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5 Best Cameras for Sports Photography 2023 (For Beginners, Pros, Moms, Motorsport)
What Cameras Do Sports Photographers Use? (2023 update list)
Look, I believe that choosing and buying specialized photo equipment should be a fun process.
And that’s exactly what I’m here to help you with today.
In this list, I’m sharing the top 5 best cameras for sports photography (beginner and advanced folks) in 2023 across various price points.
It gets better! I’ll also include the recommended lenses for action shots.
These options work for a variety of events/team sports: football, basketball or soccer matches (sports moms), motorsport, and/or capture other fast moving objects.
Whatever you decide to choose, remember, for this photography genre, fast focusing and high frame rate is what you need to look for.
Best Camera for Sports Photography 2023
Here’s a table that’ll give you a quick look of my roundup and the ‘in a nutshell’ reasons to buy the product. For further details, simply click ‘review>’ in respective row.
Reasons to Get It
1. Canon T6i
Great cheap DSLR for beginners
2. Canon 7D II
Best value in the Canon line up
3. Nikon D500
Great for sports (under $2000)
4. Sony a9
Official EISA Award winner
5. Nikon D5
The best DSLR for pro level photos
NOTE: If you’re a pro photographer, looking for the best mirrorless camera for sports, consider reading this Nikon Z9 review (with a real-life field test).
As Ken Rockwell said, currently the “Nikon Z9 is the world’s best sports and action camera because it shoots extremely well at 120 FPS with full autofocus and autoexposure tracking, something no other camera can do.”
In my latest update, I also included 3 action cams for sports/adrenaline lovers, that are not GoPro and that offer an excellent price-quality ratio.
Without further ado, let’s start with a good entry-level DSLR at a low-price point that will help you take pretty awesome photos – the Canon Rebel T6i/EOS 750D.
1. Canon EOS Rebel T6i
Best Camera for Sports Photography Beginner
Type: Compact SLR | Weight: 555 g | Resolution: 24MP | LCD: Fully articulated | Touchscreen: Yes | Weather-sealed: No | ISO: Auto, 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)
Reasons to Buy:
- excellent work in auto mode
- responsive touch screen and tilting display
- continuous shooting up to 5 fps
- large buffer when shooting in JPG
- high quality images up to ISO 3200
- NFC and Wi-Fi connection
- video shooting with smooth and fast autofocus
Reasons to Avoid:
- the camera is not the latest and the greatest
- no direct focus point selection when viewed through the viewfinder
- non-ideal skin tone when shooting with automatic white balance
- a small amount of buffer when shooting in RAW
While the Canon Rebel T6i (or 750D outside the US) is not ‘the latest and greatest’, it’s still a sweet choice in many ways.
Here are my 3 reasons why you should consider it:
- It is one of the best budget-friendly DSLRs for beginner photographers.
- It is one of those fairly compact DSLRs to take on your travels.
- The T6i is a nice low-end DSLR for action shots that you can get under $1000.
The kit lens isn’t good for this genre though!
(The T7i is the newer model but it’s also a bit more expensive.)
As I mentioned before sports require fast focusing and high frame rate. Well, when it comes to T6i, we are seeing a lot of improvements compared to its predecessors.
This Canon supports shooting at an exposure of 1/4000 to 30 seconds. During the continuous shooting, it can output up to 5 fps in JPG and up to 8 fps in RAW.
So, it is useful for reportage shooting (to avoid photos with a mouth open and/or eyes closed), for group photos, and, during the important moments of sports-related events.
The updated CMOS sensor offers a 24 MP resolution.Together with the new sensor works DIGIC 6 processor. Even though DIGIC 6 may be well-familiar to us from the professional models, it was installed in this entry-level DSLR for the very first time.
This processor provides good image clarity and minimizes noise even at high ISO values. For example, images at 6400 ISO are of very good quality. Not over-saturated with noise, eating up the detail.
But even greater improvements have been made to the phase detection autofocus used for shooting through the viewfinder. Instead of the 9 autofocus points that are often found in entry-level bodies, in this one we see 19 of them.
All points are cross type and they cover a large area of the frame. This means that when shooting, you can manually select not only individual points, but entire groups of points.
If you ever wonder what is the best budget camera under $1000 for new photographers, then consider this gear.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i (EOS 750D) has received a lot of improvements in comparison with its predecessor, which makes it a very tasty purchase.
Such a workhorse with a bunch of advantages included:
- the 24-megapixel sensor,
- the tenacious autofocus performance,
- and the availability of Wi-Fi and NFC modules,
… all make the Rebel T6i a very good investment in your photographic future.
Which lens to get for motion shots?
Most of the kits come with the 18-35 lenses but those are not long enough, so that’s why you should get 18-135mm lens for sports photography.
2. Canon 7D II
One of the Best DSLRs for Sports Photos (Under $2000)
Type: Mid-size SLR | Weight: 910 g | Resolution: 20MP | LCD: Not articulated | Touchscreen: None | Weather-sealed: Yes | ISO: Auto, ISO 100-16000
Reasons to Buy:
- Advanced ergonomics and fine-tuning controls
- excellent fine-tuned autofocus
- burst rate up to 10 frames per second
- high image quality
- work with two memory cards of different types
- full HD video shooting with an abundance of fine settings
- built-in GPS and high battery life
Reasons to Avoid:
- the screen doesn’t support touch control
- the screen isn’t articulated
- lack of 4K video
- comparatively high price
Canon EOS 7D Mark II is one of the most advanced APS-C sensor DSLRs at the moment.
In fact, it is one of the best Canon cameras for sports on the market today. It’s also one of the best DSLR cameras under a $2000 budget (with the kit lens that you can use for this type of photography).
There is no abundance of secondary functions in it common for newer models, but everything a professional photographer or a videographer needs is always at hand.
