Best Full Frame dslr Under 1000

When it comes to mirrorless cameras under $1,000, there are many good options nowadays. These bodies offer a great balance of image quality, compact size and control, all wrapped up in an affordable package.

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Best Full Frame dslr Under 1000

Best for a Tight Budget – Canon EOS M50 Mark II

The Canon EOS M50 Mark II boasts a 24.2MP APS-C sensor and the EF-M lens mount for compact Canon lenses. At $599, it’s the most affordable camera on our list, and for just 100 bucks more, it comes with a 15-45mm zoom lens as well. For those who want even more zoom range, the two-lens kit adds a 55-200mm zoom yet the whole package still comes in well under $1,000. The M50 Mark II is also packed with features that make it especially useful for those who want to shoot and share video online: wireless YouTube streaming, vertical video and an HDMI out. It captures UHD 4K at 24p and 1080p HD video, as well as 720p HD at 120fps for slow-motion playback. Dual pixel autofocus is fast and accurate and has some notable upgrades over the original M50, while battery life has also improved. The 5-axis in-body image stabilization makes handholding video possible, and helps when shooting stills in low light. (See our in-depth review of the original Canon EOS M50.)

Photo from original Canon M50 – 55mm, f/11, 1/500s, ISO 100 (Photo by Jeremy Gray)

Shortcomings: Battery life is not great, not many fast/bright-aperture lenses for EF-M mount.

Estimated Street Price: $599 – Check current prices at B&H or Amazon

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Best Full-Frame – Canon EOS RP

Squeaking in just under our price wire is Canon’s EOS RP, a compact mirrorless camera with a 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a $999 price tag. While 26.2MP may not be anything to write home about, the sensor size sure is. For those who want the full-frame look, there are few mirrorless options under $1,000, unless you go the route of a pre-owned camera. Full-frame sensors make achieving wide angles of view much easier, a boon to landscape shooters and street photographers alike, as well as anyone who relishes buttery smooth bokeh (the quality of the out of focus area of an image) and generally lower noise when shooting at higher ISOs (all else being equal). That low noise/high ISO attribute improves image quality indoors, in low light and when shooting at night.

35mm, f/2.2, 1/60s, ISO 1000 (Photo by William Brawley)

Speaking of low light, the EOS RP offers ISO expansion up to a whopping 102,400. The RP uses Canon’s Digic 8 image processor (as does the aforementioned EOS M50 Mark II), which is the same processor used in the EOS R at nearly twice the price. The EOS RP captures UHD 4K and full HD 1080p video, too. Another great feature is the RF lens mount, which can accommodate Canon’s professional L-series lenses, both native RF-mount and EF-mount L-series lenses by way of an adapter.

Shortcomings: No in-body image stabilization makes handholding video all but impossible. 5fps burst mode isn’t much. Dual-pixel AF is unavailable with 4K video. 

Estimated Street Price: $999 – Check current prices at B&H or Amazon

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Best for Sports and Wildlife – Sony A6100

If you hate waiting for a camera to find focus, Sony’s A6100 may be the model for you. It’s a 24.2MP APS-C compact camera with great autofocus that tracks moving subjects very well and is also easy to use. It’s practically a point-and-shoot, but what pocket camera offers burst shooting up to 11fps with continuous autofocus and great subject-tracking? The autofocus is so fast and accurate, and with such great sensor coverage, that the A6100 becomes a viable option for wildlife and sports enthusiasts who want to freeze fast action. Wildlife shooters will also appreciate that the eye-detect autofocus can be set to track animal faces and eyes, as well. Though there are certainly other cameras with higher performance and additional capabilities for sports and wildlife pursuits, they are more expensive. The Sony A6100 provides a lot of performance in a small and affordable package. 

The A6100 also captures high-quality 4K video at 30p with a crop, though at 24 frames per second it’s crop-free. And the AF system works well in video, too. It may not be the newest camera on this list, but it’s consistently well-liked. It’s got the same sensor and processor as the higher-end A6600, so one might consider the A6100 to be a distinct upgrade over the older, also widely loved, A6000.

Shortcomings: EVF is SVGA (rather than OLED) and the body is plastic with minimal weatherproofing. No S-Log, which serious video shooters might miss.

Estimated Street Price: $748 – Check current prices at B&H or Amazon

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Best Camera for Control Freaks – Fujifilm X-S10

Fujifilm’s X-S10 is two-thirds the cost of the X-T4, but it uses the same sensor, processor and autofocus system as the flagship body. (That would be the 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4.) And unlike many X Series cameras, the Fuji X-S10 is only the second to include in-body image stabilization (after the higher-end X-H1), so handholding stills and video is more effective than ever. It weighs in at just over a pound with batteries thanks to partial magnesium construction. It may not be weather-sealed to a pro’s standards, but the camera is well built and feels solid in the hand. Speaking of hands, sometimes the smallest cameras are uncomfortable to hold. But the X-S10 remedies that with a more pronounced handgrip, keeping the body small and light but also ergonomically comfortable. 

