📸 5 Best Lenses for Sports Photography In 2024 [Guide]

Jan 12, 2024 | Buying Guides

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.

image for sports photography lenses guide

Unfortunately, the internet is far behind in providing helpful information, so photographers are often searching for the proper gear.

With that idea in mind, I have decided to make a comprehensive buying guide to help fellow photographers pick the right equipment suited to their needs.

Editor's Choice
Best Runner Up
Best Budget

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Unparalleled versatility and top-notch performance make this lens a go-to for professionals seeking the ultimate imaging experience.

A powerhouse performer delivering exceptional image quality, this lens is a reliable companion for capturing stunning moments in any situation.

Unlock your creative potential without breaking the bank. This lens offers remarkable value for money, delivering impressive results on a budget.

5.0
4.8
4.5
Editor's Choice

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Unparalleled versatility and top-notch performance make this lens a go-to for professionals seeking the ultimate imaging experience.

5.0
Best Runner Up

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

A powerhouse performer delivering exceptional image quality, this lens is a reliable companion for capturing stunning moments in any situation.

4.8
Best Budget

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Unlock your creative potential without breaking the bank. This lens offers remarkable value for money, delivering impressive results on a budget.

4.5
Nikon 180-400mm f/4E Lens

The color transmission is phenomenal, with real-life representations, with the right amount of vibrance and no chromatic issues.

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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 I put the given Nikon as the best sports photography lens is 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:

It is phenomenal, with highly sharp corners and incredible detail. It is important to note that I photographed fast-moving subjects, so the optical image stabilization did an exceptional job of capturing scenes with immense sharpness. The color transmission is outstanding, with real-life representations, good 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, a compromise I was willing to take.

Pros

  • Fast focus
  • Excellent image quality
  • Versatile focal length
  • OIS

Cons

  • Weight

Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Experience the power of precision with Canon's RF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens; offering fast aperture, incredible sharpness, and a versatile zoom range.

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  • Lens Type: Telephoto
  • Mounting Type: Canon RF
  • Focal Length Range: 70-200mm
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 0.7 m
  • Weight: 2.64 pounds
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.5 x 5.7 inches

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. It made the sports photography lens list due to its unparalleled capability to capture a great image under challenging circumstances.

I used pretty high ISO values during the testing, and the results were excellent, 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 good 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 incredible 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.

Pros

  • Versatility
  • OIS
  • Sharpness
  • Bokeh

Cons

  • Weight

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

This is a high-speed lens that produces incredible picture, and zoom is outstanding with a quiet motor, exterior is a top-notch quality.

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Sigma sports lenses are the third contender, with 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 pretty extensive, even for the telephoto range, but the finishing touch is beautiful, and at first glance, it is noticeable that it is an upper-class craft at work. The 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 speedy and accurate responses, with no “focus breathing” related issues, not even 200mm.

Although:

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’s versatility. The overall image quality is stellar. The lens creates corner-to-corner sharpness with excellent detail retention.

The colors look natural and not overly saturated, with no chromatic aberration issues. The optical image stabilization does a rock-solid job allowing for exquisite results, even at darker hours. I also used a tripod during the testing, and from an ergonomic point of view, it was quite a pleasant experience.

Pros

  • Versatility
  • Excellent focus
  • Bokeh
  • Weather-proof

Cons

  • Weight

Sony 100-400mm f/4.5–5.6 Lens

Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens combines excellent sharpness for the subject in focus, with a smooth bokeh for the background and it produces incredible images.

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This Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6  is the best Sony lens for sports photography. This lens has 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 critical 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 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 crucial point to mention. It is pretty good and with deep black, so I am pretty content with the contrast. I also didn’t have problems with the flare, and the sharpness mentioned above is present even when shooting fast-paced environments or moving subjects.

I must praise:

the autofocus system. It is swift and precise, and I didn’t have problems with missed shots or focus jamming during the testing. 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 pretty good. On the negative side, the lens is quite large and heavy, despite having an excellent material build and sturdy design.

Pros

  • Versatile focal length
  • Bokeh
  • OIS
  • Overall sharpness

Cons

  • Heavy

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 is a very sharp lens that has a compact body with a moisture-resistant build and delivers sharp photos.

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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 I put it on the best lens for sports photography is its incredible OIS that offers up to five stops of image stabilization.

Combined with a fast aperture, it ensures excellent performance under low light conditions. During the testing, I noticed that images are crystal clear at the maximum opening, with incredible details preserved. Moreover, it gets even sharper when a few notches are stepped down, offering excellent performance at all focal lengths.

The focus system is another excellent point since it locks the focus super-fast, even under low lighting. I didn’t have issues focusing during the testing phase; it always delivered results on end, 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 a 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.

Pros

  • Versatile focal length
  • Wide aperture
  • Sharpness
  • Focus

Cons

  • Could be weather-proof

Verdict

As the article outlines, getting your hands on the best lens for sports photography can be tricky. With high prices and many technical details, 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 effort into the research. No matter 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 unsure what the best lens for sports photography is, check out this option.

For fantastic tips on improving your photography, check out our other articles, especially the Nikon Z5 lens guide and guide for Canon Rebel XS.

Disclaimer: "As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases."

Stacy WItten

Stacy WItten

Owner, Writer & Photographer

Stacy Witten, owner and creative force behind LensesPro, delivers expertly crafted content with precision and professional insight. Her extensive background in writing and photography guarantees quality and trust in every review and tutorial.

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