Cheapest full frame camera Guide (Budget DSLR & Mirrorless)
This is a guide to the cheapest full frame camera options in 2021, to make sure you get the best bang for your buck!
Full-frame cameras used to be the realm of the professional photographer or the wealthy amateur, but thanks to a handful of affordable options, this is no longer the case :-)
‘Cheapest’ is a relative term, but I’ve taken it to mean the best full frame cameras under $1,000.
Check out our full frame camera recommendations below, to get amazing photos while still saving money.
Table of Contents
Most Affordable Full Frame Cameras in 2021
|Sony a7 ii||View Price →|
|Canon EOS RP||View Price →|
|Nikon D610||View Price →|
|Canon 6D||View Price →|
1. Sony a7 ii All Round Best + Cheapest
The Sony a7 ii made headlines back in 2014 as being the first mirrorless full frame sensor camera with 5-axis in-body image stabilisation.
Since then, several new Sony alpha camera models have stolen the headlines, but the truth is – the a7 ii is still an excellent camera, and it’s our choice as the number one option of ‘cheapest full-frame camera’.
(You can probably find refurbished or second-hand versions of the original Sony a7, but we’d advise against it. The a7 ii is a much more capable camera.)
The headline image-stabilisation feature brings compensation equivalent to using a 4.5-stop faster shutter speed.
What this means in practice is that video shooters don’t need to rely on camera stabilizers when trying to capture footage in slower shutter speeds, and photographers needn’t rely on higher ISOs to capture stills – if you’ve got a steady hand, you can shoot as slow as 1/2 sec and get a sharp shot!
Sony is well-known for its class-leading auto-focus performance, and this holds true on the Sony a7ii, despite its age.
In Fast Hybrid AF mode, the a7 ii uses its 117 phase and 25 contrast-detection points to lock onto a subject and never let go – it’s actually the same hybrid system found on the more expensive Sony A7R and A7S mirrorless cameras.
5fps continuous burst shooting may not sound like much here in 2021, but it allows you to capture enough action, with every shot in sharp focus.
Whether 5ps is enough for you is a personal decision – it may not be enough for sports photographers, but for everyone else, it’s adequate.
The Sony a7 ii features a 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor combined with a BIONZ X processor, allowing you to capture JPEGS and 14-bit uncompressed RAW images.
As for video capabilities, the a7ii can capture high-bit-rate XAVC S format, which enables Full HD image recording at 50Mbps (60p/50p, 30p/25p, 24p).
There’s also an S-Log 2 Gamma setting, meaning a 1,300% wider dynamic range, which allows for more flexibility in post-production.
ISO performance is adequate for most usages – not mind-blowing, but no slouch either.
With a range of ISO50-25600, the a7 ii is most comfortable under ISO800, with noise quickly creeping in above this.
The Sony a7 ii can shoot natively at ISO50. This allows you to shoot at larger apertures even in bright sunshine, meaning you can take advantage of more bokeh and subject separation.
(If you need better high ISO performance and have a larger budget, the Sony a7 iii is an excellent choice.)
You can also adapt most other brand lenses to use on the a7 ii, allowing you to take advantage of focus peaking even with vintage lenses which don’t support AF.
Dynamic range performance on the a7 ii is very good, and typical of Sony full frame sensors. You can recover shadow detail from up to 4 stops, without seeing too much file degradation.
Highlight recovery is always more difficult, even for more expensive cameras. The a7 ii allows you to pull back about a stop of detail, but that’s about it.
So, how do you decide between the Sony a7 ii and the Canon EOS RP? Both can definitely be labelled ‘affordable full frame cameras’…
The Sony is much cheaper, but the Canon offers more features, a newer sensor, more AF points, better colours/skin tones and better ergonomics.
However, and this is a big one – the only mirrorless Canon lenses currently available are big and expensive, and totally unsuited to a budget body like the RP.
Sure, you can adapt Canon EF-mount lenses, but it’d be nice to have more native mirrorless lenses available.
Sony on the other hand offer so many great lenses, several of which are small, light and affordable, and the perfect match for the a7 ii.
Since this article is all about saving money, we have to recommend the Sony a7 ii over the RP for this reason.
Purchasing the RP is only half the battle – adding in some lenses could really blow your budget!
Click the button above to see the latest price of the a7 ii, which even includes a decent zoom lens! It really is amazing value for money.
2. Canon EOS RP
Released in 2019, the EOS RP Canon mirrorless full frame camera is the newest addition to this guide, and great value for money.
Hovering around the $1,000 mark, it’s not the cheapest full frame in the list, but for all it offers, you should definitely consider it.
At just 485g, the EOS RP is the most lightweight and compact Canon mirrorless camera, making it perfect to take travelling.
