For sports photography, you’ll need a camera with a high maximum shutter speed (much faster than 1/1000th of a second on consumer-level digital cameras) to really stop the action, high frame rates (like 10 frames per second) to increase your chances of catching that perfect moment, and a fast autofocus system that uses phase detection to help keep your subject in focus.
Of course, these characteristics are just the basics that you’ll want to look for in the best camera for sports photography. Fortunately, there are a lot of DSLR and mirrorless camera systems that offer these—and more. Check out our short but well-curated list of great cameras for sports photography.
Canon EOS 1DX Mark II
Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned sports photographer, these premium models from the most popular camera manufacturers will allow you to freeze and get in on the action.
The Canon EOS 1DX Mark II is a powerful imaging workhorse that works great for different kinds of photography. It may not be the best in terms of image resolution, but only because it prioritizes speed — a whopping 14 frames per second or 16 when shooting in Live View mode.
Backing up the incredibly fast drive rate (the fastest on this list, no less) is a 61-point AF system with improved subject tracking, as well as an impressive low-light performance even at very high ISO settings. It’s definitely one of the best pro-level DSLRs that you can find on the market, whether you’re shooting sports or wildlife.
Sony a7R II
The Sony Alpha a7R II is a very popular mirrorless camera that proudly features some of today’s most advanced imaging technologies. It boasts a 42.4-megapixel full-frame (35mm) Exmor R CMOS sensor and the brand’s powerful BIONZ X image processor to produce high-resolution photos and ultra HD 4K videos at 30p. It even has 399 phase detection AF points to ensure lightning-fast autofocus performance.
You might have second thoughts because of its burst mode of up to 5 frames per second, but with its exceptional autofocus system, advanced tracking system, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, and tilting touchscreen LCD, there’s a higher chance of you capturing that winning shot within just a few frames.
The lightweight and compact body is also weather sealed, so you don’t have to worry about traveling and shooting in harsh outdoor conditions.
The Nikon D500 is known as the brand’s most versatile camera, and many of its well-rounded features are suitable for sports photography. You have a 153-Point AF system, a max continuous shooting rate of 10fps, and an expanded ISO sensitivity range that makes shooting in enclosed stadiums easier.
With its superior APS-C sensor, it can produce more “zoomed in” shots with the longest telephoto lenses so you can capture those winning touchdowns without including too many elements in the background. It can even produce ultra HD 4K videos at 30fps, in case you want to capture some live footage, and share your photos directly online with its built-in Wi-Fi capability.
Sony Alpha a7 III
The a7 III is an entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera by Sony, but it features pro-level DSLR features — minus the bulk. Its 24-megapixel full-frame sensor is even better than many DSLRs, plus it has up to 693 phase detection AF points, a maximum continuous shooting rate of 10 frames per second, and 5-axis in-body stabilization to help make shooting highly detailed action shots easy even in dimly-lit stadiums.
This mirrorless system may not be the best for professionals, especially since its body is not optimized for use with super telephoto lenses, but it’s a premium choice for traveling and aspiring sports photographers who don’t necessarily want to break the bank.
The Nikon D5 is a high-end DSLR that is optimized for action and sports photography. Nikon’s top-flight professional camera for fast-paced action, it sacrifices megapixels for the ability to focus with lightning speed and shoot up to 14 frames per second.
It features a built-in vertical grip that makes handling and shooting in portrait orientation easier, as well as accommodate a bigger battery that can last up to 3,780 shots per charge. The large, high-pixel LCD monitor provides ease of use, should you decide to shoot video.