Photographing the action in a sporting event requires skill, patience, timing, and the right equipment – including one of the best Canon sports lenses! Canon has a great range of lenses that can handle sports, but it can be hard to know which to buy.
In this guide, you’ll find a host of different lenses for Canon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Whether you want to take your first sports photos as a beginner or are looking to invest in professional gear, we have you covered.
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1. Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
The Canon RF 70-200mm is an excellent all-around lens that performs well due to its fast aperture and high-quality optics.
Our top pick is the Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM. This is an exceptional L-series lens and one of the best Canon sports lenses currently available for EOS R cameras. If you have a professional-level camera like the Canon EOS R5 or R6, this 70-200mm f/2.8 is an outstanding choice.
The constant f/2.8 aperture makes this lens incredibly fast and gives you far greater control over shutter speed and ISO. This is important when you need to use faster shutter speeds to capture the sporting action in low light.
The lens optics are also outstanding. The 70-200mm f/2.8 has a range of lens elements that produce sharp images from corner to corner. It can also be handheld with ease thanks to the image stabilization, which offers up to five stops of shake correction.
The telephoto end of the lens may not be super long, but the focal-length range is highly useful. With a 70-200mm lens, you can take many different types of sports photos!
2. Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM
The Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM is a durable, premium-quality lens capable of creating fantastic sports photos in virtually any scenario.
The Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM is another excellent choice and one of Canon’s best super-telephoto sports lenses. At 500mm, you can capture superb detail and even record players’ facial expressions, and you don’t need to shoot from close to the action.
You can pull the lens back to 100mm and get wider shots, too. For example, you can create beautiful, scene-setting shots of a basketball or hockey game. This means the RF 100-500mm is incredibly versatile and allows you to take photos in virtually any scenario.
Image quality is amazing, and you get corner-to-corner sharpness regardless of the focal length. We also love the maximum aperture range. The lens is fast, and it has excellent low-light capabilities.
The autofocus of this super-telephoto lens is also great. You can quickly track moving players and objects using the top-tier AF motor.
3. Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
The Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is a professional-level lens that has many of the same features as the f/2.8 version.
If you want a midrange telephoto lens for your EOS R camera but don’t need the f/2.8 aperture, the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is the perfect choice. This is another professional-level zoom lens, and it essentially has the same features but with an f/4 maximum aperture.
Although this lens does not have the same low-light capabilities as the f/2.8, it is plenty capable. And you can still separate your subject from the background and create photos with beautiful bokeh.
The 70-200mm f/4 features a Dual Nano USM motor. This is the next generation of USM AF motors from Canon and lends itself to sports photography. You should be able to track subjects quickly and get sharp photos every time.
4. Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM
The Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM is an excellent entry-level telephoto lens that is great for handheld use.
Not all the best Canon sports lenses are insanely expensive. If you want an entry-level lens to learn sports photography, the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM is a top choice. This lens does not offer L-series quality, but it is still sharp and easy to use.
The focal length of 100-400mm is versatile and allows you to do various types of sports photography. For example, you could sit in the stands and zoom in at 400mm. Alternatively, you could stand on the sidelines and use the lens at 100mm for wider shots of the action.
Beginners should also find this lens easy to use thanks to its built-in image stabilization, which compensates for up to 5.5 stops of camera shake. Combine this with the in-body image stabilization offered by several Canon mirrorless cameras, and you can comfortably handhold the lens in lower light.
Compared to some other telephoto lenses, the RF 100-400mm is also relatively small and lightweight. You should be able to carry it for prolonged periods of time without too much strain.
5. Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM
The Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM is perfect if you want to include more detail in your sports photos without spending a fortune.
While there are some premium Canon RF super-telephoto lenses, there are also several mid-level models. One such lens is the Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM, a fantastic super-telephoto option with a specialist design.
The 600mm f/11 is much smaller and lighter compared to most other prime super-telephoto lenses; it weighs only 2.05 lb/929 g, while the EF 600mm f/4 weighs 6.7 lb/3050 g! That’s a huge difference and it makes the lens much more portable.
The RF 600mm f/11 performs great, too. It takes sharp images, and the f/11 maximum aperture still gives great versatility. The lens also has image stabilization for handheld use, which is aided by a fast, quiet, and accurate autofocus system.
