cameras were supposed to be small, you might be surprised by the size of this one – but with larger lenses or tripod use, the extra size, controls and overall balance are arguably better than a smaller camera's. We'd pick the Lumix S1R for stills, but the cheaper Lumix S5 is better for video, as it can capture full width oversampled video (the S1R has to swap to a smaller crop or use lower-quality line-skipping during full frame capture), and smaller too.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1R review

Best full frame mirrorless camera: Leica SL2

(Image credit: Leica)

5. Leica SL2

Leica's latest full-frame mirrorless camera is simply superb

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

Superb resolution
High speed continuous shooting
Excellent 4K video features
Beautiful design and interface
Expensive, obviously
Fixed, non-tilting rear touchscreen

Leica doesn't just make retro rangefinders and luxury cameras for the rich. The SL line sets out to offer Leica's legendary design, build quality and lenses to discerning professionals. But while the original SL was good, the brand new SL2 is simply exceptional. First, it uses the L-mount that has now been adopted by Sigma and Panasonic for its full-frame mirrorless cameras, so there is an increasing range of optics available, thanks to the L- mount lens roadmap. Second, it's no secret that the internals, including the sensor, in-body stabilization and 4K capabilities come straight from the Panasonic Lumix S1R. But what's on the outside is pure Leica, including a beautiful minimalist design, simple but superbly thought out controls and a classy, elegant interface that works brilliantly. Yes, the Leica SL2 is expensive, but it's also very, very good!

Read more: Leica SL2 review

(Image credit: Nikon)

6. Nikon Z7 II

Huge resolution, high-speed shooting and 4K video but not perfect

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,100K dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Max video resolution: Uncropped 4K UHD up to 30p, cropped 4K UHD up to 60p | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Excellent image quality
Lovely handling
5-axis IS system
Best-in-class build quality
EVF resolution lower than rivals
Tilt-angle display, not vari-angle

The Z7 II is Nikon's flagship full frame mirrorless camera and an update to the original Nikon Z7. All the changes that we’ve seen on the Z7 II compared to the Z7 are certainly welcome, but we can’t help feeling that Nikon’s played it a bit safe. We’d like to have seen even more of a jump to really make it a serious threat to the likes of the Canon EOS R5 and Alpha A7R IV. But still, the Nikon Z7 II has a lot going for it. It might not have a standout feature that sets it apart from its competitors, but the Nikon Z7 II delivers solidly across the board and is a great mirrorless camera. Nikon's changes – dual processors and dual memory card slots, for example – have made a great camera even better.

Read more: Nikon Z7 II review

Best full-frame mirrorless cameras: Sigma fp L

(Image credit: Sigma)

7. Sigma fp L

Superb resolution in a tiny body, this oddity from Sigma is flawed but impressive

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 61MP | Monitor: 3.15-in fixed touchscreen, 2,100K dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: Optional EVF-11, 0.5-in, 3.68m dots | Max video resolution: 4K UHD up to 30p, 8-bit CinemaDNG up to 25p | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Big megapixel count
Small physical size
Slow, janky video AF
Electronic shutter only

Given how many things the Sigma fp L is at once, it's amazing what a small body the camera has. Sigma is keen to market this full-frame mirrorless model as a hybrid stills and video camera – so it shoots both 61MP stills and is a full-on cine shooter, able to capture 8-bit CinemaDNG format internally, or up to 12-bit CinemaDNG when hooked up to an external SSD via USB.

Switching between stills and cine mode is nice and easy, and the whole camera is pleasingly easy to control (though its small size makes it quite unbalanced when it's paired with big lenses). The compromises have to come somewhere, you might be thinking, and you are right; there are some drawbacks. While the video quality is brilliant, the video autofocus is pretty slow and unreliable. What's more, the camera only has an electronic shutter, not a mechanical one, and its sensor has quite a slow readout speed. So while it can shoot at fast shutter speeds, and at an impressive-sounding burst speed of 10fps, fast-moving subjects run the risk of getting blurred or distorted. 

This is a quirky and interesting camera though, and if you can forgive a few niggles, you may find yourself charmed by it. If you invest some time in getting used to it, the Sigma fp L has serious potential in both stills and video.

Read more: Sigma fp L review

Best for speed

Here's another category that could just as easily be dominated by the mighty Sony A1, but we've already described this camera in the 'resolution' section above so we would just be repeating ourselves. For ordinary mortals (with ordinary wallets), we rate the A9 II instead.

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony A9 Mark II

We thought the original Sony A9 was fast, and then Sony makes this...

