DSLR cameras are one of the most popular digital camera solutions for not only photographers who are serious about their work but those who want premium-quality video clips as well. We’ve been doing a lot of work when it comes to these types of cameras, however today enter a new and advanced category: the best full-frame DSLR cameras. A full-frame DSLR camera is for those who are serious about their images and videos — semi-pro and professional the like. Since there are so many out there to check out, we wanted to research the top 10 best and help you out when it comes to finding the camera for you.
What is a full-frame DSLR camera?
Full-frame DSLR cameras are a type of digital camera and an advanced solution for photography which the same system of lens and mirror is used for a viewfinder and photo forming. The cheaper DSLR cameras have a smaller lens than these — the more popular (and quite cheaper) models you see beginners and even some semi-professional photographers praise have a standard sensor size (22.2 x 14.8 mm for Canon and 23.5-23.7 x 15.6 mm for others), while these full-frame DSLR cameras have the traditional camera 35 mm format (36 mm x 24 mm film to be exact). So why does a bigger sensor matter? You guessed it — better overall quality photos. Noticeably better too, and we’re not talking about pictures that have gone through photo editing software, either.
These are very popular wedding cameras, but can also be feasible for other near-professional applications, or really anybody who wants to stand out above the rest. Just because a DSLR camera is listed as full-frame however doesn’t automatically make it the best. There are other specifications to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a high-quality model: the exact sensor type, processing, ISO range, MP count (the bigger isn’t necessarily the bigger, though), autofocus technology (is there automatic focus or a lot of cross-points?), light sensitivity and more. Although these are important (and we highlight each model below), your budget will really choose your ceiling.
Picking the best DSLR camera with a full-frame
- Budget – These things aren’t cheap, although justified for many good reasons (our best DSLR under $500 guide didn’t even come close to having one of these in it). This is a product category we recommend perhaps saving up after you’ve read through the 10 models as opposed to picking one right away, although we won’t stop you if one really peeks your interest right away.
- Intended lighting\use – Although many of the higher-end full-frame DSLR cameras are great for a versatile range of lighting, if you plan on being in the dark quite frequently, make sure you find a camera that has a reputation for low-light settings. We’ll list which are best for this.
- Video? Our best DSLR camera for video had a few full-frame models in there; however, most of these include video as well so you should be fine. Is this important to you? We’ll state whether the model has video and what type of quality you’ll be able to use (not many have 4K video resolution yet). We’ll definitely say that if you’re strictly looking for a full-frame DSLR for video, you may want to research more because the advantages of these are more suited for photography.
- Needed lenses – As always with DSLR cameras or merely any interchangeable model at that, lenses will always be a factor (that some forget about, especially when it comes to adding up your overall budget to spend). Most of these are body only, so keep in mind that you’ll need a new lens or two if you don’t have a collection started yet.
The 10 best full-frame DSLR cameras
Canon EOS 6D
To start off our list, we went with one of the best all-around options for those concerned with finding a decently priced (is that OK to call any full-frame for that matter?) model with some amazing specs and numbers attached to it. The Canon EOS 6D is considered by a lot to be one of the best full-frame DSLR camera models if you are looking for some super clear, sharp photos in a variety of conditions. It has a powerful 20.2 MP CMOS Sensor with an extensive ISO range (from 100 to 25600). The camera can be adjusted to L: 50, H1: 51200 and H2: 102400, which will enable you to create solid photos even when there is very little light for darker environments. Its unique DIGIC 5+ processor is pretty famous at this point, and the impressive focusing is achieved thanks to the 11-point AF with a very precise center AF point cross-type that comes with EV -3 sensitivity. In terms of filming some clips aside from your photography, the camera comes with full HD video that gives the user the ability to take multiple frames at different rates. There is also built-in Wi-Fi for instant online sharing of photos and videos. It isn’t a monster or can be considered ‘professional’ by the “experts”, but it gets the job done and will really set your photos apart from those using traditional cameras. The Canon EOS 6D however isn’t the most expensive of this bunch at all, so as compared to other popular full-frame DSLR cameras, you’ll be saving some money on top of it. If it’s too low in price and features, keep reading.
