Skip to main content

The cheapest full frame camera in 2022: how to get a big sensor on a small budget!

Cheapest full frame camera: Canon EOS R
(Image credit: Canon)

The cheapest full frame camera doesn't necessarily mean you have to skimp on features. Some of the cameras in this list were the best you could buy when they were released but now they're a couple of years old, prices have been discounted. If you're looking to upgrade your kit but don't want to invest in one of the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab), you'll be impressed by how much you can get for your money.

More camera guides

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

A full-frame camera contains the same size sensor as you would find in a traditional 35mm single-lens reflect camera. Dimensions of a full-frame camera (opens in new tab) sensor are roughly 36 x 24mm and are often the go-to choice for amateurs and professionals looking for excellent low-light performance. As the sensor is twice as big as APS-C sensors, it's able to detect more light over a larger surface area. The downside to full-frame cameras is they tend to be bigger and more expensive than cropped system cameras.

Full-frame DSLR cameras (opens in new tab) have traditionally been very expensive, popular with professionals, but out of reach for most amateurs and enthusiasts. However, the hyper-competitive market and consistent arrival of newer models have caused prices to fall to the point that puts full-frame DSLRs within the reach of enthusiasts. In fact, right now you're spoiled for choice if you're looking for the best cheap cameras (opens in new tab)

This applies right across the board so that although most of the full-frame bargains are for mirrorless cameras, you can still get a cheap full-frame DSLR too. We think the best full-frame Canon DSLR right now is the EOS 6D Mark II, and for Nikon full-frame camera fans, the D750 and Nikon Z5 are great cost-conscious choices.

And what's more, some of the best full-frame camera deals are on mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab). We've got Sony to thank for a lot of that, because of its strategy of keeping older models on the market for a long time. The best Sony cameras (opens in new tab) might be expensive, but older versions of the latest models can be had for exceptional value, and these are still fantastic cameras out there even if they don't have all the latest features.

We've ranked these cameras in approximate price order, with the least expensive first. 

The cheapest full frame cameras in 2022

(Image credit: Adam Duckworth)
(opens in new tab)
Aimed at both photographers and videographer, the S5 is a feature-packed full-frame camera that wont break the bank

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

-
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 stabilization 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. The Lumix S5 is smaller than the Lumix S1 and S1R 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 our full Panasonic Lumix S5 review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Artaius)
(opens in new tab)
Robust, powerful and with 5-axis of stabilization this Pentax system can deliver excellent image quality

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 36MP
Lens mount: Pentax K
Screen: 3in three-way-tilt, 1,037k dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 4.4/6.4fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Robust construction
+
5-axis image stabilisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Pedestrian continuous drive speed
-
Relatively low 670-shot battery life

Pentax seems to soldier along in its own little bubble, seemingly unaffected by outside events, so the Pentax K-1 Mark II is typically solid but unadventurous in its specifications. It does have a tough, weather-sealed construction, and a highly effective sensor-shift image stabilization system that works with any attached lens, unlike competing Canon and Nikon DSLRs, which do not have in-body stabilization. Better still, the 5-axis stabilizer can work in trick modes to deliver anti-aliasing correction, an increase in fine detail and texture based on Pixel Shift through multiple exposures, and even an Astrotracer mode to avoid stars appearing to streak through the sky. With a 36MP full-frame image sensor, the K-1 Mark II certainly gives you a lot of megapixels for the money, though the 33-point autofocus system does feel dated, and Live View autofocus is poor. For DSLR fans who want a big, solid, premium-quality, and traditional camera, though, it still has strong appeal.

