Full-frame DSLRs offer the very best in image quality, but which one is best suited to you? We've pick a selection of the best full-frame DSLRs of 2015 to help you decide

The best full frame cameras

The term ‘full frame’ refers to a full-frame sensor that’s the same size as an individual frame of traditional 35mm film.

The advantages of full-frame sensors over smaller digital camera sensors, such as APS-C or Micro Four Thirds, are numerous.

For starters, the larger surface area of a full-frame chip means that the individual light-capturing photodiodes (pixels) can be larger, which in turn improves performance in low light.

Creatively speaking, another advantage of full-frame sensors is that it’s possible to attain a shallower depth of field compared to their smaller-sensor comrades.

As a result, full-frame sensors are considered to deliver the very best in image quality; although they do feature high price tags, so you’ll want to be sure you’re picking the right full-frame camera.

Key points of a full-frame camera

Sensor

Full-frame cameras are well known for producing the best performance in low light, thanks to their large photodiodes (pixels)

Pop-up flash

Not all full-frame cameras feature a pop-up flash, so for extra illumination you’ll require a hotshoemounted flashgun

Lenses

Full-frame cameras can only be used with full-frame lenses. Canon EF-S lenses, for example, are not compatible with Canon fullframe DSLRs

Build quality

Expect a full-frame camera to be robustly made with weather seals for maximum protection

Best full-frame DSLRs

Canon EOS 6D

Canon EOS 6DBest for:

  • Enthusiasts wanting to upgrade from a DSLR to full-frame
  • Travel photography because of the inbuilt GPS and Wi-fi
  • Shooting in low light

Key specs:

Price: £1140
Sensor: 20.2MP full-frame CMOS
File formats: JPEG, Raw, Raw+JPEG
Display: Fixed 3in, 1,040k dots
ISO range: 100-25,600 (exp. to 100-102,400)
Exposure modes: PASM, Scene Intelligent Auto, Scene
Drive mode: Single, Continuous, Self-timer, Silent
Movie mode: 1920 x 1080p Full HD at 30/25/24fps
Dimensions: 144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm
Weight: 755g with battery and card

Pros

  • Image quality
  • ISO performance
  • Inclusion of both Wi-fi and GPS
  • AF performance in low light

Cons

  • One cross-type AF point
  • JPEG sharpness
  • Playback zoom control
  • 97% viewfinder

Cheaper, smaller and lighter than any existing Canon full-frame DSLR, the EOS 6D is equipped with a 20.2MP sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 5+ image processor – the same processor used inside the 5D Mark III. This combination provides a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600,which can be extended to a base ISO 50 and upwards to an equivalent of ISO 102,400. As for the speed it shoots at, the 6D offers a maximum continuous burst of 4.5fps.

The EOS 6D’s 11-point focusing system features a single cross-type sensor in the middle, with ten additional points scattered around the perimeter. The optical viewfinder provides 97% frame coverage and 0.71x magnification, while the 3in rear display boasts a 1,040k-dot resolution.

The 6D offers Wi-fi connectivity, and complements this with a built-in GPS system – a rarity among DSLRs. In terms of design and build, the 6D shares characteristics with the 5D Mk III, minus a few subtle differences. The rubberised handgrip isn’t as chunky and it’s also noticeably lighter in the hand. The layout of the top-plate is clear, with independent buttons to control AF mode, drive mode, metering modes and ISO. The EOS 6D excels in terms of its low-light AF performance. The central cross-type AF point can lock onto subjects right down to -3EV, which enables the 6D to find focus even in extremely dark situations. That said, it can’t quite match the Nikon D610 for advanced AF tracking. The 63-zone metering system can be relied on to attain accurate exposures. The 6D’s sensor is capable of resolving finely spaced horizontal lines right down to 32 lines per mm (lpmm), which is equal to its main rival – the Nikon D600 – at the same ISO sensitivity. Up to ISO 3200, you’ll get clean, noise-free images.

Verdict

It’s great to see an affordable full-frame body in Canon’s line-up for under £1,200, and for APS-C DSLR users considering the jump up to full-frame, it’s a logical option. The addition of Wi-fi is excellent, and though it’s no 5D Mark III, it goes above and beyond what most enthusiasts are calling out for. To sum up, the 6D offers superb image quality to more consumers at a price that’s realistic.

