As a photojournalist, I’ve done a lot of sports photography. In fact, most of my Arizona Newspapers Association awards are in sports photography. It’s fun.
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My recommendations are unbiased as none of these companies pay me to recommend their products. I’ve taken the time to cut through what’s out there and made recommendations based on my experience. If I haven’t used it, I’ll state as such.
Nikon D4s ($5,996) – Lens Shark’s pick!
With its 11 fps burst rate, fast EXPEED 4 processor, 51-point AF system and high ISO capability, this is the sports body you want if you’re a Nikon shooter. In fact, this is the camera body I shoot with.
Canon 1DX ($5,299) – Lens Shark’s pick!
At 12 fps, two DIGIC 5+ image processors, high ISO range and a stunning 61-point AF system with it’s own, dedicated DIGIC 4 processor, one could argue that this is THE sports body king of the hill.
70mm-200mm f/2.8 – a sports shooter’s bread and butter lens – Lens Shark’s pick!
Most sports shooters own this lens and for very good reason…in most circumstances, and in most sports, you’re going to cover quite a bit of the field of play in this focal range.
Where it falls short is in sports which quickly move about the field such as soccer, lacrosse, etc. In those cases, a lens with a lot more reach in the 300mm range and higher will greatly help.
If you look on the sidelines of high school sporting events, THIS is the lens you’ll mostly see. Covet it for good reason. It’s a workhorse!
Since it’s sports you’re shooting, skip the IS/VR, etc. version and save hundreds. Stabilization is completely useless as it stabilizes YOU…not the action you’re shooting. In fact, it’ll cause you to miss shots as stabilization has to kick in first. You can actually hear/feel that happening.
Not all manufactures have both versions though. That alone may be a reason to consider going Canon as Nikon doesn’t yet have a non-stablized version.
Nikon – $2,396
Canon – $2,099
Sony A – $2,998
Canon – $1,349
* no offerings from Nikon or Sony.
f/4 versions of the 70-200mm
Save hundreds and lose just one-stop of light!
The f/4 versions are a great value. You’ll lose one-stop of light, but with cameras gaining higher ISOs with each new model, an f/4 version is a very wise choice and will save you quite a bit of money.
Nikon – $1,396
Canon – $1,199
Sony A – $1,498
Canon – $649
* no offerings from Nikon or Sony.
Super-telephoto and zoom lenses
If money is no object and you want the lenses pro sports photographers use, the rarified air of this section is for you. None of these lenses will make you a better sports photographer. That takes practice. What they will do however is a) bring the action closer to you, b) help throw the background out of focus and c) make you look really cool on the sidelines (hey, some people buy big glass just for this reason).
Nikon – $5,719
Canon – $6,099
Sony A – $7,367
Olympus – $6,499
400mm f/2.8 – Lens Shark’s pick!
Nikon – $11,996
Canon – $9,999
Nikon – $8,295
Canon – $8,999
Sony A – $12,999
Nikon – $9,299
Canon – $11,499
Nikon – $17,896
Canon – $12,999
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM – Lens Shark’s pick!
I own this great lens and love it!
For Nikon – $3,599
For Canon – $3,599
Nikon – $6,249
Canon – $10,999
Ok, so you’ve lost your mind and would rather buy a $25,999 lens than a car or pay for your kids’ college…
The Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 APO EX DG Ultra-Telephoto (aka “The Sigmonster”)
For Nikon – $25,999
For Canon – $25,999