55mm, f/7.1, 1/250s, ISO 160 – Velvia Film Simulation (Photo by William Brawley)

Speaking of styling, the X-S10 is no slave to retro looks so much as it’s retro-inspired: familiar to those who want traditional controls without forcing the throwback vibe often seen on other Fujifilm cameras. Better still, those controls have been changed in favor of a PASM mode dial approach that’s easier to use for anyone unfamiliar with Fuji’s traditionally quirky method of adjusting exposure modes. For those looking to test the extremes of stills and video, the X-S10 offers some settings totally unique among its peers. These include a shutter speed range from 1/32,000 to 900 seconds, 240-frames-per-second full HD (for super-slo-mo video), and a 20-frames-per-second burst of stills using the electronic shutter. It can also capture 4K video at 30p without cropping, and the microphone input and included USB-C headphone adapter are helpful too. Fuji’s “Film Simulation” options are also a neat way to create different looks without additional processing in post, while RAW capture options offer more control.

Shortcomings: Lacks weather-sealing. No dedicated headphone jack nor 4K 60p video that more advanced video shooters might desire.

Estimated Street Price: $999 – Check current prices at B&H or Amazon

Best Second Hand Camera for Wildlife

Entry-level second-hand cameras under £200

Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm VR lens

At a glance:

  • Price £154 body only
  • Sensor 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sensitivity ISO 100-6400 (ISO 25,600 extended)
  • Continuous shooting 4fps
  • Video 1080p Full HD video at 30fps
  • Rear display 3in, 921k-dot vari-angle LCD
  • Viewfinder Pentamirror, 95% coverage at 0.78x

Upon its release in 2011, the Nikon D5100 was positioned as an upper entry-level DSLR for those looking for something a little more advanced than the more basic D3100. While the D5100 undoubtedly shows its age now in terms of its core hardware, it remains a practical and easy-to-use camera that’s capable of great image quality. Better still, while the D5100 and 18-55mm kit lens package would have cost around £750 at the time of its launch, second-hand camera bodies in ‘good’ condition can now be picked up for as little as £109 from the likes of MPB.com and other reputable second-hand retailers. Add an 18-55mm kit zoom, and you’ll still get plenty of change from £250, making it highly affordable and great value.

The D5100 is built around a 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Nikon’s EXPEED 2 image processor – the same components found inside the much more advanced (and considerably more expensive) D7000 that was also released in 2011 and went on to win numerous ‘camera of the year’ awards. The point we’re trying to make here is that while the D5100’s 16MP resolution might seem a little lacking compared to the 24MP APS-C sensors that are common to many contemporary DSLRs (including the D5100’s direct descendant – the D5600), the overall image quality is still very good.

Autofocus and metering

Elsewhere, the D5100 is equipped with an 11-point phase-detection AF module, arranged in a diamond formation across the viewfinder with one cross-type sensor in the middle. Again, while this might seem a little dated next to the 39-point system offered by the D5600, the D5100’s autofocus system is still effective and fast enough in most situations. One other thing to bear in mind is that the D5100 doesn’t have a built-in AF motor, which means only AF-S and AF-I lenses will focus automatically when mounted to it – other lens types will need to be manually focused. In addition, the D5100 isn’t compatible with Nikon’s recent AF-P lens range either.

Metering is handled via a 420-pixel metering system, which we found to produce consistently accurate results. Overall image quality is very good, with the D5100 providing a range of JPEG sizes and quality settings, alongside a range of individual Picture Control settings that determine how your images are processed in-camera. More-advanced users can, of course, record images as lossless 14-bit raw files and process them to their own specifications in Lightroom or similar.

Screen and viewfinder

In terms of shooting modes the D5100 comes equipped with the full PASM quartet giving users the choice of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes. Point-and-shoot duties are catered for via a fully Automatic mode, backed up by a selection of individual Scene modes. Last but not least the D5100 also offers a range of digital filters that can be applied to give your images a unique look – you’ll find these under the Effects option on the mode dial.

The back of the camera is equipped with a vari-angle 3in/921k-dot LCD display that is hinged at the side. This enables it to be pulled away by 180° and rotated through 270°, allowing users to shoot from awkward angles or to capture self-portraits with. Above this is a pentamirror-style optical viewfinder that provides 95% scene coverage at a magnification of 0.78x.

In terms of size, the D5100 is impressively small for a DSLR and at 560g with the battery installed isn’t particularly heavy either. Build quality is very much what you might expect of an entry-level DSLR. Like most entry-level and mid-range Nikon DSLRs, the D5100’s outer polycarbonate shell has been given a mottled finish so as to give it a more premium metallic look. While the outer shell provides ample protection against the occasional gentle knock, it obviously isn’t as robust as the magnesium alloy cages found on more expensive Nikon DSLRs. The D5100 isn’t weather-proofed either, so you’ll need to take care when using it near water or in wet weather. For beginners starting out and those who’d like the option of full manual control, the D5100 offers a lot of bang for your buck.


