Best Camera for Sports

Best Camera for Sports

You need the best camera for sports that is capable of capturing sportsmen’ emotions, energy, and movement that athletes display during the competition or training, if you’re a photographer who wants to photograph sports events. What characteristics should such a camera have? Most importantly, it should come with a super-fast telephoto lens that can capture all the action without a quality loss. I’ve prepared this article to help you find the best camera for sports that will help you enjoy every moment of taking photos during sport or action events.

best camera for sports

10 Best Cameras for Sports

Top 3 Best Cameras for Sports

Some photographers give preference to universal cameras that have interchangeable lenses and big image sensors, while others don’t want to deal with such bulky and heavy equipment. Thankfully, the recent advances in technology allow you to find a relatively compact camera that has an impressive sensor and is compatible with different lenses. If you need a reliable and waterproof sports shot camera that will satisfy all of your needs, browse through this list!


1. Canon EOS 7D Mark II

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Smart AI focusing
  • AI Servo
  • Nice ergonomic shape
  • Burst shooting mode with up to 10fps
  • Highly customizable
Cons-
  • Non-articulating display without touchscreen controls
  • Lacks Wi-Fi support
  • No image preview function
 

This is the best camera for sports that has a continuous shooting mode with up to 10fps with absolutely automatic focusing and exposure. There’s minimum noise when shooting within standard ISO range, but you can increase the sensitivity for poor lighting conditions when you don’t have to view or print photos in a large size. If you’re taking images in JPEG at ISO 51,200, they’ll have quite a lot of noise and can have green or magenta tones.

  • Look through my recommendations among waterproof cameras for water sports activities or action cameras that can be used with travelling, skiing, skating or flying with a parachute.

If you reduce sensitivity to 25,600, you’ll get noticeably better results. There will still be quite a lot of noise, but the colors will be more accurate. If you’ll set ISO at its max standard setting of 16,000, the images will be of really high quality without any significant flaws. Overall, I can recommend the 7D Mark II as the best DSLR for sports photographers, who know how important it is to capture every moment. Photos are taken with minimal delays so you never risk missing a single second of the competition.

Recommended camera lens:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

This lens is good at taking dynamic photos thanks to the integrated focusing ring that uses a USM mechanism, which works quickly, accurately and silently. If you want even more control over the shooting process, you can focus the lens manually.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM photo sample Photo by Canon EOS 7D Mark II

2. Nikon D5

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Efficient AF system
  • Broad ISO sensitivity range
  • Sturdy body
Cons-
  • 4K videos shooting is limited to 3 minutes
  • Vertical control arrangement differs from the horizontal one
  • UI should be more user-friendly
 

This model deserves to be called the best camera for sports because it has a new sensor supplied with an anti-reflective coating of several elements that are used to deal with flares. The sensor is equipped with the latest EXPEED 5 processor and excels at accurate color and tone reproduction. However, auto white balance isn’t great for skin since it makes it a bit too pale. Some other colors aren’t completely accurate too (red-orange, cyan-blue). Thankfully, yellow, green, violet and other colors are reproduced well.

This camera for action shots takes highly sharp JPEGs that can sometimes be even too sharp and require toning down in the camera’s menu. The D5’s noise reduction system is subtle, efficient, and provides excellent results. With the noise removal set to default, JPEGs taken with this model are highly detailed and clean when shooting at ISO 1600. If you increase that value to 6500, the photographs will still be clean and feature an adequate amount of detail. The provided results are good even at ISO 12,800, only suffering from a bit of grain and noise.

Recommended camera lens:

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8

This telephoto zoom model has a max aperture of f/2.8, which is perfect for the DSLR camera for sports. It’s a pioneer in the class of Sigma’s Sports lenses and is primarily designed for capturing moving subjects such as race cars, runners, etc.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 photo sample Photo by Nikon D5

3. Canon EOS Rebel T6i

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • 24MP APS-C type image sensor
  • Convenient touchscreen + button/dial controls
  • Integrated Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Tilting display
Cons-
  • Viewfinder coverage limited to 95%
  • Setting an autofocus point can take too much time
 

This is probably the best Canon camera for sports that I’ve tried. When viewed at 100%, JPEG images taken with large ISO values are noticeably softer compared to identical RAW photos. However, if you lower the sensitivity to 12,800, both formats look equally great when printed in A3 (16 by 12 inches). As you can expect, shooting in RAW will produce images with more noise since the noise reduction is disabled. However, that noise is fine grained and doesn’t cause banding, meaning the photographs will be of higher quality compared to JPEGs.

Luminance noise in RAW images is visible when viewing at 100% if they were taken at ISO 1600 or higher (with noise reduction disabled). Meanwhile, since noise reduction always leads to less detailed images, this beginner camera’s JPEGs appear softer even when taken at ISO 3200, although it’s not a real problem up to 12,800. This camera for sports offers 1080HD video support with up to 30fps. I noticed that the videos are vulnerable to moiré, so I suggest you not recording subjects wearing herringbone clothing.

Recommended camera lens:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

This lens has high-quality dust and moisture protection, while the fluorine covering on the edges allows you to avoid soiling, smudges, and fingerprints. The lens also has a zoom locking mechanism that locks it at a fixed position.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM photo sample Photo by Canon EOS Rebel T6i

4. Nikon D500

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Amazing autofocus
  • Burst shooting mode with up to 10fps with a max of 200 RAW shots
  • Metal, weather-resistant body
  • Fluid and convenient controls
Cons-
  • Live View autofocus lacks speed sometimes
  • Tilting display is inferior to vari-angle alternatives
  • Restricted touchscreen functionality
 

D500 is a good sports camera that offers great performance regardless of the shooting conditions and is capable of taking breathtaking imagery. Unedited JPEGs are very vibrant and colorful without looking too over-the-top or unrealistic. The image sensor excels at capturing highly-detailed shots as long as the ISO setting stays within the native range. Moreover, even high-ISO performance is still on an adequate level. You can notice slight image smoothing when viewing photographs taken with ISO sensitivity in the 12800-51200 range, but only at 100%. Regular printing sizes of A4 or smaller all look highly detailed.

This Nikon camera for sports has a 153-point autofocus system, with most of the points being of the cross-type for improved accuracy. The AF is also very fast as I’ve experienced locking issues only when shooting in very dark conditions. The continuous focus mode does a great job of tracking the subject when you have an active autofocus point. This is fantastic news for sports photographers or anyone who plans to take photos of their kids or pets running outdoors.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

This lens allows you to take hand-held photographs with maximum sharpness at a shutter speed that is 5 stops lower than normal. Its optics includes 20 components in 14 groups, including 3 ED glass parts and a single HRI component.

Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens photo sample Photo by Nikon D500

5. Sony a7R Mark II

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Amazing resolution
  • Impressive performance at high ISO values
  • Reliable optical image stabilization
Cons-
  • Lacks built-in flash
  • Mediocre battery life
 

I consider this model to be the best camera for sports action shots due to the picture quality it offers. The available operable sensitivity range of 50 to 102,400 is very impressive. If you’ll look at the RAW files produced by the a7R, you can see the amount of photo processing it performs by default. However, RAWs tend to have more noise at all ISO settings compared to JPEGS.

If you’ll use the default settings, the received 42MP photos will look a bit too soft. That’s why I recommend adding sharpness using the camera’s settings and Photoshop or Lightroom. Photographs taken in dark conditions look amazing when using max shutter speed (30sec.) and the Bulb mode opens up a lot of space for night images. This camera for sports has a Dynamic Range Optimizer feature that allows you to capture more details from shadowed and highlighted areas without creating artifacts or noise.

It puts together two pictures taken at different exposures and creates a single photo with a broader dynamic range. Sadly, it works only with JPEG images and static objects, but the offered results are still amazing. Besides, Sony’s improved and tested Sweep Panorama is also a fantastic feature that you can try.

Recommended camera lens:

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS

This model has an efficient integrated optical IS system that makes it a terrific option for snapshots, indoor, outdoor photography and group portraits. Despite being small and lightweight, the lens offers fantastic performance.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS photo sample Photo by Sony a7R Mark II

6. Sony a9

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Great performance
  • Very fast and accurate autofocus
  • Highly customizable
  • High-resolution viewfinder
Cons-
  • Weather protection is less reliable
  • Lacks XQD card slots
  • Poor balancing when used with larger lenses
  • Restricted touchscreen controls
  • Short battery life for its class
 

I’ve really enjoyed using this mirrorless camera for sports photography due to its 24MP sensor that allows taking beautiful highly-detailed photographs. The provided quality is more than enough for printing sharp A3 prints and even A2 format images. The A9 also performs great when it comes to shooting at high sensitivity settings. JPEG pictures look great even at ISO 12,800. You can notice some chroma noise and a little loss of detail. RAW images at the same ISO have slightly more noise but preserve details. Besides, you can deal with that noise during the photo editing stage.

The biggest problem I had to deal with when using this sports camera is the auto white balance accuracy, particularly when shooting with artificial lighting. The photographs tend to have a slight greenish tint, so I advise you to rely on manual white balance as often as possible. Overall, this is one of the best action photography cameras I’ve tried.

Recommended camera lens:

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Compact full-frame super telephoto zoom lens for the sports shot camera features fast AF and amazing sharpness. It allows taking shots with high resolution. Both amateurs and professional photographers will like this powerful tool.

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS photo sample Photo by Sony a9

7. Canon 5D Mark IV

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Full-frame sensor
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Useful touchscreen
  • Great 4K video recording
Cons-
  • Optimization of AF settings requires practice
  • The frame rate isn’t high enough
  • Bulky
 

This is one of the best cameras for sports that allows taking sharp photos with well-saturated but still cool colors. Shooters can receive noise-free pictures on the whole ISO range. Personally I’ve never uses the highest point of ISO settings, but if you do, then don’t expect to get blurred photos. Even while shooting in all-purpose metering mode, exposures, which are weighted to the active AF point, are quite good.

Moreover, taking photos in very high-contrast conditions is not a problem for this Canon camera for sports. Tracking focus is also acceptable. You can choose the given model for shooting moving subjects only at 7fps, but it is still a good selection for such type of photography.

Recommended camera lens:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A circular aperture and the high-speed AF will help get brilliant shots with an accent on the subject and blurred background. The floating optical system neutralizes aberrations and provides brilliant imaging performance.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM photo sample Photo by Canon 5D Mark IV

8. Sony A7 III

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • 10fps burst shooting
  • 15-stop dynamic range
  • Uncropped 4K video
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Reliable and compact design
Cons-
  • Narrow touchscreen control
  • Only one SD slot supports UHS-II cards
  • Slightly 'tears' in EVF
  • Weak weather-sealing round accessory ports
 

This camera can be used for sports action shots and it will impress you with good RAW detail capture and brilliant speed for the sports. The 24MP sensor allows taking photos with plenty of color stitching on the white-on-black texts. You can expect very clean and noiseless pictures even at basic ISO. As for JPEG colors, prepare to receive the scene in warm tones including greens when switching to auto white balance and low light. You can make these tones even warmer if you use additional automatic white balance setting.

Context-sensitive noise reduction of the Sony A7 III is impressive and makes the camera the best on the market, especially in terms of RAW photo quality. This full frame camera allows taking photos without any indications of haloing on edges due to large-radius sharpening. The parts with small details are accentuated well.

Recommended camera lens:

Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS

This compact lens is an excellent choice for your sports camera due to the combination of light weight and an impressive optical quality. It also features a constant F4 maximum aperture all over the zoom range and fast, accurate AF.

Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS photo sample Photo by Sony A7 III

9. Canon 1Dx Mark II

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Brilliant control layout and operation
  • Professional 4K recording at 60fps
  • Fantastic autofocus system
Cons-
  • A modest range of touchscreen functions
  • Video mode requires intuitive Quick menu
 

Canon 1Dx Mark II continues my list of good but too expensive sports photography cameras. It features a common range of ISO range that is between 100 and 51,200. However, it can be boosted to 50-409,600. The model has great dual Digic 6+ processors which allow taking pictures at 14 fps employing excellent optical viewfinder and autofocus tracking. The speed will be raised to 16 fps in live view, even though focus and exposure are locked after the first photo. This rate may be kept up for more than 10 seconds due to an impressive 170 shot raw buffer. Then it slows down.

AI Servo AF III+ mode is another great feature of the given camera. It allows taking brilliant shots of moving subjects. A modifying motion tracking system is fantastic. It has the gyro sensors in image-stabilized lenses. They are to check whether the subject is moving erratically or evenly.

Recommended camera lens:

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM

The model can be easily called user-friendly as it has very simple switches and buttons. It is possible thanks to new security slot for wire-type security locks. This lens will work well in any environment due to the dust- and damp-proof design.

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM photo sample Photo by Canon 1Dx Mark II

10. Fujifilm X-T3

leather camera neck strap View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Excellent autofocus
  • Brilliant 4K video recording
  • Swift continuous shooting for photographing action
  • User-friendly design with nice handling
  • Highly customizable
Cons-
  • Lack of image stabilization
  • Second-rate battery life
  • The screen without full articulation
 

This Fujifilm camera has lots of impressive features that allow taking detailed shots. Personally, I choose this camera for action shots for running competitions. Its great autofocus and an updated option of face detection play into my hands when I need to shoot speeding cars or running people in between taking portraits.

You also shouldn’t worry about noise as it is controlled well and remains acceptable at higher settings. Of course, a professional shooter will notice a small amount of texture at low ISO, but it is not very visible. RAW files are also well detailed at ISO 12,800 but have a small noise.

Recommended camera lens:

Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

This telephoto zoom lens helps decrease chromatic aberrations thanks to its optical construction. It has 21 elements in 14 groups, which include 5 ED lenses and 1 Super ED lens.

Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR photo sample Photo by Fujifilm X-T3

The List of 10 Best Cameras for Sports

Image Camera Features  
Canon EOS 7D Mark II best camera for sports
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
OUR CHOICE
  • 20.2 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Nikon D5 best dslr for sports
Nikon D5
BEST DSLR
  • 20.8 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Canon EOS Rebel T6i best camera for sports under $1000
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
FOR BEGINNERS
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Nikon D500 best professional video camera for sports
Nikon D500
FOR PROFESSIONAL
  • 20.9 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Sony a7R Mark II best camera for sports action shots
Sony a7R Mark II
  • 42.4 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Sony a9 best camera for sports photography 2018
Sony a9
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Canon 5D Mark IV best canon camera for sports
Canon 5D Mark IV
  • 30.4 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Sony A7 III best sports camera
Sony A7 III
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Canon 1Dx Mark II best camera for sports 2018
Canon 1Dx Mark II
  • 30.4 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Fujifilm X-T3 sports shot camera
Fujifilm X-T3
  • 26.1 MP
  • CMOS
Check PRICE

How to Choose the Best Camera for Sports?

Do you know that DSLRs are the best cameras for action and sports photography? It is due to continuous and tracking autofocus modes, which are very reliable. Of course, you can take photos of sport using any camera. But if you want to get a perfect shot, then pay attention to some important features the best camera for sports should have:

1. Sensor

Take the sensor into consideration when choosing a good sports camera. The smaller sizes of the APS and Micro Four Thirds sensors are significant points when talking about sports photography. Mind that APS sensor is smaller than a full-frame sensor. So APS camera with full-frame lenses presents a crop factor that results in a field of view, which is like a longer lens. That’s why most sports shooters will take photos with Micro Four Thirds or APS body infrequently even if they are full-frame.

2. High Shutter Speed

Most cameras have a pleasant shutter speed of 1/1000 per second. It is quite enough for taking a photo of a moving subject. However, it happens to be too little to catch a necessary moment. So, shooters should pay attention to the best camera for sports in order to freeze the action perfectly, as it is required for sports photography. A fast model, for instance, Canon EOS 7D Mark II, has a max shutter speed of 1/8000 sec that is more than ordinary digital models offer.

3. Focal Length

A good camera for sports must have a suitable focal length. Shooters may take into consideration a 70-200mm lens with an aperture of ƒ/2.8 and start working without hesitation. It presents a soft background defocus. However, the 24-70mm focal length is definitely a better choice. As for 24 mm, it’s wide enough to get a good field of view but long enough to decrease distortion. Finally, choose a 70mm lens if you want to capture athletes far away.

4. Fast Autofocus System

The best DSLR camera for sports may have either contrast detection or phase detection autofocus. Let’s look at them closer:

Phase detection AF. SLR viewfinder shooting features phase detection. Its task is to analyze the difference between a little bit different wavelengths of light. It also immediately indicates the direction to move the lens and the distance to place the optics to get the sharpest focus. As my practice shows, Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF uses phase detection in Live View and it means you will be able to enjoy quick focusing of high quality.

Contrast detection AF. Contrast detection AF has another scheme of work. It analyzes pixels on the device’s sensor and follows the rule that the subject is in focus when contrast is the highest. AF needs to push the focusing point of the lens back and forth for discovering that point. So this proves that AF is slower than phase detection AF. But mind that it has a more precise focus on still subjects.

5. Large Apertures

If you want to get brilliant shots with a great background and the subject, then a minimum aperture of ƒ/5.6 won’t suit you. It is quite enough for simple sports pictures but won’t let you take fantastic photos for sure. I’d better give you an example. Imagine a stadium with lots of fans. They will be noticeable on the pictures because of your position “down on the field”. As a result, they will distract viewers’ attention from the action. That’s why it is better to choose the best DSLR for sports with a wide-open aperture in order to blur the background nicely.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more