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

(Image credit: Future)
(opens in new tab)
This budget DSLR was once the undisputed king of low-light photography

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.3MP
Lens mount: Nikon F
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 1,228,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Max burst speed: 6.5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Useful tilting rear-screen
+
Wide dynamic range

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K video
-
Live view AF slow

Even though the D750 has now been discontinued and replaced by the Nikon D780 (opens in new tab) it still deserves a place on the list. For many years, the Nikon D570 was the undisputed king of low-light photography. It takes its design and handling from Nikon's enthusiast-level DSLRs rather than the pro models and it sits comfortably in the hand thanks to its chunky grip. While a 51-point AF system might seem outdated now, at the time it was the best in the Nikon range. While the Nikon D750 can't capture 4K video, you can record pretty decent video in 1080p at up to 60fps. There is a huge range of lenses to choose from either brand new or in the second-hand market. It's one of the cheapest Nikon full-frame cameras you can get right now and there's a reason people still want to buy them – they're great cameras that offer fantastic image quality. 

Read our full Nikon D750 review (opens in new tab) or Best Nikon cameras (opens in new tab), and maybe Nikon D750 vs Nikon D850 (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Sony )
(opens in new tab)
One of the few cheap full-frame cameras that includes in-body stabilization

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
5-axis in-body image stabilization
+
Great handling

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K video
-
Large lenses negate size advantage

The Sony A7 II was the first camera in the Sony Alpha mirrorless camera range to include sensor-shift image stabilization. Now that it's a few years old, you can pick one up pretty cheap and it offers a pretty big upgrade on the original Sony A7. It's compatible with a range of Sony lenses (opens in new tab) as well as third-party companies such as Sigma or Tamron. An updated processor means it is a much faster camera, it has a 117-point phase-detect autofocus system and 25-point contrast-detect AF ensuring sharpness no matter where the subject is in the frame. It hasn't got the highest-resolution sensor but 24 megapixels is more than enough to print images as big as A1. For anyone looking to upgrade to full-frame, this is one of the cheapest options.

Read our full Sony A7 II review (opens in new tab) or Best Sony cameras (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Future)
(opens in new tab)
Canon's second mirrorless camera has massively dropped in price since the release of the R5 and R6

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: Canon RF
Screen: 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max burst speed: 5fps (One Shot), 4fps (Servo AF)
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Compact size
+
Comes with DSLR lens converter

Reasons to avoid

-
Few affordable RF lenses
-
Large lenses negate size advantage

The Canon EOS RP was the second camera in Canon's new RF full-frame mirrorless system and was designed to give you a low price of entry into this new family of cameras and its all-new lens mount. It was designed to be cheap and prices have fallen still further, so this is the cheapest of all Canon full-frame cameras! To make things easier for those upgrading, the EOS RP body is sold with a converter that allows you to use your existing Canon EOS D-SLR EF-mount lenses. Given that the existing RF lenses are rather esoteric and expensive for those shopping on a budget, this converter is a godsend. In terms of features, it is worth thinking of this as a mirrorless Canon EOS 6D Mark II – but with the advantage of an electronic viewfinder and 4K video shooting. The body is very small, but not too badly overbalanced by larger lenses, and while it doesn't have the heavyweight presence of more pro-orientated cameras, it's light, nice to use, and has up-to-date tech. It's not the most advanced full-frame camera on the market by any means, but with its compact, easy-to-use body and vari-angle screen, it's a brilliant buy at current prices.

Read our full Canon EOS RP review (opens in new tab) or Best Canon cameras (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Mike Harris)
(opens in new tab)
Nikon's cheapest full-frame mirrorless system includes dual SD card slots and can record 4K cropped video

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.3
Lens mount: Nikon Z
Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots
Max burst speed: 4.5fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Dual SD UHS-II card slots
+
Nice build and handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Cropped 4K video
-
Only 4.5fps continuous shooting

The Z5 is Nikon's cheapest full-frame mirrorless camera, making it perfect for this list, though whether you consider it a bargain or not will depend on which territory you're in. In the UK, for example, there is no body-only option and it's sold only with a 24-50mm kit lens you will probably want to replace quite soon. In the US, you can buy it as a kit and body only, and in the body-only form, it's significantly cheaper than the Nikon Z6. The 45fps burst shooting and cropped 4K video are a bit disappointing, but the Z5 handles really nicely, has a magnesium alloy body and weatherproofing, and we like the twin SD UHS-II card slots too. What's really caught our eye, though, is the price drops we're seeing right now. This is a chance to get a brand new camera design at 'old camera' prices.

