Sports photography is one of the most thrilling and rewarding genres of photography to try. Keeping up with the action means you’ll need a camera that can focus fast and boasts a speedy burst rate so you don’t miss a moment of the split-second action. While brands offer some highly advanced flagship action cameras like Canon’s 1DX MkII, Nikon’s D5 or Sony’s a9ii, there are more affordable alternatives available and we’ve rounded up six of the best to help you make an informed buying decision…
Not to be confused with Sony’s flagship mirrorless a9ii sports and wildlife camera, the a99II is the flagship model from Sony’s A-mount range of DSLT cameras. These models differ from regular DSLR models by offering a fixed translucent mirror and the benefits of this design are greater speed and more accurate focusing. In fact, the Sony a99II offers 399 focus points and a rapid burst rate of 12 frames per second. This is even more impressive when you consider the a99II is a full-frame camera with a huge 42-megapixel sensor. Extra exciting additional features include a fully articulating LCD and built-in 5-axis image stabilisation, along with a high maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec. Face Detection focus will help when capturing athletes running in the frame and the presence of dual SD card slots will enable photographers to create an instant back up of their photos or choose to shoot stills to one card and video to the other. Talking of video, the a99II is well specced in this area and can capture ultra high-quality 4K footage – plus there’s ports for an external mic and headphones.
Canon’s newest APS-C camera sits in a strange position in the brand’s line-up, taking over from the semi-pro 7D series but offering an impressive amount of features for its price-point. In fact, the 90D offers a 33-megapixel sensor, which is actually more resolution than Canon’s acclaimed 5D MkIV full-frame DSLR. The 90D also punches above its weight when it comes to focus and speed, too; offering 45 focus points (all of which are the sensitive Cross Type), along with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF technology. With a maximum burst rate of 11 frames per second, the 90D can more than keep up with the action and the fully articulating LCD will help photographers frame up when shooting awkward high/low compositions or when capturing video. Speaking of which, the 90D can capture 4K video with no crop and is the only Canon DSLR to offer a slow motion mode at Full HD resolution. A long battery life 0f 1300 shots on a single charge further adds to the 90D’s sports credentials and as the camera tips the scales at just 701g, it’s perfect for carrying around all day, too.
Fancy a sports camera with a difference? Olympus’ E-M1X model has a square form factor like the expensive D5/1DX MkII cameras but is far more affordable and lighter too, weighing in at just 997g. The professional body is weather seal and built around a 20-megapixel sensor that combines with the Micro Four-Thirds mount to offer a 2x crop factor. This is very useful for sports photography because a 300mm lens instantly becomes a 600mm lens, getting you closer to the action. What’s more, the E-M1X sports a fully articulating LCD and can hold two batteries, greatly extending the shooting time the camera can offer. However, it’s focusing and speed where this camera really excels as the E-M1X uses a 121-point AF system and boasts a maximum burst rate of up to 60 frames per second! Mix in the fact that the Olympus offers a 5-axis IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) system, dual SD cards and shoot 4K video and you realise why this model is a great alternative to the full-frame speed kings.
Why most Nikon sports shooters would love a D5 in their hands, the D500 (Nikon’s flagship APS-C DSLR) is a great alternative that still offers competitive sports-related features without breaking the bank. Built around that 21-megapixel APS-C sensor, the D500 offers an impressive 153-point autofocus system (99 of which are the more sensitive Cross Type) and this system is backed up by a max burst rate of 10 frames. With dual card slots, the D500 also offers a large 3.2-inch tilting LCD and built-in Wi-Fi, along with a huge ISO range that’s expandable to ISO 50-1640000, meaning you can capture images in near darkness. Along with sports shooting, the D500 can also be used to capture video and is capable of recording ultra high-quality 4K footage.
Panasonic Lumix G9
While the Panasonic Lumix G9 may not be the first camera that springs to mind when thinking about sports photography, this tiny mirrorless is well worth investigating. Like the Olympus E-M1X, the G9 is based around a 20-megapixel sensor and uses a Micro Four-Thirds Mount, which means it benefits from that 2x crop and doubles the effective focal length of your lenses. However, the body for the G9 is tiny and tips the scales at just 658g and the advantages of a small, portable camera when it comes to sports photography are obvious, as it will allow shooters to move around far more easily. However, it should also be noted that Panasonic users can buy a battery grip for the G9, which greatly extends the time you can be out shooting with the camera and some photographers prefer adding the accessory for a better hold, too. With 225 AF points, the G9 offers an accurate AF system, which is backed up by a fast maximum burst rate of up to 20 frames per second and Dual IBIS offers up to 6.5-stop of compensation, enabling sports photographers to shoot handheld, even in low light conditions. What’s more, the G9 offers a 6K Photo mode that captures a 30 FPS burst and enables 18-megapixel stills to be extracted.
Fuji isn’t the first brand to think of when it comes to sports photography, but the X-T3 includes a number of excellent features that will make a big difference to Fuji photographers wishing to capture the action. The tiny mirrorless is built around an APS-C sensor that offers an impressive 26-megapixels of resolution so superior image quality can be expected. A whopping 425 AF points will help detect movement in the frame and a maximum burst rate of 20 frames per second will prove highly competitive. Despite weighing just 539g, the X-T3’s body is professionally weather sealed and includes two card slots so photographers can make instant back ups. Images can be composed using the EVF or the 3-inch tilting touch-sensitive LCD and the X-T3 features a versatile native ISO range of 100-12800, which should cover off any low light shooting conditions. With built-in Wi-Fi and a very fast electronic max shutter speed of 1/32000sec, the X-T3 also shoots ultra high-quality 4K video.