Best second-hand full-frame mirrorless cameras
April 4, 2022
Interested in a dipping a toe into the waters of full-frame mirrorless, but want to save money by buying second-hand? We guide you through our top picks.
Little more than eight years ago, Sony shook up the camera market with the launch of its original Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R – the world’s first full-frame mirrorless models. Featuring 24MP and 36MP sensors respectively, their unusually small and lightweight frames promised photographers a welcome reprieve from lugging around hefty full-frame DSLRs.
For a while, Sony had this new sector all to itself, updating its cameras regularly and steadily building up its full-frame FE lens arsenal. Leica brought some competition in 2015, but inevitably at a price point unattainable for most photographers. Then everything changed in September 2018, when Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sigma all jumped onto the bandwagon in a matter of weeks, with the latter two teaming up with Leica to form the L-Mount Alliance. Since then, most new camera models have been full-frame mirrorless.
If you’re a DSLR user considering making the switch, it can look as though the main benefits that were initially touted for mirrorless, most obviously reduced size and weight, aren’t being realised in practice. Instead, successive camera generations have progressively bulked up, to the extent that Sony’s latest Alpha 7 IV is 40% heavier than the original.
But in fact, the real advantages of mirrorless systems lie elsewhere. These include sophisticated autofocus systems that cover the entire image area, what-you-see-is-what-you-get electronic viewfinders, effective in-body stabilisation, and the ability to switch seamlessly between shooting with the viewfinder and rear screen. Many new mirrorless lenses are also a step above their SLR predecessors in quality.
So what about lenses?
One real barrier to switching camera systems lies with lenses. It can be seriously expensive to replace a DSLR lens set that you’ve built up over years with their equivalents in a new mount. That’s even assuming you can get all those you want, which isn’t necessarily a given, as most of the systems are still relatively young. For existing Canon and Nikon users, your best bet may well be to continue using your existing lenses on the firms’ mirrorless models via mount adapters, and then gradually migrate as your needs and funds dictate.
If you’re considering building up a new lens system from scratch, Sony has a significant advantage. It licenses its E-mount to third-party lens makers, so there’s a huge choice of optics available to suit any budget from the likes of Sigma, Tamron, Samyang and Zeiss. There’s a good degree of choice in L-mount, too, as it’s supported by Panasonic, Sigma and Leica. In contrast, Canon and Nikon seem to be intent on keeping their RF and Z mounts to themselves, so no third-party autofocus optics are available.
Full-frame mirrorless has now been around long enough for there to be a reasonably healthy supply of second-hand kit on the market. Without further ado, let’s go ahead and look at our recommendations for the best used camera options, covering a range of sensor resolutions and price points.
Here are our choices for the best second-hand full-frame mirrorless cameras:
- Canon EOS RP
- Nikon Z 7
- Panasonic Lumix S5
- Sigma fp
- Sony Alpha 7 II
Canon EOS RP, £800-900 second-hand
At a glance
- 26.2MP full-frame dual-pixel CMOS sensor
- ISO 50-102,400 (extended)
- 5 frames per second shooting
- 2.36m-dot EVF, 0.7x magnification
- 3-in, 1.04m-dot fully articulated touchscreen
The EOS RP was Canon’s second full-frame mirrorless camera after the original EOS R and remains the entry-level offering in the firm’s line-up. Weighing in at less than 500g body-only, it’s one of the most compact full-frame cameras available. At the time of its launch, Canon made a great play of the fact that it was smaller and lighter than the EOS 800D APS-C DSLR.
Shop around and you should be able to find one in good second-hand condition for around £850, representing a healthy £200 saving over its current new price. If you’re a Canon DSLR user interested in buying into full-frame mirrorless while using your existing lenses, it’s by far the most affordable option.
Canon built the RP around the same 26.2MP full-frame sensor as its EOS 6D Mark II DSLR, with the firm’s unique Dual Pixel AF enabling rapid and accurate autofocus across the entire image area. Its standard sensitivity range covers ISO 100-40,000, expandable to ISO 50-102,400, and the camera is capable of shooting at five frames per second. 4K/25p video recording is available, but with a significant 1.6x crop. Full HD is also available covering the full width of the frame.
