The best cheap full-frame cameras make top-notch photography accessible to everyone, so you don't need to be a professional - or have loads of spare cash - to get a large sensor within your grasp.
Before we get started it’s worth addressing what exactly is full-frame. The term simply means that the sensor is the same size as 35mm format film. As such, it’s one of the largest sensors on the market, with only medium and large format sensors being bigger. Full-frame is larger than the other common camera sensor size (APS-C) and much larger than those you’ll find in a typical compact camera or smartphone.
Full-frame sensors are useful because they're more capable of gathering light - which will be particularly good news when there’s not much of it available. You also get better control over depth of field (the blurred background effect), while dynamic range and colours are often better too. And here are the best ones to buy:
Which is the best cheap full-frame camera in 2023? The top 3
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The best cheap full-frame camera for most people is the Nikon Z5. It has an extensive set of features to boast about, as well as a well-performing sensor and a robust but lightweight build.
The best cheap full-frame camera for a higher budget is the Fujifilm X-H2. If you plan to capture videos as well as photos then it'll be worth splashing out a little on this device.
The best ultra-cheap full-frame camera is the Nikon Z30. Suitable for any skill level, this more affordable full-frame camera pays close attention to detail.
There’s plenty to like about the Nikon Z5. It’s impressively small for a full-frame camera, and, especially if you combine it with the new 24-50mm kit lens, then you’ve got a great travel or everyday camera in the making. It has a good set of features, with a well-performing sensor, a nicely functioning touch-sensitive tilt-screen and a fantastic viewfinder that you might not expect to find on an entry-level camera.
As it stands, you can get a Z6 with the 24-70mm lens for a little more than the Z5 with the 24-50mm lens. For that extra outlay, you get an overall better-performing camera and lens combination, which is more versatile for a range of situations. Overall, the Nikon Z5 has a lot to offer and it’s a great little package for anyone looking to get their first full-frame camera. Nikon has managed to shrink it down even further without losing the great handling and some of the series’ top-end specifications.
If you’re a jet setter looking for a new full-frame camera, read the full Nikon Z5 review.
Granted, the Fujifilm X-H2 is a little more expensive than the cheapest full-frame cameras on this list, but it’s worth it if you plan to use it for shooting video as well as snapping photos. It combines a 40MP sensor with 8K recording, and there’s an optional cooling fan too so you can capture video content for longer without the device overheating.
When it comes to picture quality, we found that we rarely needed to tweak or boost the saturation, nor did we need to alter the contrast, which ultimately made using the camera simple and speedy. If you’re transitioning from a DSLR then the Fujifilm X-H2 is a good choice because it is chunkier to handle than other options, and there are lots of familiar dials, levers and switches – including forward and rear command dials.
The Fujifilm X-H2 review gives you a fuller picture of how this camera performed overall.
Hitting the sweet spot between price and quality, the Nikon Z30 is a full-frame camera that pays attention to detail, whether that’s in terms of its construction, its interface or the actual performance. What’s really great is that this will be suitable for everyone from beginners to enthusiasts.
When we got hands-on with it, we described the shots it took as having ‘bright and vibrant colours that really pop on-screen’ and to add to that we found that this will be an excellent choice for video creators too, thanks to 4K video of up to 35 minutes duration, alongside Full HD capability of up to 125 mins and impressive sound quality straight out of the box.
The Nikon Z30 review has everything else you need to know about this full-frame camera before you buy.
The best cheap full-frame cameras 2023: best of the rest
The Panasonic Lumix S5 was specifically designed to be available at a more affordable price point. It also ticks boxes for those who like to create both stills and videos from one device.
Neat specs - for the price - include a high-resolution viewfinder, a range of 4K video controls, and a fully articulating touch-sensitive screen. The bundled 20-60mm kit lens is a good performer and gives an excellent focal length range - especially for vloggers who might like to point the lens at themselves while out and about. There are some compromises to be had, such as a fairly average frame rate, but we’d expect that at this price point - in general it’s a pretty appealing package.
You can read more about it in the Panasonic Lumix S5 review.
If you’re new to the world of photography, a more stripped-back and affordable full-frame camera like the Canon EOS R10 will be a good choice. It’s not too feature-heavy which makes it much easier to get to grips with especially on the go, it’s smaller and lighter than a lot of the pricier options, and its 24.2 megapixel resolution will be more than enough for most.
In the review, we pointed out that ‘this manufacturer is known for delivering photography that doesn’t require much, if any image editing after the fact, except to maybe bring up a little more shadow detail, and that’s certainly the case here’ which will make your workflow much more efficient in the long run.
Check out the Canon EOS R10 review to find out more about what it has to offer.
Nikon’s duo of full-frame mirrorless cameras have made a huge impact on the market as a whole. The Z6 has a lower-resolution sensor than its more expensive brother, the Z7. That gives it some bonuses though - it can shoot at 12fps, which actually makes it fairly decent for sports shooting, and with fewer pixels to cram onto the sensor, low-light performance is damn good too.
