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5 Best Cameras for Sports Photography in 2021 (Plus Best Lenses for Action Shots)

5 Best Cameras for Sports Photography (2021)

Welcome to my list of the best cameras for sports and action shots!


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 in 2021 across various price points (plus the recommended lenses for action shots).

It gets better…

In my latest update, I also included the 3 great action cams for sports/adrenaline lovers (besides GoPro) that offer excellent price-quality ratio.

Here is an overview of what to expect:

Best Cameras for Sports Photography in 2021

  • Canon T6i – Excellent beginner sports camera under $1000.
  • Canon 7D II – Best value in the Canon line up for sporting events in 2021.
  • Nikon D500 – Awesome tool for action sports shots (under $2000).
  • Sony a9 – Best mirrorless camera for sports 2021. Official EISA Award winner.
  • Nikon D5 – The absolute best DSLR for any professional level photography.


If you want an action cam for extreme sports, you may consider GoPro or these alternatives:

  1. Sony FDR X3000R – One of the best camcorders right now.
  2. COOAU – Sweet little 4K action cam, best bang for your buck.
  3. 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.)


These are not for children, so if that’s something you’re looking for, then here’s an article listing the best kids cameras for sports and underwater activities


     Quick Overview

Our Rating

Canon EOS Rebel T6i


  • budget-friendly
  • great work in Auto mode
  • articulated touch screen
  • 5 fps continuous shooting
  • good option for beginners


  • small buffer in RAW
  • its kit lens isn’t good for sports

==> Click to read more.


  • advanced ergonomics
  • fine-tuned autofocus
  • burst rate up to 10 fps
  • large buffer in JPG
  • built-in GPS
  • high battery life


  • no touch control
  • fixed LCD screen
  • no 4K video
  • comparatively high price

==> Click to read more.

Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR

  • excellent autofocus
  • burst rate up to 10 fps
  • great image quality
  • advanced ergonomics
  • wide dynamic range


  • relatively high cost
  • “damp” WiFi-SnapBridge

==> Click to read more.

Sony a9 Mirrorless

  • EISA Award Winner 
  • dust and waterproof
  • 5-axis stabilization
  • high ISO performance
  • wide dynamic range
  • 4K-video shooting


  • pretty high price tag
  • the display may overheat
  • battery life could be better

==> Click to read more.

Nikon D5 (XQD Version)

  • dust and waterproof
  • top quality in low light
  • tenacious focusing
  • thoughtful ergonomics
  • up to 200 frames in RAW
  • high battery life
  • an ideal sports DSLR


  • no built-in Wi-Fi and GPS;
  • too advanced for beginners

==> Click to read more.


Remember, for this photography genre, fast focusing and high frame rate is what you need to look for. 

Did You Know?

You can get highly affordable adventure & sports photography classes online on KelbyOne photography e-learning platform. Click here to check them out now.


Let’s start with a good DSLR at a low-price point that will help you become a better photographer and take pretty awesome photos – the Canon Rebel T6i/EOS 750D.

Best Camera for Sports Under $1000

Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Canon EOS Rebel T6i Digital SLR with EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Lens - Wi-Fi Enabled

  • Type: Compact SLR
  • Weight: 555 g
  • Resolution: 24MP
  • LCD: Fully articulated
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Weather-sealed: No
  • ISO: Auto, 100-12800 (expandable to 25600)


Canon Rebel T6i (or 750D outside the US) is a sweet choice in many ways.

Here are my 3 reasons why you should consider it:

  1. It is one of the best budget-friendly DSLRs for beginner photographers.
  2. It is one of the good fairly compact DSLRs to take on your travels.
  3. The T6i is a nice low-end DSLR for action shots under $1000 that you can get.

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.

This mode 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 DSLRs, 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.