You get a 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder for composing your images, with a reasonable 0.7x magnification, which also provides an accurate preview of colour and exposure. It’s complemented by a fully articulated touchscreen that facilitates shooting at unusual angles in both landscape and portrait formats. Every aspect of the camera’s operation can be controlled by touch, which helps to make up for a relatively limited set of physical controls.
Lightweight RF lenses
When the EOS RP was originally launched, it didn’t seem to make much sense, as Canon only made one RF lens that matched its compact frame and price point. But since then, the firm has produced a set of optics that place it an entirely new light. Now, you can match it up with an array of lightweight and reasonably affordable RF lenses, including the 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM (£479), 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM (£699), 50mm F1.8 STM (£219) and 85mm F2 IS Macro STM (£649).
For those who’d like an all-in-one travel zoom, there’s also the 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM (£959); while for nature lovers Canon makes a pair of unusually small ultra-telephotos, the 600mm F11 IS STM (£859) and 800mm F11 IS STM (£1,100). With these lenses now available, the EOS RP becomes a much more interesting proposition, as the basis of a lightweight full-frame kit.
Canon DSLR owners can continue to use all their existing EF-mount lenses with full functionality, including image stabilisation and autofocus, via the Mount Adaptor EF-EOS R (£119). This is such a popular approach that Canon has struggled to keep up with demand, with the adaptor’s availability being notoriously patchy; it’s often out of stock for months. However, cheaper alternatives are also available from the likes of Viltrox that appear to work perfectly well.
Nikon Z 7, £1,500-£1,700 second-hand
At a glance
- 45.7MP full-frame BSI-CMOS sensor
- ISO 32-102,400 (extended)
- 9 frames per second shooting
- 3.69m-dot EVF, 08x magnification
- 2.1m-dot, 3.2in tilting touchscreen
Nikon launched its full-frame mirrorless Z system with a pair of cameras that used the same body design but different sensors. We think the 24MP Z 6 is possibly the biggest bargain of all used full-frame mirrorless cameras right now. Here, though, we’re concentrating on its twin, the Z 7, which provides a relatively affordable route into high-resolution shooting.
Built around a 45.7MP full-frame back-illuminated sensor, the Z 7 is capable of delivering the same image quality as the D850 – arguably Nikon’s best-ever DSLR – in a much more portable package. But with five-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) built in that works with every lens, it also allows photographers to gain the full benefit of all those pixels more easily when shooting hand-held.
Like the D850, the Z 7 is an impressive all-rounder, being capable of shooting at up to 9 frames per second at full resolution. On-chip phase detection supports 493 focus points arranged across 90% of the frame, and the standard ISO 64-25,600 range can be extended to ISO 32-102,400.
Nikon equipped the Z 7 with a superb electronic viewfinder that’s still one of the best you’ll find. It’s large and detailed, with 3.69m-dot resolution, 0.8x magnification, and a wonderfully clear live view feed that’s great for judging focus and depth-of-field. The LCD screen is a similarly excellent 3.2in unit and employs a dual-tilt design for high or low angle shooting, at least in landscape format.
To make the most of the Z system’s compact size and weight, Nikon adopted a slightly different approach to building up its lens range compared to its F-mount DSLR line-up. Premium optics are given the ‘S’ designation, and include both f/2.8 and f/4 zooms, along with a set of fine f/1.8 primes ranging from 20mm to 85mm. There’s also a small but developing range of affordable non-S optics.
Existing Nikon DSLR owners can also use their F-mount lenses via Nikon’s FTZ or FTZ2 adapters (the main difference being that the latter does without a tripod foot). Autofocus is available with AF-S and AF-P lenses that have built-in focus motors, but older AF D-type lenses require focusing manually. But this is easy enough, thanks to the excellent viewfinder. Crucially, the in-body stabilisation works with every single lens and operates in tandem with those that include optical VR.
Possibly the Z 7’s most controversial feature at launch was its reliance on a single card slot accepting XQD media, with no support for conventional SD cards. That’s been remedied in its successor with the addition of an SD slot, while a firmware update has added CFexpress Type B support to the Z 7. But chances are you’ll have to budget for a new memory card and reader, with both XQD and CFexpress being expensive; expect to pay at least £100 for a card.
