Check out our best full frame DSLRs in 2017, from Canon, Nikon and Pentax.
Full frame DSLR cameras offer the best image quality and less noise when shooting at high ISO speeds. This is due to the fact that their pixels are bigger than in APS-C sensors, and their signal to noise ratio is often much better too, resulting in more visible detail and less noise. This all comes with an increase in price of course, as well as bigger and heavier bodies.
Some of the full frame DSLRs in our guide are megapixel monsters and are excellent for studio, landscape and still work. Others are blazing fast and perform superb at high ISO levels, and we’ve also got a few that offer the best of both worlds for a lower price.
Best Full Frame DSLRs in 2018:
- Canon EOS 5Ds R
- Nikon D810
- Canon EOS 5D IV
- Nikon D750
- Canon EOS 6D
- Nikon D610
- Pentax K-1
- Nikon D5
- Canon EOS-1D X II
1. Canon EOS 5Ds R
The megapixel monster. The Canon EOS 5Ds R has a whopping 50 megapixel sensor and is your best choice if you need as many details as possible.
There are two versions of this camera; the 5Ds and 5Ds R. The R version has no optical low pass filter, resulting in slightly sharper images which at 50 megapixels makes a difference, especially if you print enormously or want to crop your images. Do keep in mind though, that with that much detail you also need optically superb lenses that can resolve all of those details.
Make sure to check our recommended lenses for the 5Ds R.
The 5Ds R is 99% focused on photography, so you can’t expect any amazing video features. Yes, there’s Full HD at 30fps but with such an awesome sensor you want to spend your time taking pictures. Luckily, the 5Ds R can shoot 5 frames per second and uses the 61-point AF system found in the 5D III. 41 of those are cross-type, and the overall auto focus performance is fast and precise.
Having 50MP, the ISO expands up to only 12,800. The overall noise performance greatly depends on the size of the pixels, and with 50MP on a full frame sensor, despite being bigger than APS-C, would result in horrible ISO at anything over 12,800.
Why would you get the 5Ds R? If landscape, architecture, portrait or studios represent the majority of your work and you need the big resolution, you’ll love it. It’s definitely not the best for video nor super dim places.
2. Nikon D810
Nikon’s king of resolution is the Nikon D810. With 36 megapixels and no AA filter, it truly is your best high resolution DSLR if you’re a Nikon shooter.
Like with the 5Ds R above, if you’re after a ton of details and high resolution images, the D810 won’t disappoint you. Its ISO sensitivity actually starts at 64 and expands to 51,200, just like the D750. Compared to the 5Ds R, it shows slightly less noise.
The video above compares the sharpness and noise between the D810, Canon 5Ds R and 5D Mark III.
In terms of focusing, the D810 has the same system as the D750, which is 51 AF points (15 cross-type). Seeing as it’s got that many megapixels, it’s understandable that it shoots at 5fps, 6pfs in DX and 7fps with the optional MB-D12 grip. It’s by no means a camera aimed at wildlife photographers, but with 5fps it’s pretty good, and you can also crop if you aren’t as close to your subject as you wish.
The D810 has a faster shutter speed (1/8000) and faster flash sync speed (1/250). What’s surprising is that it has a pop-up flash, something we’re not used seeing in FX models.
Video wise, it records Full HD at 60fps, displays highlights in Live View and has a built-in stereo microphone. Nikon definitely stepped up their video game. You can also record to a memory card and simultaneously output video through the HDMI port.
The D810 with a battery weights 2.16lb (980g) and can shoot 1200 shots before the battery empties. That’s pretty remarkable and 500 shots longer than the 5Ds R. As expected from an expensive FX camera, it’s environmentally sealed, features USB 3.0 for fast file transferring and a 100% big bright viewfinder.
3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV brings plenty of photo and video improvements over its 2012 predecessor, the 5D Mark III.
First is the full frame sensor, now featuring 30 megapixels compared to 22MP. Both resolutions are pretty high and more than what most will ever need, but the extra amount will be useful for landscape and studio work, as well as large prints and cropping without losing much quality. The native ISO has slightly increased (to 32,000), but they both stop at 102,400. If you’ve got the 5D III, the difference in high ISO is not worth the extra price (assuming that’s the only thing you want to upgrade for).
