Which Camera Should You Choose for Sports Photography?

To ensure the quality of sports photos, in addition to technology, photographers need to use specialized equipment. So, you need to specify the PnS, pocket or superzoom models can’t capture beautiful sports photos. For DSLRs, for sports shooting, you must use high-end and professional models.

Select the camera

The first important factor when choosing a machine is the continuous shooting speed per second (FPS – Frame Per Second). The higher the speed, the faster it will allow you to capture and not miss any moments of the competition.

Next is Dynamic Range and ISO range also affects image quality. You should choose a device with a high Dynamic Range and a wide ISO range for good shooting in low light conditions.

Last but not least, you should choose a professional model for sports photography because they allow fast and accurate focusing. Canon 1D X is a perfect choice with a continuous shooting speed of 14 frames per second (JPEG) or 12 frames per second (RAW). This is the latest and fastest Canon DSLR model, equipped with extremely powerful DIGIC 5+ image processing chips. ISO range from 50 – 51,200, expanding up to 204,000, for very good processing performance. Nikon D3S is also capable of continuous shooting of 9 frames/sec with ISO range of 200 – 12800 and extending up to 102,400.

Choose a lens

When taking sports photos, you will encounter two cases: indoor and outdoor. With unstable and weak indoor lighting conditions, you need to choose a lens with a large aperture. When shooting outdoor competitions in the evening, you must also equip similar lenses.

The most suitable lenses usually have an aperture of f / 2.8 and a large focal range (200mm or more). Canon EF 70-200mm f / 2.8 L II IS USM is a lens suitable for indoor sports shooting. Canon EF 300mm f / 2.8 with a large focal range suitable for outdoor sports shooting. Reporters also use wide-angle lenses to capture moments near the goal in football matches.

Canon 18-55 f3.5-5.6

This is the standard lens that came with my Canon Digital Rebel.  There is also now available a USM version of this lens that comes with some cameras, so check what you get before you buy.  The USM version is the ring type so it does not have full time manual.  This is a decent little lens, and it’s actually quite handy so I keep it in my camera bag at all times.

This lens is all plastic and feels cheap in construction.  Because it has a standard focusing motor it also focuses slowly and is quite loud. The upside is that it is very light, and very cheap for a wide angle lens.

Being a fairly wide angle is one of the saving graces of this lens.  There are times I want to take wide angle shots, and this lens comes into its own.  An 18mm lens becomes roughly  28mm when you consider the 1.6 crop factor of current Canon digital SLR’s.

I actually did some sharpness tests with this lens at different f-stops.  The lens actually performed pretty well. It held it’s own with my 28-105 wide open, and the results of my copy were actually surprisingly close to my 50mm 1.8.  If you’re on a budget I would definitely get this with the body of your camera in a kit. If however you plan to buy the Canon Ultra Wides such as the 17-85, 17-40, or even 10-22 than you could skip this lens.  But for roughly $100 more than just a body it’s hard to skip.

Another thing to keep in mind is this is what Canon calls an EF-S lens.  Which means it won’t fit all Canon bodies, only those that can take EF-S lenses such as the Digital Rebel series and the 20D.  I have seen some modifications on the internet though where you can shave some of the plastic off and get a fairly decent and super cheap lens for your higher end bodies.  I’m not sure why someone would buy a $5000 body and use a low quality lens such as this though.

Still, it’s a great wide angle lens with just a hint of distortion at the wide end and something I would always recommend.

Canon 75-300 f/4.0-5.6 IS USM

This is a very interesting lens, because it doesn’t have the best reviews online and has been recently discontinued. It was actually the world’s first SLR lens with the Image Stabilizer feature built in.  For a first generation product I think this lens does exceptionally well, and it’s a lens I very much enjoy using.

