Sports photography is a gear-heavy genre. It would help to have the right lens and camera to shoot great images. At the minimum, you need a good camera and a fast medium telephoto lens to reach close enough to the action and to shoot some exciting pictures. This discussion will look for the best camera for sports photography for beginners. Later, we’ll discuss the best lenses according to popular mounts. Check out this discussion if you want general ideas on which camera to buy.
Before diving right in, consider buying the best sports photography camera. What constitutes a good camera for sports photography? A camera must have a fast and accurate autofocusing feature, excellent subject tracking features, and a fast continuous shooting speed (high frame rate) to be considered suitable for sports photography. Ideally, the camera should have twin memory card slots with at least one slot compatible with CFexpress cards.
Decent build quality is also necessary as sports photographers often spend time exposed to the elements. Ideally, the camera should have some degree of weather sealing. Low-light performance is also an important parameter, especially for shooting indoor sports. With DSLRs fast becoming obsolete, there are not too many mid-range best DSLR cameras that we have as options. Except for the likes of the Nikon D500.
Importance of Choosing the Right Camera
Selecting the right camera is vital for sports photography beginners as it directly impacts the quality of the images you capture. A camera with advanced features designed for sports photography will enable you to freeze fast-paced action, capture details, and create impactful shots. It allows you to focus on the game without worrying about technical limitations.
Choosing the suitable mount for existing photographers
If you’re already a Canon user and have some Canon lenses, migrating to the EOS RF mount and investing in a mirrorless camera makes sense. Ditto for someone who has been shooting with a Nikon F mount camera and wants to move to the Nikon Z mount. You already have the lenses. All you need is the correct adapter, and you can use all your existing legacy lenses on the new mount.
You may enjoy reading Best Beginner Cameras for Nature and Wildlife Photography
Choosing the suitable mount for first-time camera buyers
Nikon, Canon, and Sony are the industry’s three largest digital camera manufacturers. Though not in that order. If you don’t have a brand fascination, you can choose either of the three makes, and you would be fine. But beyond them, there are a bunch of great cameras made by brands other than the ‘Big Three.’ Fujifilm is one of them, and so is OM System.
Among the five cameras I have shortlisted for this discussion, I pick the Nikon Z6 II and the Fujifilm X-H2S as my number one and two picks for the best sports camera. The Nikon Z6 II has the most potential considering that the Canon EOS R7 and the EOS R10 are limited in native lenses. Nevertheless, both Canon’s are fantastic cameras. The EOS R10 is a perfect entry-level camera that can shoot excellent images and is pocket friendly for the beginner sports photographer.
The EOS R7 shoots at 15 fps with the mechanical shutter compared to 14 with the Nikon Z6 II. Also, the EOS R7 is lighter weight. But the Nikon Z6 II comes with the all-important telephoto lenses that you can use immediately for sports (and wildlife photography). The Fujifilm X-H2S is a strong contender with excellent features, build quality, and handling. It also has excellent performance to back up the build quality and specs.
5 Best Cameras for Sports Photography Beginners
For an APS-C camera, this mirrorless RF mount camera offers a perfect combination of features and performance that should blow your mind away. With an APS-C sensor that churns out 32.5 effective megapixels and a mechanical shutter that fires up to 15 frames per second at 224 frames before the buffer overruns, this camera works in all kinds of situations. The system has an electronic shutter mechanism that produces 30 frames per second. The Canon EOS R7 has the latest Canon Dual-Pixel CMOS autofocusing technology version.
The electronic shutter offers a blindingly fast rate of 30 frames per second. This excellent camera allows you to use inbuilt image stabilization and combine many legacy EF and EF-S lenses to work with the camera (with an adapter). Body image stabilization helps you to stabilize your shots. In-body stabilization is rated at up to 7 stops.
In-body stabilization is the advantage of modern mirrorless system cameras. If you’re an existing Canon user and have used a mid-range Canon camera, you will realize that none of the Canon mid-range DSLRs have body-based image stabilization.
One thing that does not go in favor of the Canon EOS R7 is the electronic viewfinder. The 2.36-M dots resolution is nowhere near the likes of the Fujifilm X-H2S. This is a significant setback for the EOS R7, which aims at becoming a great option for wildlife and sports shooters.
