Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography

What are the Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography?

As a former newspaper photographer, I loved my old Canon F-1 back in the good ‘ol film days; however, the whole sports photography industry has changed thanks to the digital revolution. A reader wrote in a few days back asking if I could provide a list of the Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography…always a sucker for a good top 10 list, I agreed to do a bit of research. During the film heydays, Nikon held a pretty dominant position among working sports photographers…great camera bodies and superb quality lenses. Canon held their own, but Nikon was the gold standard.

Today, Canon is the lead dog in the digital camera wars with a wide range of amateur/prosumer models and several high end professional models. The turning point for Canon occurred during the industry shift from manual to autofocus lenses. Canon autofocus lenses grabbed hold of the professional market with better engineered lenses that were quieter and more responsive than everyone else at the time.  Canon has proceeded to build an extensive array of cameras around their superior lenses. While Nikon has an outstanding product line and still has a large following among its loyal users, Canon has been more successful in marketing its products to a wider range of photographers, which is why they represent a greater share of the Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography.

What do you need in a sports photography kit? 

  1. A fast camera. It should have a fast “burst rate” (how many pictures it can shoot per second) as well as fast top shutter speeds of at least 1/2000 second, which will freeze action
  2. Stability. If you choose a handheld long-range zoom camera, it must have image stabilization. Otherwise, your pictures will be blurred due to camera motion, which is magnified by those long zoom lenses. For more advanced cameras a monopod and ballhead camera attachment are essential. Your arms will get tired holding that big rig for too long, and the monopod gives you a good combination of free movement and stability.
  3. Image quality. If you use a self-contained camera, you will be sacrificing some image quality. The bigger the camera the bigger the sensor—and the better the picture.
  4. A long lens. One of the reasons those SI photos pop off the page is that the photographers use lenses made with the best glass and coatings and wide apertures. You may not be able to afford such lenses at first so get the best lens you can afford; as you improve, you can trade up.

You can use these criteria and shop for yourself, but the number of choices and possible combinations can be daunting. I’ve made it easier for you and put together the following kits designed especially for sports photography.(source – Adorama Camera Store)

It is difficult to definitively determine the Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography, but my judgments are based on a wide range of posts and forums…not just one single source. In my final analysis, the difference between most of the top models and manufacturers is more a choice based on personal preference rather than technical capabilities. Here is my list provided in no particular order.

  1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  2. Nikon D700
  3. Canon EOS 7D 
  4. Nikon D3x
  5. Canon EOS 60D
  6. Nikon D300
  7. Canon 60Da
  8. Canon 1D x
  9. Nikon D600
  10. Canon EOS Rebel T3i
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12 thoughts on “Top 10 Digital Cameras for Sports Photography

  1. Thanks for creating this list and giving us your opinion. These appear to be top model cameras. As a result, it seems like you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

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  3. Hello there, simply become aware of your weblog via Google, and located that it is really informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will be grateful when you continue this in future. A lot of other people shall be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  4. Hi Rick, I am trying to break through as a photographer in sports or entertainment industry. What is your best advice to me and what companies would you refer me to to get my feet in the door? Thank you in advance and looking forward to hear back from you.


  5. Hi Rick- I am upgrading my D60 adn 70-300 for a Namibia safari trip and am working on other sites for best safari camera body. right now considering Df, D610 and D800, with the new 80-400 nikor with the autofocus. The D3 and D4 are bigger than my wallet. I have been shooting for some time but am still an amateur. I really loved my FTN film camera so I am leaning toward the Df. It also looks like the D700 would have been a really good camera but really not available anymore from a mainline source

    My question to you is that I also shoot equestrian sports. I assume that the Df was not available when you wrote this this article. Given my choices of bodies, which would choose for equestrian sports. I was concerned about the greater number of mpx in the 610 and 800 so assumed that the Df would be the best choice. Am I on the right track? Thanks. r

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