The biggest selling features of this lens is easily its long zoom range, the IS capability, and the price. This lens is great for shooting sports outdoors, wildlife and even macro photos.  The 300mm reach is excellent for getting close up shots of action and wildlife without having to get too close.  One of my favorite shots (The flying Monarch Butterfly) was done with this lens.  I could not have gotten this shot with any other lens I use.  The 300mm reach allowed me to get the close-up while the Image Stabilizer meant there is very little blur in the photo due to my hand shaking while chasing around that butterfly.

This lens while it has the USM title is not actually a Full Canon USM lens, which means it isn’t quite is quick but it also means there is no Full Time Manual focusing. You will have to flip the switch on the lens from AF to MF before using the manual focus ring.  Other than that this lens is very solid in construction, and although it is heavy, relative to lenses of this zoom range it is fairly light.

Canon actually has a few different versions of this lens.  Starting from the cheapest in price, there is one with new USM features at all.  A lens which is the same as this except with out the IS, and this one with the IS.  Canon also has a new version out which has a wider range from 70-300, improved IS but still no true USM.

While most people find this lens not sharp enough or fast enough, I do like it. I was skeptical at first but quickly grew to love the images I captured with it. While it’s not as sharp as my other lenses, it captures images I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to capture.

Canon 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 II USM

This is another one of my favorite lenses, and one I’d highly recommend the new photographer or the enthusiast on a budget.  This is actually one of the cheapest Canon lenses that feature true Ring-Type USM focusing for excellent speed and silent operation.  If you have never tried one of Canon’s true USM lenses you’ll be in for a treat.  I use this lens with Canon’s EW-63II Lens hood.  It’s a little expensive, but it fits well and helps improve contrast and reduce annoying lens flare.

Another accessory I often use with this lens is Canon’s 58mm Close up Lens the 250D.  This is a screen on close up lens that produces some of the great macro photography you might have seen on this site.

Another feature of this lens is that the front element doesn’t rotate. Some of you might not be familiar with this feature or not understand why it would be important.  Well you might put a ND Grad filter or a circular polarizer on your lens to help with your picture.  When you focus if the front element of the lens rotates the filter will be out of position.  Because this is a true Canon USM lens, the focusing is all done internally which means your filters will stay in place properly.  I wish all my lenses were USM just because it’s so hard to use a circular polarizer on a lens that doesn’t have true USM.

This lens is very solidly constructed, and it makes a great walk around lens because it has good range, and isn’t too heavy. This is one of my favorite lenses to use because of the USM, weight, sharpness and range.  It is one of the most recommended consumer Lenses that Canon offers and a Lens I highly recommend.

 Focal Length   28-105mm
 Aperature  1:3.5-4.5
 Closest Focusing Distance
 Focus System
 Full Ring Type USM
 Filter Size
 Weight  375g

Canon 50mm 1.8 MkII

This is easily by far the best value of any EOS lens that Canon sells. I highly recommend this for ANY photographer, no matter what your subject of interest is. It is a prime les of 50mm which is in a fairly good range for portraits.  This is often the lens I use for close up portraits, and it’s also the lens I use in low light situations because the lens lets so much light in.

The Canon 50mm 1.8 can be found easily in Toronto under $150, and it is probably the sharpest lens under $500 Canadian.  It is such a classic focal range that is recommended by many people to learn photography with.  Shooting with a prime lens really forces you to focus on what you are doing and developing skills in composition.  I would have to say some of my best photos have been shot with this lens.

Some of the downsides to this lens is that it lacks Canon’s USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) for focusing which can make focus a little bit slow.  It is also fairly flimsy for a Canon lens so you have to be more careful when using it.  Because of the price, this lens also doesn’t have an ergonomic focusing ring as well as a lack of distance markers on the lens.  However, its sharpness and speed more than make up for that though.  It also happens to be Canon’s lightest EF mount lens.

If you have a larger budget, consider getting Canon’s famed 50mm f1.4 USM lens. It doesn’t really add sharpness or speed wide open, but it is much more solidly constructed including a metal mounting plate, and to me most important Full Time Manual USM.

 Focal Length   50mm
 Maximum Aperature
 Closest Focusing Distance
 Filter Size
 Weight  130g