Scores:

Features: 18/20
Performance: 18/20
Design: 18/20
Image quality: 18/20
Value: 18/20
Overall score: 4 1/2 out of 5

Read our review of the Canon EOS 6D

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Nikon D750

Nikon D750Best for

  • Excellent all-round performance
  • Those after their first full-frame DSLR
  • Users not needing to record the same level of detail as the D810

Key specs

Price: £1750
Sensor: 24.3MP full-frame CMOS
File formats: JPEG, Raw, Raw+JPEG
Display: Tilt-angle 3.2in, 1,229k dots
ISO range:100-12,800 (exp. to ISO 50-51,200)
Exposure modes: PASM, Auto, Scene
Drive mode: Single, Continuous, Quiet
Movie mode: 1920 x 1080p Full HD at 60/50/30/25/24p
Dimensions: 140.5 x 113 x 78mm
Weight: 840g body only

Pros

  • High-resolution sensor
  • Vari-angle LCD screen
  • Inclusion of Wi-fi as standard

Cons

  • Maximum shutter speed of 1/4000sec might be restrictive for some
  • Lack of GPS

Tailored for enthusiasts, while catering for both the hobbyist and the aspiring pro, the D750 features a redesigned version of the 24.3MP sensor found in the D610. The presence of an optical low pass filter distinguishes it from the D810 and helps to prevent moiré patterning, although it does so at the expense of finer detail reproduction. With a maximum shooting speed of 6.5fps and a native ISO range of 100-12,800 (extendable to 51,100) it shoots faster and a stop higher than the D610. It’s also Nikon’s first DSLR to feature a 3.2in, 1,299k-dot screen with variangle functionality and introduces built-in Wi-fi connectivity to boot.

The body is a monocoque design, constructed with a mix of materials including thermoplastic and carbon fibre. Magnesium alloy is used on the top and bottom to add strength and though by no means light, it’s smaller than the D610. It feels well balanced and well matched with heavy telephoto lenses, while its control layout is more akin to Nikon’s enthusiast models – the mode dial is on the left of the top-plate, with a selection of controls beside the screen. One slight disappointment is the lack of an AF-ON button.

Equipped with a new Multi-Cam 3500FX Mark II autofocus module that sports 51 AF points with 15 cross-type sensors, the D750 is quick to focus. It can lock on in dark conditions down to -3EV and there are 1.2x (16.7MP) and 1.5x (10.3MP) crop modes if you’d like a bit more reach from your Nikon lenses.

Colour rendition is much the same as the D810 and it can now perform spot white balance in live view. Images are noise-free up to ISO 1600, while JPEG files do a great job of managing fine detail through noise reduction at higher ISOs.

With a tilting LCD and featuring Wi-fi , the D750 is a full-frame DSLR that breaks new ground and, thanks to a modified grip, it handles exceptionally. Though the resolution isn’t as good as some of Nikon’s full-frame cameras lacking anti-alias filters, it’s good enough for most. It’s one of the best all-round DSLRs currently available and has dropped by more than £50 from its launch price.

Scores:

Features: 19/20
Performance: 18/20
Design: 19/20
Image quality: 19/20
Value: 18/20
Overall score: 5 out of 5

Read our review of the Nikon D750

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Sony Alpha 7R

Sony A7RBest for

  • Those looking for the best detail possible in a small and lightweight body
  • Wi-fi and NFC
  • DSLR-like handling

Key specs

Price: £1340
Sensor: 36.4MP full-frame Exmor CMOS
File formats: JPEG, Raw, Raw+JPEG
Display: Tiltable 3in, 921k dots
ISO range: 50-25,600
Exposure modes: PASM, iAuto, Superior Auto, Scene, Panorama
Drive mode: Single, Continuous, Self-timer
Movie mode: 1920 x 1080p Full HD at 60/25fps
Dimensions: 126.9 x 94.4 x 48.2mm
Weight: 407g body only

Pros

  • Fantastic image quality
  • High-end resolution
  • Solid video specification
  • Robust build

Cons

  • AF performance not as strong as Alpha 7
  • Currently a limited native lens line-up

Whereas the Alpha 7 II employs a 24.3MP sensor, the Alpha 7R is fitted with a 36.4MP Sony Exmor CMOS chip. The anti-aliasing filter has been removed, too, in an effort to retain maximum detail and sharpness. This is paired with Sony’s latest BIONZ X processor, which allows the 7R to reach a maximum continuous shooting speed of 4fps in Speed Priority Continuous mode.

Video capture at full 1080p resolution is supported at a frame rate of either 60 or 24fps. An external microphone socket is included, as is a socket for headphones to monitor audio. In addition, the 7R offers both Wi-fi and NFC technology, allowing users to transfer images wirelessly from the camera to a smartphone or tablet using the Sony PlayMemories app. Build quality is excellent. The 7R’s magnesium-alloy shell feels up to the rigours of daily shooting, and further benefits from full weather-sealing for wet-weather use. The back of the camera is fitted with a 3in, 921k-dot LCD display, while above this sits a 2.4m-dot electronic viewfinder. The tiltable design allows the screen to be pulled out and angled for low and high shooting opportunities, however it does lack a touchscreen. Used in evaluative metering mode the 7R can be relied upon to deliver excellent
exposures straight out of the camera.

