A Quick Overview
Best overall - Editor’s choice - Canon EOS 6D Mark II
In the world of full-frame cameras, any piece that can deliver professional-grade, high-resolution videos at a fair price point takes the crown for the top choice in the budget category. For us, that camera is the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. For videographers who used the preceding EOS 6D, many developed an attachment for the Canon masterpiece. Yet, the manufacturers managed to top that hype with the Mark II update.
Now that it’s been a few years since the Mark II launched, the price has decreased to less than $1,500, which is why this popular model tops this list of cheapest full-frame cameras. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II runs on a 26.2 MP full-frame CMOS sensor, one of the best full-frame sensors that have dropped in the market. The image quality captured on this sensor leaves the subject clearly highlighted.
Of course, it’s not only the sensor that’s responsible for the image clarity, the camera processor plays a big role as well. This camera uses a DIGIC 7 image processor which is why it can run Full HD videos at 6.5fps. While this doesn’t shoot 4K as some people would want, you can’t deny that the quality this delivers is not bad at all. And the other drawback here is the low frame rate, which means this isn’t the best full-frame for recording fast-moving objects, however, it does compensate for that with a good autofocusing system.
The EOS 6D Mark II uses a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system which enables phase-detection for faster object focusing. The optical viewfinder of this full-frame DSLR has 45 AF points. And then, it boasts an ISO range of 100 – 40000 for impressive low-light performance, which is the strength of full-frame cameras.
Other notable features include seamless wireless connectivity which supports WiFi, and Bluetooth, GPS location tagging for images, and a vari-angle LCD touchscreen for ease of operation. The camera’s compact design also means it’s lightweight, durable, and weather-resistant.
Best budget full-frame mirrorless camera - Sony a7 III
Most full-frame cameras are mirrorless cameras which sort of contributes to their expensive prices. However, some models still slightly fall under the budget range. Top of the mirrorless models for videographers looking to try out full-frame cameras is the Sony Alpha 7 III. Sony’s A7 series is a mid-range camera lineup that has served thousands of Sony enthusiasts. The third iteration from the mirrorless camera series is this full-frame device which now goes for below $2000.
The Sony a7 III comes with a 24.2MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS full-frame sensor which works with a BIONZ X image processor. The image sensor and the camera processor work together to deliver impressive quality images on this device. That also allows this camera to comfortably record 4K videos at 10fps, which isn’t bad for active recording like sports filming.
One of the most impressive features of the a7III Sony camera is the autofocus system. It beats that of every other budget full-frame camera on this list. This device uses a 693-point phase-detection hybrid AF system with auto-exposure and auto-focus tracking. And to top that off, the camera has 5-axis SteadyShot in-body stabilization which means fewer jitters and more smooth filming.
Not only does this slick full-frame mirrorless camera record at high resolution, but it can also record in 14-bit uncompressed RAW. This allows videographers to get the best from the post-production editing. Essentially the reason why this camera is a solid feature on our best cameras for music video list.
All the specs of the Sony a7III are high enough for a budget full-frame camera. Especially the low-light performance with an ISO range of 50 to 204800. The battery life and connectivity of this camera are also pretty good. The battery can last well over 3 hours while filming on Full HD, and then it supports Bluetooth connectivity to other devices. You also get better control with the tilting touch-sensitive LCD screen.
Best resolution and frame rate - Nikon Z6
The Nikon Z6 is a fairly-priced mid-range full-frame camera with the top design and quality that Nikon cameras boast. This mirrorless camera comes in a compact ergonomic design perfect for handheld shooting. But the standout feature of this camera when it comes to video recording is its resolution and frame rate, especially for the price at which it comes.
With the Z6, you can get 4K Ultra-HD video resolution at 12fps, which is the best you get from a budget full-frame camera. And even better, if you record at Full HD, 1080p, you can get up to 120fps. This is a great advantage for recording slow motion, and especially for action and sports videographers that need to cover fast-moving objects.
The Nikon Z6 full-frame mirrorless camera runs on a 24.5MP BSI sensor and an advanced EXPEED 6 processor. Both of which are made by Nikon and together produce stunningly vibrant videos and photos. Even better is the fact that there is an impressive lineup of NIKKOR Z lenses that would deliver improved image quality with this camera. To cap the recording process, Nikon adds an ultra-high resolution EVF and a high-res touchscreen display for quality preview.
Also worthy of note is the autofocus system and image stabilization on this filming gadget. It comes with a 273-point phase-detect AF system which features eye-detection and animal-detection autofocus. There’s also a bit of subject-tracking AF in the mix. For eliminating shakes and achieving smooth filming, this camera uses an in-body 5-axis image stabilization.
Shooting long videos on the Nikon Z6 is as seamless as it comes with the battery lasting close to three hours. The mirrorless camera design and improved image processor also ensure noise is kept at a bare minimum. And ISO rating racks up to 51200, enough to record clear videos in low-light environments. Lastly, you can connect this camera to other devices using WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity or a wired HDMI connection.
Most durable full-frame - Pentax K-1 Mark II
If you’re an outdoor videographer, one of the key features you’d look out for in a camera would be durability. Features like ergonomic build, weather-resistant, and in-body stabilization make all the difference here. The Pentax K-1 Mark II is a full-frame device from a legacy brand that values the solidity of filming gears. Pentax is a brand that you’ll find some of their old products still among the best point-and-shoot film cameras, which goes to show how solid the cameras are.
