There is currently a number of debates raging… Is Full Frame, APS-C or M43 the best route for photography?
This debate is even more convoluted when we talk about travel photography. On the whole Full Frame cameras are bigger, but the quality is generally better.
For me, photography is all about quality, so Full Frame is for the win… But then, which type of Full Frame camera is best for travel photography? DSLR or Mirrorless?
Obviously, this is all dependent on you, how you’re traveling, whether you’re doing this professionally, or just for the sheer joy of it.
Here are some of the very best full frame cameras available on the market today for travel photography.
Sony Alpha a7R III
- Sony Alpha a7R III (Mirrorless)
- Price: $2998
- Megapixels: 42.4
- Weight: 23.2 oz
Sony totally blew everyone away with the original Sony A7, and they have continued to produce high-quality mirrorless cameras that somehow manage to squeeze high megapixel sensors into tiny little lightweight bodies.
The Sony a7R III offers a stunning 42.4-megapixel sensor, up to 10 frames a second burst mode, in body stabilization and gorgeous 4K video.
While it is fair to say that Canon and Nikon have a much larger range of lenses, Sony currently has a good range of excellent quality lenses which is ever expanding.
While they may not have the same number of lenses, they do offer enough of a range to cover most applications. It is more the specialist lenses like tilt and shift lenses that the Sony range is currently lacking.
This is (In my opinion) probably the very best Full Frame Mirrorless Camera you can buy for travel photography.
It packs a massive sensor which gives extremely sharp results. It is very lightweight (perfect for travel) and is punching well above its weight.
The few negatives about this camera that you might want to consider:
Personally, I love digital viewfinders, but there are a lot of folks who after twenty years or so of using optical viewfinders may find it difficult to adjust at first.
The body is fairly small! For those of you with chunky fingers, you may find this body just a bit too small.
While some professional photographers have been switching to Sony from Canon and Nikon, they don’t have the pedigree yet… You just don’t know how well they are made because they just haven’t been around that long.
- Enhanced EyeAF focus
- Accessible operation
- Durable, compact housing
- Fast data transfer abilities
- Noiseless shooting option
- 30 days return policy
- No intervalometer to create timelapse videos
- Not suitable for astrophotography
- No lossless compression option
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II (DSLR)
- Price: $1,499
- Megapixels: 26.2
- Weight: 24.2 oz
Canon has been producing exceptional quality cameras for many years now… Needless to say, they know what they’re doing!
The Canon 6D Mk II has several improvements over its predecessor, but still offers fantastic value for money for such a well-specified Full Frame DSLR Camera.
The resolution is a very respectable 26.2 Megapixels, and the autofocus and touch screen has been significantly improved.
Of course, there is a HUGE range of lenses available in the EF range that will cover absolutely every possible need you may have.
If video is your bag, then you might want to look at the Canon EOS 5D Mk IV as it offers a lot of extra features for video, although bear in mind that this will come at a large increase in the $$$ factor.
This is an exceptionally well-specified camera and a lot of camera for the money. You really can’t go wrong with the Canon 6d Mk II.
There are 2 points you may want to consider before buying:
I really wish they’d put a dual card slot into the camera. It would make it perfect.
26.2 Megapixel is ok, but compared to a lot of cameras available, 30 Megapixel would have been a better place for them to aim for.
- Great continuous shooting
- Precise autofocus
- Durable, compact design
- Long battery life
- Accessible touch-operated LCD
- GPS integration for location tagging
- Mediocre ISO performance
- Poorly placed focus points
Pentax K-1 Mark II
- Pentax K-1 Mark II (DSLR)
- Price: $1797
- Megapixels: 36.4
- Weight: 32.6 oz.
Believe it or not, Pentax was, once upon a time, one of the largest camera manufacturers in the world. Unfortunately, though, the move towards autofocus bodies saw them lagging behind Nikon and Canon.
The introduction of digital SLRs saw them lagging behind again.
However, they are finally starting to produce some truly amazing, well-specified cameras.
