Best Full-Frame DSLR cameras 2013
The term ‘full-frame' refers to the type of sensor found almost exclusively in professional-grade DSLRs. Expressed in the simplest terms a full-frame sensor is 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 sensor 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. That's why full-frame DSLRs tend to be considered the professional's choice.
However the extra size does mean more bulk and that, in turn, can mean more weight. Also, zoom lenses won't have the same reach as on smaller-sensor DSLRs (as there is no crop factor – a 50mm lens is exactly that!). And of course, full-frame sensors are much more expensive to manufacture than smaller ones, which in turn pushes up the prices of the DSLRs that employ them.
Still, if you're after the utmost quality then a professional full-frame DSLR is a must have. We round up 2013's best full-frame DSLRs...
£1370 (body only)
Launched towards the end of 2012 the D600 is pitched at serious enthusiasts rather than working professionals and while it shares a lot of technology with the D800 and D4 further up the line, resolution is pegged at 24.3MP (rather than the D800's 36.3MP). That said, it does get the powerful EXPEED 3 image processor that's used in both the D4 and D800. Elsewhere you get a 39-point AF system with nine cross-type sensors, a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400 (that can be further expanded from ISO 50-25,600), a 3.20inch/920k-dot rear LCD display and a 100% optical viewfinder. That's a lot of camera for the money. Better still, the price of a new D600 has fallen by around £500 since its launch, making it even better value for those looking to make the step up to full-frame.
WDC score: 92%
£1500 (body only)
The Canon EOS 6D is, in many ways, Canon's riposte to the Nikon D600. Announced barely a week after Nikon's enthusiast-grade full-frame model was, the 6D is positioned as the entry-level point to Canon's full-frame DSLR range. Smaller than other Canon full-frame DSLRs, the 6D is built around an all-new 20.2MP CMOS sensor and Canon's powerful DIGIC 5+ processor – the same one that's used in the 5D Mk III. This allows it to offer the same sensitivity range as the Mk III, namely from ISO 100-25,600 (expandable to ISO 50-102,400. Continuous shooting speed is a little slower though at 4.5fps (compared to 6fps). Elsewhere, the 6D does compromise a bit, no doubt in order to keep costs down. For example, the AF system is made up of just 11-points with only one cross-type sensor in the middle. One notable inclusion on the 6D that isn't found on Canon's more expensive DSLRs is built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.
WDC score: 91%
£2000 (body only)
The big talking point surrounding the D800 is its 36.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, which takes the camera close to medium format territory in terms of resolution. This enables the D800 to offer a number of useful alternatives to shooting at full resolution, including the ability to shoot still images at APS-C size at 15.3MP, or at a 1.2x crop mode at 25MP. Elsewhere, the D800 offers a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-6,400 (expandable to ISO 50-25,600), a 51-point AF system, a 3.2-inch/921k-dot LCD display, a 100% optical viewfinder, enhanced Full HD movie recording capabilities and the same Advanced Scene Recognition system of the flagship D4 model.
In addition to the D800, Nikon has also launched the D800E, which is much the same model, but with the anti-aliasing filter removed for even sharper images.
WDC score: 92%
£2350 (body only)
The 5D Mk II was already a class act, and with the 5D Mark III Canon has really pushed the boat out. While the new model only gets a marginal increase in resolution - from 20MP to 21.1MP - the sensor has been completely redesigned with gapless microlenses for improved low-light performance. Add to this improved AF, increased sensitivity range, faster burst shooting, and improved HD video recording and the 5D Mark III adds up to a full-frame heavyweight.
WDC score: 92%
£4250 (body only)
Released in the spring of last year the Nikon D4 takes over from the D3 as the company's flagship professional-grade DSLR. Built around a 16.2MP full-frame FX sensor and Nikon's latest generation of EXPEED 3 image processor the D4 offers an impressive maximum continuous shooting speed of 11fps – something that's sure to appeal to professional sports photographers. As with the D3 before it low-light performance is also hugely impressive, with the D4 offering a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-12,800, which can be further expanded up to ISO 204,800. Autofocus, meanwhile, is taken care of via a revamped 51-point system that includes 14 cross-type sensors and the ability to focus in light as low as -2EV, which is the equivalent of moonlight. Those looking for the ultimate in performance and image quality need look no further.
WDC score: 93%
£4850 (body only)
Broadly speaking, the basic aim of the 1D X was to take the studio-friendly resolution offered by the 1Ds Mark III and combine it with the speedy-shooting capabilities of the (APS-H equipped) 1D Mark IV. To this end the 18MP 1D X is a big success; equipped with twin DIGIC 5+ image processors the 1D X boasts a top burst speed of 12fps - or 14fps if capturing JPEGs only. Like its main rival – the Nikon D4 – the Canon 1D X is purpose built for sports photographers and news photojournalists requiring a professional-grade workhorse that can stand up to the elements and get the job done. Add to this a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200 (50-204,800 in expanded mode), a 61-point AF system of which 41 are cross-type sensors, and enhanced Full HD movie recording abilities and there's no doubting the 1D X's credibility as a serious tool for professional photographers.
WDC score: 93%