This is a real workhorse with lots of capabilities.
It has excellent autofocus, both when viewed through the viewfinder, and when using the display. It also has the highest speed of continuous shooting and a large buffer.
Last but not least is this DSLR’s high ISO performance and a 20 MP sensor which allows you use it literally in any situation: from the “greenhouse” conditions of the studio to the dynamic reportage.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II simply shoots: confident in any conditions, without requiring any technical tricks or special shooting techniques from the photographer.
Basically, it doesn’t interfere with the photographer’s work, and that’s what matters.
During the test, there was not a single time that I had any complaints about the autofocus, to the speed of work, or the quality of the image.
The result is always predictable, and this allows you to select the optimal settings before shooting.
All in all:
Canon 7D Mark II is the best value in the Canon lineup for sporting events.
I recommend this one to those photographers who are interested in stable operation of the camera in any conditions.
First of all, we are talking about professional reportage shooting and related genres, including action, sports, and adventure photography.
Mark II will also be an excellent working tool for a wedding photographer.
Lovers of natural photography should also pay attention to this model. Why?
Because photo hunting and macro photography is the native element of Canon 7D II.
Which lens to get for this body?
As I mentioned earlier this glass is a good one to get because it’s long enough for moving objects. If you’re on a budget, it’s always better getting a used 7D II body but absolutely do get that 18-135mm.
3. Nikon D500
One of the Best Nikon DSLRs for Action Shots
Type: Mid-size SLR | Weight: 860 g | Resolution: 21 MP | LCD: Tilting | Touchscreen: Yes | Weather-sealed: Yes | ISO: ISO 100 – 51200 (expandable to 50 – 1640000)
Reasons to Buy:
- excellent autofocus system: fast, sensitive and tenacious
- continuous shooting at a rate of 10 fps
- excellent ergonomics
- quick and convenient focusing in Live View mode
- close to professional video and audio recording capabilities
- low level of digital noise
- wide dynamic range and a well-stretched RAW
Reasons to Avoid:
- a bit “damp” wireless communication with SnapBridge
- not the latest and greatest gear
Nikon D500 is one of the most amazing digital cameras ever produced by Nikon, equipped with a DX format sensor.
You’d think that full-frame products successfully took over the world and wonder what a “professional crop sensor body” could offer to a demanding photographer.
Well, a lot actually.
First let’s start with the boring technical features.
The Nikon D500 uses a new 20.9-megapixel CMOS sensor and a new Expeed 5 image processor. High burst rate (10 frames per second) and 153 points of autofocus, located throughout the frame area are an excellent offer for that kind of money!
It is complemented by an inclined touch screen, which makes it even more convenient.
The D500 also has excellent video capabilities and allows you to shoot in 4K. Another bonus is the promising wireless technology based on the SnapBridge application. Among other features is an XQD card slot, and an optional SD card slot.
Who is the Nikon D500 NOT for?
First of all, the D500 is not for those who really need a full frame counterpart.
In this category I include photographers engaged in staged portrait photography, as well as those who prefer landscape photography.
They are often able to work with a single point of autofocus, can totally live without the continuous shooting, and they don’t always need high ISO.
Also, this Nikon is not for those who are looking to buy their very first DSLR.
All the charms of this camera will be appreciated only by an experienced photographer, meanwhile it will be difficult/frustrating to master for a beginner.
Who is the Nikon D500 for?
Nikon D500 will be appreciated by those who work in the reportage genre. After all, the speed and accuracy of the device are beyond praise.
It can easily become the main tool of a photo-reporter, sports photographer, traveler, blogger, or a street photographer.
People working with telephoto lenses (animal photographers, photography spotters) will benefit from the D500 too because its lenses give a magnified image 1.5x stronger!
A sensitive, even at aperture F8, autofocus will make it possible to shoot with a powerful teleconverter (extender).
The Nikon D500 will also be an excellent second camera in the arsenal of a wedding photographer.
I’ll say this:
What we have here is an interesting and in many ways unique camera.
By all means Nikon D500 is a powerful tool for action sports photography.
Advanced photographers who have experience with other cameras will certainly understand how good this DSLR is.
This beauty has a lot of admirers and is in demand by many photographers.
Best sports lens for this body:
If you use D500 with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom, then you have an amazing combo to crush it in sports photography. This glass is at a relatively lower price-point.
The new ones are a bit better but the older one will be just a bit cheaper if you are on a lower budget. (Don’t worry you won’t see that much of a difference in the lenses overall).
4. Sony a9
Top Mirrorless for Sports. Official EISA Award winner.
Type: SLR-style mirrorless | Weight: 673 g | Resolution: 24 MP | LCD: Tilting | Touchscreen: Yes | Weather-sealed: Yes | ISO: Auto, 100-51200 (50-204800)
Reasons to Buy:
- built-in five-axis stabilization system
- fast and confident autofocus with native and non-original lenses
- speed of continuous shooting up to 20 frames/s
- buffer up to 200 frames in RAW and 360 JPEG
- great ISO performance
- accurate color rendering, good work of the automatics and white balance
- wide dynamic range in RAW
- Full HD video shooting up to 100/120 fps
Reasons to Avoid:
- it is preferable to shoot in RAW at ISO above 6400 for optimum results
- the battery life is lower than that of high-end DSLRs
- the speed of continuous shooting with a mechanical shutter is limited to 5 frames/s
- the display may overheat
At the one of the EISA Awards events, Sony a9 was voted as the best all around mirrorless camera.
Sony a9 is a high-speed full-frame mirrorless that’s designed to go head to head with Canon and Nikon’s flagship professional DSLRs.
Today we already see that mirrorless products also excel in reportage, sports and many other genres.