Check out the video-review of the T6i done by Jim with Jims Review Room:

What you might like about it:

  • excellent work in auto mode
  • responsive touch screen
  • tilting display design
  • fast focus
  • 19-point phase autofocus with the ability to select groups of points
  • continuous shooting up to 5 fps
  • large buffer when shooting in JPG
  • high quality images up to ISO 3200 inclusive
  • NFC and Wi-Fi connection
  • an abundance of additional modes from HDR to creative filters
  • video shooting with smooth and fast autofocus

What you might not like about it:

  • 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

Which Lens to Get for Sports 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 lenses for sports photography.

Make sure you get that 18-135mm lens.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens(White box, New)

Good Budget Camera for Sports Photography in 2021

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,
  • and the availability of Wi-Fi and NFC modules,

… all make the Rebel T6i a very good investment in your photographic future.

==> Read my full review here.

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One of the Best DSLRs for Sports Photos

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Canon 7D II

  • Type: Mid-size SLR
  • Weight: 910 g
  • Resolution: 20MP
  • LCD: Not articulated
  • Touchscreen: None
  • Weather-sealed: Yes
  • ISO: Auto, ISO 100-16000 (expandable to 51200)

Truth is…

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.

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.

Below is Chris Nicholls’ video-review of Nikon D7 Mark II:

✓ What you might like about it:

  • Advanced ergonomics and fine-tuning controls
  • excellent fine-tuned autofocus
  • burst rate up to 10 frames per second
  • high volume of buffer
  • high image quality up to ISO 3200 inclusive
  • optical viewfinder with an abundance of shooting information
  • work with two memory cards of different types
  • built-in GPS
  • full HD video shooting with an abundance of fine settings
  • high battery life

✕ What you might not like about it:

  • the screen doesn’t support touch control
  • the screen isn’t articulated
  • lack of 4K video
  • comparatively high price

The Best Sports Lens for Canon EOS 7D II

As was recommended earlier, you should get it with the EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens, which is long enough for sports photography.

To make it cheaper for you, definitely consider getting a used 7D II body but absolutely do get that 18-135mm lens.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens(White box, New)

Best Value in the Canon Lineup for Sporting Events


I recommend Canon EOS 7D Mark II above all 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.


Because photo hunting and macro photography is the native element of Canon EOS 7D Mark II.


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One of the Best Nikon DSLRs for Action Shots

Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only)

Nikon D500

  • 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)

Truth is…

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 a magnificent inclined touch screen, which enhances the convenience of this body.

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.

Check out the video-review below by Chris Nicholls:

✓ What you might like about it:

  • excellent autofocus system: fast, sensitive and tenacious
  • continuous shooting at a rate of 10 fps and an almost infinite buffer
  • excellent ergonomics
  • tilting touch screen
  • quick and convenient focusing in Live View mode
  • close to professional video and audio recording capabilities
  • low level of digital noise: good image quality up to ISO 6400
  • wide dynamic range and a well-stretched RAW

✕ What you might not like about it:

  • a bit “damp” wireless communication with SnapBridge

Best Sports Lens for Nikon D500

I would pair it with Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens (which 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).

Tamron SP 70-200MM F/2.8 DI VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon (FX) Cameras

A Powerful Tool for Action Sports Shots

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 and convenient creative tool. 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.

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.

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Top Mirrorless Camera for Sports (2021)

Sony a9 Full Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera (Body Only) (ILCE9/B)

Sony a9

  • Type: SLR-style mirrorless
  • Weight: 673 g
  • Resolution: 24 MP
  • LCD: Tilting
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Weather-sealed: Yes
  • ISO: Auto, 100-51200 (expands to 50-204800)

Guess what?

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.