Panasonic Lumix S5, £1,050-£1,150 second-hand
At a glance
- 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO 50-204,800 (extended)
- 7 frames per second shooting
- 2.36m-dot EVF, 0.74x magnification
- 3in, 1.84m-dot fully articulated touchscreen
Released towards the end of 2020, Panasonic’s mass-market full-frame mirrorless model is aimed at those who enjoy shooting moving images just as much as stills. It’s a nicely designed camera that manages to be smaller than the firm’s popular Micro Four Thirds GH5, despite having a sensor four times the size. It employs the L mount originally developed by Leica, which means it’s compatible with a good range of lenses from Panasonic, Leica and Sigma.
Like many of its peers, the S5 is based on a 24MP full-frame sensor. It offers a standard ISO range of 100-51,200, expandable to 50-204,800, and is capable of shooting at 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus, or 7fps with focus fixed. In addition, 5-axis in-body stabilisation is built in to keep images sharp and video footage steady.
Below the 2.36m-dot EVF there’s a fully articulated screen, which represents a welcome advance over the tilt-only screens used by many of its competitors. Not only does it aid with shooting at high and low angles for both horizontal and vertical formats, but it can also face forwards for vlogging.
On that note, the S5 boasts impressive video credentials. It’s capable of recording in 4K at 60fps with 4:2:0 10-bit colour using an APS-C crop, or at 30fps with 4:2:2 10-bit colour from the full width of the sensor. There’s no time limit when recording 4K 30p/25p 4:2:0 8-bit internally, while 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit output is available via HDMI. Plenty of advanced video features are on hand, too, including V-log pre-installed, 4K HDR, and raw output over HDMI at 5.9K 50p.
Photo friendly, too
While there’s certainly a perception that Panasonic is now focused mostly on video, the S5 offers an awful lot for stills photographers too. It handles very nicely, with all the key controls placed at your fingertips, and a huge amount of user-customisation is available. As a result, it’s a very enjoyable camera to use.
You get crisp, detailed images at low ISO settings, with file remaining perfectly usable up to ISO 12,800 at least. One particularly notable feature is the 96MP high-resolution multi-shot mode, which is unique on a full-frame camera at this price point. The in-camera processing is speedy and does a good job of detecting and suppressing blur when it detects slight movement in the scene.
Unique kit zoom
One of the most interesting aspects of Panasonic’s approach to the S5 is its unique kit zoom, the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6. While its unusually wide view is undoubtedly aimed at vloggers recording themselves at arm’s length, it should also appeal to photographers shooting architecture and landscapes.
At £619.99, it’s much more affordable than adding a specialist wideangle zoom to your kit. Paired with the Lumix S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Macro OIS (£1259), it should also make an excellent lightweight travel kit. Panasonic also offers a range of small and relatively affordable f/1.8 primes.
Sigma fp, £950-£1,050 second-hand
At a glance
- 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO 6-102,400 (extended)
- 18 frames per second shooting
- Optional bolt-on EVF-11 viewfinder
- 3.1in, 2.1m-dot fixed touchscreen
The Sigma fp is a camera unlike any other. By stripping out all but the bare essentials, the firm has made the smallest full-frame model currently available. What it’s ended up with is a long way off the mainstream and comes with some significant compromises. But nothing else can offer full-frame image quality and interchangeable lenses in such a portable package.
In essence, the Sigma fp is a rectangular box measuring 113 x 70 x 45.3mm that houses a 24MP full frame sensor, with an L mount at the front and fixed 3.2in touchscreen on the back. There’s no built-in viewfinder, no mechanical shutter, and not even a handgrip. But the design is modular, so you can bolt a handgrip on one side and the optional EVF-11 on the other, if you like. I’d certainly recommend the small HG-11 grip.
The fp offers a standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 that’s expandable to ISO 102,400 at the top end. But in one of several unique ideas, expanded low sensitivities down to ISO 6 are also available, using a multi-frame approach that adds together multiple ISO 100 exposures. This ideally needs a tripod and is prone to ghosting effects when moving subjects are in the frame, but when everything works out, you can get fantastic results.