At the same time, for the more “mobile” photographers in sports, weddings and other events (in comparison to those working for photo agencies), the transition to A9 can become a technical step forward.
An undeniable advantage of Sony ILCE-A9 is its speed.
The a9 presents a high rate of burst of up to 20 frames/s, and a large buffer of up to 200 RAW frames, as well as an impressive ISO performance.
Even though smart modes of autofocus (such as focusing on the eyes, Lock-on AF and priority in the recognition of faces) require some time getting used to, they can significantly facilitate photographer’s work.
The 5-axis stabilization in this hybrid works well (both for photos and videos).
I must say that it’s also great for video shooting:
There is 4K and slow-motion shooting of 100/120 frames/s in Full HD. There is only no support for S-Log profiles, however the rest of the traditionally wide range of features is preserved.
Sony a9 should definitely appeal to the lovers of continuous shooting.
You’ll see why when you shoot sports competition events and will be able to select the most successful shots of jumping or running.
All in all:
Sony a9 is one of the best mirrorless cameras for action shots in 2023.
As of today, it is the most functionally powerful products of all existing, both mirrorless and DSLR categories.
With this in mind, its high cost doesn’t seem surprising then.
Truth is, if you are looking for the “complete package”, then the Sony a9 price tag will definitely justify itself.
Not to mention that it was an official EISA winner as the best mirrorless camera.
Which lens to get for this body?
Given that we are talking about sports, the best lens that’s recommended to buy along Sony a9 is Sony 70-200 GM fixed zoom lens.
5. Nikon D5
One of the Best Nikon DSLR for Any Pro Level Photography
Type: Large SLR | Weight: 1415 g | Resolution: 21 MP | LCD: Fixed | Touchscreen: Yes | Weather- sealed: Yes | ISO: Auto, 100-102400 (expandable to 50-3280000)
Reasons to Buy:
- continuous shooting up to 12 fps with autofocus
- large buffer: up to 200 frames in RAW
- impressive image quality
- video shooting in Full HD format at 60 frames per second
- dust and waterproof construction & excellent ergonomics
- awesome battery life
- ability to work with two memory cards
- silent shooting in Live View mode
Reasons to Avoid:
- no built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
- there is no focus peaking or Log Gamma profiles
Nikon D5 is a serious choice for a reportage (documentary) photographer.
Everything in this product, every little thing is set up to ensure a simple and guaranteed result when shooting in any conditions.
1) It’s not afraid of dust and moisture.
2) It easily, if not the best out of all cameras, deals well with the lack of light.
3) D5’s autofocus works so stably and quickly that you simply forget about it.
4) The speed of the continuous shooting and the large volume of the frames in RAW can guarantee you catching the right moment in any photo-shooting scene.
5) The resource of the battery makes it possible to shoot for a day without stopping or limiting yourself with the number of frames.
In other words:
Nikon D5 is primarily a working tool that is designed to facilitate the work of a professional photographer to such an extent that he doesn’t think about the technical side of shooting at all.
(That is the main advantage of this DSLR.)
Especially it would be worth noting the updated system of an autofocus with 153 points, which works amazingly well.
Also, a separate praise deserves the image quality at high ISO. The touch interface that we see present in this Nikon model has limited functionality, yet still is really a convenient and thought-out management tool.
Without a doubt:
Nikon D5 is one of the best DSLRs for sports photography today.
It is an excellent choice for those photographers who really do shoot in difficult conditions and are required to guarantee the result.
These include reportage photography, sports and wedding photography, and the shooting of wildlife. I definitely recommend this camera if you’re a photographer in the aforementioned fields.
If you are a landscape and/or portrait photographer, I suggest you have a look at other models: both because of the mass-dimensional characteristics, and because of the not too wide possibilities for RAW-files.
Which lens to get for (motorsport) action shots?
We now established what is the best DSLR if you are into sports.
If you decide to go with Nikon D5 instead of Sony a9 mirrorless, then the recommended sports lens for it would be Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG Lens.
Best Action Cameras for Extreme Sports 2023
In this section, I won’t be talking about big type of cameras.
Instead we’ll talk about the action cameras for extreme sports like surfing, mountain biking and/or skiing.
The ones that are small, light, and waterproof camcorders that you can use to capture photos/record your adrenaline-full activities.
One of the most popular action cams on the market right now is GoPro Hero 9. But in here, I want to offer excellent GoPro alternatives.
If you want an action cam for extreme sports, that’s not a GoPro, consider these alternatives:
- Sony FDR X3000R – One of the best camcorders right now.
- COOAU – Sweet little 4K action cam, best bang for your buck.
- Apeman – Best budget stabilized action cam (under $100).
As you can guess, unlike mirrorless and DSLRs, these are super light, compact and cost a lot less.
(But it also means a totally different level of quality.)
This section won’t be as detailed as when I talked about DSLRs but it should help you guide in the right direction in terms of good price-quality ratio.
==> Here’s a full list of the best action cameras and camcorders this year.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Best Action Photography Camera Right Now
Sony FDR X3000R
- Weight: 4.1 oz/114 g (incl. battery)
- Photo resolution: 12MP
- Video resolution: up to 4K at 30fps
- Touchscreen: None
- Waterproof: Up to 60 m (with housing)
- Battery life: 8 hours inactive, 1 hour recording
While GoPro Hero7 is a good overall action cam that MANY bloggers recommend, in my opinion it doesn’t really have a good sound.
And if I were to choose between these two, I would probably place Sony FDR X3000R first in the list, and Hero7 second.
So, what’s so special about this Sony camcorder?
First of all, you can use Live View remote to capture your adventures.
Second of all, it features a Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization that works in any resolution, even when shooting video in 4K.
Another strong point of this action cam is the built-in stereo mic. It allows you to make realistic recording with high-quality sound at a pretty high level.