For those who are improving their sports photography skills and want more reach than a midrange telephoto lens can offer, the Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM is an excellent upgrade.
6. Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM
The Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM is great for those times when you have to sit farther back from the sporting action.
If you commonly attend sporting events where you’re farther from the action, something like the Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM could be a great choice. With 800mm of reach, you can easily take detailed photos regardless of your position.
Like the RF 600mm f/11, this super-telephoto lens features a special retractable design. When not in use, you can use a switch to unlock the lens and retract it to its smallest length. You can then use the lock mechanism to extend the lens when you want to use it. This makes it far more portable than most telephoto lenses.
The 800mm f/11 has image stabilization that corrects for up to four stops of camera shake so you can comfortably use it handheld.
7. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM allows you to create impeccable sports photos in virtually any situation.
The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is one of the best Canon sports lenses you can buy; it is an older L-series lens, but it produces consistent results and is more affordable than other L-series super-telephoto glass.
The image stabilization of this lens makes it ideal for sports photography. You can choose either vertical IS, horizontal IS, or both. This helps when you’re tracking a player running along a pitch, for example, and it’s aided by the fast and accurate Nano USM autofocus motor.
The image quality is also superior, and on a camera like the EOS R5 or R6, you can get exceptional results even in low light. Bottom line: The EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L produces superb images in pretty much any condition.
If you want a versatile super-telephoto lens, it’s a great choice. The only downside is that the lens is heavy and cumbersome. It’s not exactly easy to carry or hold still without a tripod.
8. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM is a durable lens that can comfortably be used at outdoor sporting events due to its weather-sealed exterior.
A great Canon sports lens for midrange shots is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM. This lens comes in handy if you are closer to the action – if you are standing on the sidelines or in a designated media area for press photographers, for example.
The 70-200mm f/2.8 excels thanks to its f/2.8 maximum aperture, which lets you use faster shutter speeds and lower ISO settings to get sharp photos of sporting action (even in low light).
We like the optical design of this lens. It has special coatings that help drastically reduce ghosting and flare. You can also expect sharp images throughout the entire focal-length range.
If you regularly attend outdoor sporting events, you will love the weather-sealed design of this professional lens. It’s resistant to dust and water, and it’s easy to keep clean. Finally, this lens includes a tripod mount; that way, you can use it with a tripod or monopod when shooting and ensure sharper photos (and less arm strain!).
9. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS III USM is a capable sports lens, especially for those who don’t want to shell out for the f/2.8 model.
If you don’t want to pay for the 70-200mm f/2.8L, there is always the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS III USM, which has a more-than-adequate maximum aperture of f/4.
At f/4, the lens is still incredibly fast, and you can get excellent separation between the background and the subject. It is perfectly capable, and serious photographers use this lens instead of paying extra for the f/2.8L version.
The 70-200mm focal length is great for sports photography; sure, it doesn’t offer the reach of the 100-400mm, but you can still capture plenty of action! And it’s perfect for sporting events where you’re close to the players.
You can also expect amazing image quality, regardless of the focal length.
10. Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM
The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM is a lens that many people dream of owning. It’s fast, sharp, and provides incredible reach.
Our last pick is the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM. This is possibly the ultimate EF lens for sports photography, and it offers exceptional sharpness and detail thanks to the top-quality optics and various special lens coatings.
The incredible 600mm focal length is perfect for sports photography. You can comfortably shoot from the sidelines, and if you want even more reach, the EF 600mm f/4L is compatible with the 1.4x and 2.0x converters.
The EF 600mm f/4L has various additional features that make it great for sports shooting. For instance, the built-in image stabilization corrects for up to five stops of camera shake and is great if you want to work handheld. The lens is also dust and water-resistant so you can comfortably use it in outdoor sports settings.
The main downsides are the size, weight, and cost; at the end of the day, this is a heavy, sizable lens that is only really suitable for professional use due to the expensive price tag.
Capture Eye-Catching Sports Photos with Your New Lens!
If you’re a Canon camera owner, you have access to some of the best sports photography lenses on the market. But which lens is right for your situation?
Those just entering the world of sports photography will benefit from cheaper sports lenses like the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS III USM, and the Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM.
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