The Best Full-Frame Cameras for 2020


A Sensor as Big as Film

There’s never been a better time to make the jump to a full-frame digital camera. Over the past few years, models with 24-by-36mm image sensors—the same dimensions as a frame of 35mm film—have become more and more affordable. And while the smaller APS-C sensor format is still the de facto standard for entry-level SLRs and mirrorless cameras, you don’t have to move too far north of $1,000 to go full-frame.

There are real advantages to the format, which features a sensor with roughly twice the surface area of APS-C models. It gives photographers more control over depth of field, generally better images in difficult light, and access to higher-resolution capture than you’ll find in cameras with smaller sensors.

Mirrorless, SLR, or Something Else?

Choosing the right full-frame model for you isn’t the easiest prospect. You’ll need to decide if you want to go with an SLR or mirrorless model—or to buck expectations and opt for a rangefinder or fixed-lens camera instead.

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Mirrorless systems have overtaken SLRs in performance. You’ll enjoy wider autofocus coverage, faster burst rates, and much better video than with a traditional optical viewfinder model. If you’re not ready to move on, you can still get an excellent SLR from Canon, Nikon, or Pentax.

If you’re thinking about moving to mirrorless, you can look to an adapter to take your existing lenses. Canon and Nikon both offer adapters for their respective systems, and other accessories, like flashes, can be used without the need for adapters.

Sony camera

The advantages of mirrorless systems are palpable. There are fewer moving parts, and engineers are able to put the autofocus system directly on the sensor, so there’s never a need to make focus calibration adjustments, and focus points can extend all the way to the edge of the frame. And, while there’s certainly an adjustment period needed for photographers used to optical viewfinders, the fact that an EVF is able to show you a preview of what a photo will look like with current exposure settings makes it easier for photographers to get the exposure where they want it.

Video is the other arena in which mirrorless cameras outpace most competing SLRs. Putting focus on the sensor means that cameras are able to keep up with moving subjects when recording movies, and several models from Canon, Nikon and Sony offer in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which does a very good job steadying handheld video.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

There are still plenty of great photos made with SLRs, and while they might not offer as many advanced features as upstart mirrorless rivals, they still have their place. Professionals with years of muscle memory may find that familiar ergonomics trump technical advantages. Others may find that they prefer an old-school, optical viewfinder.

And there’s the road less traveled. There are cameras with full-frame sensors, like the Leica M10 rangefinder series, which is a purely manual focus camera with an optical viewfinder and absolutely no video support.

There are even a few cameras out there with 24-by-36mm sensors and permanently attached lenses. The Leica Q2 and the Sony RX1R II represent the current crop.

System Options

Fixed-lens outliers aside, most photographers buying into full-frame will go with an interchangeable lens camera. And before you settle in on a particular camera, you should make sure it’s part of a system that will meet all of the challenges you face as a photographer.

Canon camera

Canon has two full-frame systems available. Its well-established SLR series uses the EF lens mount and offers cameras ranging from entry-level to professional. In 2018 it added the EOS R mirrorless family, which uses the RF mount, but can also use EF lenses via an inexpensive adapter.

In addition to its iconic M rangefinder series, Leica launched its own mirrorless system, with autofocus, in 2015 with the SL camera. It lived in its niche for a few years, but that changed at the 2018 Photokina conference. Leica announced that Panasonic and Sigma were joining it to form the L-Mount Alliance. Panasonic has released three models so far, and Sigma is shipping its compact fp, one of the smallest full-frame cameras.

Nikon camera

Like Canon, Nikon has two full-frame systems. You can opt for an SLR, which uses the F-mount, and the mirrorless Z-mount system, launched in 2018. Nikon offers SLRs ranging from entry-level to fully professional. Its Z system skips the bottom end of the market, but the two available models are suited for all but the most demanding sports and action photography.

Pentax camera

Pentax is an iconic SLR brand, but doesn’t give owners much choice when it comes to full-frame cameras. It’s released two—the K-1 and K-1 Mark II—and the Mark II’s upgrades are minimal.

Sony technically has two systems, but its A-mount SLR series is all but dead. We don’t recommend it to new users, although the a99 II offers plenty of appeal for photographers with a heavy investment in glass.

Sony camera

It’s Sony’s mirrorless E-mount system that has been the focus of development efforts, and it shows. After a full five years on the market, the company has delivered models tuned for high-speed action, high-resolution capture, and for video. There are loads of lenses available, both first- and third-party, and Sony continues to sell older models with reduced pricing, broadening the appeal for entry-level buyers. It’s the most mature of all the full-frame mirrorless systems.

If you’re still not sure what system is right for you, we cover all the options, including those with smaller than full-frame sensors, here.

Get the Right Camera

It’s easy to buy a full-frame camera—you just need a credit card. It’s getting the right one that can be tricky. Once you’ve settled in on the right system, make sure the model you choose meets your needs. Photographers interested in action should look for one with great autofocus and a fast burst rate, while fine art and landscape specialists will seek out high resolution and extreme dynamic range.

You can take a look at our latest reviews to see what’s just come to market. We also have some tips for enthusiasts who want to get more out of their camera, and guides with instructions on getting great shots of fireworks and lightning.  

Where To Buy

  • Nikon D850

    $ 3300.00

    Pros: Full-frame 45.7MP image sensor.
    153-point autofocus system.
    7fps burst shooting.
    Wide ISO range.
    4K video.
    Large optical viewfinder.
    Tilting touch LCD.
    Dual card slots.
    Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

    Cons: Live View focus uses contrast detection only.
    Omits built-in flash.
    SnapBridge system needs some work.