And finally, unlike other action cameras, Sony FDR X3000R offers better image quality in low light conditions.
Be sure to turn off the recording ONLY on the camcorder itself, and not on the remote!! Otherwise, stopping recording via Wi-Fi will result in broken files.
==> Check the exact price on Amazon.
Best Bang for Your Buck 4K Action Camera
- Weight: 15.8 oz/447 g
- Photo resolution: 20 MP
- Video resolution: up to 4K at 30fps
- Touchscreen: None
- Waterproof: Up to 40 m (with case)
- Battery life: 60 min on 4K, 90 min on 1080P
I’ll say this:
The features this little sports cam offers, in my opinion, is the best bang for your buck. It costs less than 100 bucks and you get vivid and incredible footage of your adventures.
The things you’ll love about COOAU:
- rich stills and video resolution
- shockproof, waterproof, with smart image stabilization chip
- the ability to control remotely
- lots of functions and modes such as time-lapse, slow motion, burst photo etc
- offers built-in and external microphone
… Just to name a few.
As you can see, one of the things with this product is that it comes with an external mic which don’t often come with other action cams.
This means that you can use it for situations where it’s not easy to collect sound or in noisy places. Some people use the said external mic for vlogging purposes for their YouTube channel.
Honestly, if you’re looking for a quality action cam and don’t want to spend a lot, this will be your best bet.
==> Check the exact price on Amazon.
Ideal Action Cam for Water Sports
- Weight: 15.8 oz/447 g
- Photo resolution: 20 MP
- Video resolution: up to 4K at 24fps
- Touchscreen: None
- Waterproof: Up to 40 m (with case)
- Battery life: 90 min on 4K, 120 min on 1080P
Many people ask:
Why pay 2-3x more when you can get a budget action cam that offers pretty much the same capabilities/features as other high end products like GoPro?
That’s a valid question.
You CAN go with budget options as long as they DO offer quality.
I think this Apeman model certainly does.
Resolutions supported: 4K/24p, 2K/30p, 1080/60p, 1080/30p, 720/120p, 720/60p, 720/30p, 850×480/30p(WideVGA), 480/240p, 480/30p, 240/30p.
I think you should know that it’s max is 2K (UHD 24p) 2160 interpolated to 4K. The quality is up to par but I think if you use this resolution then it’s best to use a stabilizer.
The thing is that Apeman A80 has its own digital image stabilizer, but it only works in HD 30p 1080 x 720 resolution. H.264 MP4 compression format is the perfect format for YouTube.
And this is where you don’t see any shaking going on.
(By the way, that’s one of the reasons why certain action cameras are so expensive… because they are packed with optical and digital image stabilization features.)
In any case…
If you’re looking for your first budget option, especially for water-related action shots, then definitely consider this device!
==> Check the exact price on Amazon.
Sports Photography Camera Buying Guide
Before you shop for a camera, let’s discuss some of the essential purchasing considerations.
- The Continuous Shooting Rate
When choosing the right camera for sports photography, the continuous shooting rate is essential. The faster the camera’s continuous shooting rate, the more photos it can capture in X-amount of time. If you are looking for the best results, look for a camera with a continuous shooting rate of at least 30 fps.
- The ISO Sensitivity Range
The ISO sensitivity range is crucial when it comes to a camera. This will determine how sensitive your camera is to light. The lower the ISO range can go, down to 64, the better the camera is for brighter conditions; the higher the ISO range is, the better the camera will be for low light situations.
- The Image Processors
Next is the image processor, which is the camera’s brain, for all intents and purposes. Do some in-depth research into processor types before buying.
- Body Image Stabilization
If you are planning to do sports photography, your camera should have body image stabilization. This means that the camera’s sensor can move to compensate for shake and hand movement, resulting in much less blur and clearer images.
- Real-Time Eye AF Tracking & Sophisticated AF Tracking
Eye AF tracking and sophisticated AF tracking is another feature to investigate. This allows a camera to quickly track fast-moving subjects, particularly their eyes and faces, to allow for fast autofocusing.
These features enable cameras to automatically adjust the exposure depending on the situation. This is a vital feature when it comes to your camera’s auto capabilities.
Choosing the Right Gear for Sports Photos
All of the aforementioned products are absolutely great. Some of them are full frame sensor, a couple of them are APS-C sensor (so keep the crop factor in mind).
They are not all expensive cameras. You can find across various price points, whether you are looking for digital cameras for beginners under $1000 or under the $5000 price tag, or more advanced gear for professional sports photographers.
In fact, all of the products mentioned are used by the pros and it shows that the quality really is top-notch (especially Sony a9, Nikon D5, and Canon EOS R with advanced autofocus systems).
Best Cameras for Sports Photography 2023
- Canon T6i – Excellent beginner sports camera under $1000 today.
- Canon 7D II – Best value in the Canon line up for sporting events in 2023.
- Nikon D500 – Awesome tool for action sports shots (under $2000).
- Sony a9 – Best mirrorless camera for sports 2023. Official EISA Award winner.
- Nikon D5 – The absolute best DSLR for any professional level photography.
I’ve also included the advanced photography lenses. And all the glass chosen here are great for sports photos as well. As many of you may know, it’s the lens you have that’s more important.
If you are on a budget, it might be a better idea to get a cheaper body BUT a stellar lens.
Note that the options listed here are not great for those who prefer shooting landscape images or portrait photography, for the reasons mentioned earlier in the post.
Cameras for Action Shots for Beginners and Pros
As you can from the comments below, I LOVE hearing from you!
So, leave your questions on the best cameras for sports photography (for beginners too) in 2023 and I’ll get back to every comment I get as soon as I can.
Do include the following:
- what is your current budget,
- what is exactly is that you (plan to) shoot the most,
And/or any other thoughts on choosing the gear for action shots!
