Full-frame cameras used to be the preserve of professionals and well-heeled amateurs, but as competition has increased, prices have fallen to the point where they are within the reach of many enthusiasts.
That’s not to say they’re exactly cheap, but there are full-frame bargains to be found if you’re prepared to buy a previous-generation camera, or sacrifice a little in the way of performance to get that large-sensor look.
To help, we’ve put together this list of the 10 cheapest full-frame cameras on the market, from low-res options suited to low-light photography through to high-resolution cameras capable of recording big, detailed files.
Whether you’re looking to upgrade from a cropped-sensor DSLR or a mirrorless compact system camera, or you’re considering changing to a different system altogether, this round-up will guide you to the best affordable full-frame bodies available.
1. Canon EOS 6D
If you can get a good deal on it, this retiree offers reliably solid image quality
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 20.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3in fixed, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 4.5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional
At the time of its release, the Canon EOS 6D was pitched as the world’s lightest DSLR with a full-frame CMOS sensor, and despite being over five years old, it’s still a tempting proposition for landscape and travel photographers keen to lose some weight from their camera bags. The EOS 6D’s 11-point AF system includes just one cross-type sensor and is clearly less sophisticated than the Nikon D610’s 39-point approach, while its 20.2MP CMOS sensor also leaves it somewhat wanting in terms of resolution. Even so, the EOS 6D has plenty of plus points if you don’t routinely make large-format prints or carry out aggressive crops. It was a torchbearer for DSLRs with integrated Wi-Fi and GPS, it has a sensitive focus system that shines in low light and, most importantly, it’s capable of excellent image quality.
Read more: The 8 best portrait lenses for Canon users
2. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Canon’s newest full-frame DSLR gains more sophisticated AF and a touch-sensitive display
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
Arriving five years after the original Canon EOS 6D, the EOS 6D Mark II sees some significant upgrades over that model. 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 stabilisation for handheld video recording (which tops out at 1080p – no 4K option here). The autofocus system gets a healthy boost in the shape of 45 cross-type points, 27 of which are f/8 compatible, 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, but in our EOS 6D Mark II test we found the so-so dynamic range and the lack of 100% viewfinder coverage to be somewhat disappointing.
Read more: Canon EOS 6D Mark II review
3. Nikon D610
Nikon’s most junior full-frame DSLR is now a bargain buy
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2in fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional
You’ll have to dust off your loupe to spot the differences between the Nikon D610 and the Nikon D600. Arriving just a year after its predecessor – and shortly after the D600 ‘dirty sensor’ debacle – the D610 is near-identical to its predecessor. Save for slightly faster continuous shooting – 6fps versus 5.5fps – plus a ‘Quiet’ 3fps burst mode and re-tuned auto white balance, the specs are the same. Thankfully, they are rather attractive. The spec sheet includes a 24.3MP FX sensor wrapped up in a fully weather-sealed shell, as well as a 39-point AF system that, while clumped at the centre, does include f/8-compatible sensors. Rounding out the package are dual SD card slots and an optical viewfinder that shows near-enough 100% of the scene you’re shooting.
4. Nikon D750
It might be showing its age, but the D750 still offers a well-rounded spec sheet
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
The D750 is sandwiched between the more affordable D610 and the pro-spec D810/D850 in Nikon’s full-frame range. This ‘enthusiast-level’ DSLR borrows features from both cameras, so while it takes its handling cues from the D610, and shares the cheaper camera’s 1/4,000sec maximum shutter speed and 24.3MP resolution – albeit courtesy of a redesigned sensor – it packs an updated version of the D810’s 51-point AF system. The D750 is far from a Frankenstein’s monster of a DSLR though, and its accurate focusing and exposure, combined with welcome features like a tilting rear screen (a first for full-frame cameras), Wi-Fi and 1080p 60fps video make this an easy camera to live with.