Check out an in-depth video-review below:

✓ What you might like about it:

  • dust and waterproof metal body
  • built-in five-axis stabilization system
  • tilting touch display
  • fast and confident autofocus with native lenses
  • the possibility of full-fledged work with non-original lenses
  • wide possibilities of customization of controls
  • direct selection of the autofocus area by joystick
  • speed of continuous shooting up to 20 frames/s
  • possibility of completely silent shooting
  • buffer up to 200 frames in RAW and 360 JPEG
  • works with a quick card UHS-II
  • unique 3.8-megapixel electronic viewfinder without “blackout”
  • very high detail on low and medium ISO, overall high ISO performance
  • accurate color rendering, good work of the automatics and white balance
  • wide dynamic range in RAW
  • the ability to manage and transfer images over Wi-Fi
  • 4K-video shooting
  • Full HD video shooting up to 100/120 fps

✕ What you might not like about it:

  • 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

Best Sports Lens to Get with Sony a9

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.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens

Best Mirrorless Camera for Action Shots in 2021

According to the manufacturer, Sony a9 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.

Oh, and did I mention that it was an official EISA winner as the best mirrorless camera?

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Best Nikon DSLR for Sports Photography (2021)

Nikon D5 DSLR 20.8 MP Point & Shoot Digital Camera, Dual XQD Slots - Black

Nikon D5

  • Type: Large SLR
  • Weight: 1415 g
  • Resolution: 21 MP
  • LCD: Fixed
  • Touchscreen: Yes
  • Weather-sealed: Yes
  • ISO: Auto, 100-102400 (expandable to 50-3280000)


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, copes 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.

Check out the video-review below by the Northrup couple.

✓ What you might like about it:

  • continuous shooting up to 12 fps with autofocus
  • large buffer: up to 200 frames in RAW
  • excellent image quality up to ISO 6400
  • high image quality even at ISO up to 51200
  • ideal work of autofocus when looking through the viewfinder
  • video shooting in Full HD format at 60 frames per second
  • 4K-video with the ability to save a still picture
  • dust and waterproof construction
  • excellent build quality
  • selecting the autofocus area using the touch screen
  • awesome battery life
  • thoughtful ergonomics
  • ability to work with two memory cards
  • silent shooting in Live View mode

✕ What you might not like about it:

  • no built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
  • there is no focus peaking or Log Gamma profiles

Best Sports Photography Lens to Buy with Nikon D5

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.

Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM Lens for Canon

The Best DSLR for Sports Photography in 2021

Nikon D5 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.

  Back To Menu

Best Action Cameras for Extreme Sports 2021

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/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.


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 Action Cam FDR-X3000R Wi-Fi GPS 4K HD Video Camera Camcorder & Remote + Mounts + 64GB Card + Battery/Charger + Shooting Grip + Tripod + Case Kit

Sony FDR X3000R

Quick Specs:

  • 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.

==> Click here to check the exact price on Amazon.

Best Bang for Your Buck 4K Action Camera

COOAU 4K 20MP Wi-Fi Action Camera External Microphone Remote Control EIS Stabilization Underwater 40M Waterproof Sport Camera Time Lapse with 2X1200mAh Batteries and 20 Accessories


Quick Specs:

  • 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:

… 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.

==> Click here to check the exact price on Amazon.

Ideal Action Cam for Water Sports

APEMAN Action Camera 4K 20MP WiFi Ultra HD Underwater Waterproof 40M Sports Camcorder with 170 Degree EIS Sony Sensor, 2 Upgraded Batteries, Portable Carrying Bag and 24 Mounting Accessories Kits

Apeman A80

Quick Specs:

  • 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!

==> Click here to check the exact price on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What cameras are used for sports?

While you can use both crop and full-frame sensor bodies, when it comes to action shots you need fast focusing and high frame rate. The most popular cameras among professional sports photographers are Nikon D5, Canon EOS 1D X Mark II and Sony a9.

Q: What type of lens is best for sports photography?

As a rule you need a lens with a long focal length for sports shots. A telephoto lens that falls into the 300-400mm range would be ideal. You’ll also need a fast lens, for example the one that offers an f/2.8 or lower speed. Lastly, your sports lens should autofocus fast. If you’re a Canon user, consider USM lenses; if you’re a Nikon user, choose silent wave motor (SWM) ones.

Q: What is the best shutter speed for action shots?