For example, what would you recommend to sports moms? What do you think is the best camera for recording youth sports? How about video cameras to record team sports like volleyball, basketball, soccer, or football games? Let us know!
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Founder & content creator at Digital World Beauty. My main objective here is to create a valuable resource for photography enthusiasts with honest tech reviews, course recommendations, and how-to tutorials.
I am glad your found this article on the top 5 sports cameras useful.
Canon 7D II with 18-135mm lens is a great choice on a budget for sure.
Just one advice for future reference – when buying a used digital SLR camera, it’s extremely important that you check the camera’s shutter count, which is a running total of how many photographs have been taken. (The higher the shutter count, the greater the risk of imminent malfunction.)
I think you’ll be fine though as most cameras are rated to at least 150k shutter operations.Reply
I’ve got a Nikon D5 and love it. Nikon is an awesome camera brand that a lot of professional photographers like myself use. Personally, I have owned several Nikon cameras over the years.
Here is what I love about it:
– The autofocus is amazing!
– Face detection helps big time.
– Can shoot both in RAW and JPG.
– Low light settings are very accurate.
Awesome to see professional photographers commenting on this sports photography related article. I think a lot of Nikon cameras do very well with the action, wildlife, sports kind of scenes.
Of course, any modern DSLR camera will do pretty well given if you find the right lens, but an excellent choice will be fast “reportage” cameras like Nikon D7100, Nikon D750 or Nikon D810. I see that you are a “Nikonian” so you can totally relate, don’t you?
As for Nikon D5, it is definitely the best professional camera. It is a quick burst-rate SLR in a killer body.
I have a Nikon d5300 camera with an 18-55mm VR lens.
Now I’m thinking about buying a 70-300mm lens f/4-5.6 for shooting mini soccer indoors and big, regular type of soccer outdoors.
Now I can’t decide whether a stabilizer is needed in the lens for these sports-related needs or getting a monopod/tripod is enough?
And will the aperture of this lens be enough in obtaining high-quality photographs of sports?
Action and sports photography definitely can be challenging!
1. The stabilizer in the lens is useful for the convenience (the image in the viewfinder doesn’t shake), and it’s also easier for the autofocus.Reply
However, the stabilizer doesn’t save you from having blurry images if you are shooting moving subjects. Yesterday, I published a post on how to photograph sports events for beginners – you may want to check it out.
2. Monopod/tripod is useful for long-term handheld shooting, since it takes the weight of the camera to itself. It stabilizes the camera about as effectively as the stabilizer in the lens, but it also doesn’t save you from the blurry images of the moving subjects.
3. Aperture 1:5.6 for indoor shooting is worse than 1:2.8, but the price difference between these lenses is also huge.
Most likely you will have to compromise with ISO and expect the corresponding influence of this on the image quality. Definitely, don’t expect any miracles.
BUT, if you don’t approach the quality of your sports photography with the same criteria that you’d use to evaluate, for example, the professional advertising photographs, then everything will be fine.
Becoming a better photographer whether in sports, or landscapes or portrait photography takes some time and energy but practice makes it perfect 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I totally understand your point.Reply
OK, I will the tripod for extra convenience when shooting.
In terms of f/5.6 and f/2.8 – the price difference between the lenses definitely is pretty big, so I will stick to a cheaper alternative for now.
Appreciate the resource on sports photography tips, will check it out now.
Glad I could help.
In the future, I will likely create a guide on the best digital cameras that are under $1000, for example. Need to gather more info on what exactly my audience is looking for on my digital technology website.
For now my team and I are writing posts in no particular priority.
Hi! Since I’m very interested in sports photography but really don’t know where to begin, this article explained everything in detail! Still, do you have a suggestion for those of us that is following and take photos on watersports? I’m thinking of sailing etc..
It would be great if you had a recommendation for that also.
Hey Patrik, glad you found this article on sports cameras useful.
If you are a newbie, I strongly recommend you check out the article on sports photography tips to ensure you get the best photos 🙂
As I understand you are not talking about underwater cameras. These cameras should definitely be fine for the sailing photos (or actual fast moving subjects/sports on water).
Actually you are not the first one to ask about water-related photography, so it’s likely I will create an article on underwater cameras in the future.
By the way, if you are on a boat, you sure will get amazing landscape photos with these digital cameras.Reply
I have Canon 7D M2. Interested in dog racing sports. What lens would you recommend? I was considering Canon 70-200mm f2.8 but frankly it’s a bit heavy.Reply
If shooting outdoors during the day, then take the lighter and more compact Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM.Reply
It’s a great lens!
This is super super helpful. I’m a complete novice but also want to get into Sports photography. Ideally for more pitch sports; football, rugby, hockey etc debating between Nikon D500 or Canon 7D as my budget isnt huge. Which would you pick?Reply
Hi Rochelle, glad to hear you found our website/article useful!Reply
See, there aren’t TOO many differences between Nikon D500 vs. Canon D7D II but if I were to choose between the two, I’d likely go with Nikon D500. I don’t want to bore you with details so I will highlight the main reasons of my choice.
When you choose a camera for sports, it’s VERY important to look at fast focusing and high frame rate. Now, both the D500 and 7D have 10 fps (frames per second), which is good, however D500 has more focus points than D7, which means that you will have less blurry images.
The only major downside is the price. Canon 7D II is cheaper than Nikon D500. The good news is that when we created this article, we tried to suggest great, yet cheaper, options of camera + lenses in case our readers are on a budget.
So, if you decide to pay slightly more for a better camera, go with Nikon D500 WITH Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens (that’d be cheaper).
If you need an even cheaper alternative, then by all means do pick Canon 7D II (used is fine too) WITH Canon EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens. I’d like to emphasize that you do pick this lens, even if it means getting a used camera. The proper lenses for sports are important!
