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Best Camera Bodies for Sports Photography

Ready to snap into action? News flash! Not all cameras are created equally, and some camera bodies for sports photography are better suited for the work than others.

And, whether you’re at a 100,000 occupancy football stadium or a high school lacrosse game, having a reliable base is the first step toward stunning sports photography.

So, we’ve curated a list of the six best camera bodies for all your sports photography needs – big or small.

What Makes a Good Sports Photography Camera?

With hundreds of DSLR and mirrorless options, finding the best camera bodies for sports photography can be a daunting task. However, there are a few must-have features that can help narrow down your possibilities.

First and foremost, you’ll want a camera that prioritizes speed. Sports photographers often have to shoot beyond 1/1000 of a second to get the perfect moment in a frame. Therefore, a camera that can surpass the average maximum shutter speed is a huge plus.

best camera for sports photography features
What features are important for sports photography?

However, the shutter isn’t the only thing that should be able to work fast. High frame rates and short buffer times can be game-changers for photographers working in bursts. Without the luxury of time to manually focus, reliable autofocus is also essential.

Sports photographers should always favor fast performance above all else. However, some features, while not necessities, can provide an extra edge.

ultimate frisbee
Prioritizing fast performance is essential to get strong images.

7 Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying a New Sports Camera

When deciding on a camera, there are a few questions you may want to ask yourself concerning the potential purchase:

How does it handle low-light situations?

Choosing a camera with a high ISO is extremely helpful when working in dimly-lit scenarios.

Sports photography in low light
Low-light capability is an added bonus when choosing the best camera for sports photography.

Can it shoot videos?

More and more so, clients demand HD video to go along with still images. Increasingly, even the most compact camera models come with 4K video abilities as a standard feature.

How long can the battery last?

When you’re in the heat of the moment, the last thing you’ll want to run into is a dead battery. Try to find a battery that will last the long haul. Or purchase an extra battery to carry with you to events. What sort of sensor will you be working with?

Full-frame and cropped sensors alike have advantages and disadvantages for sports photography.

Fast paced sports camera body
What kinds of lenses are available for the camera? This is another important thing to know when choosing a new camera body.

What brand are you using?

While there are plenty of cameras capable of doing a great job, you might want to stick to some of the more popular brands. Sports photography sometimes requires specialized lenses, and big manufacturers offer more options.

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How does it feel?

A lightweight camera body can really compensate for a heavy longer lens. The more mobility you have in a fast-paced game, the better.

tough sports action cameras
You also want a camera body that’s durable and up to the challenges of sports photography.

How durable is the camera’s body?

A body capable of weathering any storm provides peace of mind to amateur and professional picture takers alike. Heat resistance and cold tolerance are also a plus.

baseball best camera for sports photography
Sports photography demands a camera with strong features no matter the level of the photographer.

1. Sony Alpha a7 III

In recent years, Sony has turned heads and set new standards for mirrorless cameras. With an innovative solution for about every roadblock, it should come as no surprise that the Sony Alpha a7 III can handle the gridiron.

Sony Alpha a7 III best sports camera body
The Sony Alpha a7 III is a small, mirrorless powerhouse that will perform well under the stresses of sports photography.

Why We Love This Camera for Sports Photos:

You’ll get great images in a small package. As a mirrorless camera, the a7 III body weighs in at under 1.5 lbs. However, you shouldn’t write it off as a lightweight. Tucked inside the sleek little camera is a staggering 42.2 MP sensor.

Also, with the a7 III, you won’t have to second guess whether or not you got the right shot. Despite the massive pixel count of each image, the camera can record an impressive 10 frames per second.

Related Post: The Best Lenses for Sony a7 III

The fully charged battery can capture up to 650 images, and dual SD card slots can automatically record duplicates of every image you make.

And let’s not forget to mention the quality. The camera is made well enough to depend on.

With one touch of the LCD screen, you can hone in on one of the hundreds of built-in autofocus points. Using a combination of contrast and phase detection, the a7 III does an excellent job of tracking objects in motion. Sports photographers are bound to love that!