It wouldn’t have been fair to list anything else besides a Nikon model after our first Canon pick. If you’re more of a Nikon type of photographer and want one of their best full-frame DSLR cameras out right now, this one is great. With immense capabilities when it comes to high-resolution, the D810 is rated highly by many and we start to get into the professional area of these monstrous cameras. It is firstly FX-format and in case you weren’t aware, is just another term for full-frame. It has a whopping 36.3 MP lens without an optical low-pass filter. Combine this with an EXPEED 4 processing of images, this camera will enable the user to capture details in clear color combinations in a range from ISO 64 to 12,800 for a very wide dynamic range. Along with the creation of near professional-quality photos, you also have the possibility to film full HD videos shot at 1080 in 60/50/30/25/24p, which you can compress to an internal CF/SD card or send uncompressed to an outside device – or both at the same time. You can shoot in a flat photo style that will improve the dynamic range, or you can caliber sound control directly on the camera. The Nikon D810 is a high-end full-frame DSLR camera that isn’t for the beginners.
Canon EOS 5DS
The EOS 5DS by Canon is definitely another strong contender for the best DSLR camera with full frame. This powerful camera has an above-and-beyond 50.6 MP CMOS sensor to deliver pro photos in all types of conditions and lighting. This camera comes with an advanced 61-point high-density reticular auto-focus system that comes with 41 AF cross-type points as well as iTR AF (stands for intelligent-tracking and recognition auto-focus) for specific setting of the AF you want in any different situation. The convenient function that prevents flickering will allow full exposure and the desired color when you take photos constantly in a certain light. DPReview’s Canon EOS 5DS review has a lot more in-depth information on it if you want to read more before dropping all that cash. You can also create full HD videos if you were in need, and you’re getting a number of different creative effects such as time-lapse movie, and the crop function of 1.3x and 1.6x is very useful in taking photos as well. Regardless, we’re truly in the professional realm of full-frame DSLR cameras now, and grabbing the Canon EOS 5DS is an investment that will last you for pretty much here on out — you’ll probably be only upgrading the lenses from time to time.
Up next, we have a different brand name in Pentax (they definitely have their own unique following) as opposed to the typical Canon and Nikon dominance within the full-frame DSLR camera category. Equipped with a 36.4 MP full frame CMOS sensor and a unique PRIME IV image processing capability, this camera will enable you to take great photos especially with low-light settings. It comes with a wide range that goes up to an incredible 204800 ISO. The K-1 also comes with an AA Filter Simulator feature that gives the user the ability to avoid aliasing and minimize moiré when you need to. With built-in shake reduction on a 5 axis system, you can have up to five compensation stops. The Pentax K-1 comes with 33 AF points (of which 25 are cross-type). Let’s not forget the great 3.2″ LCD monitor that can be tilted up, down, left and right for some convenience. Check out the Pentax K-1 if the previous models weren’t your thing, you wanted a brand that wasn’t stereotypical, and a solution that’s pretty affordable as compared to the others in the lower price-point of these things.
The Nikon D750 is definitely another runner-up for the best DSLR camera with a full-frame thanks to the 24.3 MP camera, large 3.2″ LCD tilting screen and built-in Wi-Fi that will enable you to share your images and videos online. The Nikon D750 comes with a strong AF system with 51 points, of which 15 are cross-type, as well as 3D Color Matrix Metering III, which has a solid RGB sensor with 91,000p. This is a very responsive camera – you can take as many as 6.5 frames per second with full resolution. The Nikon D750 is equipped with our previously seen high-quality EXPEED 4 image processing that will enable quick frame rates and a wide ISO range from 100 to 12,800 (that can be expanded up to ISO 51,200). When not taking photos, you can shoot full HD videos with reduced noise and minimal moiré or false colors. The Nikon D750 is another solution for the best full-frame DSLR camera by Nikon, especially if you were looking for a model for a couple grand.
