The Ultimate Budget Full-Frame Camera of 2024

The Ultimate Budget Full-Frame Camera of 2024

Whenever someone asks me what camera they should buy, I am shown a ton of triple-digit-D versions. Unfortunately, entry-level cameras are nowhere near as good as full-frame equivalents. Full frame doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s a cheap full frame camera you can buy in 2024.

Having been a Canon shooter since day one, I am quite familiar with parts of the Canon range. These parts being the single-digit-D cameras. Namely, the 1D and the 5D range of cameras. Over my full-frame run as a photographer, I shot with: Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 5Ds, Canon 5D Mark IV. Out of these cameras, I think the best bang for your buck will surely be the Canon 5D Mark II. It offers great full-frame performance, with very little sacrifice of quality and raw performance.

This might be odd to hear for some people who are aware of the latest Canon gear out there. Namely, the mirrorless offerings from Canon. Why pick a 5D Mark II, a camera that is over a decade old? To be frank, if you need the fastest, best camera available, you are probably not reading this article and already know what you need. For the rest of us, who are reading this article, the advice is as follows: get a 5D Mark II and save the cash.

Why am I writing this article now, considering that I shoot with a 5DS, and rarely with a 5D Mark IV? Well, my reasoning is quite simple. As I am looking to change my camera systems, I might end up selling all of my camera gear and getting something really good. But that something really good is quite a big jump in terms of prices, and I can’t quite afford a backup body should something go wrong. As a backup body, I will be looking to get a 5D Mark II, while keeping my 50mm f/1.4 lens. So, why am I, a working pro photographer shooting 50mp stills, getting a decade-old camera as a backup?

The truth is, I can absolutely shoot my work with a 5D Mark II. That camera offers enough performance for me to not worry about most things. There is enough resolution to print images, enough bit depth to do color grading, and enough robustness for me to not worry about it going belly up on me. Let’s dive in.

Build Quality

Ah, the good old 5D Mark II. It is an indestructible camera, really. Made from magnesium alloy, it offers the build quality pros come to expect from such a camera. When I regrettably sold my 5D Mark II, it had been through hell and fire. I took that camera to Finland, shot with it in freezing temperatures, pouring rain, and then some. If it can withstand that, after so many years, what is there it can’t withstand? As now I am mostly a studio photographer, the camera should survive even better. Ergonomics-wise, it feels the same as a 5D Mark IV, or any 5D-series camera for that matter. It’s solid in the hand, with plenty of surfaces to grip onto. Weight and dimensions are the same, too.


It would be a stretch to say that the 5D Mark II has plenty of performance to rival current cameras. It doesn’t. The sensor is quite dated, and it shows. The lack of resolution is the least of my concerns, I like to think. In reality, it isn’t. As I like to crop my images and experiment with various compositions, sometimes with extensive Photoshop. The reason I went for a high-resolution studio camera is just that: I like to have the flexibility. But hand on heart, I could also spend a little extra time in composition and get the same result with a 5D Mark II. When I shot work with a 5D Mark II, I never had a complaint that my images were bad. The same with any other camera I owned. I always heard, the images are great. This is all. The images will remain to be great no matter the camera you use. In case you need more resolution, you can always rent a better camera.

If you are going to be doing stills in a studio setting, the 5D Mark II offers enough autofocus and resolution to capture some great work. At the same time, it will not be well-suited for anything more than that. I wouldn’t photograph events with this camera, although I did. The experience I had with it was quite bad because of the poor focusing performance. In short, there is one single autofocus point. While some see it as a disadvantage, others see it as an entry to medium format. Focusing, even on the best medium format cameras, is very slow. The performance you will get out of the sensor in the 5D Mark II is not as good as that of a 5D Mark IV, or a 5Ds, let alone a mirrorless full-frame equivalent. But the performance of an entire level camera, even a mirrorless, won’t be as good as a 5D Mark II. Therefore, you can save yourself a ton of cash and go for the good old 5D Mark II, instead of whatever triple-digit-D or r-whatever you are thinking of. I’m about to do the same as well.

The Price

This is the reason the 5D Mark II is such a great camera because it costs peanuts. Seriously. If you look at the price of one now, you won’t find one for more than about $200-$300, depending on where you look. I wouldn’t pay above $300 for a Canon 5D Mark II. This is a very fair price to pay for such a dated device. Dated, but still plenty to do most work in 2024. If you are at a level of shooting social media campaigns for local brands, you don’t need more.

Final Verdict

Ultimately, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is a very able camera that is still well-suited to do most studio work in 2024. Sure, it’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but that doesn’t make it noticeably worse for someone looking at your image on Instagram while taking a number two. So, save the cash, and get the 5D Mark II.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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My first camera was the Canon A-1 that I bought new in May 1980, which still works. July 2013, my wife and I were traveling back home from Charleston, SC, when I mentioned to Paula, "KEH has a used Canon New F-1 with the AE Finder FN, and AE Motor Drive FN, for $400." She asked, "Is that their flagship?" I answered "Yes, for the 80's." She said, "Buy it.". December 2013, she bought me the Canon 5D III. It still has life left in it.