If you’re more into action and sports, you’ll be glad to know that the camera is capable of shooting at 7 frames per second, which is quite impressive for a 30MP full frame DSLR. While it uses the same 61-AF point system as the 5D III, the points are spread wider which is helpful when composing the shot.
The biggest improvements come in the video department, which the 5D line is famous for. The 5D IV records 4K videos at 30fps, Full HD at 60fps and HD at 120fps. As with all their more advanced cameras, the 5D IV now features Dual Pixel AF for fast and accurate video focusing. Unfortunately, the DCI 4K video is done with a 1.64x crop factor and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The LCD size is the same at 3.2″, but the fixed screen is now touch-screen in both live view and menus. For quickly sharing the shots, the 5D IV features built-in WiFi and GPS.
4. Nikon D750
If we had to pick one full frame DSLR that is brilliant for the money, we’d go with the Nikon D750.
The resolution is the same as with the D610 at 24.3 megapixels, but the native ISO sensitivity is 1 stop higher (12,800). It also expands up to 51,200, and the D750 simply shows more detail.
Thanks to the Expeed 4 processor, it shoots at 6.5fps compared 6fps, but the biggest improvement of the D750 is in its newer auto focus system. With 51 AF points (15-cross type) and a detection range of -3 to +19 EV (D610 is at -1) it’s excellent for sports and wildlife.
Nasim at PhotographyLife compared the buffer to the similarly priced FX models and found out it’s just a tad better than the D610; see the comparison here.
What we also miss on the D750 is 1/8000 shutter speed, but instead both cameras can only shoot at 1/4000.
If video matters to you, you’ll be happy to know the D750 records Full HD at 60fps, has a microphone port and features a tilting 3.2″ LCD screen with 1,229,00 dots. Unlike the D610, it also has a built-in WiFi and even manages to get more shots with a single battery charge; 1,230 vs 900.
5. Canon EOS 6D
You’re looking at the most affordable Canon FF right now, the Canon EOS 6D.
Simply put, if you’re into landscape, portrait, studio photography (it can obviously be used for everything else too) and want a full frame camera without spending too much, the 20 megapixel 6D will be excellent. It does look a bit slow compared to some of the newer cameras, but it was released in 2012. We could potentially see the Mark II version sometime in 2017, so if you’re serious about getting the 6D and can wait, we recommend doing so.
However, if you’re looking to get a camera now and the 6D fits your budget (around $1,500), here’s what you get. 20.2 full frame CMOS sensor with ISO up to 102,400, with nearly identical noise performance to the 5D III and 5D IV for half the price. You can check out Dpreview’s comparsion here, but simply put the 6D delivers good results.
Compared to more expensive full frame DSLRs, the 11 point AF system with 1 cross-type is nothing to brag about. It gets the job done and will also focus good in low light conditions, but it’s clear from the amount of points that the 6D is more aimed at portrait and similar style photographers. If you need improved AF in a DSLR under $2000, check out the Nikon D750.
What’s surprising is that the 4 year old 6D comes with built-in WiFi and GPS, something that positively surprised most of us. All in all, the 6D is an excellent choice if you want to get a full frame DSLR with image quality 99% identical to the 5D III, but with less bells and whistles.
6. Nikon D610
The Nikon D610 competes directly with the 6D.
It’s got a 24.3MP full frame sensor and a much better AF system. 39 points and 9 of those are cross-type. It has 4 more megapixels yet it can shoot 6 frames per second in burst mode, which is 1.5fps more than on the 6D.
With that in mind, the Nikon D610 is noticeably better for sports photography as well as still work. It’s got a 100% viewfinder coverage and a 3.2″ LCD with 921,000. None of these cameras have touch-screen or an articulating LCD, but we might see that change when their replacements arrive.
In terms of noise levels, the Nikon D610 expands 2 stop less, maxing out at 25,600. Compared to the 6D, it’s also noisier and shows a little bit less detail when over 3,200 as you can see at Imaging Resource.
There’s no built-in WiFi or GPS so you’ll need to buy an adapter if that’s important to you.
