Sports Photography Buying Guide

Kimmy Jo By Kimmy Jo - updated August 24th, 2020
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Today we're gearing up and taking a good look at the latest range of cameras and accessories from the popular in the Canon Store range, seeing which ones are the best for taking photos while at sports events. For most this will be for taking photos at our kids' local games, but the gear we'll be highlighting below is certainly good enough to capture professional shots too!

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned photographer, you really want to have the right gear for shooting sports. Capturing good sports shots can be difficult, and often takes years of practice before you start nailing those front-page worthy shots! Having inadequate gear will only hinder you, so really want to pay attention to your gear from the beginning.

With so many cameras and lenses to choose from, it can get overwhelming shopping for the right gear – especially if you’re just starting out. We’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of some of our top picks for sports photography!

Choosing a Camera

If you want to capture dramatic images, starting with a good camera body is important. When choosing a camera body for sports photography, you'll likely find yourself comparing Mirrorless and DSLR cameras. DSLRs have long been the go-to choice for sports due to their robust build, optical viewfinder, and long battery life, which is essential for capturing uninterrupted action. These cameras also typically offer faster autofocus systems, which are crucial when following fast-moving subjects.

On the other hand, Mirrorless cameras are gaining ground, offering advantages such as lighter weight, which can be an advantage during lengthy events. Their electronic viewfinders provide real-time exposure previews, and many mirrorless models now match or exceed the autofocus performance of DSLRs. Additionally, mirrorless cameras often have higher burst rates, making them ideal for capturing split-second moments.

If you've already got a mirrorless camera, that's certainly capable of getting the job done. However, DSLRs will still come out on top in most instances when it comes to sports photography. DSLRs have swift and dependable autofocus systems, optical viewfinders that provide real-time viewing without lag, and a longer battery life - all crucial for a sports photographer. Plus, you can typically acquire high-quality lenses for lower costs compared to newer mirrorless lenses, broadening your creative potential for less. 

Picture of a big canon camera at sports event
picture of crowd at sports event
Picture of epic dive for netball
Picture of epic bike stunt
Picture of epic kick

Choosing Camera Lenses

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is the ultimate sports lens — a favourite amongst many photographers! It delivers phenomenal image quality (and offers a very diffuse background blur), it’s super-fast and accurate, it is weather sealed, and it has an impressive build quality that can stand up to professional use. The 400mm focal length is perfect for on the field, and if you want to increase its reach, just add an extender! This is one of the longest f/2.8 focal lengths available!

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

When you’re running around shooting an intense sport match, you don’t always have time to swap out lenses for the perfect shot, so it’s worth having a good zoom lens on you for that extra versatility on the go too! The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is an extremely impressive telephoto zoom lens that excels in sports photography! This lens is great for capturing sports action happening closer to you – such as indoor sports, but is also just as appropriate out on the field too. You’ll see some sports photographers with this mounted on a monopod, and they’ll grab the camera with this lens as the action comes closer to the side lines. With the action so close, the focal length needed for the perfect shot can change rapidly, and this is what makes the zoom feature so handy!

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

For a wide-aperture sports lens, check out the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens. This ultra-wide zoom lens is a professional grade lens with fantastic weather-sealed build quality, fast and accurate autofocus, and amazing image quality — even wide open at f/2.8. This lens is a great choice for a remote camera, and for taking shots of an entire stadium or arena.

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4 Lens

For a more affordable / entry-level option, check out the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4 Lens. Despite the cheaper price point, you’ll still get pro-grade build quality, exceptional image quality, and fast and accurate auto focus!

Having a camera strap is great for those moment between the action
Having a camera strap is great for those moment between the action
Get a spare battery in your kit to keep to you powered up into overtime
Get a spare battery in your kit to keep to you powered up into overtime
A tripod or monopod helps to take photos from long ranges
A tripod or monopod helps to take photos from long ranges
Burst modes often benifit from having a very fast memory card
Burst modes often benifit from having a very fast memory card

Fast Memory Cards

When it comes to memory cards, not only do you want to make sure you have enough storage, but you also need a memory card that can keep up with the action. Choose cards with read and write speeds of at least 90M/Bs to help you nail those dramatic action shots, especially if you’ll be using continuous shooting mode. Some sports photographers also prefer shooting in JPEG, as the smaller file size processes in your camera faster. You’ll want to make sure you have multiple memory cards too, not just for extra space, but also for backup!

Batteries & Charger

Don’t let a flat battery stop you from capturing all of the action! First of all, you’ll want to make sure your batteries are fully charged when you show up to a sports event. But you should also ensure you’re carrying extra batteries with you just in case. This will keep you prepared for any contingencies. The last thing you’d want is to miss peak sports moments all because of a flat battery!

Tripod or Monopod

Enjoy better mobility so you can photograph fast-action shots better and prevent blurred images due to camera shake. Take the weight off your arms from carrying a long focal length lens for hours with a monopod. If you opt for a monopod, with only one leg to set up (instead of a tripod’s usual 3), it also gives you versatility in movement and enables panning, a shooting technique that follows a moving subject and captures it in action.

Camera straps & more accessories

If you’re shooting sports, you’re probably going to be running back and forth quite a bit. Considering how much you’ll be spending on your camera gear, you really want to make sure you’re doing what you can do avoid drops. Use a camera strap to prevent dropping your camera. Can’t hang the strap around your neck? Wrap it around your wrist instead.

Whether you sling it around your neck or waist, a strap keeps it close to your body, and away from the ground.

So there you have it - some of our top picks for camera equipment for sports photography. Shop the full range of cameras and accessories here, or check out some of the most popular in the Canon Store today! 

Written By

Kimmy Jo

Waiting for the day I can download food.

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