Have you ever considered purchasing the best lens for sports photography?
If you are a commercial sports photographer or an enthusiast in love with fast-paced activities, you probably have.
Sport lenses fall among the most delicate, and thus, most expensive optics on the market, so it is vital to have fact-proof information before making a purchase.
Unfortunately, the internet is far behind in providing useful information, so photographers are often on their own in the search for the proper gear.
With that idea in mind, I have decided to make a fully comprehensive buying guide to help fellow photographers pick the right equipment, suited to their needs.
Nikon 180-400mm f/4 is the best Nikon lens for sports and offers an optical design of 27 elements in 19 groups, with nine rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 13° 40′ to 6° 10′, with a minimum focus distance of 6,56 feet, and a maximum magnification of 0,25x. The lens has optical image stabilization and a removable and rotating tripod collar.
One of the reasons why I put the given Nikon on the best sports photography lens is due to its overall quality, and it is easily one of the best optics I have ever worked with. I took the lens to the soccer event and was delighted by the superior quality it offers.
The overall image quality:
is phenomenal, with extremely sharp corners and an incredible amount of details. It is important to note that I photographed fast-moving subjects, so the optical image stabilization did a phenomenal job in capturing scenes with immense sharpness. The color transmission is phenomenal, with real-life representations, with the right amount of vibrance and no chromatic issues.
Shooting at any focal point is excellent, and the Nikon’s flagship proved worthy even under challenging lighting. The Focus system is fast and accurate, and from an ergonomic perspective, it was a pleasure to use, as well as the zoom ring, due to its slickness. There are no optical or design-wise objections to this lens, except for the 7.7 lb weight, which is a compromise I was willing to take.
best nikon lens for sports
- Fast focus
- Excellent image quality
- Versatile focal length
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 offers an optical design of 23 elements in 19 groups, with eight rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 34° – 12°, and the minimum focus distance is 3,94 feet, with a maximum magnification of 0,21x.
This best Canon lens for sports has optical image stabilization, and a rotating and removable tripod collar. The reason why it made the sports photography lens list is due to its phenomenal capability to capture a great image under difficult circumstances.
I used fairly high ISO values during the testing, and the results were awesome, with crisp details and edge-to-edge corner sharpness. The aperture of an f/2.8 in combination with optical image stabilization does a great job in lowlight settings, and it is possible to shoot night events while retaining respectable image quality. The color rendering and contrast are on point, with vibrant notes and deep blacks.
I didn’t have problems with chromatic aberrations and it is possible to shoot directly at the Sun without having to deal with flare. Another vital point is the bokeh effect the lens creates.
Despite not being a portrait prime, it produces awesome portraits with circular defocused backgrounds. It is the feature that adds quite a bit to the optics versatility, and it justifies the price. Design-wise, it is the “L” category lens, with top-notch materials used and an incredibly smooth white finish.
Sigma sports lenses are the third contenders that have an optical construction of 24 elements in 12 groups, with 11 rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 34.3° to 12.3°, with a maximum magnification of 0,21x. This telephoto lens for sports has optical image stabilization and a fixed and rotating tripod collar. A great thing about it is the dust and splashproof structure that allows one to use it in demanding conditions.
Design-wise, it is quite big, even for the telephoto range, but the finishing touch is beautiful and from the first glance it is noticeable that it is an upper-class craft at work. Focus system is one of the reasons why I included Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 as the best lens for sports photography. It offers extremely fast and accurate responses, with no “focus breathing” related issues, not even at the 200mm.
I mainly used the lens to capture distant, fast-moving subjects, I had a bit of good luck with shooting close-ups and portraits, which adds to the lens versatility. The overall image quality is stellar. The lens creates corner-to-corner sharpness, with excellent detail retention.
Colors look natural and not overly saturated, with no chromatic aberration issues. The optical image stabilization does a rock-solid job in allowing for exquisite results, even at darker hours. I also used a tripod during the testing, and from an ergonomic point of view, it is quite a pleasant experience.
- Excellent focus
This Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 is the best Sony lens for sports photography. This lens comes with an optical construction of 22 elements in 16 groups, with nine rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 24° to 6° 10′, with a minimum focus distance of 3,2 feet, and a maximum magnification of 0,35x. The lens also has optical image stabilization and a removable & rotating tripod collar.
The key factor that made me put it on the best lens for sports photography list is the exceptional sharpness at all focal lengths, with barely visible corner vignetting and negligible amounts of chromatic aberration.
The lens is also equipped with optical image stabilization, and it proved worthy during the testing phase. I achieved great-looking images handheld at 400mm for 0,5 of a second.
The color distribution is another important point to mention. It is quite good and with deep black, so I am quite content with the contrast. I also didn’t have problems with the flare, and the above-mentioned sharpness is present even when shooting fast-paced environments or moving subjects.
I must praise:
the autofocus system. It is incredibly fast and precise, and during the testing, I didn’t have problems with missed shots or focus jamming. I am also content with the bokeh. It is possible to use the lens for capturing close-ups or portraits when you don’t have a fast prime on your hands, and the results will be quite good. On the negative side, the lens is quite large and heavy, despite having an awesome material built and sturdy design.
- Versatile focal length
- Overall sharpness
The last name on the list has an optical design of 23 elements in 17 groups, with nine rounded diaphragm blades. The angle of view is 34° 21′ to 12° 21′, with a minimum focus distance of 3,12 feet, and a maximum magnification of 0,16x. The lens has optical image stabilization and a removable & rotating tripod collar.
One of the key reasons why I put it on the best lens for sports photography list is its incredible OIS that offers up to five stops of image stabilization.
When combined with a fast aperture, it ensures a great performance under low light conditions. During the testing, I noticed that images are crystal clear at the maximum opening, with an incredible amount of details preserved. Moreover, it gets even sharper a few notches are stepped down, and it offers great performance at all focal lengths.
The focus system is another awesome point since it locks the focus super-fast, even under low lighting. I didn’t have issues with focusing during the testing phase and it always delivered results on-point, even when the subjects were rapidly moving.
The focus and zoom ring also work harmoniously and smoothly, and the overall design of the lens is exquisite. Another important thing is the price. Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 offers high-end performance at the fraction of the competitor’s price, so it is another reason to give it a chance. Tamron is also the best lens for indoor sports photography.
- Versatile focal length
- Wide aperture
- Could be weather-proof
As the article outlines, getting your hands on the best lens for sports photography can be a tricky task. With high prices and many technical details to consider, one must show care when roaming the market.
Luckily, it is possible to come out on the other side clean, if you arm yourself with knowledge and put an effort into the research. No matter what is your preferred style, choosing any of the lenses from the list is a sure way to skyrocket your portfolio.
I hope this article has helped you find the best sports photography lenses. If you’re still not sure what is the best lens for sports photography, check out this option.
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