A few years ago, asking for the cheapest full-frame cameras was akin to looking for the most affordable Tesla. It used to be that full-frame cameras – meaning those with a sensor the size of a 35mm frame of film – were solely for professionals. Huge price tags kept many enthusiasts away. But with the Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D600 came the dawn of the ‘affordable full-frame camera’, which opened up the creative possibilities afforded by higher-spec cameras to a whole new group of users. Over the years we’ve seen the big DSLR makers cede ground to mirrorless cameras, and the increased competition in the marketplace has placed even the best full-frame cameras on the market realistically within people’s budgets. And now, with cameras like the Canon EOS RP, Nikon Z5 and Sony A7C hitting the market in the last couple of years, buying the cheapest full-frame cameras doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy a model that’s several years old.
Is a full-frame camera better?
In truth, yes and no. A full frame sensor is bigger and offers better image quality than a smaller sensor. Its surface area is nearly 2.5 times bigger than an APS-C sensor, so the full frame sensor has bigger photo sites that capture more light and detail. But ultimately it’s down to the quality of your lenses to bring out that detail. But if you are comparing a full frame sensor and a crop sensor that both offer the same resolution, the full frame sensor will provide better image quality.
What are the cheapest full-frame cameras to buy?
Below we’ve rounded up the best of the cheapest full-frame cameras on the market. Some are new, some are old. The bottom line is, we’ve tested and used all of these cameras and these are our own personal picks for the best value for money. Expect this list to change over the next year, as renewed competition is constantly redefining what’s affordable. You might also find our guides to the best full-frame cameras and best beginner full-frame cameras useful. For a deeper dive into the many different camera types and features available, check out our range of camera buying guides.
1. Nikon D750
- Price: From £1000 / $900
- 24.3-megapixel sensor
- 1080p video
- 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen
A revered workhorse of a camera, the Nikon D750 is that rare jack of all trades that is a master of all of them. Somewhat overshadowed in Nikon’s range by the D800, then D810 and now Nikon D850, it’s a testament to the D750’s regard that it has outlived all its senior siblings. The D750’s 51-point AF system is fast and accurate, and its Advanced Scene Recognition technology helps further improve accuracy. The D750 is also a superb low-light shooter, producing images of low-contrast subjects with stunning detail and little noise. And while like most other models on this list of the cheapest full-frame cameras, again there’s no 4K video. But the D750’s Full HD at 60fps footage is broadcast quality and nothing to dismiss. Unlike other Nikon models, the D750 boasts a tilting touchscreen, and you’ll also find built-in WiFi. At its current price tag, the Nikon D750 is easily better than many non-full-frame cameras being sold at comparable prices. Find the latest deals on the Nikon D750 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
2. Nikon D610
- Price: From £800 / $700
- 24.3-megapixel sensor
- 1080p video
- Dual SD card slots
The D600 was Nikon’s original ‘affordable full-frame’ camera, and the Nikon D610 is the model that replaced it. The D610 was the junior partner to the D750, but is still quite a capable camera. It introduced a then-new Quiet Release burst mode that allows wildlife photographers to shoot in near silence at up to 6fps. Its body is also fully weather-sealed, allowing you to shoot in all conditions. In-camera HDR lets you produce images with a wide dynamic range, and again, as is a hallmark of Nikon’s full-frame cameras, you can expect superior low-light performance. The D610 is quite capable of producing images with fine detail and minimal noise at the upper end of its ISO range. Video-wise, the D610 shoots Full HD footage in 30p, 25p and 24p, and its dual card slots mean you can film for a while. At the time, some critics said the D610 was only a light refresh of the original D600, but these days, at that price, it is perhaps the perfect next camera for someone shooting with a crop sensor or even a smartphone, looking to take their photography more seriously. Find the latest deals on the Nikon D610 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
3. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
- Price: From £1200 / $1200
- 26.2-megapixel sensor
- 1080p video
- 3-inch articulated touchscreen
The sensor is new and brings a 6-million-pixel jump in resolution yet thanks to improvements in technology that the passage of almost five years brings and the Digic 7 processor the standard sensitivity (ISO) range has also expanded to ISO 100-40,000. the 6D Mark II is a well-rounded camera that has just about everything enthusiast photographers could want – apart perhaps from 4K video recording.
The touch-control is excellent and the vari-angle screen is a real bonus for shooting from creative angles. In addition, the always-on Bluetooth connection makes controlling the camera via your smartphone, or transferring images to share a doddle. The Evaluative metering performs well with landscapes and bright scenes but you need to keep an eye out for over-exposure when there’s a dark background. In the default settings, the colours and white balance are usually good.
If you’re a Canon APS-C format (check out our guide to the best APS-C cameras) camera user looking to upgrade to a full-frame camera the 6D Mark II makes a great choice. It’s significantly more affordable than the 5D Mark IV and has a wealth of useful features, plus the vari-angle screen is much nicer to use than a fixed one when you’re shooting video.
4. Sony A7C
- Price: From £1400 / $1400
- 24.2-megapixel sensor
- 4K video at 60fps
- Vari-angle 3-inch 921,600-dot vari-angle touchscreen
If you’re looking for a small full-frame camera with Sony’s excellent autofocus and noise control systems then the Sony A7C is the way to go as it’s smallest of the Sony A7-series cameras. It has a flat-topped rectangular body that makes it look similar to the Sony A6600, but there’s also a vari-angle screen rather than a tilting monitor. And inside, the A7C has the same 24Mp sensor and core features as the Sony A7 III.