First of all, set your camera to Shutter Priority mode. Next, using 1/500 of a second would be a good starting point for most sports events. To stop the motion of even faster moving objects, you might need to go up to 1/1000 of a second (which what most pro sports photographers use). At night time however you’d also have to compromise by increasing your ISO values.

Q: How many FPS do you need for sports photography?

Sports photography can be so demanding. Since it’s usually a fast-paced activity, capturing that perfect moment can be challenging, especially if you don’t have the right gears and don’t employ the right camera settings. One wrong push of the shutter button at a crucial time would only end up in a wasted opportunity.

There are a lot of factors to consider to ensure that you get that perfect shot in action photography. Among the most important ones is FPS. The frame rate per second is very significant in getting the most out of the experience. Having a camera that only has 5 fps does not guarantee a great shot.

Ideally, the higher the fps, the better. For benchmark purposes, it’s safe to invest in a camera with at least 6 to 10 fps continuous burst rate if you want to photograph sports events.

Q: How do I get my sports pictures sharp?

Your camera and lenses can only take you so far with respect to sports photography. What really matters is how well you set it up to conform with the activity you want to cover. Here are some easy steps you need to keep in mind before pressing down that shutter button:

  • Set your camera to Shutter Priority mode

This is very important if you want to capture the moment (for fast-paced activities). This setting will allow you to control the shutter speed on your own (manually), while the rest of the settings are handled by the camera itself. Once you have it on this setting, you can now control how fast you want the shutter speed should be.

  • Setting shutter speed at 1/1000

If you want to freeze action in pictures (especially in sports photography), you need to set it to the maximum shutter speed your camera can provide. This way, there are more chances of getting that special shot in frame.

  • Changing focus mode

You can set your shutter speed at the highest number and still not get the picture you want. That’s because you also need to consider changing the focus mode of your camera. As much as possible, set it to continuous focus mode, or AI-SERVO in some cameras. This will allow your gear to follow your subject and keep it in focus despite the fast shutter speed.

  • Set to high speed continuous shooting mode

This will allow you to hold down the shutter button and capture several burst photos in the process.

  • Change focus point

This last step is also crucial. Make sure you change your focus point so that your subject remains in focus all throughout the frames.

Q: Do sports photographers use Autofocus?

Yes. Almost all photographers use autofocus at one point. But with sports photographers, this is a very common scenario. Since the activity happens quickly, you won’t have much time to adjust focus manually on your camera, more so when doing burst shots.

Q: Manual vs Autofocus in sports photography

When it comes to photography, it’s always a matter of personal preference. Some of you might be comfortable using your camera’s AF system, while others want to manually set up the focus for better photos. Whichever you choose between the two, it’s definitely fine. There’s no right or wrong answer to this one.

I just want to stress out some points about these two settings.

Manual Focus

Here are some of the advantages of using manual focus:

  • Manual focus tend to give you more freedom

Although most AF systems are accurate, there are times when you wish you could have just manually set the focus for that particular photo. It allows you to zone focus on areas you want to pop. If you want the subject at the backmost part of the frame to be sharper, you can do just that with manual focus.

  • Manual focusing is better in low light conditions

There is no arguing over this one. It’s true that manual focus works better during night time. You can freely choose which zones you want to focus on and not rely on auto detection of subject which is hard during the night.


There are also great points about relying on AF systems, and to name a few:

  • Autofocus are faster

In genres like sports photography, you need to keep up with the moving subjects if you want to get decent photos. And setting your camera to Autofocus mode will help you greatly with that. The camera’s AF system keeps track of your subject and gets it in focus even during burst shots.

Q: What is the Best ISO for Sports Photography?

The ISO sensitivity range of a camera will determine how well it performs in low- and high-light conditions. If you plan on shooting in low-light conditions, you need a high ISO setting. For shooting in the dark, you need maximum ISO. For shooting on bright and sunny days, a lower ISO setting will do because there is plenty of light for the camera to use.

Therefore, there is no best ISO level for sports photography. The ISO setting should depend on how much ambient light is available. For instance, for a very bright and sunny day, an ISO of 400 or even lower will do because there’s more than enough light.