The only problem is that body image stabilization sometimes does not work with the image stabilization in older legacy EF and EF-S lenses. And because there are not too many RF-S lenses now, you must use either the older legacy lenses via an adapter or the RF lenses. I feel that using the RF lenses makes more sense to circumvent the problem of autofocusing, image stabilization, and a continuous shooting speed compatibility issues with legacy lenses.
The camera features an excellent weather-sealed construction. This feature is a must-have feature for sports photographers, people who routinely brave the elements to capture the best shots.
Also helping the fast shooting prowess of the camera are the twin card slots, both supporting UHS-II cards. But in practicality, we would have loved to see a CFexpress slot that would have allowed the camera to clear the buffer even quicker than it does now.
An exciting feature of the EOS R7 is the combined control wheel and joystick many users have liked and others have hated. The hybrid control system aims to quicken some of the camera’s control functions. But for existing Canon users, this could take some time to get used to.
One of the things that may interfere with your buying decision is that at the time of writing this, only three Canon RF-S lenses are available in the market. Sure, you can use any of the RF lenses (Canon’s full-frame mirrorless mount) because they’re mountable on smaller APS-C cameras, but they’re not optimized for the smaller image circle of APS-C cameras. I am sure this is just a temporary matter, and Canon will launch some more RF-S lenses in the future.
You can use some of the older legacy APS-C EF-S lenses using the EF-RF adapter, and that’s one way to counter this problem, especially if you’re an existing Canon user and have some legacy lenses to use with your new EOS R7.
One thing, though, Canon’s other mirrorless line-up, the EOS M series lenses, don’t work with the RF mount. There is no OEM adapter either that lets you mount these lenses onto the EOS R series cameras. This is undoubtedly one way of saying goodbye to the EOS M series cameras and lenses, as they’re no longer a part of the future.
The Fujifilm X-H2S is a mirrorless camera powered by an APS-C X-Trans stacked BSI sensor. The camera churns out an effective 26.1-MP with many still and video features. I have shortlisted the camera primarily for its sports and fast-action photography capabilities. So, I would limit myself to those features only.
The Fujifilm X-H2S isn’t one of the inexpensive cameras, and for a beginner, the camera’s price tag will be pinching. But if you’re looking for a camera body that will last your learning curve and continue to serve you long after, the Fujifilm X-H2S is a solid pick.
Fujifilm has ditched the familiar dials and buttons that are popular with users who love the Fujifilm-style dials. Instead, the X-H2S, Fujifilm, has used the more traditional PASM dial. If you’re coming from a non-Fuji make and using the X-H2S for the first time, you will like the layout and style of the dials and buttons. If, on the other hand, you’re an existing Fujifilm user, you’re in for a shock, as many of the retro-styled buttons and dials are now missing on the X-H2S. Incidentally, the PASM dial comes with seven custom modes. However, Fujifilm hasn’t provided any drive modes on the camera to switch between each of these modes quickly.
The new AF joystick is among the many subtle changes to the back of the camera compared to a traditional Fujifilm X-T camera. This one is bigger than we have seen before with other Fujifilm X-T series cameras. Some users have complained that this joystick takes some effort to work with. Others have mentioned that it’s perfectly fine. We feel this is purely subjective.
The electronic viewfinder at the back of the camera comes with 5.760-M dots and is easily one of the best EVFs in the market. It offers a 0.8x magnification and 120 fps refresh rate for a lag-free view of what the camera is seeing. This is a significant improvement over the current crop of X-T series cameras.
The power that the camera generates comes primarily from the stacked sensor design. This design ensures that the Fujifilm X-H2S can produce such fast read-outs. Also, the stacked design reduces the effects of the rolling shutter. The BSI architecture helps produce excellent picture quality even in low-light situations. Additionally, the X-Trans sensor is instrumental in suppressing the effects of moiré and helps produce better colors.
The fast continuous shooting speed of the camera can churn out up to 40 frames using the electronic shutter speed. When using a CFexpress card, the camera can maintain that speed for three seconds. There is no viewfinder blackout, and the camera continues with full autofocusing and autoexposure while churning out that huge number of frames.
With the mechanical shutter, the camera can fire 15 frames per second. Buffer capacity when using the electronic shutter is 140 consecutive RAW frames. When using the mechanical shutter buffer shoots up to 1000 RAW frames. In other words, with the mechanical shutter, you can shoot for as long as the memory card lasts. This is good news for professional sports photographers and amateurs alike.