    Bottom Line: The Nikon D850 offers the best of all worlds: extreme resolution, fantastic image quality, fast shooting, and an exceptional build. It’s our favorite pro SLR.

    Read Review

  • Sony a7 III

    $ 2000.00

    Pros: 24MP full-frame BSI sensor.
    10fps with tracking.
    5-axis stabilization.
    4K HDR video.
    Silent shooting available.
    Tilting touch LCD.
    Dual SD slots.
    Vastly improved battery.
    Focus joystick.
    Flat profiles available.

    Cons: Screen not true vari-angle.
    Only one card slot is UHS-II.
    No in-body flash.
    Shooting buffer must clear to start video.
    Dense menu system.
    Omits PC sync socket.

    Bottom Line: The Sony a7 III is an entry-level full-frame camera that goes well beyond the basics in features, with excellent image quality, 10fps subject tracking, and 4K video capture.

    Read Review

  • Sony a7R IV

    $ 3499.99

    Pros: 60.2MP full-frame imaging.
    10fps Raw capture.
    Real-Time Tracking autofocus.
    5-axis image stabilization.
    Big, crisp EVF.
    Tilting touch LCD.
    Dual UHS-II slots.

    Cons: Lower-pixel cameras are better for video.
    Phase detection doesn’t extend to edge of frame.
    Big file sizes.

    Bottom Line: The full-frame mirrorless Sony a7R IV outshines its high-resolution competition with an outstanding autofocus system and a superlative image sensor, delivering class-leading performance.

    Read Review

  • Leica Q2

    $ 4995.00

    Pros: High-resolution full-frame image sensor.
    Quick, accurate autofocus.
    Bright, sharp lens.
    Optical stabilization.
    IP52 weather protection.
    Big, sharp EVF.
    Up to 20fps capture.
    4K video.
    Wi-Fi.

    Cons: Expensive.
    Doesn’t track subjects at top burst rate.
    No flash.

    Bottom Line: Leica’s pricey Q2 camera marries a superb lens to a high-resolution image sensor and puts it all in a travel-friendly, weather-sealed package.

  • Sony a9 II

    Pros: Blackout-free capture at 20fps
    Superlative autofocus system
    24MP full-frame sensor
    Dust and splash protection
    5-axis IBIS
    4K video
    Wired and wireless file transfer

    Cons: No S-Log video profiles included
    Battery doesn’t match SLR rivals
    Can’t switch to video when clearing image buffer

    Bottom Line: The Sony a9 II’s blackout-free capture experience sets it apart from its full-frame rivals, and its 20fps subject tracking is unmatched.

    Read Review

  • Canon EOS R5

    Pros: Superb 45MP full-frame sensor
    Fast, accurate autofocus
    Subject tracking at up to 20fps
    Big, brilliant EVF
    Swing-out touch LCD
    5-axis IBIS
    CFexpress and UHS-II SDXC card support
    8K and 4K video look great

    Cons: Video record time limited by heat
    Expensive CFexpress memory required for some features
    Battery life could be better
    Lens system still has some room to grow
    Priced higher than competitors

    Bottom Line: Still photographers will find little at fault with the high-resolution Canon EOS R5, but heat management issues will leave video-first creatives looking elsewhere.

    Read Review

  • Canon EOS RP

    $ 1299.00

    Pros: Compact body with full-frame sensor.
    Vari-angle LCD.
    Integrated EVF.
    Quick, accurate autofocus.
    Macro stacking and time-lapse tools.
    Wi-Fi.
    Attractive price.

    Cons: Small EVF.
    Low-cost native lenses not available yet.
    Inconsistent face and eye detection.
    4K video suffers from heavy crop.
    Sensor shows limited dynamic range.
    Small battery.
    No built-in flash.

    Bottom Line: Canon wants to bring full-frame photography to the masses with the affordable EOS RP. It’s a solid camera for the price, but Canon needs to release more low-cost RF-mount lenses to pair with it.

    Read Review

  • Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

    Pros: Exceptional build quality
    20MP full-frame sensor with 5.5K Raw video
    16fps capture with mechanical shutter
    20fps with electronic shutter
    Superlative autofocus (for an SLR)
    Huge battery
    Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet connectivity

    Cons: EF lenses no longer in development
    Requires expensive CFexpress memory cards
    HIF image format not widely supported
    The future is mirrorless

    Bottom Line: The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is the best version of the 1D yet, but you should weigh all your options before spending big on a new SLR and memory cards.

    Read Review

  • Leica M10 Monochrom

    Pros: 40MP full-frame monochrome sensor
    Optical viewfinder with rangefinder focus
    Luxurious fit and finish
    Crisp touch LCD
    Dust and splash resistant
    Nearly silent mechanical shutter
    Add-on EVF available
    Wi-Fi

    Cons: Premium pricing
    Doesn’t do color or video
    Manual focus isn’t for everyone

    Bottom Line: The Leica M10 Monochrom is the dream camera for devotees of classic black-and-white photography.

    Read Review

  • Nikon Z6

    $ 1996.00

    Pros: 24MP full-frame sensor.
    90 percent autofocus coverage.
    12fps Raw continuous shooting.
    In-body image stabilization.
    Tilting touch LCD.
    Big, sharp EVF.
    Compatible with Nikon SLR accessories.
    4K video.
    Dust and splash resistant.
    Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

    Cons: Baked-in Raw adjustments.
    Oversensitive lens control ring function.
    Single memory card slot.
    No PC Sync socket.

    Bottom Line: The Nikon Z 6 is the company’s high-speed, full-frame camera with a 24MP sensor and a class-leading 12fps burst rate. It’s a strong debut thanks to excellent ergonomics, in-body stabilization, and 4K video.

    Read Review


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