With a high ISO range and low digital noise, not even darkness stands in the way of this little powerhouse. 

Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full Frame High Resolution Interchangeable...
  • INCREDIBLE DETAIL: Shoot high-speed subjects at up to 10fps with continuous, accurate AF/AE tracking
  • OPTIMAL LIGHT: A back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor with gapless on-chip lens collects more light.Operating Temperature 32...
  • FASTER IMAGE PROCESSING: An updated BIONZ X processing engine boosts processing speeds up to 1.8x
  • STUNNING HD VIDEO: Sony Alpha 7R 3 mirror less cameras record clear 4K video for editing and viewing
  • BUNDLE INCLUDES: Power cord, charger, cable protector, shoulder strap, body/shoe caps, eyepiece cup.Metering Type:1200-zone...

2. Nikon D5

The Nikon D5 is a favorite among professionals as Nikon’s recommended high-end action camera.

As one of the most sophisticated options on our list, it comes at a steep price. However, its knockout performance makes it worth every penny.

Nikon D5 best sports camera body
The D5 is an incredibly advanced, high-speed DSLR.

The D5 is one of the most advanced products Nikon has to offer. Among its many capabilities, it can reach a record-breaking ISO of 102,400. That’s beyond what the human eye is capable of seeing.

You’ll also have no problem keeping up with the action. This camera handles high speeds without an issue. In a single burst, the D5 can capture as many as 200 lossless RAW images at 14 fps.

Bursting with energy, a single battery charge can yield as many as 3000 images.

Related Post: Best Nikon Lenses for Sport Photography

Without a doubt, the D5 is one of the best options for clients that expect results fast. The in-camera editing capabilities are fairly advanced, allowing instant image adjustments.

With the ability to quickly connect to wireless networks, you can deliver results within minutes of taking the perfect shot.

Nikon D5 DSLR 20.8 MP Point & Shoot Digital Camera, Dual XQD Slots - Black
  • 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 5 Image Processor
  • 3.2" 2.36m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
  • 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps. CompactFlash (CF) (Type I, compliant with UDMA) XQD Type Memory
  • Multi-CAM 20K 153-Point AF System

3. Nikon D500

Don’t be fooled by the price tag. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the D5, the Nikon D500 holds its own on our list of for best camera bodies for sports photography.

Nikon D500 best sports camera body
Nikon’s D500 is a lower-priced, high-performance DSLR that boasts impressive features making it ideal for sports photography. 

We were impressed at the focusing on this camera. With multiple autofocus modes and a 153-point phase-detection system, you can customize your camera to fit your shooting needs.

For instance, the Dynamic-Area AF uses a primary focal point to lock onto, then uses surrounding points to maintain focus on the subject. 3D Tracking AF, on the other hand, uses color information to hone in on moving objects.

Honestly, you’re getting professional features at reasonable prices. The D500 boasts competitive specs, with 4K HD video capabilities and burst speeds of 200 frames per burst at a rate of 10 fps.

But you don’t have to break your budget to get your hands on this body. A number of retails offer this model for under $1500.

One last thing worth pointing out is that Nikon is one of the world’s largest camera providers. That means that the D500 has more lens and accessory options than average camera bodies for sports photography.

Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only), Base
  • 20.9MP DX format CMOS sensor. Viewfinder: Eye level pentaprism single lens reflex viewfinder
  • Expeed 5 image processor; Monitor size: 3.2 inches diagonal
  • 3.2 inches 2,539k dot tilting touchscreen LCD
  • 4k UHD video recording at 30 fps
  • Multi cam 20k 153 point AF system

4. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

For Canon lovers, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is likely your best bet.

A solid choice on all fronts, this body has all its bases covered and proves to be a reliable partner in just about any situation. The Mark IV prioritizes versatility above all else.

Canon 5D Mark IV best sports camera body
The Canon 5D Mark IV is an incredible DSLR for sports photography offered by Canon.  

With a 30.4 MP full-frame sensor, every image this camera takes is portrayed in beautiful detail. The quick image processor works in perfect sync with the dual-pixel AF system.

And even in the darkest conditions, this camera can utilize high ISOs to produce shots virtually free of noise.