The Fujifilm X-H2S features a 7-stop body-based image stabilization system. This comes in handy when you’re shooting hand-held and firing continuous frames.
Autofocusing on the Fujifilm X-H2S is powered by 425 phase-detection points. The system is powered by deep learning AI technology that uses an adaptive algorithm to identify and track a host of moving subjects. It can detect and track humans, animals, and birds and detect and track cars, motorcycles, planes, and even trains! The system will work as expected if you’ve selected the correct mode in the menu.
You may enjoy reading Best Cameras for Photojournalism
During actual tests, the camera detected human faces and eyes (the camera can also detect the human eye) without issues most of the time. In the little testing we have done with dogs, the camera picked up the eyes and could lock onto them without issues.
The things that we haven’t tested are fast-moving subjects like cars and airplanes. However, many online reviews suggest that autofocus tracking detects and tracks those vehicles without issues.
During tests, we noticed that the X-H2S is similar to the previous generation X-T4 in autofocusing, placing this camera slightly lower on the scale than rival cameras.
The Nikon D500 is widely considered one of the best semi-professional DSLRs that Nikon has made in recent years. It combines a crop sensor body with a fast continuous shooting speed designed for fast action and sports photography. In many ways, the D500 is a mini-D5 camera that the D500 was launched with.
It uses a similar resolution sensor, a fast continuous shooting speed, exceptional autofocusing, excellent build quality, and image quality. The D500, when it was launched, rejuvenated the DX-format camera system in the Nikon stable and the entire APS-C camera segment with it.
Interestingly Nikon does not categorize the D500 as a professional camera and places it in the same bracket as some of the other prosumer cameras, such as the D7200 and the D7500.
The major USP of the camera is undoubtedly the fast ten fps continuous shooting speed and the deep buffer that comes with it. It’s undoubtedly a fast camera that entry-level sports photographers will love using.
A fast frame rate is nothing unless a sizeable buffer backs it up. And in that regard, the D500 comes with a deep buffer of 200 frames. If you time your shots (giving enough time for the buffer to clear when shooting and timing your shots, so they’re fired at the precise moment when the action happens), it practically means an unending supply of frames.
And speaking of fast continuous shooting speed and the deep buffer, you need something else with it. That would be the camera’s capability to use twin memory card slots. The D500 can use two, and one uses a CFexpress card. That ensures that the camera can clear the buffer faster.
The D500 is often compared with another excellent camera in the Nikon APS-C line-up – the D7500. There are a few critical differences between the D500 and the D7500. One of them is that the D7500 does not come with an XQD/CFexpress card slot. This means the D500 is the faster camera of the two. Also, the D7500’s buffer is nowhere near that of the D500. Also, the D500 has the better continuous frame rate of the two cameras.
This 20.9-MP APS-C sensor-powered camera is excellent whether you’re a beginner sports and wildlife enthusiast or a full-frame user looking for a camera that offers excellent frame rate, superb handling, and robust build quality in a smaller crop body.
There are many subtle features in the D500 which are not apparent unless you pick it up and start firing a few frames. For one, the D500 shares the same autofocusing system as the D5. And that speaks volumes about the D500’s autofocusing system and its capabilities.
As a sports photographer, the last thing you want is your autofocusing system failing to keep up as a subject moves past the camera. It’s the worst feeling when you can see opportunities for excellent images going past you, and you cannot do anything about it as the autofocusing system of your camera goes into a perpetual hiccup mode.
With the D500, everything changes. Using the same Multi-Cam 20K autofocusing system as the D5, the D500 performs blazingly fast when tracking subjects. Even when working in low light, autofocusing still performs without issues.
Many sporting events you would be shooting would be poorly lit; in this situation, the camera will not dissatisfy you with its performance. Pair the D500 with the fastest telephoto lens for the best result.
One thing that many sports photographers worry about when shooting sports photography is the low-light dynamic range. With the D500, the usable ISO range has been beefed up. That said, I don’t recommend testing the limits of this camera in the low-light situation. Though this camera has the exact resolution as the D5 and the same sensor architecture as the bigger camera, one is a full-frame sensor camera, and the other is the APS-C sensor. Therefore the pixels are more tightly packed on the D500 than on the D5. Resultantly, the two cameras will have some differences in low-light performance.