The Pentax K1 Mark II is one of these cameras. It has a couple of features that are really quite nice. The first of these is a well-specified 36.4 Megapixel sensor that is very sharp and produces high-quality images.
The next plus is the 5 axis in camera image stabilizer. This works really well and means that instead of having to buy specific image stabilization lenses as you do with Canon and Nikon.
Finally, the Pentax offers an ‘advanced pixel shift mode.’ In essence, this will allow you to shoot 4 images and then combine them to create a hi-res image file.
The main reason that the Pentax is included as one of the best Full Frame DSLR Cameras for travel photography is the brilliant weather sealing on the body.
This is available in a few cameras, but not generally at this level in a camera this light.
If you’re traveling to places where you just can’t guarantee to keep your camera dry, then this camera is going to be your best choice.
There are two down points to the Pentax, these are:
Lousy autofocus. You’ll get used to it, but it’s not the best you’ll use.
There’s a real lack of quality AF lenses for the Pentax. On the positive side of this, you can still use all of the manual focus lenses they’ve made.
- Enhanced gradation and image rendition
- Compact and durable
- Dustproof and waterproof
- Precise, realistic images
- Efficient image processing
- Can work with both new and old lens
- Nikon Z7 (Mirrorless)
- Megapixels: 45.7
- Weight: 20.6 oz.
Following the amazing Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras from Sony, both Canon and Nikon have produced Full Frame Mirrorless Camera options. The Canon EOS R is a little under par, but the Nikon Z7 is a fabulous camera.
It has a whopping 45.7 Megapixel sensor, built-in image stabilization, superb low light sensitivity, and a high-resolution rear LCD screen.
The Z7 is the lightest body listed here with the highest Megapixel count. This is a travel photographers dream.
Top quality high-end images, but light enough that you won’t know you’re lugging it around.
This is Nikon’s answer to the Sony a7R III. The question is though, which one should you buy? As it stands right now, the Nikon is just a little bit overpriced, and as such, the Sony is still the better buy.
However, once the Nikon Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera has been around a while and the price has dropped, this will be a perfect option.
There is only one thing not to like about the Nikon Z7, and that is the lack of current lenses available.
- Enhanced sharpness
- Wider aperture
- Minimum blackout range
- Accessible setting adjustments
- Silent shooting option
- Accurate dim-light photography
- Subject tracking
- Limited lens options
- Short battery life
Panasonic LUMIX S1R
- Price: $4,597
- Megapixels: 47.3
- Weight: 9 Pounds
This versatile full-frame camera from Panasonic offers the ultimate resolution paired with professional-grade results. It has a 25600 Max sensitivity range that gives you a wide, dynamic range to shoot high-quality photographs in every setting.
Besides that, the 47.3 Megapixel sensor provides impressive clarity and image stabilization, making it great for adventure and wildlife photography. You can also focus on the details and be creative with the images you create with its flawless mirrorless design.
Additionally, there’s no low-pass filter on the lens, which makes sure the picture doesn’t get distorted in any way and looks as realistic as possible.
The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is highly accessible, as well. Firstly, it’s constructed with a magnesium alloy die-cast that makes it tough for rugged, outdoor use.
You can use it to capture exciting moments on your outdoor escapades without worrying about water splashes or dust accumulation; the seam-to-seam protected construction takes care of that for you.
Secondly, its tilt rear monitor allows you to shoot vertically or horizontally while viewing the images in maximum brightness. This way, you can focus on your images even if there’s blinding sunlight.
Thirdly, the intuitive LCD gives you all the details about the settings and integration of your camera. You can even see the battery level and remaining shots when the camera is powered off.
Most importantly, it lets you take accurate low-light pictures, amazing HLG gradation shots, multiple aspect photos, and overlaying shots. It’s a complete package for an aspiring professional photographer.
- Intuitive controls within thumb range
- Lots of memory storage
- Highly customizable photo editing options
- Easy mode-switching
- Human and animal facial recognition
- Files cannot be directly transferred by plugging a USB in the camera
- Inaccurate autofocus
- Short battery life
We understand that even after knowing all the features and specifics of each particular product, you’ll be baffled once you think about picking one for yourself. With lots of choices, it also feels as if any of the cameras can be the one for you.