However, on a dark and cloudy day, you will need to increase the ISO so that your camera can take in more light through its sensor, with an ISO level between 800 and 1,200 usually being ideal.

For very dark days or sports being played at dusk or even at night, you may want to increase that ISO up to 1,600 or even higher. As you can see, there is no best ISO setting for this, as it depends on your subject’s surroundings. On a side note, to maintain an excellent continuous shooting rate, keep the ISO on the lower end of the spectrum.

Q: Can Any Camera be used for Sports Photography?

Technically speaking, you can use any camera you want for sports photography, but that said, certain camera types will come with limitations. When it comes to fast action shots and maintaining clarity, a DSLR camera is your best bet.

While mirrorless cameras are fine, their autofocus capabilities are usually nowhere near what a DSLR camera can do. DSLR cameras often have more autofocus points, and they work faster.

Taking action shots with a mirrorless camera can result in blurriness. However, if we talk about taking videos, then a mirrorless camera is the better bet.

Although some people don’t like point-and-shoot cameras due to their somewhat limited features and capabilities in terms of customization and changing settings, the fact is that they actually excel at this type of photography.

Point-and-shoot cameras are designed to autofocus really fast, removing the need for you to manually focus before each shot. This makes it perfect for sports photography.

Q: Which Camera is Better for Action Sports Nikon or Canon?

This is a very subjective question that doesn’t have one correct answer. This really depends on how much money you spend. Both brands have comparable high-end and low-end models.

The high-end cameras all perform exceptionally well, so it comes down to personal preference. Depending on who you ask, some people like Nikon more and some Canon.

Both brands produce very high-end professional-level sports photography cameras that work perfectly fine.

Choosing the Right Camera for Sports Photography

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 conditions.

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.

A Few Tips on Taking Better Action Shots

In here, I’d like to share a few basic tips.

1) Preparation

Prepare for the sports event. Learn about the game and the players, get as much info as you can so that on the field you are fully ready.

2) Find your style

I know I know, everyone says this but it’s true. Sports photographers are always alert and find ways to get that shot taken. They often try to predict the moment and that’s why they happen to be “in the right place at the right time”.

3) Position

The position you take directly depends on the type of sports you’re shooting and how you plan to shoot it. Try to find a convenient spot and take note of lighting. Also, having knee pads will certainly help!

4) Background

Background determines how good your image is. Pay attention to it and try to take shots of players with abstract background. If you don’t want posters to grab attention, what you can do is open up aperture to create a bokeh effect.

5) Choose the right shutter speed

Many beginners make the mistake of using the fast shutter speed. This way racing cars, for example, will look as they are standing still.

If you shoot fast-moving subjects at a speed of 1/2000 sec, then you won’t be able to picture the movement. Try using a slower shutter speed of 1/15-1/60 (depending on sports) and this way you’ll be able to add more dynamic to your photos.

6) Autofocus modes

It’s critical to understand that when your subject is moving, you need to adjust autofocus so that your camera understands that it needs to constantly follow the scene you’re shooting. Turn on the tracking focus.

(Read the manual instructions/guide if needed.) 


There’s a lot to cover, especially depending on what exactly you’re shooting. You can also have a look at my article on sports photography tips (even if you are a beginner).

Choosing the Right Gear for Sports Photos

5 Best Sports Cameras with The Best Lenses for Sports Photography (2021)
75.0mm · ƒ/7.1 · 1/100s · ISO 250

All of the aforementioned products are absolutely great, whether you are looking for a digital camera under $1000 or under the $5000 price tag.

In fact, all of them are used by professional photographers and it shows that the quality really is top-notch (especially Sony a9 and Nikon D5).

And all the lenses 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.

Sports Photography Cameras: Thoughts?

As you can from the comments below, I LOVE hearing from you!

So, leave your questions on the best cameras for sports photography for 2021 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! 

Click here to jump straight to the comment form.

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