Paired with the FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 kit lens., which is a small collapsible optic, the A7C makes an attractive choice for travel and everyday photography.
However, in shrinking down the A7C, Sony also made a few compromises on the handling. There’s no joystick on the back of the camera for example, and there’s only one control dial. In addition, the electronic viewfinder is the type of unit that is more commonly found in APS-C format cameras.
5. Sony A7 II
- Price: From £1200 / $1100
- 24.3-megapixel sensor
- 1080p video
- 5-axis image stabilisation
While the A7 is no slouch, Sony’s update to its original Alpha 7, the A7 II, pushes the envelope even further. Sony’s A7 II was the first full-frame camera to boast 5-axis image stabilisation. This is really the key difference between the A7 II and the original, but that IS is very, very good. Combined with the stabilisation in your lenses (should you have lenses with IS), you will be surprised at how long you can handhold the camera while shooting in low light. Another key difference in the Sony A7 II is the video. No, it doesn’t shoot 4K either, but Sony did bump the frame rate for Full HD up to 120fps with the A7 II. This opens the door for slow-motion video and a whole host of creative possibilities. You’ll also probably find that the battery life is a bit longer with the Sony A7 II vs the original A7. Find the latest deals on the Sony A7 II at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
6. Canon EOS RP
- Price: From £1300 / $1300
- 26.2-megapixel sensor
- 4K video
- IS sensitive down to -5EV
Aimed at travel and enthusiast photographers, the Canon EOS RP features a slightly reworked 26.2MP sensor, similar to the one in the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. As well as boasting Canon’s new RF mount, the lightweight body design weighs in at just 485g (including the battery and memory card). Inside that chassis is the full-frame dual pixel CMOS sensor Canon’s latest Digic 8 processor. There’s also a digital lens optimiser and Canon’s Defocus Smooth (DS) technology. The RP has a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-40,000, which can be extended from 50-102,400. Meanwhile, the RP can record 4K video at 25fps and 1080p at 60fps. Image stabilisation is one of the RP’s more significant features, and the RP brings dual sensor IS to the table. Because of the new RF mount, communication between the lens, gyros and bodies, the IS is ultra fast with the sensitivity of the IS unit vastly improved over previous generations. The IS system is also sensitive down to -5EV, which is impressive and will enable you to take shots in lower light conditions than you would be able to without. Find the latest deals on the Canon EOS RP at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
7. Nikon D810
- Price: From £1100 / $1000
- 36.3-megapixel full-frame sensor
- 51-point AF system
- Full HD video
When the D850 came along in 2017 it marked a huge upgrade over the Nikon D810. But the D810 is no slouch. Nikon’s high-resolution powerhouse is still a superb option for landscape photographers with its 36.3-million-pixel resolution. Again, while it may pale to the D850’s awesome AF system, you still get 51 phase detection AF points (15 of which are cross-type). The D810’s AF performance is very, very good. As a video camera, it’s limited to Full HD, but you can record at frame rates of 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p. Its native ISO range is 64 to 12,800, which can be expanded from ISO 32 to 51,200. Pound for pound, the Nikon D810 is one of the best – and cheapest – full-frame cameras you can get at its new price tag. Find the latest deals on the Nikon D810 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
8. Nikon Z5
- Price: From £1400 / $1200
- 24.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- 273-point Hybrid (combines phase and contrast detection) with Eye AF for humans and animals
- 4K video
- 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
Combined with the compact Nikkor Z 24-50MM F/4-6.3 kit lens, the Nikon Z5 makes a very attractive camera for everyday photography and travel as, despite it’s full-frame sensor, it’s smaller than some APS-C format DSLRs. While the maximum continuous shooting rate of 4.5fps doesn’t really impress in 2021, the Z5 still has a good 273-point phase detection AF system with Eye-detection AF for humans and pets. There’s also an excellent 5-axis image stabilisation system built-in and, of course, the Nikon Z mount which means that the Z5 is compatiblae with Nikon’s growing range of Z optics as well as F-mount lenses via the Nikon FTZ adaptor. Despite being Nikon’s ‘entry-level’ full-frame mirrorless camera, the Z5 has dual SD card slots that are UHS-II compatible and there’s a tilting touchscreen on the back that makes using the camera intuitive. Find the latest deals on the Nikon Z5 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
What is the lightest full frame camera?
The lightest full frame camera is the Sigma fp, which weighs less than a pound. After that, the lightest full frame camera is the Canon EOS RP, which you will also find on our list here of the cheapest full frame cameras.
Why buy a cheap full frame camera?
Buying a cheap full frame camera may sound like you’re compromising on your photography, but as we said above when we asked if a full frame camera is better… it’s your lenses that make most of the difference. A full-frame sensor will capture more detail, but you need quality lenses to bring it to life in your images. Therefore, if you ask us it’s probably better to buy a cheap full frame camera that is maybe a few years old and has been replaced in its range. Then take that savings and invest it in a fast, quality lens.