What are the best cheap full-frame cameras?

May 10, 2022

If you’re looking for the best budget full-frame cameras, then we’re here to help. In this unmissable buyer’s guide we take you through some of the most affordable full-frame cameras that are on the market… whether you’re searching for a mirrorless model or you prefer to shoot with a DSLR camera…

The sensor is usually the most expensive component contained within a camera’s body, so it’s only natural that full-frame cameras (which have 35mm format equivalent 36x24mm sensors) tend to be more expensive than their ‘crop sensor’ APS-C and Micro Four Thirds format counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some excellent bargains that are currently available for many full-frame cameras and systems.

The benefits of shooting with cameras with full-frame sensors (as opposed to crop sensors) include the fact that larger pixels can be included and therefore you get better quality images at high ISO values.

Shooting full-frame should also deliver wider dynamic range and detail in your images. The fact that there’s no crop factor involved means you’re shooting exactly what you’re seeing in the finder or LCD screen, it’s easier to achieve shallow depth-of-field in your images and full-frame cameras tend to offer more advanced AF and metering systems.

You’ll find some of our recommendations aren’t the latest models on the market…. BUT there’s a very good reason for that: you can save a LOT of money by going for some of the slightly longer-in-the-tooth models.

So, without any further delay, here are our top picks for the Best Full-Frame Bargains, including both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, which are ideal for getting out and shooting with…

Sony A7 II

£899 body only

Sony A7 II – at a glance

  • Sensor: 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: E-mount
  • ISO: 50-25,600
  • Exposure modes: PASM, iAuto, Scene Selection, Sweep Panorama
  • Metering: 1200-zone metering system
  • Drive: 5fps
  • Viewfinder: 0.5-inch, 2.4-million-dot EVF
  • Display: 3-inch, 1,228k-dot LCD
  • Focusing: 117 phase-detection AF points
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Dimensions: 126.9×95.7×59.7mm
  • Weight: 556g (body only)

Sony may have introduced the Sony A7 III back in February 2018, but the A7 II is still available to buy new, and now at less than £900 body-only, it’s a real bargain buy.

The A7 II is a mirrorless camera with a 24MP CMOS sensor that’s harnessed to a Bionz X processor, has 5-axis in-body image stabilisation, a hybrid AF system with 117 phase detection points, 5fps continuous shooting and the ability to shoot Full HD video with the S-Log 2 gamma.

In addition, the A7 II’s magnesium alloy body is weather-sealed and its grip is much improved upon the one on the original A7. Our tests found the A7 II is a snappy performer and it can capture sharp images of fast-moving subjects, but it’s not quite up to the pace of the most recent models so it’s most at home with stationary or slow-moving targets.

The Sony Alpha A7 II uses the Sony E-Mount, and there are a wide range of lenses available, so you should be able to find the right lens for you.

What the A7 II really does well is produce superb image quality images, both in bright light and low light when the ISO has to be raised. Overall, the A7 II is a highly recommended full-frame model that offers huge imaging potential in a lightweight body. It’s a camera that will draw the attentions of those who after one of the smallest, yet most powerful full-frame cameras on the market.

Read our Sony Alpha 7 II Review

Nikon D750

£719 (body only)

Nikon D750

Nikon D750 – at a glance

  • Sensor: 24.3MP FX CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: Nikon F-mount
  • ISO: 100-12,800 (extendable to 50-51,200)
  • Exposure modes: PASM
  • Metering: Multi, centre-weighted, spot, highlight-weighted
  • Drive: 7fps
  • Viewfinder: 0.7x magnification, 100% coverage
  • Display: 3.2-inch, tiltable, 1,229,000-dot LCD
  • Focusing: 51 focus points (incl. 15 cross-type sensors; f/8 supported by 11 sensors)
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Dimensions: 140.5x113x 78mm
  • Weight: 980g

Nikon’s D750 has been a popular choice of DSLR for enthusiast, semi-pro and pro photographers, and now selling at under £750 body-only, it’s still a very attractive proposition. Inside the D750 is 24.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor with an optical low-pass filter to cut out moire patterning. This chip is paired with an Expeed 4 processing engine, which enables a continuous shooting rate of 6.5fps at full resolution.

Although the D750 pre-dates Nikon’s SnapBridge technology, it has Wi-Fi connectivity to enable image-sharing and remote control via a smartphone running Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Utility app. Nikon uses a monocoque design for the D750 and it is made from a mix of thermoplastic and carbon fibre with magnesium alloy top and bottom sections. It all adds up to a rugged and solid-feeling camera.

There are 51 user-selectable AF points and the D750 gets subjects sharp very quickly, even in very gloomy conditions when you’re composing in the viewfinder. As you’d expect, the image quality from the Nikon D750 is excellent up to around ISO 1600 and there’s good dynamic range, but the Highlight Metering Mode is especially useful when it’s essential to avoid blown-out highlights.