Last but not least, a while ago I asked one of my team members compose a mini guide on shooting sports events. You said you’re a novice in this field, so you might enjoy the sports photography tips for beginners.
P.S. Luckily, I checked my website today and could answer your question right away before the surgery. And when you test your new camera, do let me know how you like it! 🙂
This is perfect, I’ve been looking for a new camera and couldn’t decide between Nikon or Canon. Great post with comparison and lots of info, easy to read.
Without doubt, these are all great cameras but I think the Canon Rebel is going to be one I’ll get since you recommend it for beginners and because it’s a budget friendly option.
To be honest, I was considering GoPro for shooting soccer practice outdoors (during the day), but when I browsed your website, I only found it in your list of top rated vacation cameras for this year.Reply
Hey Marcel, glad we could be of help.
GoPro action camera is good only if it’s attached to an athlete or somewhere close to him (the goalpost, for example), otherwise, it’s not the best option for shooting sports.
GoPro is listed as one of the best vacation cameras is because it’s waterproof, so people can enjoy capturing their moments on vacation, whether underwater or sailing in the ocean (as seen in the video-review).
If you’re a beginner and on a budget, Rebel T6i is definitely a wonderful option. When you’re ready both emotionally and financially, you can upgrade.Reply
This is a great sample of what cameras are available for specifically photographing action sports. I’m looking for a package of camera plus lens to photograph horse races as well as show competitions — lots of action. One other feature required is the capability to photograph in low light conditions such as dawn workouts at the track where no flash can be utilized around such sensitive athletes. I have some familiarity with Nikon cameras and wonder if the most sophisticated options are easy to come to grips with. SONY or Nikon for this particular photographic situation? Thank you.Reply
I thought some of the guides out there might be confusing to beginner photographers and thought it’d be a good idea for my team to create guides on specialized cameras, be it for sports, portraits or landscape photography.
And it’s definitely a hit to have included lenses too because as you know finding the right camera is only winning half the battle without the lens.
Anyway, back to your question.
If you are asking whether you need Nikon vs. Sony in general, I’d go with Nikon for the following reasons:
I wanted to start off by saying that Nikon holds the 1st place in terms of the number of focus points and flash capabilities in comparison with analogues, when I re-read your comment about no flash can be utilized.
And still I’d go with Nikon.
Historically, Nikon DSLRs provide the best quality of images in low-light situations. (So, it’s good that you not considering Canon in this particular photographic situation).
If you’re asking whether you want Nikon D5 vs. Sony a9 specifically, then honestly you can’t go wrong with any of these options. I’d still lean towards D5 though. It’s just known to be slightly better for sports than a9.
Without doubt, Nikon D5 is the winner when it comes to sports and wildlife photography. I mean, it’s just incredible.
I know it’s a bit pricey that’s why in the list I included Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 sports DG lens – and despite it being a third-party lens, it’s definitely a quality one.
If you’re more on a budget and you’re deciding between Nikon D500 vs a9, I’d again go with Nikon because of your sensitive photographic situation and particularly the low-light conditions. I recommend D500 with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens.
I hope this was helpful, Peggy. I’d appreciate you sharing what you ended up going with and sharing your experience with your new camera! 🙂
I personally using Canon G7 X, but I have faced some problem with it. That’s why I want to buy Nikon D500. Can you give me personal suggestions on this?
If you’re looking for a sports camera, then Nikon D500 is a great choice. Works great with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens as was recommended to Peggy (see comment above).
Honestly, all my suggestions are written out in this post unless you’re looking for something OTHER than sports photography gear/tips. Happy camera shopping!
Hi. I was wondering, is there an option for a mirrorless camera no more than $600 USD for shooting at the racetrack?
Edit: Specifically, shooting at the barrier with 50-20 meters from the approaching rider. F4 format.
TL;DR: you can search for Sony a6000 or Olympus OM-D E-M1 and by ALL MEANS with long-focus lenses of 200mm.Reply
In theory you can find mirrorless hybrid cameras for that price (especially if it’s used), but what about the lenses?
We did a bit of calculation here and here are our thoughts.
From a distance of 20 meters a man of 190 cm in height enters the vertical frame with a margin on the chest, if the focal length of the lens is 200 mm, and the camera is APS-C, that is, a crop.
We will assume that the rider from this distance will enter the vertical frame entirely.
We can also assume that from 50 meters with such equipment a group of riders in full growth will enter a horizontal frame.
Either way, you need a lens with a focal length of 200 mm.
Now, the mirrorless camera systems in the current market are Sony, Olympus and Fujifilm.
Out of these 3 brands, Sony has the most affordable cameras.
Sony also has a 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS lens, which seems to be the most inexpensive with such a focal length. Click here to check it out on Amazon.
The Sony 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS lens would be great for your reportage shooting. Check it out on Amazon here.
All these lenses are bad only in one thing: even with the used options, you will likely not fall within your $600 budget.
Same with Olympus and Fujifilm.
Recently I was photographing the Sydney International tennis with a Nikon D750. It got pretty good photos but the guys alongside me had the full on pro cameras and lenses.
I am wanting to upgrade to a better camera and lens package and was leaning towards the Nikon D5 but then came across the Sony A9 which now has a 400mm F2.8 prime lens. It is expensive but the photos it takes are amazing. There was one photographer using that package at the tennis and I loved his photos.
I also love the fact that the mirrorless camera can shoot with no shutter clicking sound. There was a press conference with Angie Kerber and as it was raining at the time there were about eight photographers in the room. The clicking of shutters got a bit much, as it always does at Parliament House during a press conference.
