When it comes to maximizing imaging performance and shooting flexibility, it’s hard to beat full-frame ILCs. These formidable interchangeable-lens cameras enable the widest possible range of creative options. They also deliver the enhanced image quality of a full-frame sensor.
Full-frame (24x36mm) sensors offer a number of inherent advantages over smaller sensors due to their lower pixel density at any given megapixel rating. These include cleaner, crisper images and superior color rendition at high ISO settings. They also provide the ability to make very large prints or to radically crop an image while maintaining extremely high image quality.
Cameras with full-frame sensors also enable greater creative control of bokeh and other image characteristics, because they use longer lenses that yield a shallower depth of field at any given aperture. Finally, all the cameras listed here are full-featured, upper-tier models with state-of-the-art features and performance parameters.
All of this makes them excellent choices for photographers who want to upgrade their picture-taking experience—as well as dealers focused on serving their most sophisticated customers by giving them their very best.
Nikon’s top professional DSLR provides the speed as well as precision pros demand along with a host of high-end capabilities. It combines a 20.8 megapixel FX-format (35.9×23.9mm) CMOS sensor with Nikon’s top-of-the line Expeed 5 image processor. Together they deliver a blazing full-resolution burst rate of 12 frames per sec for up to 200 shots, along with full AE (autoexposure) and AF (autofocus).
Furthermore, the D5 shoots lossless 14-bit NEF and 12-bit RAW files. Its sensitivity settings range from ISO 100–102,400 and are also extendable to ISO 3,280,000 (!).
The DSLR records 4K UHD video (3,840×2,160) at 30/25/24 fps, plus Full HD with various options. Able to work in near darkness, its Multi-CAM 20K AF system provides 153 phase-detection points, including 99 cross-type sensors, with 55 selectable points for optimum shooting flexibility. The system also provides dynamic-area, group-area and auto-area AF, as well as 3D tracking.
With the WR-R10 wireless remote controller, the D5 can control and fire six groups of speedlights up to 98 feet away. Other key features include: A 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot, touch-screen LCD monitor; an eye-level viewfinder; dual CF/XQD memory card slots; a 400,000-cycle-rated shutter; 1000 Base-T Gigabit Wired LAN support; a 108K RGB advanced scene recognition system using a 3D color matrix 180K-pixel RGB sensor; and 4K UHD time-lapse recording, zebra stripes and a built-in stereo mic with 20-step adjustments.
It’s all built into a robust, weather-resistant body with a magnesium alloy chassis, user-friendly controls and an integral textured ergonomic grip. $6,499.95*. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
The flagship of the Canon EOS line, this top-level pro model combines state-of-the-art image processing with robust multimedia capabilities. Its 20.2MP, full-frame CMOS sensor is integrated with advanced dual Digic 6+ image processors.
As a result, the DSLR delivers a sizzling 14-fps, full-res burst rate (16 fps in live view) up to 170 RAW files. It also records DCI 4K (4,096×2,160) video at up to 60 fps and 800 Mbps, as well as Full HD video at up to 120 fps for slow-motion playback.
A 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II system and Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology provide 41 cross-type zones for enhanced focusing precision. A separate dedicated Digic 6 processor maintains subject tracking and impressive AF speed when shooting 4K video and at high framing rates.
Other key features include: a 3.2-inch, 1.62M-dot touch-screen LCD monitor; 8.8MP still frame grabs when shooting video; native sensitivity settings of ISO 100–51,200, expandable to ISO 409,600; built-in GPS; Dual CFast and CompactFlash card slots; a 400,000-cycle-rated shutter; and an advanced 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor integrated with the EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF system to enhance metering and tracking accuracy.
All of this is housed in a robust, dust- and-weather-sealed magnesium alloy body with an integrated ergonomic grip as well as an intelligent viewfinder II pentaprism finder that provides sophisticated configurable readouts. $5,999. usa.canon.com
Pentax’s top-of-the-line, full-frame K-mount DSLR incorporates an ultrahigh-res, 36.4MP CMOS sensor and a 14-bit Prime IV image processor. The combo captures detailed, low-noise images at sensitivity settings up to ISO 204,800. It also delivers a full-res burst rate of 4.5 fps. An incorporated AA filter simulator minimizes moiré patterns but omits the standard antialiasing filter to ensure the sharpest possible images.
The DSLR’s advanced, wide-pattern SAFOX 12 AF sensor covers nearly the entire full-frame area and has 33 AF points, including 25 cross pattern and three f/2.8-luminance points that can operate in light down to -3 EV.
In addition, the K-1’s unique 3.2-inch, 1.04M-dot, cross-tilt LCD monitor can tilt upward 90º, down 44º and 35º laterally. The camera’s built in 5-axis shake reduction system provides up to a 5-stop advantage in minimizing the effects of handheld shake.
The K-1 also provides Full HD 1080p video capability at 30 fps in full-frame or APS-C crop modes. Other features include: dual SD card slots; wireless LAN support; built-in GPS with an AstroTracer function to minimize star trails during long exposures; and LED-illuminated body points on the lens mount, card slots, back of the LCD and at the cable switch to facilitate low-light operation.
The K-1 boasts a rugged body with a stainless steel chassis and magnesium alloy outer shell that’s weather sealed in 87 places and designed to operate in temperatures down to 14ºF. $1,949.95. ricohimaging.com
Sony Alpha a7R II
This is the flagship of the impressive Alpha a7 line of high-performance, full-frame mirrorless cameras. It employs a 42.4MP Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor, minus a low-pass filter, and an advanced Bionz X processor.