With no mechanical shutter, exposure time is set entirely electronically. While there’s some risk of rolling shutter distortion with fast-moving subjects, for the most part this works fine, and much better than on the camera’s high-resolution sibling, the fp L. There’s no in-body stabilisation, though, and only a few L-mount lenses include optical stabilisation.
Little camera, big results
What you can’t argue about is the image quality that the fp can provide. With no optical low-pass filter, the sensor records plenty of detail, and at low ISO it’s possible to pull up three or four extra stops of detail from shadow regions without noise being a problem. When light levels drop, it’ll deliver eminently usable results up to ISO 12,800 at least.
Ultimately, the Sigma fp has an undeniable charm as a small camera that works nicely with compact lenses and is a lot of fun to shoot with. This makes it an intriguing alternative to its larger SLR-shaped rivals for those seeking full-frame quality in the smallest possible package.
Sigma i-series lenses
While you can use the fp with any L-mount lens, it’s arguably best suited for use with the firm’s compact i-series primes, which boast premium metal construction complete with analogue aperture rings. The 45mm f/2.8 is the perfect companion for everyday shooting, complemented by the 24mm f/3.5 wideangle and 90mm f/2.8 telephoto.
For those who prefer larger apertures, 24mm, 35mm and 65mm f/2 optics are also available. Meanwhile, if you can’t live without a zoom, Sigma makes the 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN that’s considerably smaller and lighter than its 24-70mm sibling.
Sony Alpha 7 II, £600-£750 second-hand
At a glance
- 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- ISO 50-25,600 (extended)
- 5 frames per second shooting
- 2.36m-dot EVF, 0.71x magnification
- 1.23m-dot tilting LCD
Sony’s Alpha 7 range is the longest-running full-frame mirrorless line-up of all, which means that there’s a bewildering array of models available second-hand across a wide range of price points. The high-resolution A7R range is of particular interest to studio and landscape shooters, while the 12MP A7S models are prized by videographers. In between, the ‘basic’ Alpha 7 line represents all-rounders aimed at enthusiast photographers.
While the original Alpha 7 from 2013 has a certain charm to it, and can often be found used for under £500, we’ve chosen to highlight its successor that appeared just 13 months later. The Sony Alpha 7 II brought major improvements in handling, including improved control dials and a larger, more conventional handgrip, while also introducing 5-axis in-body image stabilisation to Sony’s mirrorless line-up.
It’s only recently been officially discontinued, and you can pick up used models in excellent condition for under £750 from reputable retailers. This is £600 less than its much-feted successor, the A7 III.
While its spec may look a little dated by modern standards, the A7 II still has plenty to offer. Its 24MP sensor offers excellent image quality at low ISO settings, with particularly impressive dynamic range, while providing a sensitivity range up to ISO 25,600. Continuous shooting runs at 5 frames per second and there are 117 autofocus points to choose from covering almost the entirety of the image area.
However, only the central region provides faster phase detection AF. The 2.36m-dot viewfinder is joined by a 3in screen that tilts up and down, but doesn’t offer touch functionality. Typically for its vintage, only Full HD video recording is available.
Small and light
While the A7 II isn’t quite as lightweight as either its predecessor or the Canon EOS RP, mainly due the addition of IBIS, it’s still pretty petite in full-frame terms. It’s noticeably lighter than later models, too, although in part this is due to the small and rather underpowered NP-FW50 battery. I’d budget on acquiring a few spares; thankfully third-party options are cheap and easy to find.
Overall, the Sony A7 II brings a lot to the table for photographers at a very attractive price. It certainly has its foibles, but given its excellent raw image quality and compact size, they’re easily forgiven.
Any lens you like
Like all E-mount cameras, the A7 II can make use of a vast array of lenses. Not only is Sony’s FE range larger than rival line-ups, plenty of third-party options are also available, from small, affordable Samyang primes through to sublime offerings from Zeiss. In between, Sigma and Tamron both make excellent optics at competitive prices.
It’s even possible to get electronic adapters for Canon EF-mount lenses, although they don’t work as well as on Canon’s EOS R cameras. Last but not least, the A7 II is an excellent vehicle for shooting with vintage manual optics from old 35mm film cameras via mount adapters.
Retailers to have a look at to find full-frame mirrorless cameras: