Best Camera for Sports

Best Camera for Sports

You need the best camera for sports capable of capturing athletes’ emotions, energy and movement during the competition or training if you’re a photographer who wants to shoot sporting 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 loss of quality. 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.

10 Best Cameras for Sports

Top 3 Best Cameras for Sports

Some photographers give preference to universal cameras that have interchangeable lenses and large 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

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  • Smart AI focusing
  • AI Servo
  • Nice ergonomic shape
  • Burst shooting mode with up to 10fps
  • Highly customizable
  • 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 minimal 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 at a large size. If you’re taking images at JPEG at ISO 51,200, they’ll have quite a bit of noise and can have green or magenta tones.

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

If you reduce sensitivity to 25,600, you’ll get noticeably better results. There will still be quite a bit of noise, but the colors will be more accurate. If you set the ISO to 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

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  • Efficient AF system
  • Broad ISO sensitivity range
  • Sturdy body
  • 4K videos shooting is limited to three 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 with 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 either (red-orange, cyan-blue). Thankfully, yellow, green, violet and other colors are reproduced well.

This camera for action shots takes very 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

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  • 24MP APS-C type image sensor
  • Convenient touchscreen + button/dial controls
  • Integrated Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Tilting display
  • 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 at 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 1080p HD video support at up to 30fps. I noticed that the videos are vulnerable to moiré, so I suggest 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

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

The 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 at an adequate level. You can see 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 children 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 five stops lower than normal. Its optics include 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

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  • Amazing resolution
  • Impressive performance at high ISO values
  • Reliable optical image stabilization
  • 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 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 use the default settings, the 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 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

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  • Great performance
  • Very fast and accurate autofocus
  • Highly customizable
  • High-resolution viewfinder
  • 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 for taking beautiful highly-detailed photographs. The quality is more than enough for printing sharp A3 prints and even A2 format images. The A9 also performs well when it comes to shooting at high sensitivity settings. JPEG pictures look great even at ISO 12,800. You can see 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 was 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 for 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

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  • Full-frame sensor
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Useful touchscreen
  • Great 4K video recording
  • Optimizing AF settings requires practice
  • The frame rate isn’t high enough
  • Bulky

This is one of the best cameras for sports that allows for taking sharp photos with well-saturated but still cool colors. Shooters can take noise-free pictures through 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 only choose the given model for shooting moving subjects at 7fps, but it is still a good selection for such 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

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  • 10fps burst shooting
  • 15-stop dynamic range
  • Uncropped 4K video
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • Reliable and compact design
  • 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 sports. The 24MP sensor allows for 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 capture 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 the additional automatic white balance setting.

Context-sensitive noise reduction from 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 for 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 a sports camera due to the combination of light weight and 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

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  • Brilliant control layout and operation
  • Professional 4K recording at 60fps
  • Fantastic autofocus system
  • A modest range of touchscreen functions
  • Video mode requires intuitive Quick menu

The Canon 1Dx Mark II continues to be on my list of good but excessively expensive sports photography cameras. It features a common 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 for taking pictures at 14 fps, employing an 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 for 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 easily be called user-friendly as it has very simple switches and buttons. This is possible thanks to a new security slot for wire-type security locks. This lens will work well in any environment due to the dust- and water-proof design.

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

10. Fujifilm X-T3

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  • Excellent autofocus
  • Brilliant 4K video recording
  • Swift continuous shooting for photographing action
  • User-friendly design with nice handling
  • Highly customizable
  • Lack of image stabilization
  • Second-rate battery life
  • The screen without full articulation

This Fujifilm camera has lots of impressive features that allow for taking detailed shots. Personally, I choose this camera for action shots for running competitions. Its great autofocus and an updated option for 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 little 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
  • 20.2 MP
  • CMOS
Nikon D5 best dslr for sports
Nikon D5
  • 20.8 MP
  • CMOS
Canon EOS Rebel T6i best camera for sports under $1000
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Nikon D500 best professional video camera for sports
Nikon D500
  • 20.9 MP
  • CMOS
Sony a7R Mark II best camera for sports action shots
Sony a7R Mark II
  • 42.4 MP
  • CMOS
Sony a9 best camera for sports photography 2018
Sony a9
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Canon 5D Mark IV best canon camera for sports
Canon 5D Mark IV
  • 30.4 MP
  • CMOS
Sony A7 III best sports camera
Sony A7 III
  • 24.2 MP
  • CMOS
Canon 1Dx Mark II best camera for sports 2018
Canon 1Dx Mark II
  • 30.4 MP
  • CMOS
Fujifilm X-T3 sports shot camera
Fujifilm X-T3
  • 26.1 MP
  • CMOS

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

best camera for sports

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 considering sports photography. Keep in mind that an APS sensor is smaller than a full-frame sensor. So, an APS camera with full-frame lenses presents a crop factor that results in a field of view that is like a longer lens. That’s why most sports shooters will take photos with a Micro Four Thirds or APS body infrequently even if they are full-frame.

2. High Shutter Speed

best camera for sports

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 can 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, the 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

best camera for sports

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

best camera for sports

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

Phase detection AF. An SLR viewfinder that features phase detection. Its task is to analyze the difference between a 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 high quality, fast focusing.

Contrast detection AF. Contrast detection AF is another method. 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 to discover that point. This AF is slower than phase detection AF. But keep in mind that it has more precise focus on still subjects.

5. Large Apertures

best camera for sports

If you want to get brilliant shots with a great subject and background, 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. 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

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