With reasonable ISO levels, the dynamic range of your shots is excellent. There is much room for you to push and pull your exposures, adjust the brightness levels, and ensure that your images look good.
The Nikon Z6 II is the successor to the very popular Nikon Z6. The Mark II of this powerful and versatile camera is built around a 24.5-MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor and is paired with dual EXPEED 6 image processors. Of course, the new camera now boasts more power and better features.
The older model has a single EXPEED 6 image processor. The new camera comes with Dual EXPEED 6 image processors.
One of the primary reasons I have shortlisted this Best camera for Sports Photography as one of the best sports photography cameras is its fast continuous shooting speed of 14 fps. Continuous shooting speed has improved from the older camera, which shot at 12 fps ‘only.’
The Mark II can shoot 124 consecutive frames before the buffer overruns. This is a massive jump over the buffer capacity of Mark 1. For someone looking to shoot sports photography, this is excellent news. Although when compared to the Canon EOS R7, the Nikon D500 buffer isn’t that high. Both the Canon EOS R7 and the Nikon D500 shoot at a frame rate that’s 200 or more.
Additionally, the camera has a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system. This comes in handy when working with compatible lenses. Compatible lenses include Z-mount lenses with which the camera offers up to five stops of image shake correction. The camera offers up to three stops of image shake correction with older F-mount legacy lenses. It would help if you used the FTZ adapter when using legacy F-mount lenses.
One of the essential improvements in the Mark II camera is the presence of Eye and Face tracking in the Wide area AF mode. Earlier, this was available only in the Auto and the Area AF modes. This is particularly useful when you’re tracking an athlete. This feature will ensure you can identify the area the camera can look for a face. This ensures a faster focus lock and better overall autofocusing performance.
In real-life situations, the Z6 II offers excellent subject tracking. The Mark II has improved over the older camera when shooting moving and tracking subjects.
The new EVF has a much better refresh rate than the older Mark I. speaking of the viewfinder; it comes with fluorine coating. Fluorine coating ensures it’s easy to clean the viewfinder of dust and fingerprints.
A critical feature that not many people talk about is the battery life of a camera. Mirrorless cameras will always lose out to DSLRs regarding battery life, and the Z6 Mark II isn’t different. Yes, you can always pack extra batteries, but the extra juice your camera battery can provide makes a lot of difference during critical moments. The Mark II uses the new N-EL15c battery. This battery offers 20% more juice when shooting. In real life, 400 to 450 shots per full charge are possible, depending on where you use the LCD screen or the viewfinder. With the viewfinder, the number of shots tends to drop.
Regarding image quality, the Z6 Mark II produces very crisp images, and the colors are excellent, warm, and tonal range. The low light noise reduction feature built into the camera is decent. However, I wouldn’t say I like that the camera tends to overapply the sharpening adjustments, which can appear a tad over the top for the trained eye.
The older Mark I had a single memory card slot. Although that card slot was compatible with CF Express cards, a second one was missed. The new Mark II comes with that second card slot. Though this one only accepts SD cards compatible with UHS-II, the new slot will allow photographers to back up their images. The primary slot for high-speed continuous shooting will remain compatible with CF Express cards.
One of the features of the Z6 Mark II is the dual-gain sensor inherited from the older Mark I camera. This means at higher ISO; the camera produces lower noise.
If we nitpick, one thing we miss is that the Z6 II does not have more customizable buttons at the back of the camera. Even then, if you use one of the custom buttons to use the “Live view info display off,” you already lose out on one more custom button.
The Canon EOS R10 is an entry-level mirrorless camera from the Canon stable. There are many reasons why this camera is being touted as one of the best cameras for entry-level photographers. It has a little bit of everything for every kind of photographer. And if you’re a beginner sports photographer, you would like the package at the price point at it’s sold.
The EOS R10 is powered by an APS-C CMOS sensor churning out an effective 24.2-MP. The image processor is the same as on the EOS R3, Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera. The DIGIC X image processor is capable of performing several high-speed functions. We’ll come to that later in this mini-review.
In terms of design, the EOS R10 is small and functional. I love the deep hand grip that allows a good solid grip when holding the camera. The top panel is very cluttered, whereas the back of the camera is very clean. I wouldn’t say I like the positioning of the AF point selection button and the AE lock button, which are almost on the right edge, and you could accidentally press them when operating your camera.