Using the long-established Nikon F-mount, there are a wide range of lenses available, starting with affordable 50mm lenses, like the ‘nifty fifty’ Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens, going all the way up to 800mm telephoto lenses.

Nikon has covered almost every feature likely to appear on the wish-list of an enthusiast photographer and added a few extra for good measure. The build quality of the camera is very good and it strikes a great balance between the size and weight. Thanks to the large grip at the front the D750 feels incredible in hand, particularly with larger lenses. With the mode dial, button lay-out and menu system being akin to Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs, any amateur photographer upgrading to full-frame should feel right at home. In the D750 Nikon created a camera that got all the fundamentals right and, as a result, it remains a great all-round DSLR.

Read our Nikon D750 Review

Sony A7R II

£1,049 body only

Sony A7R II

Sony A7R II – at a glance

  • Sensor: 42.4-million-pixel, full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Lens Mount: Sony E-mount
  • ISO: 100-25,600 (50-102400 extended)
  • Exposure modes: PASM, auto, sweep panorama, scene
  • Drive Mode: 5fps
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.4 million dots
  • Display: Tilting, 3-inch, 1.3-million-dot LCD
  • Focusing: Hybrid with 399 phase detection points and 25 contrast detection points
  • Memory Card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Dimensions: 126.9×95.7×60.3mm
  • Weight: 625g

With 42.4million effective pixels on its backside illuminated sensor, the mirrorless A7R II is the highest-resolution camera in our chosen line-up of budget full-frame buys. Despite that high pixel count, the A7R II’s Bionz X processing engine still enables full-resolution shooting at up to 5fps.

There’s also a hybrid autofocus system with 399 user-selectable AF points that cover 45% of the imaging area, which means that you can target the subject precisely. It’s also pretty fast, but the A7R II is more likely to appeal to landscape photographers than avid sport-shooters.

Our tests revealed that the A7R II has excellent dynamic range, hitting 13.1Ev at ISO 100, which, paired with its superb detail resolution, great noise control and effective 5-axis image stabilisation system, explains its enduring attractiveness to landscape photographers.

The Sony A7R II is also capable of recording 4K video. What’s more, in Super 35mm mode, there’s no pixel binning and features such as S-Log2 Gammas and Time Code are on hand along with 3.5mm ports to connect an external mic and headphones.

The camera benefits from 5-axis In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), and this works with any lens attached to the camera, great for using budget lenses without optical image stabilisation, or even old manual lenses used with an adapter. The A7R II delivers great accuracy and speed of focusing, particularly in low light, thanks to the the fast-hybrid AF system. The performance of the 42.4MP sensor is sensational and the way it controls noise and handles detail right up to ISO 25,600 is a real eye-opener.

Read our Sony Alpha 7R II Review

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

£1,329 body only

Canon EOS 6D Mark II – at a glance

  • Sensor: 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: Canon EF
  • ISO sensitivity: ISO 100-40,000
  • Display: Vari-angle 3-inch, 1,040,000-dot touchscreen LCD
  • Viewfinder: Optical with 98% coverage
  • Autofocus: Dual Pixel CMOS AF for Live View and video, and 45-point AF system for use with the viewfinder
  • Drive mode: 6.5fps
  • Memory: SD/SDXC/SDHC (UHS-I compatible)
  • Battery: LP-E6N rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 110.5×74.8x144mm
  • Weight: 765g

Although it’s a DSLR the 26.2MP 6D Mark II has a Dual Pixel CMOS AF design sensor, which means that it uses phase detection autofocusing in Live View mode as well as when the viewfinder is used to compose images. Consequently it focuses quickly and accurately, however you decide to compose your shots, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the 63 AF points that are available in the viewfinder are grouped quite close around the centre of the frame.

The snappy focusing in Live View mode is especially useful on the 6D Mark II because it has a vari-angle screen that can be angled for viewing from any angle whether you’re shooting landscape or portrait format images. Canon has also done a great job of implementing touch control so you adjust settings and set the active AF point by tapping on the screen.

That screen is also of use when you’re shooting video, which tops out at Full HD (1920×1080) at 59.94fps. Further good news is that the 6D II maintains its good detail resolution up to around ISO 6,400, making it a versatile all-rounder.

As the Canon EOS 6D Mark II uses the Canon EF lens mount, there are a wide range of Canon EF lenses available, as well as a wide range of lenses from other manufacturers, giving you a great choice of both new and used lenses to look at.

The EOS 6D Mark II is a stepping stone for existing Canon users to get into full-frame photography and is a viable alternative to the more advanced EOS 5D Mark IV. Those thinking about a move away from a Canon APS-C format DSLR will need to factor in the extra expense of upgrading a few EF-S lenses to a new collection of EF lenses. But when size and weight are critical – for example, when travelling or on location – the EOS 6D Mark II really comes into its own.

