Sports photography is a genre that operates with split second moments that define matches and contests. This means you need the right kit for the job, so we’ve pulled together ten great buys for those photographers who wish to improve their sport imagery…
Nikon’s flagship APS-C sensor DSLR is a speed machine, capable of capturing sports action at 10 frames per second. Images can be reviewed on the large, tilting 3.2-inch LCD and the 20.9-Megapixel D500 offers a 153-point autofocus system, which will help track fast-moving action across the frame. This camera isn’t limited to stills either, as the D500 can shoot ultra high-quality 4K footage. If you’re shooting in low light, you’ll be pleased to hear the D500 has a max ISO of 1,600,000 and offers dual memory card slots so you can instantly backup your killer sports imagery.
It may be a couple of years old now, but Canon’s APS-C speed machine still proves an awesome buy for those looking to take their sports photography more seriously without breaking the bank. Offering a 20-megapixel CMOS sensor, the 7D MkII can fire off 10 frames per second, meaning you won’t miss any goal, hit or punch in the ring. The 65-point autofocus system covers a huge portion of the frame to enhance your chances of capturing a sharp image and the camera also benefits from Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology. Able to shoot Full HD video at 60p, the DSLR offers two memory card slots (one SD, one CF) and even has built-in GPS so you can track where your images were taken.
A fast 70-200mm optic is one of the most important lenses a sports photographer can own. This version from Tamron (available for Canon and Nikon DSLRs) balances value-for-money with impressive features, such as the Vibration Compensation (VC) technology that offers four-stops of correction to reduce the risk of camera shake. The fast f/2.8 maximum aperture will help keep shutter speeds quick even if light levels fall and the rounded diaphragm design makes for impressive bokeh. The lens comes with a collar that can be used with a monopod or tripod, which will save you holding the weight of the lens for extended periods of time and the moisture-resistant design means you don’t have to stop shooting if rain starts to fall.
They’re be times when the sports action happens much closer to the camera and in these situations, a lens like the Sigma 18-35mm is the perfect choice. Designed for APS-C cameras, the lens has an ultra-fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, which will help keep shutter speeds quick, even in low light. Part of of Sigma’s famous Art series, the lens boasts enhanced image quality and is robust enough to cope with the rigours of sports photography.
Simply put, a good monopod can save your neck because holding up a heavy telezoom all day can take its toll. Because it’s made from carbon fibre, the monopod is incredibly light, tipping the scales at just 550grams. However, it’s damn strong too, and can hold a payload of up to 18Kg, which is way more than most sports photographers will ever need. Compressing down to 540mm, the monopod can be extended up to 1600mm when you want to shoot with a higher viewpoint.
In sports photography, many shooters prefer to ditch the traditional photo rucksack in favour of a module system. Lowepro’s S&F (Street & Field) series was designed with photojournalists and sports photographers in mind and the belt is the foundation of the system, which then allows additional hooks and lens pouches to be added to suit the needs of the individual photographer. This means they can get to the gear in seconds rather than fumbling through a bag.
Those photographers who have been in the industry for a few years will remember how expensive memory used to be, but these days things are different. What is important with today’s cameras is to select a memory card that can cope with the big data your camera produces, especially if you are shooting a lot of bursts, which is common in sports photography. This SD card from Sandisk boasts fast read speeds of up to 95MB of data every second and can write up to 90MB per second too. This makes the card suitable for sports photography and 4K video shooting should you wish to capture footage, too. What’s more, the card is shock, dust and waterproof, so will stand up to harsh environments.
Think sports photography is just for DSLRs? Think again, as Sony’s a9 is a mirrorless camera with impressive specifications. With a full-frame 24.2-Megapixel sensor, the a9 can shoot up to 20 frames per second and offers 5-axis image stabilisation to keep shots sharp! But the a9 does a lot more than shoot quickly, it boasts a 693-point autofocus system, dual SD cards, built-in Wi-Fi and can capture ultra high-quality 4K video footage, too.
Nothing drains batteries faster than shooting sports photography. Capturing multiple burst sequences works the shutter hard and this will see batteries lose juice quickly. Now, you could just pack and extra battery, but stopping to swap over batteries in sports photography could lead to missing crucial moments. Battery grips are a great solution as they carry two batteries, extending the amount of shots you can take before needing to put the camera down.
If you want to carry light but still capture great sports imagery, the E-M1 MkII could be for you. The small body weighs just 498grams and thanks to its 2x Micro Four-Thirds crop, the effective focal length of lenses is doubled, which can be a huge advantage for sports photography as it will get you closer to the subject. What’s more, with single shot focus, the E-M1 MkII can capture a staggering 60 frames per second or 18 frames per second with continuous autofocus – this should mean you never miss a shot! Add to the mix a 20-Megapixel sensor, 5-axis stabilisation and 4K video and you’ve got a serious camera (in a tiny body) on your hands.