Full-frame cameras are now cheaper and much more compact than they were a few years ago. You can take amazing pictures with the following cameras.
By Sven Wernicke
Thanks to mirrorless systems, the originally very large and heavy housings of full-frame cameras have shrunk significantly. What has remained is the astonishing image quality, which cannot be matched by recordings made with a smartphone. But: Although the cameras offer you many modes and automatic support, a certain photographic know-how is required.
If you want to buy a full-frame camera, it doesn’t have to be a professional solution. There are also excellent devices for ambitious hobby photographers.
Canon EOS RP: Strong full-frame camera (not only) for beginners
For a full-frame camera, the Canon EOS RP is light and compact.
Image: © SATURN 2022
Full format in a light body: the EOS RP fits perfectly in the hand, is quite compact and yet extremely powerful. The mirrorless camera has a resolution of 26.2 megapixels. Thanks to the DIGIC 8 processor, it allows a very high focusing speed and 4K video recordings.
The fully movable touchscreen is practical. The camera comes with an EF lens adapter that also allows you to use Canon’s DSLR lenses.
|+ Lightweight and compact||– 4K videos with crop factor of 1.6x|
|+ Freely movable touch screen||– No integrated image stabilization (image stabilization always in the lenses)|
|+ Inexpensive entry into the full format segment|
Sony Alpha 7 II: A full-frame classic
The Sony Alpha 7 II has already had two successors, but we still recommend it.
Image: © SATURN 2022
the Sony’s Alpha 7 II has been on the market for a number of years, but it’s still one of the most popular full-frame cameras. The reason: It is well suited for beginners and delivers outstanding image quality. This is ensured by the 24.3 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and the BioniZ-X processor for further processing of the images.
The Alpha 7 II doesn’t feel dated. Unless you want video recordings in 4K. The camera only manages Full HD resolution here, but without a crop factor and using the entire sensor.
A notice: With its very good price-performance ratio, the Alpha 7 II is aimed at beginners, but is also suitable for ambitious hobby photographers. The Successors Alpha 7 III and Alpha 7 IV offer additional functions and more performance, but are also significantly more expensive.
|+ Fast hybrid autofocus||– Slow continuous shooting function|
|+ Integrated five-axis image stabilizer||– Video recordings only in Full HD|
|+ Stable magnesium housing||– No Bluetooth|
|– No touch screen|
Nikon Z5: Modern full-frame camera
The Nikon Z5 scores more when taking photos than when filming.
Image: © SATURN 2022
the Nikon Z5 is up to date. You will notice this with the modern operation, the touchscreen and the fast USB-C connection. A highlight is the large, high-resolution electronic viewfinder, which makes capturing the subject a joy. There is also a sensor shift image stabilizer for sharp photos.
The mirrorless 35mm system camera is less suitable for video recordings. The 4K resolution comes with a high crop factor.
|+ Ergonomic housing||– High crop factor on 4K videos|
|+ Integrated image stabilizer||– Slow continuous shooting function|
|+ Large electronic viewfinder|
Panasonic DC-S5E: Strong also with video recordings
The Panasonic model scores with 4K videos without a crop factor.
Image: © SATURN 2022
the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5E is a first-class system camera with a full-frame sensor, which is ideal for on the go due to its size. Vloggers and photographers alike get their money’s worth, the Lumix S5 records uncropped videos in 4K (up to 60 frames per second without cropping). And the fantastic sensor allows high-quality results.
Other strengths of the DC-S5E are the double image stabilization, the fast precision autofocus and the pleasant weight of only 714 grams.
|+ Video recording in 4K without crop factor||– Slow continuous shooting function|
|+ Compact, ergonomic housing|
|+ Outstanding image quality|
|+ Two memory card slots|
Nikon D850: One of the best full-frame sensor DSLRs
The single-lens reflex camera with a full-frame sensor offers a resolution of 45.7 megapixels.
Image: © SATURN 2022
Even though mirrorless cameras are on the rise in the full-frame sector, there are still SLR cameras like them Nikon D850. It is – typical for DSLR – quite a chunk and relatively heavy. But you benefit from this if you want to use larger lenses.
The resolution of 45.7 megapixels is amazing. You can shoot up to 9 frames per second in series. The back-illuminated CMOS image sensor and the micro-lenses integrated into the chip allow incident light to hit the photodiodes more efficiently, which benefits the richness of detail and the dynamic range of the photos.
|+ 4K videos without crop factor||– Relatively large and heavy|
|+ Precise autofocus system||– Expensive|
|+ 45.7 megapixel sensor|
|+ First class image quality|
What is a full frame camera?
Full-frame cameras have the eponymous full-frame sensors, which have a larger area. They score with less image noise and a higher dynamic range than SLR and system cameras with smaller sensors. Full format also means that the sensor is more light-sensitive and better results can be achieved in poor lighting conditions.
The larger the sensor, the higher the potential image quality – as long as the lenses are also of high quality. And there are other benefits. On the other hand, full-frame cameras also have some disadvantages.
|+ Thanks to the large sensor, you can separate subjects better from a background because the depth of field is shallower.||– Full frame cameras tend to be larger, heavier and more expensive than other cameras.|
|+ Full-frame cameras have a wide viewing angle with no crop factor when taking photos.||– The video function is often limited by a high crop factor, especially in the entry-level class.|
|+ The lenses for full-frame cameras are of particularly high quality.||– Taking photos with a sharp foreground and background is more difficult and usually requires post-processing.|
Even the cheaper entry-level devices are sophisticated and excellent cameras for leisure, hobbies and work. A few points of reference will help you find the best full-frame camera for you:
- Housing: As a rule, no full-frame camera costs less than 1,000 euros. Manufacturers offer you high-quality workmanship for the housing with metal chassis and robust plastic or magnesium alloy as well as rubber coating on the handles. If you also want to take photos in the rain, make sure that the full-frame camera is waterproof or at least protected against splash water and dust.
- Sensor: Almost every manufacturer has its own full-frame sensors ready. They are usually 36 x 24 millimeters in size and thus correspond to the (analogue) 35mm format. The CMOS sensors are divided into FSI sensors and BSI sensors. In the first variant, the pixels are exposed from the front. The second uses rear exposure, resulting in higher light output. The results are less noisy and richer in contrast. But: This is only noticeable with sensors with significantly more than 40 megapixels.
- Megapixels: Values of around 20 to 24 megapixels have been established for full-frame cameras, which is perfectly sufficient for normal use. More megapixels only make sense if you want to benefit from the advantages of the BSI sensors or if you need such high resolutions.
- Manufacturer & lenses: Sony, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic – they all have their own lenses for their cameras. These are not compatible with each other due to different connections and approaches. Before you decide on a full-frame camera, take a look around at the accessories: Are there lenses that are suitable for your needs? Some third-party manufacturers such as Sigma also offer lenses for different connections.
- Video & Crop Factor: Full frame cameras specialize in photography. When it comes to video recording, you often have to make compromises. The crop factor indicates how many compromises you have to make. Instead of using the area of the entire sensor, only a fixed image section is used when filming. This narrows the viewing angle. The higher the crop factor, the more cropped the image is. If the video function is important to you, make sure that the crop factor is as low as possible or non-existent when you buy it.