Until quite recently choosing the best full-frame mirrorless camera wasn’t that difficult, simply because there were only a few such cameras available.
It wasn’t all that long ago that picking a full-frame mirrorless camera was pretty much a one-horse race. Sony had the market almost entirely to itself until last year when it seemed everybody wanted a piece of the pie.
Sony’s A7 and A9 series caters for a wide variety of different types of photographers, with detail lovers drawn to the R series, low-light shooters towards the S series, and for those looking for an all-round performer being tempted by the excellent value plain A7 model. Meanwhile, sports and action photographers have a credible alternative to high-powered DSLRs in the shape of the A9, and its successor, the A9 II.
Then, last year, Canon and Nikon joined the party at almost the same time, before Panasonic pitched in with its own offerings. Announcing the L Mount alliance at Photokina 2018, it also opened up the door for other models sharing the same mount – indeed, it wasn’t too long before Sigma announced the fp was in development – and just over a year later it’s now on sale.
Now, on top of some more left-field models from Leica, the market has expanded to give photographers, videographers and those working across both fields many alternatives at a variety of price points.
Many of these systems are still getting established, so what should you look for? There’s obviously the sensor at the heart of the camera, but it’s also worth looking at the current lens options available, and what lenses manufacturers have said are in development.
While Sony has been producing full-frame mirrorless options for quite a while now, others in this list are a lot newer to the game. That means that the lens and accessory line-up can be a little more limited – it’s worth looking at what’s currently available, at well as what is promised for the future.
There’s not a lot of point in buying a great camera if the lenses you’d like to use don’t exist or are out of your price range. You might also be able to use existing lenses from anything you’re currently using, via an adapter, so it’s always worth checking out the adapter situation too.
If you capture bursts of images frequently, make sure to check not only the burst rate but also the burst depth – the first spec tells you how many images you can shoot per second, while the second tells you how long you can keep shooting for in terms of the number of frames. Continuous focus may decrease these figures, so look out for that in the spec sheet too.
If you’re somebody who shoots burst of images frequently – for example sports and action photographers – make sure you not only check the burst rate, but also the burst depth. The latter specification will indicate how long can you keep shooting for, and is also very important to consider. Continuous focus may decreases these figures, so keep an eye on that in the spec shoot, too.
For video-lovers, you may find that you’ll be better served by a camera with a lower-resolution sensor rather than a very high pixel count one. Make sure to also check the shooting options you have in terms of video frame rates, as well as ports for microphones and headphones. If you do a lot of video shooting, you might want to check out our best 4K camera guide for more video-focused suggestions.
The design and resolution of electronic viewfinders (EVFs) and LCD screens vary considerably across these models. Some EVFs are large and detailed, others less so. The LCD screens also sometimes tilt, sometimes swivel and occasionally do neither, although almost all now are touch-sensitive – great for things like setting the focusing point.
As it stands, we reckon the Sony A7 III is the best full-frame mirrorless camera right now, with its blend of a sound 24MP sensor, integrated image stabilization, excellent video quality and rugged build making it a perfect all-rounder at a sensible price. It’s a very close-call, with the Nikon Z6 also being a fantastic general-purpose shooter. But there are several other options that might be a better match for your specific needs – here are the best full-frame mirrorless cameras you can buy right now.
Best full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2019
Although it may not be the newest camera on this list – far from it – the Sony A7 III remains very much the “Goldilocks” option right now. It offers just the right balance of features and performance at a good value price point. You can expect masses of detail from the 24MP sensor, while low-light performance is also great. The more modest resolution also pays dividends in producing smaller, less data-hungry files, too. Other specifications worth your attention are five-axis image stabilisation, and high-quality video recording. You can pick up the Sony A7 III at a fantastic price – it’s dropped significantly since its launch, especially with more competition now in the marketplace. Finally, the exhaustive array of Sony lenses available for the E mount should mean that you never struggle to find the right glass for your favourite subjects. We love it.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7 III review
The more junior option to the higher resolution Z7, Nikon’s duo of full-frame mirrorless cameras made their debut in summer 2018. It gets our vote because it does pretty much anything the Z7 can do, but for less money. In some ways, it’s actually better than the Z7 too – it has a faster burst shooting rate, along with a better setup for video recording, too. Handling is identical since both the bodies use the same construction, so you also get the same excellent viewfinder and useful tilting screen. Another plus point is built-in five-stop image stabilization, which is a huge benefit over Nikon’s DSLRs. In fact, just about the only major gripe we have here is the single card slot, which also happens to be XQD in format – but it does mean that the camera will take advantage of the CFexpress format that’s likely to go mainstream fairly soon. As it stands, the Z6 runs a tight second to the mighty Sony A7 III.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z6 review
The newest of Sony’s A7 models, the R in this line stands for “resolution”, and you won’t find anything higher than this. Indeed, at 61 megapixels, it’s pretty much medium format territory. All those juicy pixels give you chance to realize the full optical excellence of Sony’s premium G master lenses. This is the fourth iteration of the A7R, and the A7R IV builds on the foundations set out by the very popular A7R, A7R II and A7R III. There’s crisp and impressive 4K video, effective five-axis image stabilization and a beautiful 5.76 million-dot viewfinder (the best on the market). Couple all of that with 10fps burst shooting, a hybrid AF system boasting a blistering 567-points, dual card slots, Eye AF and masses more and there’s not much to dislike about this model. Battery life has even been improved when compared with the previous model, now offering 530 shots per charge (that’s the CIPA rating, so no doubt you’ll get even more from it). While we can’t help but fall in love with the 61 megapixel files, you’re definitely going to need some hefty storage options if you invest in this camera – while if you’re computer is on the slow or old side, it may struggle to cope with processing the files. If you’re keen to get the detail, but don’t have the capacity, budget or supporting tech, it’s worth checking out A7R IV’s predecessor, which is still on sale.
- Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A7R IV review
The Z7 is currently the flagship option in Nikon’s Z system, with its main draw being a 45.7MP sensor. That’s the same as the established and highly respected D850 DSLR, so what exactly does anyone switching from that camera to this one gain? Lots, as it happens: a big, bright and detailed electronic viewfinder; a 2.1 million-dot tilting touchscreen; sensor-based image stabilization, and 4K video recording, all inside a much smaller and lighter body. On top of this you get a 493-point AF system that covers a much larger area of the frame than the D850’s, and a very respectable 9fps burst shooting option. We found lots to love when we came to review this camera, and we still rate it just as highly.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 review
An alternative to the flagship EOS R (featured later in this list) that arrived right at the start of Canon’s latest mirrorless line, the EOS RP is simply a much better option for many more people right now. While not quite as powerful in some areas, it’s smaller, lighter and a heck of a lot cheaper, and it’s blessed with very good autofocus, a generous buffer and a great touchscreen that flips out all the way to face the front. It wouldn’t be our first choice for video, and the current native lens selection is still somewhat limited, not to mention somewhat incongruous with such a petite body – but you can use masses of EF lenses through an adapter, so it’s a no-brainer for existing Canon users looking to make the switch to mirrorless without dropping a fortune in order to do so.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS RP review
Right now, if you’re the kind of photographer who relies on the blistering speed and focusing performance of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II or Nikon D5 and you’re looking to jump over to mirrorless, the A9 is your best bet. With 20fps burst shooting (with autofocus and no viewfinder blackout), a hybrid AF system that uses 693 phase-detect AF points, and a buffer that lasts for an astonishing 241 (compressed) raw frames, this powerhouse will keep on top of whatever action you need to shoot. Plus, with the release of version 5.0 firmware, the camera has now gained an even stronger autofocusing system. No only does this keep track of moving subjects to a degree we’ve not seen before from a mirrorless camera, but it manages to do so even when obstacles pass in front of them. It’s not cheap by any measure, but it justifies that cost with a stellar performance. Recently, Sony announced the Sony A9 II to replace the A9. We think that for most users, the original A9 makes most sense, especially as you’ll be able to pick it up at a better price now there’s a replacement.
- Read our in-depth Sony A9 review
Sony made some key improvements to the original A7 to craft this successor, and while it misses out on a few of the perks of its A7 III successor, its spec sheet shows it to be highly relevant to today’s photographer. Alongside its 24.3MP sensor with five-axis image stabilization, the A7 II packs a 2.36 million-dot EVF, a hybrid AF system, and Wi-Fi and NFC to enable you to start pinging out your pictures in no time. It’s also well worth considering that, although you can use rival bodies with many older lenses, the native Sony lens line for this system is far more established, and has plenty of interest from third parties developing their own compatible options.
- Read our in-depth Sony A7 II review
Canon’s EOS RP, featured earlier in this list, might be the better option for budget-conscious users and those not needing flagship performance, but the EOS R is Canon’s most advanced mirrorless camera to date. On top of what the EOS RP offers, it boasts a larger and more detailed electronic viewfinder together with a better LCD screen, a higher-resolution sensor and faster burst shooting. The larger body also better supports the fairly hefty lenses released in the accompanying RF line so far, while the various adapters released by Canon ensure that you can continue using your EF lenses without any issues, with autofocus and auto-exposure working as you’d expect. Until the much-rumored advanced Canon EOS R comes out, this is the best possible option for Canon users who are keen to ditch the DSLR.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS R review
Although many feel that the Sony A7S II is overdue an update – it’s been on the market for over four years – if outright resolution isn’t a concern but low-light shooting or video is your thing, this is still a camera to pop on your shortlist. At its heart is a 12.2MP sensor that can be ramped up to ISO102,400 natively and ISO409,600 on its expanded setting, while 4K video captured with full pixel readout and five-axis image stabilization sit alongside. On the downside, its contrast-detect-only AF system and lack of a touchscreen show the camera’s age somewhat, although these shortcomings haven’t prevented it from remaining a favorite among pro photographers who need that huge dynamic range and superlative low-light performance. If you’re keen to wait until the next one is announced, here’s everything we know about the Sony A7S III so far.
- Read our in-depth Sony A7S II review
Kicking things off for Panasonic’s S series, along with the S1R, the S1 is the more affordable option, but still packs some seriously impressive tech. There’s the 24MP full-frame sensor that performs brilliantly when shooting stills and 4K video, together with a sensor-based image stabilization system that does exactly what it should, and does it well. Operation is swift, build quality is excellent, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the viewfinder is stunning – it’s definitely the best right now (the same unit is inside the S1R). It’s just a little too big and heavy, and somewhat awkward to operate at times, while the autofocusing system is a touch behind the competition. But this is still a model that delivers far more to get excited about than many others manage to.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic S1 review
It’s neither a DSLR nor a traditional mirrorless option like those listed above, but the M10 is something else to consider if you have a bit of money to spend and you prefer to go about your picture-taking the old-fashioned way. It continues the classic M-series style, rangefinder system of focusing and compatibility with very high-quality M-series lenses enjoyed by many iconic photographers over the years. Sure, you miss out on video recording and a tilting touchscreen – and indeed, autofocus – but then if you need such features, there are many other places to turn.
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