Full-frame cameras are the best of the best: they have the largest sensors, the most megapixels, and lenses that are unmatched. Despite the size and cost, they are the go-to choice among enthusiasts and professional photographers. In addition to DSLRs, which have long dominated the market, full-frame mirrorless cameras are lighter and more compact, and there are more options than ever before. Below are the best full-frame cameras of 2020, from do-everything models to leading budget options. For more background information, see our full-frame camera comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera
1. Sony Alpha a7R IV ($3,498)
Weight: 23.5 oz.
What we like: The highest-resolution full-frame camera on the market.
What we don’t: Pricey and 61 megapixels is overkill for some people and lenses.
Just when it seemed like Canon and Nikon might catch up, Sony released the a7R IV. This sleek, full-frame mirrorless camera offers a very impressive 61 megapixels of resolution, which surpasses the Nikon D850 (45.7) and Canon 5DS R (50.6) below to become the highest-resolution full-frame camera on the market. Sony also improved the autofocus, which wasn’t a shortcoming with the older model but makes the IV even more attractive for action and video. Add in easy-to-use functionality, an array of video speeds, and premium build quality including weather sealing, and this is a superb full-frame camera.
The big question for serious photographers in 2020 is whether to go mirrorless or DSLR. It’s true that a camera body like the Sony a7R IV weighs less than competing full-frame DSLRs, but comparable lenses are similar in form factor and sometimes weigh even more. And we do like the optical viewfinder on the Nikon D850 and Canon 5D Mark IV (the a7R IV only has an electronic viewfinder), but the higher resolution, modern feature set, and small form factor make up for it in our opinion. We know a number of enthusiasts and professionals who have switched to Sony mirrorless and never looked back.
Best Full-Frame DSLR
2. Nikon D850 ($2,997)
Weight: 32.3 oz.
What we like: The features and ergonomics can’t be beat.
What we don’t: Bulkier and heavier than the mirrorless competition.
If you’re in the market for a full-frame DSLR, it’s hard to argue against the Nikon D850. Simply put, this camera beats out its top competitor, the Canon 5D Mark IV below, in most relevant categories. To name a handful, the D850 has a whopping 45.7 megapixels of resolution vs. 30.4 on the 5D Mark IV, superior autofocus, faster buffering speeds, a higher-resolution LCD screen, and significantly longer battery life. The 5D Mark IV does weigh slightly less and has built-in GPS, but we favor the D850 in a big way.
We hemmed and hawed about whether to rank the mirrorless Sony a7R IV over the Nikon D850 on this list—both are top-notch full-frame cameras in just about every way. For professionals who use their camera every day, the optical viewfinder on the D850 may be a deciding factor, along with the collection of full-frame lenses they likely already own. And while Sony has dramatically improved the autofocus capabilities of their cameras, the D850 still is superior in this regard. Having said that, the Sony a7R IV has better resolution and a slightly more modern feature set, and all signs point to mirrorless leading the charge in the future.