The Pentax K-1 II is a DSLR full-frame camera that can record Full HD videos at 4.4fps. The camera uses a high-resolution 36MP CMOS full-frame sensor. And it can be combined with a wide array of Pentax K lenses using the lens mounts. The camera controls are also arrayed in a way that ensures easy control and great handling.
What makes the Pentax K-1 Mark II the most durable option on this list, and best suited for outdoor use is its magnesium alloy body. The material makes it weather-resistant, then the components are also coupled in a design that makes them more solid. Overall, this filming gadget has quality ergonomics and design.
To even better the high resolution this camera offers, it has the option to run a dynamic pixel shift resolution which combines four images into a superior higher quality image with better sharpness and image rendition. Other perks of this filming machine include a processor accelerometer for reduced noise, fast autofocus, and a semi-articulating tilting screen.
Cheapest full-frame option - Canon EOS RP
The Canon EOS RP is a small but mighty instrument, and it can be used to produce high-quality work when handled properly. This product is the portable version of the bigger Canon EOS R. It’s a mirrorless camera with a 26.2MP full-frame CMOS image sensor that runs on a DIGIC 8 image processor.
This budget camera sells for less than $1k and is about the cheapest quality full-frame you can opt for on the market. Interestingly, this small device can record high-resolution videos up to 4K at 5fps. Even though the recording capability at this maximum resolution is restricted, at least it allows users to record at such high quality for a given period. With the quality video recording capabilities of this small full-frame device, it’s certainly one of the best cameras for filmmaking on a budget.
You can use your RF and EF lenses on this camera, as it has an RF lens mount. This can help significantly improve the image quality captured on this camera. The camera itself comes with a dual-pixel CMOS autofocus system which allows for fast and accurate object tracking. Control your shooting experience using the articulated touch screen on the side of the camera.
What makes a full-frame camera stand out?
Full-frame cameras are so-called because of the type of image sensor they use. Full-frame sensors allow a camera to images with their broad range without applying any crop. Other camera types are those that use the Advanced Photo System Type-C (APS-C) and Micro Four-thirds which are types of cropped images sensor.
So, what are the characteristics of images captured on a full-frame gear?
- Wide-angle filming
The area of focus of images on a full-frame camera is more detailed than their cropped version. These camera types do a great job when filming from a wide-angle. This is usually applicable when filming across a large expanse of space. Examples are wildlife documentaries, extreme sports, aerial photography, among others.
- Depth of field
The depth of field when filming on a full-frame camera is usually shallow because the sensor more or less detaches the image subject from the background. Usually, full-frame cameras produce better bokeh and clearer images than their cropped counterparts provided all other factors are equal.
- Crop factor
With APS-C and Micro Four-third cameras, there’s a crop factor (1) that applies to the image being captured. Somewhere around 1.5x and 2x respectively. But with full-frame lenses, there is no crop factor involved, or better still, the crop factor here is 1x. This means that you don’t have to use varying lens types to achieve your desired focal length. The focal length of the lens is what the camera works with here.
Using a full-frame camera
There are a few other factors to consider before deciding to switch to a full-frame camera. Here are the major ones.
- Lens compatibility
Not all lenses are compatible with all cameras. Many times, full-frame cameras have different lens mounts from cameras with cropped sensors. So, if you’re making a switch to a full-frame gear from other sensor types, you might want to pay attention to the compatibility of the lenses you already have with the model you want to get. Otherwise, you might just have to overhaul your camera lens collection.
- Lighting condition
Full-frame cameras have larger apertures which allow more light through the camera lens when forming an image. This is why full-frame cameras perform better in low-light conditions. So, if you’re an indoor videographer, investing in a full-frame gadget might be great for your craft.
The whole discussion in this piece has been to check out the cheapest full-frame cameras with the best qualities. Invariably, what this means is that full-frame gadgets ordinarily aren’t cheap. This is due to a host of reasons but majorly because they have larger lenses than cameras with smaller sensors. A larger lens means more glass required in production which ultimately affects the cost.
Yes, full-frame cameras are great for video recording, especially for indoor events like weddings or indoor sports. This is because full-frame sensors have great ISO and can record videos where the subjects are crispy clear.
Full-frame sensors work great on both DSLR and mirrorless digital cameras. Although, some videographers would prefer to use a mirrorless full-frame camera due to lesser moving parts and noise when filming.
Deciding to purchase a cheap full-frame camera doesn’t mean you have to go for a gadget that won’t deliver quality for you as a videographer. When shopping for a full-frame camera on a budget, what you should look out for is the lens type supported and a good image processor to support the sensor.
Selling at a fair price point, the Canon EOS 6D Mark III is our top choice for a cheap full-frame video camera. It runs on a DIGIC 7 image processor and works with a vast array of Canon lenses, which gives you the freedom to record great footage in most scenarios.
Which cheap full-frame have you used for filming a fantastic video? Have you used any of the gears on our list? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
- Tony Northrup. (February 9, 2019). Crop Factor TRUTH: Do you need Full-Frame? Tony & Chelsea Northrup YouTube channel. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi_CkZ0sGAw&t=422s