The danger is that if you make a mistake and buy a camera that doesn’t fit your needs or is way over your level of expertise, you might end up wasting a lot of money. Hence, we’ve compiled a detailed, comprehensive buying guide. We will explain the concepts and aspects you’ll come across while buying the best full-frame camera for yourself so that you are assured that you are making the ideal choice.
1. DSLRs vs. Mirrorless
The first dilemma you’ll face when looking for the perfect professional camera to build your setup around is choosing between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. The primary difference between the two is that mirrorless cameras are compact, uncomplicated devices that do not have the internal mirror setup like DSLRs do.
Both of them produce amazing photography results and have significant learning curves for newbies. Nevertheless, if you want a tailor-made photography experience, you’ll have to figure out which of them fits your needs.
DSLR cameras are refined descendants of the original film cameras from the past. Mainly, they have a simple mirror mechanism inside the camera body.
The mirror affixed inside the camera reflects the light that enters through the lens. This light reflects in the prism and reaches the viewfinder where it creates an image for you to view.
The image is captured when you press the shutter button, flipping the mirror up and locking the light into the image sensor. The Nikon D3400 is a prominent example of a high-quality DSLR camera.
- Mirrorless Cameras
The mirrorless camera has a more advanced design, which eliminates the need for a complicated mirror system. The light travels from the lens directly into the image sensor.
After that, you can immediately view the image preview on the screen. The Sony Alpha a6300 is an excellent example of a mirrorless camera.
Now that you know how each of the cameras works, let’s get to the other essential details.
Attributing to the complex internal system, DSLR cameras are heavier and larger than mirrorless cameras. This makes them difficult to carry on long outdoor trips as compared to their lighter mirrorless counterparts.
- Autofocus Efficiency
Until the recent advancements in the mirrorless camera range occurred, DSLR cameras were the best options for low-light and autofocus photography.
Although most DSLRs still provide good autofocus speed, mirrorless cameras are replacing them as the best option for capturing fast-paced objects. This makes them ideal for wildlife and sports photography.
- Image Previews
When it comes to image previews, the mirrorless camera lacks efficiency against DSLR. When the prism reflects the light towards the optical viewfinder, it shows you the exact image you’ll get in the preview.
On the contrary, in a mirrorless camera, the image previews appear blurred or dull in case of fast-moving objects in low light. That said, it produces similar previews to DSLRs when used in ample light.
So if you usually shoot in good external light, both of the choices will work well for you. In more complex, dim-light settings, though, a DSLR will work better than the mirrorless camera.
- Video Quality
If you’re an aspiring moviemaker looking for flawless video shooting, you should get the latest mirrorless camera. That’s because DSLRs lack the phase-detection function, so they produce blurry, grainy parts in videos when the camera is out of focus.
You can find DSLRs with phase detection functions as well, but mirrorless cameras provide the best results for movie making.
You can get fast shutter speed with both types, but unless you have the latest, high-end DSLR camera, mirrorless cameras are slightly faster than it. They don’t have a mirror system to delay light reaching the viewfinder, making it easy to capture one image after another, creating a plethora of images per second.
If you have a DSLR, you can shoot without necessarily looking into an LCD. This makes the camera use a lot less power than a mirrorless camera.
Anyway, this depends on the user. If you’re someone who prefers to look into the LCD at all times, the battery life will seem more or less the same to you in both cases.
- Camera Accessories and Setup
If you’re a seasoned photographer who already has a collection of high-quality lenses, you should get a DSLR. You can use an array of lenses with your DSLR, but with mirrorless cameras, you’ll choose from limited types of lenses.
Nowadays, lots of new mirrorless lenses are being introduced, which makes these cameras versatile as well.
There’s a common misconception about full-frame cameras, and that is, you should buy one with high resolution. The higher the resolution, the better. That’s not the case, though. You only need very high megapixels if you’re shooting for large display boards or commercial advertisements.