While the contrast-detection system is fast enough in good light, it does begin to slow when light levels drop. The 7R’s sensor delivers outstanding resolution, and even managed to resolve every line on our resolution chart – a performance in keeping with the Nikon D800 and D800E. There are signs of luminance noise at ISO 800, although this isn’t a detriment to overall image quality. Even ISO 6400 is eminently usable.

Verdict

If you’re a photographer who needs the very best resolution, the Sony Alpha 7R is a worthy investment. There are some reservations about the camera’s focusing performance and battery life, but the lens range is growing very quickly and it remains one of the best CSCs on the market. On the whole the Alpha 7R is a seriously impressive camera that we highly recommend.

Scores:

Features: 19/20
Performance: 17/20
Design: 17/20
Image quality: 19/20
Value: 18/20
Overall score: 4 1/2 out of 5

Read out full review of the Sony Alpha 7R

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III

EOS 5D mIII FRT w EF 24-105mm.jpgBest for

  • Those seeking a well-rounded, advanced DSLR
  • Shooting everything from detailed landscapes to portraits or action
  • High ISO shooting

Key specs

Price: £2250
Sensor: 22.3MP full-frame CMOS
File formats: JPEG, Raw, Raw+JPEG
Display: Fixed 3.2in, 1,040k dots
ISO range: 100-25,600 (exp. to ISO 50-102,400)
Exposure modes: PASM, Auto+
Drive mode: Single, Continuous, Self-timer
Movie mode: 1920 x 1080p Full HD at 30/25/24fps
Dimensions: 152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm
Weight: 950g body only

Pros

  • Excellent set of features
  • Build quality is much better than Mk II
  • Great AF system
  • Video performance

Cons

  • Expensive compared to some rivals
  • Very occasional underexposure
  • No built-in flash

While resolution remains similar to that of the EOS 5D Mk II, the 22.3MP CMOS sensor inside the 5D Mk III has a different design that employs gapless microlenses for improved light-gathering. This is paired with Canon’s DIGIC 5+ image processor – the same processor used inside Canon’s flagship EOS 1D-X. The 5D Mk III offers a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 which can be expanded to the equivalent of ISO 102,400. Continuous shooting, meanwhile, maxes out at 6fps.

The optical viewfinder is large and bright and offers a 100% fi eld-of-view, while the back of the camera is adorned with a 3.2in, 1,040k-dot LCD display, though it’s not a touchscreen.

The body is constructed from high-grade magnesium alloy, and further benefits from weather-sealing to keep dust and moisture out. In Single One-Shot AF, focus locks on very quickly. You can use all 61 AF points if you wish, using the joypad on the back of the camera, or a combination of the rear and front command dials. If you don’t need to use all 61 AF points, then the number of active AF points can be reduced to the 41 cross-type points, along with 15 points or nine points. The 5D Mk III’s metering system copes well under a range of lighting conditions, though it can be guilty of underexposure at times, which requires a touch of exposure compensation (typically +0.3EV or +0.7EV) in order to get more balanced results. Images generally display a pleasing and smooth tonal range. The camera’s built-in Highlight Tone Priority feature can be used to further improve gradation in brighter areas. Raw and JPEG images look similar at low sensitivities and image noise is very well controlled in general, with images up to ISO 1600 relatively noise-free.

Verdict

While the Mk II was more suited to specific photographic disciplines, the Mk III is a much more well-rounded, versatile DSLR, thanks to boosts in many aspects of its performance. The autofocus and low-light improvements make it one of the best cameras around for shooting at high sensitivities. The more you shoot with it, the more you realise what a capable camera it is.

Scores:

Features: 19/20
Performance: 19/20
Desgin: 17/20
Image quality: 19/20
Value: 18/20
Overall score: 5 out of 5

Read our review of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III

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Nikon D810

Nikon D810Best for

  • Photographers wanting to resolve the highest level of detail possible from a full-frame DSLR
  • Those after an ‘S Raw’ format
  • Users looking for a solid workhorse of a camera

Key specs

Price: £2350
Sensor: 36.3MP full-frame
CMOS file formats: JPEG, Raw, Raw+JPEG
Display: Fixed 3.2in LCD, 1,229k dots
ISO range: 64-12,800 (exp. to ISO 32-51,200)
Exposre modes: PASM, Programmed Auto
Drive modes: 5fps (6fps in DX-crop mode)
Movie mode: 1920 x 1080p Full HD at 60/50/30/25/24fps
Dimensions: 146 x 123 x 81.5mm
Weight: 880g body only

Pros

  • High resolution
  • Stunning detail capture
  • Superb LCD screen
  • Extensive ISO range
  • Robust build quality
  • Varying file sizes
  • Refined button placement

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Heavy (880g body only)
  • Lacks Wi-fi or GPS
  • No 4K video
  • High price
  • Buying the battery grip adds £285 to the price

What makes the D810 notable is that it’s the first full-frame DSLR to be completely lacking in an optical low-pass filter and this, combined with the 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that boasts a resolution of 36.3MP, makes it stand out as one of the best cameras currently out there for recording the finest levels of detail.