This is listed right after the D750 in case you wanted to save a few dollars yet still grab a similar model if you were willing to sacrifice a few specs. The Nikon D610 is a 24.3 MP camera that is definitely one of the contenders for best budget-friendly full-frame DSLR if you didn’t want to drop a hefty amount of cash on yours, or in case you wanted to save some more money to grab a better lens and can do without a fancy body. Despite the lower price, this one will still enable you to take photos of near semi-pro quality as well as full HD videos in case you wanted to film as well. You can shoot photos in sequence, as this camera gives you the option to take up to 6 frames per second. It is equipped with AF that has as much as 39 focus points, as well as a built-in Commander Mode flash. The Nikon D610 is additionally equipped with built-in Wi-Fi that will make it easy to share your photos and videos if you weren’t a post-production type of person. Nikon’s recognizable EXPEED 3 system (here’s a big sacrifice as compared to the D750 with EXPEED 4) deals with all info with great speed and precision. Check out the Nikon D610 for a cheap solution to save some damage to that wallet.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Now that we’ve gotten nearly halfway through the top 10 guide and are past the best budget-friendly pick, let’s check out a heavy-hitter for those who are serious about this (for those even in photography as a career to make a living). The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is a full-frame DSLR camera that will let you to take photos and filming of videos to a whole new level, which for some makes it the best DSLR camera with full-frame if their budget is all but small. This is a 20.2 MP camera with CMOS sensor with a wide autofocus range with 61 points, including 41 cross-point and 5 double cross-points, which ensures better flexibility in subject focusing. In combination with the advanced AI Servo AF III+ tech and improved system for smart tracking and EOS recognizing, you have the possibility for very sharp and precise automatic focus and sharpening on top of it all. This camera takes speed to a whole new level with its ability to shoot up to 14 frames per second with full AF/AE tracking or up to 16 fps with live presentation, thanks to the crazy quality of its DIGIC 6+ processor and mirror drive system. If you buy the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, the specs should speak for themselves — you’re getting an advancement in every single category of the entire internal build, whether it be the autofocus, processor as well as intelligence of the camera itself.
We’ll keep going with the high-end beasts, although this is considered more in the middle price-point. With this camera you will first notice its cool retro design, and although that ultimately does nothing for the picture and video quality it’s still worth mentioning. The metal case in silver or black resembles old analog cameras such as the Nikon FM2 if you’re familiar (this becomes even more evident when you get the nice 50 mm f/1.8 lens that was designed for this). Regardless, let’s get into the specs: this camera is equipped with a full-frame sensor of 16 MP taken from the popular D4 model by Nikon that will ensure some super clear photos especially in low-light settings. A huge amount of exterior control is another option that will be appreciated by users with more experience. The Nikon Df comes with 39 AF and its built-in optic viewfinder is large and bright to help with ease of use if you were concerned with that. The enhancement on the viewfinder is 0.70x, while the covering is 100%. The 3.2″ LCD screen comes with 920,000 points with great presentation. It was also listed in TechRadar’s best full-frame DSLR post (although a lot of the others in this guide were as well). The Nikon Df is very nice, especially if you find yourself digging the sweet look.
Sony Alpha a99
The Sony name is actually more popular among mirrorless camera users, but a few of their DSLRs are worth a look, especially the Alpha 99 (SLT-A99V). Thanks to its advanced technical features, it gets an appearance in here: 24.3 MP camera with an Exmor High-Definition CMOS Sensor that will capture an immense amount of details. This is a camera with a very quick auto focus that combines a separate phase sensor with phase detection on the full-frame sensor itself. The powerful photo processor (Sony’s BIONZ) minimizes noise on the picture just where it is necessary (usually), while a max range of ISO 25600 enables clear and bright images even with lower light. Its unique system of double AF in 19 points (11 cross-points) plus a sensor for auto focus with phase recognition in a focal plane in 102 points contains the function of tracking moving motives. It keeps them sharp whether you are taking photos or videos. This camera enables you to take up to 10 frames per second. The Sony Alpha a99 is a solid solution for those not feeling the previous picks and are keen to Sony camera builds.
To cap off this top 10 best guide, we have the Lamborghini of full-frame DSLR cameras right here. With low light shooting that goes up to ISO 102,400 and very precise AF detection that covers the entire available ISO range, you will get eye-popping professional image quality no matter what the light conditions are. The D5 offers an amazingly fast 12 frames per second as well as 4K UHD video that will enable the user to take great videos even in noisy surroundings. This camera has a 20.8 MP FX-format CMOS sensor and the recognizable EXPEED 5 (we’ve only seen 3 and 4 thus far) supports shooting in sequence of the mentioned 12 frames per second. Its 180k RGB ‘Advanced Scene Recognition System’ puts it all together with just the right exposure. The Nikon D5 is surely one of the best full frame DSLR camera options on Earth if money is something you’ve got to spare, and you’ll do more than just stand out with this thing in your arsenal. Let us know what you think when you get it — you’ll be in the 1%.