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,440k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3,686k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Video resolution: Uncropped 4K UHD up to 30/25p | User level: Professional

Blistering burst shooting
Best AF system we've used
Unrivaled connectivity
Menus remain obtuse
Isn't it time for CFexpress?
No Olympus style Pro Capture

To quote from our own hands on review verdict, the Sony A9 II is the fastest, most ferocious full-frame sports camera we've ever used. Its blistering speed and autofocus performance are matched only by its phenomenal connectivity, which promises to be a game changer for pro shooters. However, we would love to have seen Sony implement something akin to Olympus' Pro Capture feature, so that you never miss the critical moment. It's a bit of a disappointment to find Sony's not yet ready for the new super-fast CFexpress format (and if ever a camera needed high-end cards, it's this one) and Sony's not really made any attempt to move its 4K video tech any further forward – so no 10-bit capture or 60/50p frame rates just yet.

Read more: Sony A9 Mark II review

Best for video

This is ANOTHER category that is dominated technically by the 8K Canon EOS R5 and the Sony A1. However, they do it at considerable expense and with some important limitations. So for videographers happy with 4K, here are some more cost-effective but equally practical candidates.

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony A7S III

The best mirrorless camera there is for 4K video, but stills are 12MP only

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 12.1 | Lens mount: Sony FE | Monitor: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, Fully articulating 3-inch touchscreen 1,440K dots | Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 9,437K dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Incredible low light performance
Stunning AF, even for video
No 6K or 8K video
Still images only 12MP

It’s taken Sony five years to upgrade the video-centric A7S II to a Mark III, but the wait has been worth it for keen enthusiast and professional moviemakers. It might not boast 6K or 8K video resolution of some of its rivals, and with only 12.1MP it’s not a powerhouse super-stills machine either. But apart from a big and expensive cinema camera, it’s the only camera that can shoot 4K at 60p full frame with no crop, recorded internally, in 10-bit 4:2:2 with no limitations on recording time and with all the advanced AF functions still working. The 12MP resolution means the A7S III is pretty poor as a stills camera, but an absolute natural at 4K, so it is tilted more towards video than stills. However, sports fans should note it can shoot stills at 10fps and has an incredible 1,000-shot raw buffer (using new CFexpress Type A cards).

Read more: Sony A7S III review

Best full frame mirrorless cameras: Panasonic Lumix S5

(Image credit: Panasonic)

10. Panasonic Lumix S5

Panasonic's new compact mirrorless camera is just stunning

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

Best in-class video performance
Magnesium frame and vari-angle screen
Dual SD card slots
HDMI port not full-size
Only contrast AF

Despite its compact size, the Lumix S5 shares the impressive 24MP CMOS sensor housed in the Lumix S1, but with improved AF. 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’s tough to beat in this category. Panasonic has stuck to its contrast-based DFD autofocus system which still doesn't quite match the latest phase-detect systems from rivals, but a speed and algorithm upgrade has closed the gap. The Lumix S5 is smaller than the Lumix S1 and S1H before it, and cheaper too. It matches the Lumix S1 for stills and beats it for video, coming close to the capabilities of the far more expensive Lumix S1H. What a camera!

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S5 review

Best value

(Image credit: Canon)

11. Canon EOS RP

Canon's cheapest full frame mirrorless camera is very appealing

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 | Video: Cropped 4K UHD up to 25/24p | User level: Enthusiast

Size, weight and low cost
Fully articulating screen
1.6x crop and no Dual Pixel AF in 4K
Weak battery life

The EOS RP is Canon's second full frame mirrorless camera, and it's smaller, lighter and a lot cheaper than the first, the EOS R. 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. 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 pictures are clear and sharp, 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. This is a great little camera if you're ready to accept its limitations.

Read more: Canon EOS RP review

(Image credit: Sony)

12. Sony A7 II

This 24MP full frame mirrorless Sony even has in-body stabilisation

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tiltable, 1,228,800 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional

5-axis in-body image stabilization
Great handling
No 4K video
Large lenses negate size advantage

For a long time, the original Sony A7 was the cheapest full frame camera you could get, but it's proving pretty hard to find these days and its replacement, the A7 Mark II is, to be fair, a much better camera. The big advantage that you you get with the Alpha A7 II is built-in optical stabilisation. This allows you to get steadier shots in a wide variety of lighting conditions, and works with any of the range of E-mount Sony lenses. Autofocus and start-up times are also faster than those on the A7, the former thanks to a 117-point phase-detect AF system that works in combination with 25-point contrast-detect AF, ensuring sharpness no matter where the subject lies in the frame. This 24-megapixel CSC is also pretty small for a full-frame camera. Prices for the A7 Mark II are falling just as they did for the original A7 before it, and right now this is one of the cheapest options for full frame upgraders.

Read more: Sony A7 II review, updated for 2020

Read more:

• These are the best cameras for professionals today
• We pick out the best 4K cameras for filmmaking
• These are the cheapest full frame cameras you can get right now

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.