It uses the new RF mount, allowing it to use the new full-frame mirrorless RF lenses… but unfortunately, there are only a few to choose from.
Canon RF lenses tend to be big and heavy, so having a lightweight/small camera body like the RP is a bit of a double-edged sword. We look forward to Canon plan releasing more ‘appropriate’ lenses later this year.
With its 26 megapixel Full Frame CMOS sensor and up to 4779 selectable AF point positions, the Canon EOS RP wipes the floor with any other full frame camera body in this price bracket.
Having AF points which cover 88%W and 100%H of the sensor area is truly liberating – the Canon Dual Pixel CMOS AF system tracks your subject with ease, making it excellent for capturing fast-moving action -the only down side is only having 4fps.
In continuous shooting mode, the EOS RP can take up to 50 consecutive shots in RAW format at 4fps before the camera’s buffer becomes full and the shooting speed slows down.
The Canon EOS RP only has one card slot (as do the Sony and Canon in this guide), which may or not be a deal breaker for some professional photographers.
(The more expensive Canon EOS R, Nikon Z6 or even the Z7 full frame mirrorless cameras don’t offer dual cards slots either – if it’s essential to you and you’re on a tight budget, the Nikon D610 is the cheapest option that does.)
Face and eye detection is a useful feature (like on Sony cameras), and very well implemented. It works well in low light, and even with adapted EF lenses.
The EOS RP features some great in-built features which are rare in a camera of this price, full frame or otherwise – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Time-Lapse, Focus Bracketing and Tethering are all useful to both photographers and videographers.
As for lens selection, sadly this is the EOS RP’s Achilles heel – at the time of writing, Canon only offers one lens that most would consider affordable – the RF 35mm f/1.8.
All the others RF lenses are both big and expensive… which kind of defeats the object of finding the cheapest camera body.
Adapting Canon EF lenses is always an option, though, and many users will be forced to do this, at least for the foreseeable future.
As for image quality, the EOS RP benefits from those gorgeous, unrivalled Canon colours. Most notably, skin tones are among the best of any camera system.
Straight out of camera JPEGs look vivid and sharp, and RAW files having enough dynamic range to make them malleable with the right post-production software.
High ISO performance is slightly better than the Sony a7ii, with sensitivity ranging from 100 – 40,000 ISO (extendable from 50-204,800).
(If you need better high ISO performance out of a full frame Canon mirrorless camera and have a bigger budget, there’s always the Canon EOS R6.)
Another big advantage of the EOS RP is the ergonomics of the camera – everything feels great in the hand, with a taller grip than Sony mirrorless cameras.
Buttons feel better than on Sony, and there’s a tilting LCD screen that can face forwards for selfies and vlogging.
The thing that may annoy videographers, however, is that the RP records 4K video up to 25fps with a 1.75x crop and no phase-detection AF.
All in all, though, the Canon EOS RP is a featured-packed mirrorless full frame body with enough technology packed in to last you years of happy shooting.
It feels great to hold and has a much simpler menu system than any Sony camera. If you can live with the limited affordable lens selection, I highly recommend you check it out.
3. Nikon D610
This is the camera I used professionally as a wedding photographer for 6 months and really enjoyed it.
The Nikon D610 is an oft-forgotten full frame camera released back in 2013. It offers excellent performance and is surprisingly affordable.
It replaced the Nikon D600, which was released after the Nikon D700 – both these cameras can possibly be found even cheaper than the D610 second-hand, but I’d still recommend the D610 as the best option.
The Nikon D610 is the cheapest full frame body that offers dual SD card slots – a feature that’s essential for the majority of professional photographers in 2021.
At the heart of the camera is a glorious 24.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 3 image processor, capable of producing JPEGs and RAWs with exquisite detail and wide dynamic range.
Full frame cameras offer more recoverable dynamic range (the amount of detail contained in shadows/highlights), meaning that you can ‘push and pull’ files to further extremes in software such as Lightroom.
The Nikon D610 doesn’t offer as much dynamic-range as more expensive full frame Nikon cameras, but what it does offer is enough for most photographers. The DR is also much more than any APS-C camera, and on-par with Canon full frame mirrorless cameras at this price.
Another big benefit of the Nikon D610 is how light and compact it is for a full frame DSLR – weighing in at only 760g, you can attach a lightweight Nikon prime lens to it and have a setup ideal for all-day shooting.
White balance on the D610 is accurate in even the most challenging situations – I shot with the camera on Auto-WB 100% of the time and had no issues.
The 39-point autofocus combined with 6fps may not be game-changing, but it’s definitely adequate for such a cheap full frame camera.
The autofocus works well down to an f/8 aperture even when using a 2X teleconverter, letting you extend the focal length of your lenses without affecting performance.