Zarina – this article is helpful but as a husband of an aspiring photographer/sports mom I’m still lost. My wife wants to be able to take action shots from the stands/sidelines of our 11 yr old son hitting during a game. My wife has a cannon eos t3i and I got her a cannon 70-200 f4 lens last year and that didn’t allow for great pictures. I’m looking to try to surprise her (again) but don’t know whether I need a better lens or a new camera. If it’s a lens what attributes are the most important. I was thinking of buying used and I’m looking to spend 750-1500 but would spend more if there is a material difference.
Any advice would be appreciated
Sports photography is one of the trickiest genres because every sport has its own nuances to consider, so it’s good you asked.
Without a doubt, your wife will definitely need a longer lens.
She’ll need at least 300mm lens if she’s actually on a full field baseball area. If by “sidelines” you meant standing behind the fence of a typical rec or high school field, then you’ll need a 400-500mm lens.
Basically, you want your subject to fill at least 1/2 the vertical frame in-camera. If the subject doesn’t fill that much of the frame you’re too far away for the lens you are using.
Based on the info you gave me here, it’s safe to assume that it’s a youth sport on full field and your wife is shooting during daytime. If so, then consider getting Canon 100-400mm lens (around $2K right now).
It’s a high performance L-series telephoto lens which is amazing for sports and action nature photography. Definitely recommended for sporting events that involve kids.
The 100-400mm lens will certainly work with Canon T3i. In case your wife won’t know, you might want to tell her that a 1.6x factor will apply.
I really don’t want to overwhelm you with lots of info but I will provide an alternative option, just in case.
Canon 6D body + 70-300mm type L (this one) also work well together for sports. It’ll for sure provide great detailed images, whether daytime or evening shots. If you buy used camera body and a new lens, it might fit your budget.
This is an alternative. I’d still for the 100-400mm lens that I mentioned earlier.
I really hope this helps, Kevin. Let me know if you have any further questions 🙂
Zarina – the insight is amazing. I think I’m going to follow your recommendation on the canon 100-400mm lens. I noticed on amazon that a lot of people also tend to purchase the canon Ef 1.4 III extender. Is that a good thing to get too for what my wife is looking to do (sports action pics) or is that not really worth it? I’m not exactly sure what an extender does. Thanks again for helping look like a hero with my wife. I can’t wait to surprise her with the lens!!!Reply
It really warms my heart when I get such positive feedback from my blog readers 🙂
It’s people like you who inspire me to keep pumping out more (and better) content, thank you!
But I digress.
Simply put, teleconverters (Canon calls them “extenders”) are optical accessories that are attached between the camera and the lens and its job is to multiply the lens’ focal length.
– a 300mm f/2.8 lens with a 1.4x extender would become a 420mm f/4 lens
– in your case, a 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens would become a 140-560mm with a minimum f/8 aperture (means lens wide open)
These extenders are great for birding, sports and wildlife photography.
As a rule, Amazon gives great suggestions, they really know what people want/need. A lot of photographers will tell you to go for it, if you can afford it.
I want to be completely honest with you here, Kevin. There are a couple of things that you need to be aware of:
1) The teleconverters don’t work that well on the original 100-400 lens. So, stick to the one I mentioned earlier! (This one.)
2) Your wife has a T3i DSLR, so the image quality might take a hit and I’m pretty sure it will not deliver any kind of autofocus with f/8 aperture.
(Having good autofocus is especially important for sports and wildlife photography).
This being said:
You can either just buy the lens only, or you can buy it with an extender and your wife can totally use it when she gets a newer DSLR. Truth is, the 100-400mm II lens with an extender is a combination your wife could rely on for many years to come.
Hope this helps, Kevin!
Feel free to let me know if you have any further questions. Also, let me know if your wife loved the lens!! 🙂
P.S. I’d like to thank you for buying through my links and, in doing so, supporting me run this website. I truly appreciate it!
Hi. Great article. Very helpful. I was thinking of buying the 750D which is the cheapest of the list that you mentioned and Ias I was searching in the market I saw the 800D at the same price as the 750D. What is your opinion?Reply
Had to remember that 750D is T6i and 800D is T7i (I’m used to the North-American versions).
To answer your question:
While both of these Canon DSLRs come with 24MP sensor and other similar features, T7i (800D) certainly better. It has better battery life, continuous shooting is faster, higher max ISO etc.
Right now, the T6i body on Amazon.com (US) is under $400 whereas T7i is around $700 – that means the difference in price is about $300.
If you found the market that sells T7i for the same price as T6i, then it’s awesome!
Reasons to choose T6i (750D) over T7i (800D):
Generally speaking, pretty much the only advantage of T6i is its cheaper price for those photographers who are on a budget and still want to shoot great sports action shots. But in your case, given that both cost the same, buying 800D is a no-brainer.
I hope this helps!
Amazing Read. I have been pondering since a few months lately and I have not been able to make a choice between Nikon D850 with NIKKOR 400 mm f2.8 or Sony a9 with the new Sony 400 mm f2.8 for full fledged professional sports photography? Have been doing lots of reads and research, but haven’t been able to make the choice yet.Reply
I know mirrorless speed king vs D850’s high resolution (ever from a Nikon DSLR), must be a tough choice to make.
I’d point one feature out:
The Sony has a 3686k electronic viewfinder (EVF), which means that you’ll experience no blackouts during continuous shooting. As a rule, this is what greatly appeals to action photographers (wildlife or sports). And if I’m not mistaken, overall, Sony a9 was created with sports shooters in mind.
Some people really focus on having good battery life and it’s slightly better in D850. Generally, old-school photographers prefer the Nikon because Sony has some getting used to do. Also, if your hands are big, maybe Sony’s compactness won’t be a good thing?
Perhaps, you can go to a local store and see how it feels in your hands? Also you could rent both cameras out and shoot some sports events and after testing it out in real life, you’ll see which camera you like best.