Read our full Nikon Z5 review (opens in new tab) or Best Nikon cameras (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
(opens in new tab)
With a precise AF system, the Canon 6D II is still a popular choice for those looking to upgrade to full-frame

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Max burst speed: 6.5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated, sensitive AF system
+
Vari-angle touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K video
-
Unimpressive dynamic range

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II arrived five years after the original Canon EOS 6D, and brought some major updates that made it feel very current and fresh – and it still does. The original EOS 6D was a bit of an old plodder, but the EOS 6D Mark II is a very different proposition. As well as a step up in resolution – from 20.2MP to 26.2MP – it features Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 processing engine, a touch-sensitive, vari-angle display, and 5-axis digital stabilization for handheld video recording (which tops out at 1080p – no 4K option here, alas). The autofocus system gets a healthy boost in the shape of 45 cross-type points – although the AF point array is weighted towards the centre of the frame. The system is sensitive down to -3EV and benefits from Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF in Live View and movies too. It’s a great camera to shoot with, and the EOS 6D Mark II's combination of features, flexibility, and value make it one of the best Canon cameras (opens in new tab) of all. 

Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)
(opens in new tab)
If you can't stretch to the R5 or R6 the original Canon mirrorless system still offers impressive AF and a 30MP sensor

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 30.3MP
Lens mount: Canon RF
Screen: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2.1m dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max burst speed: 8ps
Max video resolution: 4K (cropped)
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Great control customization
+
5,655(!) focus positions

Reasons to avoid

-
No in-body stabilization
-
Cropped 4K video

The EOS R was launched back in 2018 and was Canon's first full-frame mirrorless camera. While both the EOS R5 (opens in new tab) and R6 have the edge, thanks to some welcome firmware improvements and a significant price drop since its launch, it's now a more compelling camera than it was when it initially arrived. The 30.3MP sensor is a match for the excellent EOS 5D Mark IV, while Canon's also managed to squeeze a staggering 5,655 focus positions onto the sensor, which cover 88% of the frame horizontally and 100% vertically. The 3.69 million-dot electronic viewfinder is very good, while the 3.15-inch articulating touchscreen is still one of the largest around. That's not forgetting Canon's polished touchscreen interface, though the less said about the M-Fn multi-function touch bar the better. There's no in-body image stabilization either, but pair it with some IS lenses and you'll still be able to get up to 5 stops of image shake compensation. It's not without its limitations then, but the EOS R shouldn't be dismissed at this price. 

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

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
(opens in new tab)
Best known for making lenses, the Sigma fp is a surprisingly good bit of kit - especially for video

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.6
Lens mount: L-mount
Screen: 3.15-inch fixed, 2,100k dots
Viewfinder: No
Max burst speed: 18fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Industrial, functional design
+
Best at video but good at stills

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed LCD, no EVF
-
Unreliable continuous AF

It's easy to fall in love with the miniature size of the Sigma fp and its utilitarian, industrial design. Sigma has always dared to be different with its cameras, and given that there are now so many different full-frame mirrorless systems, this is great to see. This is a camera that is designed to be a start of a system, however, which is where opinions might divide. Stills photographers might find the Sigma fp a bit irritating to handle without its optional screw-on grip and ergonomically challenged even then. Videographers will see it differently. Here, the camera is simply a central component in a modular shooting 'rig', and Sigma's small size and multiple attachment points are big advantages. In the end, it does feel as if the Sigma fp is no more than an interesting alternative in the stills market, but a much more serious and fascinating option for videographers. It's also rather good value.

Read our full Sigma fp review (opens in new tab) or Best 4K cameras for video (opens in new tab)

How we test lenses

We test lenses (opens in new tab) using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.

Read more:

Best full-frame cameras (opens in new tab)
The best full-frame DSLRs (opens in new tab)
The best full-frame mirrorless camera (opens in new tab)
Best full-frame compact cameras (opens in new tab)
Best cheap cameras (opens in new tab)
Best travel camera (opens in new tab) 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1