Then there’s full HD video recording at up to 1920 x 1080/30p, and a handy time-lapse photography function which allows you to create dramatic movies that move from 24 to 36,000 times of the normal speed.
In-camera time-lapse support is rare on cheaper full frame cameras, so if you’re keen to start shooting astro-photography, the Nikon D610 can be an affordable way in.
Everything can be viewed on a large 3.2-inch LCD which looks great, even in bright morning sunshine.
Full frame cameras also offer a wider ISO range, meaning you can capture images in low light without having to resort to slower shutter speeds or flash.
The Nikon D610 has a wide sensitivity range of ISO100 to 6400 (expandable from ISO50 to ISO25,600).
I felt comfortable delivering images shot up to ISO12,800 to clients, although some noise was definitely apparent, particularly in the shadows. (A swift black and white conversion makes these images look way better!)
Shooting up to ISO6400, all images are clear and artifact-free. Colours look incredible, and skin tones always faithfully reproduced – see above.
All in all, the Nikon D610 is an excellent DSLR. It offers stellar performance and outstanding value for money, even here in 2021.
Click the button above to find out how cheaply you can pick a new one up from Amazon.
4. Canon 6D
I shot with the Canon 6D for a few months last summer and loved it. I’ve also used the more recent Canon 6d Mark ii (review), which is a nice update, albeit a good deal more expensive.
The 6D was released in February 2013, the same month that the Nikon D600 hit the shelves. This tarted the budget full-frame camera body wars!
With its 20.2MP full frame CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+ image processor, the Canon 6D is capable of producing beautiful JPEGs straight out of camera, and RAWs with a decent level of data for post production.
Image quality on all Canon full-frame DSLRs is very good, with colours that are unrivalled by any other brand.
Skin tones look great, with a certain warmth to files that’s typical of the Canon sensors.
The standard ISO range of 100-25600 is expandable down to 50 and up to 102,400. Cleanest files exist below ISO800, but the ISO can be pushed higher and still produce files you could deliver to a client.
As with all Canon DSLRs, the ergonomics of the 6D feel great. There’s weather-sealing (much like the other cameras recommended in this guide), a simple menu system, deep grip and decent battery life.
The rear LCD can’t tilt nor swivel like the Canon EOS RP and Sony a7 ii, but it’s still vivid and sharp, even in bright sunshine.
It’s also 4:3 as opposed to 3:2 (as on the 5D Mark III), giving you a little more room when reviewing photos.
The real standout feature of the Canon 6D is its surprisingly accurate low light auto-focus. The centre cross-type AF point is rated at -3EV – a full one-stop better than the 5D Mark III, a camera over twice the price!
Then there’s Wi-Fi, GPS, full manual video controls, in-camera RAW conversion, IPB and All-I video compression modes, multi-exposure HDR mode (in JPEG only), and one of the quietest silent shutter modes I’ve seen on a DSLR.
What’s not to love? Well, there’s only one-card slot which may worry some wedding photographers, and the 11 AF points with 4.5fps isn’t an option for sports shooters.
(If you have a bigger budget and need better AF, the Canon 6D Mark ii offers Dual Pixel AF, and is a great all-round upgrade.)
There’s no 4K video on the Canon 6D, but the Canon 6D Mark ii, Nikon D610 and Sony a7 ii all lack 4K video too.
All in all, for a little over $850, you’re getting one helluva camera and the cheapest access to the enviable Canon EF lenses.
If you’re looking for a cheap Canon full-frame DSLR, this is our pick of the bunch. Click the button below to find how much it is in your country.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cheapest Nikon full frame DSLR?
The cheapest Nikon full frame DSLR camera that’s currently available is the Nikon D610. You may be able to find refurbished D600 models for cheaper, but we don’t recommend this camera.
Is a full frame camera worth it?
If you need the best high ISO image quality, the widest angle field of view, the highest megapixel count and the largest dynamic range, a full frame camera is worth the cost over an APS-C camera.
What is the smallest full frame camera?
The Sigma FP is a 24.6-megapixel camera has a 35mm full-frame Bayer sensor. It weighs just 370g, making it the smallest and lightest full frame camera.
How much is a full frame camera?
Full frame cameras range from around $700 to many thousands of dollars. Fortunately, some can be found for less than APS-C cameras.
Why buy a full-frame camera in 2021?
Well, if you’re after the best low light performance, the widest focal lengths, the broadest dynamic range, and arguably the best overall image quality, there’s simply no beating that 35mm full-frame sensor.
Sure, the APS-C sensor is still great, and some crop sensor camera bodies are actually better than their 35mm counterparts.
However, being able to purchase a full-frame mirrorless or DSLR camera for under $1,000 here in 2021 is really an opportunity too good to be missed.
Leave me a comment with any questions, and happy shooting!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.