Also consider

Canon EOS 600D with 18-55mm IS II lens

At a glance:

  • Price £159 body only
  • Sensor 18MP APS-C CMOS
  • Sensitivity ISO 100-6400 (ISO 12,800 extended)
  • Continuous shooting 3.7fps
  • Video 1080p Full HD at 30fps
  • Rear display 3in, 1.04-million-dot vari-angle LCD
  • Viewfinder Pentamirror, 95% coverage at 0.85x

Released at the beginning of 2011, second-hand examples of the Canon EOS 600D now provide excellent value for money – especially for anyone on a tight budget looking to wring the most out of their budget. Benefiting from a vari-angle rear LCD display the 600D makes light work of taking selfies or shooting from awkward angles, while the 9-point AF system is both fast and accurate. Video capabilities extend to a respectable 1080p Full HD at 30fps, while the built-in pop-up flash doubles up as a wireless commander unit should you want to get creative with off-camera flash. Image quality from the 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor is very good indeed.


Sony Alpha 5000 with 16-50mm lens

At a glance:

  • Price £119 body only
  • Sensor 20.1MP APS-C CMOS
  • Sensitivity ISO 100-16,000
  • Continuous shooting 3.5fps
  • Video 1080p Full HD at 24fps
  • Rear display 3in, 460k-dot LCD
  • Viewfinder None

The A5000’s big claim to fame upon its release in 2014 was that it was the smallest interchangeable-lens camera on the market. While that may no longer be the case, it remains impressively diminutive. As an entry-level model controls are stripped back to the bare minimum, which makes it very easy to use, especially in fully automatic mode. That said, more-advanced users may find the constant need to enter the in-camera menu a bit of a chore. While the 460k-dot rear LCD display is a little underwhelming by modern mirrorless standards, the A5000 nonetheless feels solid in the hand and is capable of delivering good results in a wide variety of situations.


Second-hand mirrorless bargains under £350

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm kit zoom lens

At a glance:

  • Price £124 body only
  • Sensor 16.1MP Four Thirds Live MOS
  • Sensitivity ISO 200-25,600
  • Continuous shooting 9fps
  • Video 1080p Full HD at 30fps
  • Rear display 3in, 610k-dot tiltable OLED touchscreen
  • Viewfinder 1.44-million-dot EVF

Released in 2012, the E-M5 was the first camera to grace Olympus’ all-new OM-D range. Whereas existing PEN models at the time borrowed heavily from 1960’s Olympus PEN half-frame rangefinder cameras, the OM-D E-M5 took its inspiration from the company’s ‘OM’ range of 35mm SLRs from the same era. Back in 2012, a brand-new OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko ED 12-50mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ kit zoom would have set you back in the region of £1,150. These days, however, MPB.com has second-hand examples in ‘like new’ condition for just £219. Add an M.Zuiko 12-50mm kit zoom lens for £124, and the whole package could be yours for less than £350.

For the money, you get a great camera. The E-M5 is built around a 16.1MP Live MOS sensor – a modified version of which is still in use today – and the Olympus TruePic VI image processor. Native sensitivity ranges from ISO 200-25,600 while shutter speeds range from 1min to 1/4000sec. The maximum continuous shooting speed is a healthy 9fps. Being an older model there is no support for 4K capture, but video capabilities do extend to 1080p Full HD capture at 30fps. The back of the camera is equipped with a 3in, 610k-dot tiltable LCD display with limited touchscreen functionality, above which sits a 1.44m-dot EVF. Admittedly, both the display and EVF are a bit dated compared to the 1.04-million-dot displays and 2.36-million-dot EVFs found on more recent Olympus cameras, but they both remain perfectly usable.

5-axis image stabilisation

One of the biggest innovations the E-M5 brought to the table on its launch was built-in 5-axis image stabilisation. In our review we found it to work exceptionally well shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds. Another benefit of having the image stabilisation technology built-in to the camera is that there’s no need to pay a premium for optically stabilised lenses. In addition to Olympus MFT lenses, the E-M5 is also fully compatible with Panasonic and other third-party MFT lenses – you won’t be lacking for glass options.

Autofocus is taken care of by a 35-point contrast-detect system that at the time of the E-M5’s launch was billed by Olympus as the ‘world’s fastest’ contrast-detect system. Of course, things have moved on a bit since then, but for the vast majority of situations the E-M5’s overall AF performance remains impressive and is highly unlikely to disappoint.

Build quality is another area where the OM-D E-M5 shines, with its magnesium alloy body giving it an undoubtedly premium feel in the hand. Better still, the camera is also fully weather-sealed, meaning it can be used in the kind of conditions that would require many other cameras to be tucked safely away in a dry camera bag. In addition to being solidly built the E-M5 is impressively small and light.

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