Nikon has given it a wider range of image capture formats, too, including a new ‘S Raw’ format, which captures uncompressed files at 9MP. Despite the hefty file sizes it churns out, it shoots continuously at up to 5fps, or 6fps in DX crop mode. A 3.2in, 1.23m-dot LCD screen and Full HD video are present, too, and there’s a small pop-up fl ash which can be used to illuminate scenes as well as trigger off-camera flash. If you’re interested in video capture, the good news is that the D810 caters well for those needs as well.

Although it doesn’t offer the new ultra-HD 4K video capture, it does still capture at 1920 x 1080p Full HD. The video capture capabilities are also fairly comprehensive in terms of frame rate, with 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p all on offer, as well as 60 and 50p at the slightly lower resolution 1280 x 720 setting.

The D810 features several button placement refinements: the fiddly metering mode button has been replaced by a dedicated button taking the place of the bracketing button, which is now housed on the side of the camera. The grip also has a larger indentation for the middle finger and there’s a larger thumb rest, too, adding up to give it a more secure feel in the hand. The body is comprised of magnesium alloy and although that makes the camera heavy – at a touch under 1kg in weight – the improved weather-sealing means it’s built to survive the toughest tests and it’s a solid workhorse of a camera. Autofocus is lightning-fast, as you’d expect, and although the 51 focus points are concentrated towards the middle, they can be altered between focus modes. Not only is the LCD screen one of the best specified in the market in terms of size and resolution, but it also benefits from the addition of a fourth white dot per pixel. In real terms, this means the screen offers better visibility in bright conditions and reduces power consumption in lower light. The screen also adjusts brightness to suit the conditions you’re shooting in, and on the whole it’s a screen that impresses and certainly feels like an improvement.

The 9,100-pixel RGB metering sensor delivers well-balanced exposures, and a new ‘highlight’ mode specifically looks to preserve more highlight detail in high-contrast conditions. At its base ISO, it almost out-resolves test charts and the detail the camera captures really has to be seen to be believed.

Noise is handled very well up to ISO 3200, although ISO 25,600 and 51,200 are best reserved for low-light emergencies.

Verdict

The D810 isn’t a complete overhaul in comparison to its predecessors, but the improvements that have been made are certainly welcome. The LCD screen is superb and helps to enhance the image review process no end. It’s also welcome to have the varying file size options so you don’t always have to shoot at 36MP. The level of detail resolved by the sensor is truly stunning, and overall it’s a great upgrade to one of the best DSLRs going.

Scores:

Features: 19/20
Performance: 18/20
Design: 19/20
Image quality: 19/20
Value: 18/20
Overall score: 5 out of 5

Read our review of the Nikon D810

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  • Kamal

    I want to buy new full frame DSLR for Interior-Architectural Photography
    please guide me which camera best for me?
    ( for Low light photography and Good Sharpness )

  • Steve Swingler

    The Leica M9 doesn’t get a mention? Extraordinary!

  • DG

    What about Sony SLT a99? It got it place among D800 and 5D MIII

  • DG

    What about Sony A99. Looks like it got the place ext to D800 and Caon 5D Mark III

  • Jerry

    Has the new Sony Alpha not made the cut? You have a picture of it at the top but no review that I can see? Or is this just the Canon/Nikon product endorsement site?

  • Pedrow

    Aren’t these just _all_ the full frame DSLRs out this year?

  • simon waldram

    you missed the new ff sony a99

  • Brian Tisley

    Like Canon 5D mk3 would use it with prime lenses already started

  • Pete Johnson

    Get the Nikon, it is miles better!

  • john wilkinnson

    The Nikon D700 was for me the best camera I have ever owned (and the most expensive) it meant I could do what I have always wanted to do use all my much loved 30yr old Nikon lenses with a digital camera, I have and use up-to date AF/AFs lenses so in fact I get the best of the old and the new, it really is a new adventure, try it.

  • Viswam Studio

    I am a wedding Photographer in india. I am planing to buy full frame camera. pls advise me

  • J.D. Tapley

    I wish to buy a full frame DSLR at about £2,000 body. In your magazine the Alpha A850 only gets 87% compared to its rating above. Should I buy it or the Nikon D700?