Canon has always been a leader in integrating video into its DSLR cameras. And this one is no exception…

The Mark IV captures 4K video in high fidelity. As an added bonus, it’s possible to grab 8.8 MP images straight from video mode using the touch screen LCD monitor.

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The Mark IV’s weather-sealed body keeps it safe and functional in harsh conditions. You never know when you’re going to be caught on the sidelines when a torrential downpour comes out of nowhere.

And, with built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS capabilities, you can confidently send your photo out from just about anywhere

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
  • New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100-32000; expandable up...
  • 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in- camera still frame grab of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images;...
  • Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or live view shooting; LCD monitor has a full touchscreen...
  • Excellent performance - up to 7.0 fps continuous shooting speed with high-performance DIGIC 6 plus Image Processor for...
  • Use the EOS Utility Webcam Beta Software (Mac and Windows) to turn your Canon camera into a high-quality webcam, or do the...

5. Olympus E-M1 II

The Olympus E-M1 II is small, speedy, sleek, and stylish – perfect for the fast-paced world of sports photography.

Olympus E-M1 II best sports camera body
This is a high-end mirrorless camera that meets the demands of sports photography.  

Get close to the action. Unlike most of the cameras we’ve featured today, the E-M1 II boasts a Micro Four Thirds sensor with a 2x crop factor.

While this might deter some photographers, this feature comes in handy for sports photographers. Essentially, it means the field of view with any lens is twice as magnified as it would be with a full-frame sensor.

The Olympus weighs just over a pound, but it’s anything but delicate. With solid metal construction, this is a splash-proof, dust-proof, freeze-proof camera.

The E-M1 II may be the fastest available option on our list, capable of capturing an unbelievable 60 frames per second.

Internal 5-axis stabilization compensates for camera motion within 5.5 shutter speed steps. With in-lens stabilization, you can say goodbye to motion blur for good. 👋

OLYMPUS OM-D E-M1 Mark II Camera Body Only, (Black)
  • New 20.4 megapixel live MOS sensor
  • New TruePic VIII dual quad core image processor, auto focus points phase detection: 121 (121 cross type), contrast detection:...
  • 60 frames per second S AF, 18 frames per second C AF (silent electronic shutter)
  • 15 frames per second S AF, 10 frames per second C AF (mechanical shutter)
  • 121 point dual fast AF with cross type on chip phase detection focusing

6. Fujifilm X-T2

Another leader in the mirrorless camera market, the Fujifilm has a lot to offer fledgling sports photographers.

Sporting intuitive design and impressive hybrid technology, it offers quick and satisfying results. What’s more, it’s tough enough to handle a few bumps along the way.

FujiFilm X-T2 best sports camera body
The Fujifilm XT-2 is a lower-priced mirrorless option suited to those just starting out in sports photography.  

One of the X-T2’s most impressive features is its hybrid autofocus system. Using both contrast and phase-detection AF systems, it can function effectively in a wide variety of shooting conditions.

There’s no denying the Fuji X-T2 works fast.

The speedy autofocus can render a subject perfectly in just 0.08 seconds.

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And the camera is precise as well…

The tempered glass LCD monitor features 1.04 million dots to display photographs in lifelike clarity, And it tilts too!

As far as camera bodies for sports photography go, the X-T2 is about as tough as it gets. The magnesium body is ultra-durable and weather-sealed and moisture resistant, meaning that rain, snow, or dust won’t slow you down. 

Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
  • 24.3MP X Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor reduces moiré and false colors to improve image quality and X Processor Pro engine...
  • Dust and moisture resistant body with approximately 63 points of weather sealing; Freeze resistance to 14 Degree Fahrenheit
  • High precision 0.48 inch, 2.36 million dot OLED viewfinder featuring a magnification of 0.77x and Ultra fast Real Time...
  • Full HD and 4K 3840x2160 30P/25P/24P shooting (Using a card with the UHS Speed Class 3 or higher)
  • Tempered glass 1.04 million dot high-precision 3 Inches tilting LCD monitor with three directional tilt and shutter type is...

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