One of the significant disadvantages of this lens is that it misses out on in-body image stabilization when shooting stills. You get a version of digital image stabilization when shooting videos, but that’s not our concern for this discussion (I mean videos).
Another disadvantage of the camera is its single memory card slot. Nevertheless, the slot is UHS-II compliant. When asking for twin memory card slots or CFexpress card compatibility, we ask for too much for an entry-level camera like this.
High-speed burst shooting is what the EOS R10 does very well, and that’s one of the primary reasons we have shortlisted the EOS R10 as a great choice for this review. The EOS R10 fires up to 23 fps when using the electronic shutter. Using the mechanical shutter, the camera can fire at 15 fps.
Autofocusing on the EOS R10 is powered by Canon’s latest Dual Pixel CMOS AF II. This is the same autofocusing system used on the EOS R3. The system features 651 automatic phase-detection AF points covering the whole frame, allowing the photographer to choose precisely where to focus.
The system is powerful enough to detect a host of subjects, including animals, humans, and even vehicles tracking them and focusing on them with sharp results. This tracking system makes tracking an athlete, a vehicle, or an animal much easier. This system is very robust and is one of the reasons why we have shortlisted the EOS R10 in this segment of the best camera for sports photography. There are very few options for a good sports camera in this price range, and the EOS R10 fits many of the boxes.
The viewfinder on the EOS R10 isn’t the camera’s best feature. It’s minimal and comes with a 0.59x magnification. This will affect your shooting ability, especially when working in tight situations.
Factors to Consider
When choosing the Best Cameras for Sports Photography, several factors should be taken into account:
1. Fast Continuous Shooting Speeds
Sports photography demands cameras with high continuous shooting speeds. Look for cameras that offer at least 5 frames per second (fps) or more to capture the fast movements with precision.
2. Autofocus Performance
Accurate and fast autofocus is crucial in sports photography. Look for cameras with advanced autofocus systems that track subjects accurately, allowing you to capture sharp images even when the subject is in motion.
3. ISO Range and Low-Light Performance
Sports events often take place in challenging lighting conditions, such as indoor arenas or during evening games. A camera with a wide ISO range and excellent low-light performance will enable you to capture well-exposed images without excessive noise.
4. Ergonomics and Handling
Sports photography requires a camera that feels comfortable and allows for easy access to essential controls. Consider the ergonomics and handling of the camera, ensuring that it fits well in your hands and provides quick access to settings.
5. Lens Compatibility
The camera you choose should have a wide selection of compatible lenses available, as different sports may require different focal lengths. Having access to a variety of lenses allows you to adapt to different shooting situations and capture diverse perspectives.
You may enjoy reading What is ISO in photography
What is burst shooting?
Burst shooting refers to the ability of a camera to capture multiple frames per second continuously. It allows you to capture a series of shots in quick succession, increasing the chances of capturing the perfect moment in sports photography.
Can I use a smartphone for sports photography?
While smartphones have improved their camera capabilities, they are not ideal for professional-level sports photography. Dedicated cameras offer better autofocus performance, faster continuous shooting speeds, and interchangeable lenses, providing more versatility and control.
Do I need a telephoto lens for sports photography?
Telephoto lenses are highly recommended for sports photography as they allow you to capture distant subjects and isolate athletes from the background. They offer the necessary reach and compression to bring the action closer, enhancing the visual impact of your images.
Are mirrorless cameras better than DSLRs for sports photography?
Both mirrorless cameras and DSLRs can excel in sports photography. Mirrorless cameras are known for their fast autofocus and high-speed shooting capabilities, while DSLRs offer robust build quality and longer battery life. Consider your specific needs and try out different options before making a decision.
Should I shoot in RAW or JPEG for sports photography?
Shooting in RAW format allows for greater flexibility in post-processing and retains more image details. It is recommended for sports photography as it allows you to correct exposure, adjust white balance, and recover highlights or shadows without significant loss of quality.
The Best Cameras for Sports Photography covered in this article are aimed at people who are at the start of their photography journey. We will cover camera reviews aimed at professional photographers in another article. Whatever you choose for your sports camera, please let us know what you went for and why, we love feedback and it helps us give better information in these articles.s
You may enjoy reading What is High Resolution in Photography?