7. Pentax K-1
Announced in 2016, the Pentax K-1 is the company’s first full frame DSLR camera.
Being the “underdog” in sales and all, you know they gotta give their best in their most expensive DSLR, and we’ll let the features speak for it.
It’s got a 36.4MP CMOS sensor with no AA filter, resulting in crisp sharp shots with plenty of detail. The ISO goes from 100 all the way to 204,800, and is usable up to 12,800 although it shows a little bit less detail and more noise than even some higher megapixel cameras (such as the 5Ds R and A7r II).
Like with the rest of their cameras, the K-1 has a built-in 5-axis Shake Reduction that will work with absolutely any lens you mount, since the stabilization part is done in the body itself. The collection of old and impressive lenses that will fit the K-1 makes this the perfect FF for any Pentax shooter.
They also improved the AF performance, with 33 AF points (25 cross-type). Overall, focusing is faster and more accurate thanks to the new SAFOX 12 system. The fastest shutter speed is 1/8000 and the K-1 can shoot 4.4 frames per second or 6.5 in APS-C mode. Nothing impressive for sports, but this is identical to the Canon EOS 6D that has far less megapixels, so hats off to Pentax.
What else is there? Video is ‘alright’ at Full HD 60i and a microphone jack, but it’s not Pentax’s strongest point. It’s got built-in WiFi and GPS, while the battery will last you for around 750 shots.
8. Nikon D5
The Nikon D5 is the fastest, biggest and most expensive Nikon.
What stands out the most about it is its 173AF point system, extremely fast and reliable at tracking subjects. Of those 173 points, 99 are cross-type, and overall 55 are available for selection. 15 of those points will also work at f/8.
The full frame sensor has 20.8 megapixels and can go as high as ISO 3,280,000! You’ll never want to go that high, but that number alone is impressive and the noise performance of this flagship camera is also excellent. Up to 409,600 it will produce “acceptable” results, but sticking to a max of 51,200 is probably your best bet for anything more serious.
It can also shoot at 12 frames per second and has a 200 RAW file buffer.
Battery life is super impressive with around 3780 shots before you have to charge again. That’s over 2500 more than the 1D X II. It’s also around 115g lighter at 49.9oz (1415g), but both of these cameras are the biggest and heaviest so a tripod/monopod is always recommended for longer shoots.
You can get the D5 with dual CF or dual XQD cards, and its buffer is really big; 200 RAW shots. Check out our Nikon D5 recommended memory cards here.
Video recording is available in 4K at 30/25/24fps with a crop factor of 1.5x. The 3.2 LCD screen is also razor sharp with 2,360,000 dots and fully supports touch-screen, even in the menus.
9. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
On the other hand, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is the most impressive and biggest DSLR from Canon.
You’ll see a lot of similarities, which is expected as they’re both mostly aimed at news/sports/wildlife photographers that shoot in all sorts of locations.
It’s got a 20.2MP FF sensor and shoots 14 frames per second. That’s 2fps more so it’s not a huge deal breaker compared to the D5, but it’s still impressive. Alternatively, if you shoot in Live View, the 1D X II is capable of shooting 16 frames per second but you lose auto focus.
The second most important feature is auto focus. The 1D X II has a 61 points (all support f/8), and 41 of them are cross-type. Even better, 5 points are dual-cross sensitive, resulting in even better performance.
The ISO range is far smaller (native: 51,200) and maxes out at 409,600. Again, this is reserved for extreme situations (low light, small apertures) so take these max ISO’s of flagship cameras with a grain of salt.
Unlike the D5 which comes in 2 versions, the 1D X II has 1 x CF and 1 x CFast memory card slot. With the fastest cards, you’ll also never fill the buffer as it just keeps on going. You can check out the buffer and speed comparison at The Digital Picture.
4K video is available at 60fps, and the 1D X II comes with Dual Pixel AF technology. The auto focus in video is really accurate and usable for even faster subjects, so in a way you could use the 4K 60fps and grab any of those 60 frames you like, but at a much smaller size obviously (4K is 8.8 megapixels). Nonetheless, it’s a cool “trick”.