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It wasn’t so long ago that full frame cameras were generally considered out of reach for budget-conscious photographers. But with a number of earlier generation full frame bodies still around and changes in the market due to the rise of mirrorless technology, a full frame camera is now well within reach for photographers with limited financial resources.
If you’re in the market for a budget full-frame DSLR/mirrorless camera, you will be delighted to know there are some great options available. Here are five of them.
Sony’s a7II features a 24-megapixel sensor with a native ISO range of 100-25600, 117 phase detection focus points (25 contrast detection points) and it was the first full frame body to feature 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS).
As with many mirrorless cameras of its generation, battery life isn’t excellent.
Introduced in 2014 at a cost of $1700, the Sony a7II can now easily be found for about $900.
Alternative: Sony a7. Slightly slower autofocus and startup times compared to the a7II, and no IBIS. But a $700 price tag might make those points irrelevant.
When it first hit the market in 2013, the Nikon D610 body would have set you back $2000. Now, you can find it for half that. So what do you get for $1000?
A DSLR with a 24-megapixel sensor, dual SD card slots, weather sealing and, of course, access to Nikon’s vaunted lens lineup.
Alternative: Nikon D750. Interestingly, the cost of a new D750 is only about $100 more than a new D610, and used prices are similarly competitive. A Nikon D750 will get you a 51-point autofocus system, a tilting rear LCD (a first for full frame DSLRs) and built-in WiFi.
Compared to the previous entries in this roundup, the Canon 6D is a pretty basic camera. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.
The 6D, introduced in 2013 at a retail price of just over $2000, is a 20-megapixel DSLR with a native ISO range of 100-25600, 11 focus points (one cross type), built-in WiFi and weather sealing. It’s an EF mount camera, so you’ll have a deep pool of high-quality lenses to choose from.
You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a used 6D for $600-$800.
Alternative: Canon 6D Mark II. The second generation of this camera features a 26-megapixel sensor, native ISO 100-40000, digital image stabilization and a fully articulating rear LCD. The 6D Mark II was released in 2017, so the discounts aren’t as substantial yet, but at around $1100 it’s still an option worth considering.
Yes. The original Canon 5D. The 5D Classic, as it is often lovingly referred to. This 12-megapixel dinosaur hit the DSLR market in 2005 with a price tag of $3500. Today you can easily find one for about $300.
The 5D changed the game in terms of affordability and size, as other full frame cameras of the time were comparatively huge and expensive (the Canon 1Ds Mark II, for example, was $8000).
The 5D is a no-frills camera. There is nothing to get in your way or distract you. And its sensor produces images that exhibit an almost film-like quality. Portrait photographers particularly love it for the way it renders skin tones.
Rebased in 2008, Nikon’s second full-frame DSLR is, like the Canon 5D, something of a cult icon. The D700 is another 12-megapixel dinosaur that has all the features you need and none you don’t. It is a photo making tool.
The D700 entered the market at $3000 and can now be had for less than $500, making it an old but viable option for full frame seekers.
A full frame camera isn’t the final word in photography; it’s not going to magically turn you into an awesome photographer. And not having a full frame camera isn’t going to stop you from being an awesome photographer.
But larger sensors do represent a few advantages — technical and aesthetic — that some photographers might want to exploit. So if you are, indeed, on the hunt for a full frame camera, all the above selections (including the dinosaurs) are worth your consideration.
Have we missed your favorite? Make sure you tell us your budget full-frame camera options in the comments below