Read more: The 8 best portrait lenses for Nikon users
5. Nikon D810
High-resolution photography just got a bit more affordable
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 36.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2in fixed, 1,229,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Expert
Now the higher-priced Nikon D850 is on the scene, the D810 scrapes onto our cheapest full-frame cameras list, although it’ll still set you back a tidy four-figure sum. The successor to Nikon’s original full-frame game changer, the D810 takes the D800’s bar-raising 36.3MP resolution and… well, keeps the bar at the same height. The headline resolution figure may be the same, but the sensor has a new design, with Nikon ditching the anti-aliasing filter to maximise the amount of detail that can be recorded. Also upgraded is the processing engine – now EXPEED 4 – along with an improved 5fps burst rate at full resolution, enhanced 1080p video features and a new base sensitivity of ISO 64. The downside? The large file sizes mean that you’ll need a computer with enough horsepower to handle them – and storage can be an issue too.
6. Nikon Df
A compelling blend of style and substance
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 16.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 5.5fps | Max video resolution: None | User level: Enthusiast/professional
Up against the whopping full-frame resolution of the 50.6MP Canon 5DS/R, or the 45.7MP of Nikon’s own D850, the Nikon Df’s 16.2MP resolution seems a little measly. But at least its sensor has pedigree – it’s the same one found in Nikon’s former flagship D4 DSLR – and the comparatively low pixel count means that it continues to deliver decent results in near-darkness. It’s what’s on the outside that’s more noteworthy. The Df’s retro styling borrows much from Nikon’s heritage and features a traditional dial-control layout that will please those who enjoy the photographic process as much as the end result. Compared with Nikon’s other FX DSLRs, the Df’s price remains stubbornly high for its specifications, but at least you can see and feel where your money went.
7. Sony A7
The original full-frame mirrorless camera is now a bargain
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tiltable, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional
If the bulk of a ‘full-size’ full-frame DSLR puts you off upgrading, the small and lightweight Sony A7 could prompt a rethink. Obviously, once you add a telephoto lens the A7’s size and weight advantage starts to slip, but it still packs a lot into a small body. The A7 was the first full-frame compact system camera on the market, and although it lacks some competitive features like touchscreen functionality and 4K video, the quality of the Raw images produced by the 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor continues to impress. The only real letdown is the somewhat poor battery life, but these days the A7’s relatively low price means that you can factor a spare battery or two into the total cost.
8. Sony A7 II
Although A7 II’s innards are similar to those of its predecessor, the handling is more refined
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
9. Sony A7S
A 4K video heavyweight that’s light on stills resolution, the A7S is a mirrorless camera for specialists
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 12.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tiltable, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Expert
Its 12.2MP resolution might seem a bit 2002, but the full-frame CMOS sensor inside the Sony A7S simply shines in the dark. The ’S’ stands for ‘sensitivity mastered’ – and for good reason. The A7S has a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-102,400, but keeping the resolution low means the light-gathering pixels are larger and picture noise is well controlled. Video performance is high-end too, with full pixel readout on 4K video, S-Log2 gamma and clean HDMI output – although 4K recording is only possible via an external recorder (you’ll need to splash out on the A7S II for internal 4K). If low-light photography and video are your priorities the A7S is a good option, otherwise the higher resolution and stabilisation of the A7 II makes it a more capable all-rounder.
10. Pentax K-1
Want to stand out from the crowd? Pentax’s original full-frame DSLR is a great option for those after something a little different
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 36.4MP | Lens mount: Pentax K | Screen: 3.2in tiltable, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional
Ricoh might not offer much choice in the way of full-frame cameras but it certainly knows how to build them. The K-1 is a camera that stands out from the crowd with its clever technology, including 5-axis and 5-stop shake reduction, Pixel Shift Resolution for higher resolution images and its Astrotracer system which uses GPS data to move the sensor and record stars as sharp dots rather than streaks. At 36.4MP, the K-1’s CMOS sensor matches the Nikon D810’s resolving power and it also has an AA-filter-free design too. It’s good value for money, so if all you’re looking for is a high-res full-frame sensor that delivers excellent image quality, and you’re less concerned with autofocus speed and all-round performance, the K-1 should be on your shortlist. And of you fancy something a little more up-to-date, turn your attention to the Mark II update.
Read more: The best cameras you can buy right now