The body of the Z6 handles extremely well, with highlights including the electronic viewfinder and the tilting touch-sensitive screen. In fact, there’s really not much to dislike about the Z6 - the biggest bugbear probably being the fact that the memory cards you need for it (XQD) are expensive and harder to find than the more ubiquitous SD card, for now at least.
For more on what we thought, take a look at the Nikon Z6 review.
Compact with retro styling, the Fujifilm X-T5 is certainly a looker, and its size makes it easy to carry around with you too. You get loads for your money here, including a whopping 40.2MP resolution sensor, 6K video capture and a really handy tilting LCD screen.
When we gave the Fujifilm X-T5 a test run, we described the imagery as ‘life-like and three-dimensional’ while the camera itself was ‘very swift to respond, allowing us to maintain focus on our subjects rather than being distracted by whatever the camera is doing.’ Plus the battery life gets you to about 740 shots which is never a bad thing.
Get everything you need to know about this camera in the Fujifilm X-T5 review.
If you're new to the world of photography then the Canon EOS R8 is a fantastic full-frame camera because the body design and layout look a lot more like a DSLR, with loads of user-friendly features and it's also very small and lightweight. It is slightly more expensive than others, like the Canon EOS R10, but it's also future-proofed for when your skill level improves.
When it comes to performance, we found the autofocus lightening fast at locking onto a target and the LCD screen was super clear which helps a lot to compose the perfect shot. The image quality was found to be 'both naturalistic and detailed, with sufficient creative scope in tandem with our lens to achieve defocused backgrounds and sharp subjects that really pop on screen.'
To find out what else makes this a top choice for newcomers to photography, read the Canon EOS R8 review.
This is one of the newest DSLRs on our list, which considering it’s now over two years old gives you an indication of how little action there is compared to mirrorless. Still, if you like the ergonomics and tank-like build of a DSLR, or perhaps you’ve already got some Nikon F-mount lenses, then the D780 is still a very good buy.
It’s a seriously good all-rounder, bringing other DSLR benefits, such as top-notch battery life and an optical viewfinder, while utilising some of the autofocusing technology from the Z series of mirrorless lenses.
Check out the Nikon D780 review for more takes on this cheap full-frame camera.
Having been in the full-frame mirrorless biz the longest, Sony knows this market incredibly well. The A7 III is the third iteration of Sony’s “middle” model in the A7 line-up. That means that you get a cracking all-rounder with a superb heft of specs in an affordable body - what’s not to like?
There’s a great sensor which delivers top-notch images, a good battery life by mirrorless standards, great focusing and a frame rate of 10fps - which is actually not that bad for sports and action so long as it’s not your main priority. Further good news is that if you need to stretch your budget a little further, you can still get older models in the A7 lineup - take a look at the A7 II, particularly if you’re not bothered by shooting moving subjects.
How to buy the best cheap full-frame camera
There are probably two types of customers for a full-frame camera. There will be those who are already enthusiasts and probably already have some kind of camera system. But, with prices being as low as they are, there’s also a chance that you're buying your very first “proper” camera and going all in.
Whether you fall into either camp, you might not have the biggest budget, or simply want to get the best deal possible. For that reason, all of the cameras here are ideal for those who want to up their photography game but don’t necessarily have a huge amount of cash to play with.
At the moment, it’s likely you’ll struggle to find a full-frame camera for less than £1500 / US$2000. But, compared to the prices of even just a few years ago it’s still much more affordable for hobbyists and enthusiasts.
If you’re already shooting with an APS-C model and feel the time is ready to upgrade, you’re likely to stick to a brand you’re already familiar with. That’s a good idea, but it’s worth remembering that any lenses you’ve already got might not necessarily be compatible between APS-C and full-frame models. With that in mind, you might find yourself having to buy a new set, making switching brands less of a problem.
There’s a huge amount of competition in the full-frame market. There are options available from Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and others.
As these have been designed with affordability in mind, many of the models here are what we’d call good “all-rounders”. That means they are well-suited to a variety of subjects, giving you solid results that may require compromise in some areas. For example, you might struggle to find something which particularly excels for action photography - but if you rarely shoot moving subjects that won’t be such an issue.
For those looking for a balance between all-around quality and affordability, there are some good options out there. The Nikon Z5 is a good affordable option, while the Nikon Z6 is also a fantastic choice, and being a generation old means that it’s extremely good value, without too many compromises. The same can be said for the Sony A7 III, which is also an excellent choice. The Canon EOS R10 is a good entry into full-frame if you prefer that brand, while the Panasonic S5 is a newer model which specifically targets the low(er) budget customer.
If you're not bothered by mirrorless and are keen to stick with traditional DSLRS, there are also some cracking options still available. The Nikon D780 is a good workhorse camera.