So, you ended upbwith a used Canon 5DM3 instead of the used Canon F1? How much & did it come with a lens?

Over a decade old! In reality the 5Dmk2 is nearer the two decades being release in 2008. I used one for a couple of years and for certain types of let’s say non demanding photography it will be fine. Forget anything that requires speedy auto focus or good low light performance. I think for anyone who has become used to more modern cameras it may just well offer no more than a very frustrating experience.

Much better off with a Nikon D750.

Even D700 feels a decade ahead.

It is a great value for sure. Personally I would be more than willing to spend a little extra on a 5D MKIII, which is exactly what I did.

Ready! Photographer's are like fish striking at most any bait! I am also at times! The real key to any great camera especially the old or to some the very old of the early digital cameras like 2MP or 5MP (OMG 5MP no way) is SOFTWARE!!!! Most all photographers 97% will know of or have ever touched the very old let alone edited an image from one! Also never lived through the early SW days only think PS and LR were the first and only, $800+ each and every full update, what was used is the makers SW that you downloaded say from Canon, Nikon etc. Only the commercial big photo companies could afford and only photographers working there ever saw the SW work them, exp Nat Geo had a whole team at home that edited images sent from all over the world just like the film days with rolls of film and darkrooms days.
The first digital cameras had SD cards that you took to camera store or film processing place and got a prints, yea no editing by yourself all just like film but with a computer (another $1500+). Ever use the Fuji waterproof little pocket size cameras same process take and get prints from SD cards and if blessed with a monster big computer at home you would copy the images to a HD before deleting off the SD card but most had a cigar box of SD cards.
I lived it all using Canon SW for my T2i but one day it just disappeared with no updates. It was a new era of affordable $100 or less for the HDR days for do it yourself editing at home. Like PTGui for pano's or Google's free Nik Collection and for HDR Photomatix Pro $80, But the PRO's mainly used Capture ONE for studio work, like Lr with today's area editing like PS.
Sorry for rambling! But my point is old digital cameras used old software and today's SW way better, I mean I remember when sensor dust removal came out - one reason for f/4 was used or faster for f/11 or higher the dust would show and ruin the image. Even today the hardest to get rid of is the dust on the back of the lens a big blob.
Also a main point is any camera will do great today. A photographer is playing a never ending Video game on the same computers used to play those video games.
1. T2i with kit lens using newer SW
2. T2i using the Promote Control to bracket 15 at +/-1EV to get outside sunset with indoor view during anniversary dinner waiting for food, yes crazy aways.
3. T2i Olympic Torch with sunrise behind Bracketed 3 at +/- 2EV
4. Vivitar 8300s people seen in USS Arizona oil 8.1 MP 3x optical zoom
Two things! Kodak film is going bang busters-some are bypassing the computer completely! The old lowcost now cameras easy to find but batteries and chargers not a gold mine if both found.
Go to Estate Sales they will give and old film or digital camera just for picking a camera up or just go to a Goodwill and get one to work.

I still have 5D mkiii as my Backup camera.

"someone looking at your image on Instagram while taking a number two" Laughing my fuc*ing ass out. Ah ah ha, best joke of the week :-)

The Nikon D800 Is friggin killer deal too.

It would seem that in 2024, that going for an old budget Full-Frame DSLR camera is not the ticket. It would be better to just do a more modern "mirrorless" APC camera even like Canon EOS M6 Mark II see comparisons. I realize that 'Full-Frame' cameras like the R5 is probably out of the budget, but is it really worth going for such an old DSLR camera? More modern cameras have more ability for 'Focus Points' and some have more 'Mega Pixels'. What you gain with an older-cheaper 'Full-Frame' camera must surely be weighed against what you gain against more modern technology.

100%. Even an old Sony A6000 runs circles around the older 5D II. I've owned both, and the 5D II felt like 8 steps back. Not worth struggling with the finicky AF system, or being disappointed by the lack of shadow pulling, resulting in the all-too-known Canon white skies if you want to capture anything not illuminated directly by the sun.

I'll just stick with my Fujis! I haven't needed FF yet. If I get the urge to go FF...I'll probably just go MF! 🤣

Careful with buying one of these clunkers. I fell for one of these articles singing the praises of the 5D II and was sorely disappointed. Terrible image quality if you tried to do any shadow lifting, weak AF that was a lottery at best, and extremely limited customization. Even using Magic Lantern for Dual ISO and automated AF microadjustment couldn't save it.

I got a D700 a bit after the 5D II, and it felt like alien technology in comparison, despite launching months BEFORE the 5D II. IQ and AF are both modern feeling, reliable, and customizable. And it actually felt like it was made of metal. Solid through and through, while the 5D II felt like those hollow chocolate Easter bunnies.