They provide sensitivity settings of ISO 100–102,400 and 4K UHD (3,840×2,160) video capture at 30/24 fps in the XAVC S format at 100 Mbps, with S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut settings. Its fast, hybrid AF system has 399 phase-detection and 25 contrast-detection AF zones.
The E-mount camera produces a 5-fps, full-res burst rate, and due to new software, it can capture 14-bit uncompressed RAW files.
Other features include: sensor-shifting 5-axis SteadyShot Inside image stabilization said to deliver 4.5 stops of anti-shake compensation for pitch, yaw, horizontal/vertical shift and roll; a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.78x magnification and Zeiss T* coating; a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD monitor; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity; and a multimedia slot for Memory Stick Duo/SD cards.
The a7R II’s robust magnesium alloy body has been upgraded with improved weather sealing. And its redesigned shutter employs a reduced-vibration design with an electronic front shutter curtain. It’s rated for 500,000 cycles and includes a silent shooting mode. $2,899.99. sony.com
Canon EOS 5DS R
Delivering the full resolving power of its remarkable 50.6MP, full-frame sensor by cancelling the negative effects of the low-pass filter, the pro 5DS R is capable of delivering medium-format-level ultrahigh-res images with 8,712×5,813 pixels.
It also offers Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps plus a time-lapse movie function that combines images shot at set intervals into a Full HD movie. Despite its large file sizes, the 5DS R shoots full-res bursts at 5 fps.
In addition, high-end features include dual Digic 6 processors and the EOS scene detection system with a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor. Its 61-point High Density Reticular AF sensor has 41 cross-type AF points for fast, precise AF. And Canon’s iTR (intelligent tracking and resolution) system enhances AF performance using information provided by the metering sensor.
Plus Canon’s anti-flicker function detects the frequency and phase of flickering light, such as fluorescents, capturing images near the point of peak brightness when the subject is most likely well illuminated.
The DSLR also incorporates an eye-level viewfinder with 100% coverage and a transparent LCD that displays setting info, a customizable view of AF points and grid lines. Plus, a high-tech mirror features newly developed Mirror Vibration Control technology that uses a miniature motor and cams instead of conventional springs, and offers a time release lag setting to further suppress shake.
Rounding out its features are a big, 3.2-inch, 1.04M-dot LCD and built-in intervalometer plus bulb timer. All this and more are built into a rugged, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body with a reinforced base plate and dual card slots. $3,899. usa.canon.com
Nikon upgraded this formidable, 36.3MP, full-frame (FX-format) ultrahigh-resolution DSLR by eliminating the low-pass filter to enhance sharpness and integrating an advanced Expeed 4 processor.
It also upped the resolution of its 3.2-inch LCD monitor to 1.23M-dot resolution. Also provided are expandable sensitivity settings to ISO 51,200, with ISO auto adjust.
The DSLR adopts advanced scene recognition using a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor as well as a 3D color matrix metering system. They work in conjunction with Nikon’s 51-point AF system to provide enhanced responsiveness.
The camera offers multiple focusing modes, like face-detection AF, plus auto white balance accuracy and i-TTL flash performance. It records Full HD video at 60/50/30/25/24 fps and captures continuous full-res bursts at 5 fps (7 fps in DX-crop mode) as well as 12-bit uncompressed RAW S files.
While shooting uncompressed video using HDMI, the LCD provides a live view selector and simultaneous live view output on external monitors. There are also 20-level audio adjustments with on-screen indicators for the built-in stereo mic. And there are also external mic and headphone jacks.
Also provided are Linear PCM audio encoding capability; customizable controls; a 100%-coverage, eye-level viewfinder; a 200,000-cycle-tested shutter with suppressed shutter vibration; and also dual CF/SD card slots. $2,999.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Alpha a99 II
This brand-new, impressively upgraded, pro-caliber successor to the original fixed-translucent-mirror Alpha a99 (Sony calls it a DSLT) is the flagship of the Alpha A-mount line. More compact, it incorporates a 42.4MP, full-frame, Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor that delivers 14-bit uncompressed RAW output. The sensor works in tandem with a Bionz X processor with a new front-end LSI.
This innovation is said to dramatically improve the throughput speed of the imaging system. Consequently, it boasts continuous, full-res shooting at 12 fps with AF and AE. It also offers sensitivity settings to ISO 102,400. Its Translucent Mirror technology enables full-time AF before, during and after the exposure. This is especially important when shooting HD movies or high-speed action.
The camera provides 4K UHD video capture at 30/24 fps in the XAVC S format. Other video features are S-Log3 Gamma, custom settings and Super 35mm format support. In addtion, movie functions include Full HD recording and the S&Q (slow & quick) mode that records at 1–120 fps.
The DSLT also features a hybrid phase-detection AF system that provides phase- and contrast-detection AF. It combines a 79-point cross-AF sensor with a 399-point focal-plane AF sensor located on the image sensor.
It also incorporates 5-axis SteadyShot Inside image stabilization to provide a 4.5-stop advantage in handheld shooting. Other features include: flicker-free shooting; a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot XGA OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD monitor; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC; and a multi-card slot. Furthermore, Sony’s weather-sealed 99 II uses robust, lightweight magnesium alloy for the top and rear covers and chassis. $3,199.99. sony.com
*All manufacturer suggested retail prices are body only.