Basically, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each camera considering your specific situation, likes, comfort etc and then make a decision.
Hope this helps!
Great article and also thanks for providing detailed feedback in the user comments/questions. Similar to Kevin, my wife is interested in photographing our kids in their sporting events. Right now it would primarily be for hockey and gymnastics, so both indoors with potentially poor lighting. Also with hockey, there would be times she would be photographing through the plexiglass. For both sports it would also typically be from the stands (or not close to the action). Through reading your article and the comments, i am leaning toward the Nikon D500. Do you think that is a good choice? I am struggling with the lens though. What would be a couple good options to pair with that camera for these types of photo environments? Thank youReply
Glad to hear you benefitted from this article and the comments! It always makes my day 🙂
Apologies for the delay. I thought I’d reach out to pro hockey photographers because there are a LOT of nuances involved with this kind photography. My aim is to provide you with the best advice possible.
Choosing a camera:
Without a doubt, Nikon D500 is a great choice for indoor sports.
(Some would argue that for parents a compact super-zoom type camera might be the best option because shooting from the stands is never ideal and a long lens is going to be the very tool that will make a difference.)
In the article I also mention 7D II (#2 in the list) but there’s also a slightly cheaper option Canon 6D II (see Amazon reviews here).
Choosing the lens:
Overall, a 70-200mm f/2.8 is the most versatile lens for hockey and gymnastics. You can get one, whether you choose Canon or Nikon.
In case you’re curious, here are Kenneth’s NCAA regionals photos that were shot with his 6D + 70-200mm lens.
Now, I’d like to provide you with a feedback from a pro I connected with, who’s done hockey photography multiple times:
“Hockey is different from other sports because of the high speed and the giant white rink surface.
Do a custom white balance off the ice first. Then find an exposure that works, and use manual exposure to lock it in. If you change shooting angle double-check it.
Equipment-wise, a camera that can shoot at higher ISO with low noise is useful; hockey moves fast so if you can shoot at high shutter speeds (I like 1/1000s +) you can freeze the action. Also of course a longer zoom lens is ideal.
If you must shoot through the glass, find a clean spot and get as close to it as you can (touching the glass, even). It’s not ideal but you’ll get something decent.
(At pro games they usually have a small panel in the glass they can open to shoot through.) If you want to shoot from the bench you’ll need special permission and likely need to sign insurance waivers.
(Your ideal gear will include the long zoom lenses with wide apertures and high price tags.)
Other sports benefit from the same gear, but often are shot in lower light. You may need to use ultra-high ISO (10,000 or even higher) if it’s a dimly lit gymnasium or a dance recital.
If you’re the ‘official’ photographer you might be able to ask for lights to be turned up but don’t count on it, and as a spectator you get what you get.”
Overall, we agreed that the camera + lens that I mentioned above will work in your specific situation (hockey and gymnastics + low light).
I hope this helps you Jake!
Let me know if you have any further questions.
Oh wow, thanks a lot Zarina! We did end up getting a Nikon D500 w/ a Nikon AF S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5. The store didnt have many options for lenses and we wanted to get something at least. I certainly appreciate your response. The information from the hockey photographer is fantastic, so i appreciate you getting that and sharing with us. My wife is also enjoying many of the other articles you have on your site. Your knowledge and passion for photography is amazing and we appreciate you sharing that with the world! keep up the great workReply
Thanks so much for your kind words and your feedback here!! When I get responses like this it motivates me to put out even more awesome content 🙂
Also, appreciate you taking the time to comment back here, other blog readers who had the same question as you did will benefit too.
Congrats on your gear purchase and happy photographing!
Awesome post, Zarina. Would these work for wildlife and scenery photography?
Currently I own one of Sony’s old compact interchangeable lens cameras with a standard 16-50mm. However I’m ready to upgrade to an advanced level DSLR and am seeking your advice.
I’m an amateur, mainly like shooting landscapes, birds, wildlife, and sometimes sports.
With the gear that I currently have there are a lot of drawbacks – not the best lens for wide angles due to its distortion, problematic focusing system, distance and low-light capabilities. I’m not happy even with the image quality to be honest.
I have about $3000-3500 to invest, what camera and lens would you recommend me in my case? Thank you vm for your help!!
Great that you asked your question providing details, it really helps giving the best answer possible!
Since you like taking a lot of moving objects photos (birds, wildlife, sports), go with the Nikon D500. Ideally you’d want a 500mm lens for wildlife shots but, considering your budget, a 200-500mm lens would be more appropriate.
Nikon D500 coupled with 200-500mm is a setup that most wildlife photographers use and you can’t go wrong with it!
Let me know if you have any further questions.
Appreciate your post. As a beginner I’ve decided to go with the Rebel T6i option, especially considering its low price tag. I’m certainly not ready to invest in higher end gear, want to gain more experience first and see how I enjoy taking photos of sports events.
I was wondering, what is the legality of selling action shots? Like I said, I’m a newbie and would like to be sure of my rights as a photographer.
EXCELLENT question, Pijus! Thanks to you, we’ve published a separate guide on selling action photos legally that you can check out here. Enjoy!Reply
This is a great, super informative and very easy to read review of really good cameras.
I have been involved in some sports and some of my friends still are and I always wanted to know what they used to get such great pictures and videos when they were training.
Now I reached the point when I am interested in shooting the sports-related events myself.
I appreciate the effort you (and your team) put into keeping us up to date with your extensive testing and experience. Putting the budget along with the uses is just the most practical way to approach it and It helps me figure out what to decide on, especially when comparing across comparable disciplines such as sports.
(I did check your article on the best landscape cameras too).
I am thinking of getting Canon 7D II and invest in a 18-135 lens. I will get a used camera since it’s a cheaper combination.
You explained everything well and you was super thorough. Thanks for this and nice work.