Read our Canon EOS 6D Mark II Review

Canon EOS RP

From £909 body only

Canon EOS RP – at a glance

  • Sensor: 26.2MP full-frame dual-pixel CMOS
  • Lens mount: Canon RF
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100-40,00 (extendable to ISO 50-102,400)
  • Exposure modes: PASM, Fv, Scene, iAuto
  • Metering: Evaluative, partial, spot, centre-weighted
  • Continuous shooting: 5fps
  • LCD screen: 3-inch 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen
  • Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot, 0.7x magnification
  • AF points: 4779
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS-II)
  • Dimensions: 132.5x85x70mm
  • Weight: 485g (with battery and card)

The Canon EOS RP was the second full-frame mirrorless camera in Canon’s line-up and it’s designed to compact and affordable. Like the Canon EOS 6D Mark II DSLR, the EOS RP has a Dual Pixel CMOS AF design sensor, however it has a remarkable 4779 selectable AF points. Also, as the RP is a mirrorless camera, those points area accessible for use whether the image is compose in the electronic viewfinder or on the 3-inch 1.04-million-dot, vari-angle touchscreen.

In a step-up from the 6D Mark II, the RP is capable of shooting 4K UHD (3840×2160) video at up to 25fps. And, of course, you get to use the excellent AF system for shooting video as well as stills.

Existing Canon DSLR photographers who are looking to switch to a mirrorless camera will appreciate the familiar handling of the RP and can use the existing EF-mount lenses via an adapter. Indeed, we found the EOS RP worked seamlessly with EF-mount lenses, so EOS DSLR users would only need to acquire an RP body to start shooting straight away.

They won’t be disappointed by the images which have excellent levels of detail up to around ISO 12,800. There is a range of RF-mount lenses, but as with any relatively new camera system, it would be wise to have a look at what lenses are available, and how much they cost before investing in a new system.

With the EOS RP Canon revealed its initial vision for what an entry-level, full-frame mirrorless model should look. It got a lot right, with a body design that handles much better than its odd-looking profile might suggest. Rather than simply porting across the existing EOS DSLR interface, it employed some clever new ideas, such as the Dial Function setting and Fv exposure mode. There’s plenty to like about this camera!

Read our Canon EOS RP Review

Nikon Z 5

£1,349 body only

Nikon Z 5 – at a glance

  • Sensor: 24.3MP CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z mount
  • ISO: 160-51200 (50-102400 extended)
  • Drive Mode: 4.5fps
  • Video: 4K UHD (30/25/24p) Full HD (60/50/30/25/24p)
  • Viewfinder: 0.5in, 3.69-million dot EVF
  • Display: 3.2in, 1040k-dot tilting touchscreen
  • Memory Card: Dual SD card slots (UHS-II compatible)
  • Dimensions: 134×100.5×69.5mm
  • Weight: 675g (with battery and card)

As it was announced in July 2020, the Nikon Z 5 is the newest camera to make it on to our ‘best budget mirrorless buys’ list. It was introduced as the ‘catalyst’ camera that triggers DSLR or APS-C format photographers to invest in a full-frame mirrorless model.

It’s also Nikon’s most affordable full-frame mirrorless camera, which means there are a few compromises in comparison with the 24.5MP Z 6 above it in Nikon’s mirrorless camera range, but it still has plenty to appeal to experienced photographers.

For example, while the Z 5’s 24.3MP sensor has standard design and isn’t backside illuminated, it has a 273-point hybrid AF system with Eye-detection for humans and animals in stills mode. There’s also the same 0.39-inch 3,690,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder as Nikon’s other full-framers, a responsive 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot tilting touchscreen and dual SD card ports plus 4K video capability.

With detail being maintained well up to around ISO 12,800 and good dynamic range, the Z 5 is a strong contender for your attention. The Nikon Z series has a growing range of Z-mount lenses, but, as they’re all new and mostly premium optics, you may want to have a look through your options, as some of them can be quite pricey.

Originally touted as an ‘entry-level’ model the Z 5 is much more advanced than this basic classification suggests. It’s alike to the Z6 in terms of its build quality and handling but, by making a few spec alterations, Nikon was able to make it cheaper. The Z 5 is sometimes available as part of a bundle with a 24-50mm kit lens… something that might appeal to photographers who feel like they’re ready to advance to full-frame.

Read our Nikon Z 5 Review

Further reading:

What are the best mirrorless cameras you can buy?

The best second-hand full-frame camera bargains

The 12 Best Canon EOS Cameras Ever

The 12 Best Nikon DSLR Cameras Ever

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