If you’re an aspiring photographer, six megapixels are enough for you. With this resolution, you can print images of A4 size without distorting them. Also, if the resolution is anywhere higher than six megapixels, it will take up a lot of space in your device as well.
3. Weight and Size
For wildlife and outdoor photography, you’ll need a lightweight camera. You’ll probably have to carry your camera in one position for long intervals, so if it’s heavy, it will be strenuous for you. You should also check if it’s compact enough to fit inside your gear bag alongside the rest of your set up.
4. Video and 4K
As we mentioned, the best types of cameras for filmmaking are mirrorless cameras. These cameras transfer light directly from the lens to the viewfinder, without any extra medium in between. This creates a flawless flow of images, which is ideal for videos and filmmaking, as compared to DSLRs.
5. Shooting Speed
The shooting speed of a camera is measured in frames per second. Most of the time, you don’t need an exceptionally high-speed camera, unless you’re a sports or wildlife photographer. Besides that, you need to remember that the higher the number of frames, the lower the image resolution gets.
6. Weather Sealing
If you plan to use your camera outdoors, you’ll have to make sure it can survive the wrath of nature. High-quality full-frame cameras have weather protective coatings at every seam of their housing. This works to keep dust and water out of the system to ensure flawless operation.
Mainly, you should check if the joints and button areas have proper rubber components or other sealing materials to make sure the integral parts don’t get directly exposed to moisture or dirt. If you’re planning to take prolonged photography sessions in rough weather, you should consider getting a camera hood for further protection.
7. Additional Cost
The only substantial additional cost you will have to invest in for your camera is the lens. If you’re an amateur, you don’t need to buy a whole range of the lens, as you can simply start by getting one high-quality lens that’s best suited for your photography type. Some full-frame cameras also come with complete kit lenses so you can start without any additional investment.
Even if you buy a full-frame camera with lenses, you can easily switch to a camera body from another brand. Brands like Nikon, Sony, and Canon can work with lenses from other brands as well, which makes it easy for active shooters to change their camera bodies according to their expertise.
9. Learning Curve
When you get a full-frame camera, you can rely on your equipment to do most of the work for you. Most of the latest camera models have intuitive designs that make it easy to figure out their operation and controls. Nevertheless, professional cameras allow a lot of room for manual customization, but there’s nothing you can’t learn by reading the instruction manual and conducting a few test shots.
1. Are Full-Frame Cameras Better?
Yes, full-frame cameras are better if you’re aspiring to become a professional photographer. They provide better resolution, image quality, image processing, and other image customization options that help you recreate the images of your dreams.
2. What Is the Advantage of a Full-Frame Sensor?
A full-frame sensor maintains and enhances your image quality. If your camera has a full-frame sensor, you can take great photos in low light settings. Also, they minimize image distortion in huge prints.
3. Is Full Frame Better in Low Light?
Yes, full-frame cameras have a fast lens aperture that lets you take accurate photos in low-light situations.
4. Are Mirrorless Cameras Better in Low Light?
Mirrorless cameras work well in good lighting conditions, but in low-light situations, DSLR cameras are a better option. That’s because they work with an optical viewfinder, which makes them produce accurate photos, even in the dark.
5. Can I Use a Full-Frame Lens on a Crop Sensor Camera?
No, you cannot use a full-frame lens with a crop sensor camera. That’s because you can’t get the crop on your images when you’re using a full-frame lens. Even if your lens is designed for a full-frame camera, it will produce the same picture on your crop camera according to its focal length. The lens quality won’t matter in this case.
Summary of Best Travel Full Frame Cameras
Should you buy a Mirrorless or DSLR Full Frame camera for your travel photography?
The advantages of DSLRs are that they are generally a little cheaper and because you’re using an optical viewfinder give better battery life.
While you may have to carry a couple of extra batteries for a Mirrorless Full Frame Camera, they are still much, much lighter. This will make all the difference to you if you’re a keen traveler.
If you can afford it, then I’d recommend a Mirrorless Full Frame Camera, however, if you have to go for a DSLR you’ll still have an excellent camera that will last you for many, many years to come.