Since sports photography is a type of niche that is so fast-paced, you really need a perfect lens to capture those amazing shots. This can be hard as you cannot just retake photos (as you can with say, wedding photography) and the subjects are often moving very quickly. You really either get a great shot or you don’t, which is what makes this niche so tricky. This is exactly why you need the best lens for sports photography.
Part 1: Choosing the Right Canon Lens for Sports Photography
1. Fast Focusing is Essential for Long Distance at High Magnification
When you are photographing subjects that are moving fast, like race cars or animals, these subjects will pop in and out of the frame so fast. This means that you need a lens with rapid focusing technology to keep up. You will find that this is especially true if you cannot get close enough to your subject. A great lens can offer you amazing focusing at a far distance.
2. Sports Photography Requires Capturing Moving Subjects
Choosing a lens with wide maximum apertures is important because it allows you to photograph at faster shutter speeds as well as allowing you to minimize effects of camera shake and lets you freeze the action.
3. Consideration: Prime or Zoom?
Prime lenses are much sharper then zoom lenses. As a result of its design, there is a constant aperture so you can get sharp images in those low-light situations. There are some downsides to prime lenses. One is that it lacks flexibility, something that is essential with sports photography. Prime lenses are very limited in their capability of getting the perfect shot if the photographer is too close or too far away from their subject. You also do not get the benefit of sitting in a spot and zooming in, rather you will have to walk around for your shots.
The biggest benefit that you will get from a zoom lens is its ability to seamlessly zoom in and out while photographing your subject. This can be especially useful in sports photography as you may not be as close to your subject right away but will within a few moments. However, you can expect to lose sharpness as you zoom in when you compare quality with a prime lens. There is also a variable aperture, which means that you can lose your maximum aperture as you zoom. You can purchase a constant aperture zoom lens, however these can be a lot more expensive than variable options.
Part 2: Best Canon Indoor Sports Lenses
It can be very difficult to photograph indoor sporting events, especially if you have a limited budget to work with. These indoor sporting locations often have poor lighting, as far as photographing the event goes. Here are just a few options to consider for indoor sporting events, which can range from moderately affordable to very expensive.
As Far as a Sports Lens Goes, It Doesn’t Get Much Better than This
This lens is easily one of the best lenses of its kind that you can buy that is available in practically any focal range length. However, the 70-200mm is great for most indoor sporting purposes. You will get a very fast and accurate AF as well as stunning image quality. It is a durable choice and insanely well-built for professional use. This is easily my top choice for an indoor sports action lens.
Impressive Image Quality, Great Focal Length Range, OS, and Wide f/2.8 Aperture
The Sigma f/2.8 offering is well above most of its competition. The max aperture is perfect for capturing sporting events as well as offering the long focal lengths that are needed for sports photography. It may not be the fastest focusing lens, but its AF speed is decent for many uses. The lens itself is sleek and well-built, offering optical image stabilization as needed.
Some refer to this lens as one of this brand’s “White Bazookas”, a lens that people are certainly going to be looking at. With its 200mm offering, you can get amazingly professional looking shots while being further away from the action. With its maximum aperture of F/2, you can get a nice advantage over an option with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom since you can get more light. This allows you to get essential shutter speeds up to where they have to be for high quality images. One of the problems with this lens is the fact that it is rather expensive and has its limitations in a smaller area (like say, a high school gym). As this lens is also great for outdoor sport photography, you are certainly going to get your money’s worth with it.
Great Image Quality, Fast AF, Wide f/2.8 Aperture, and Professional Quality Lens
For those photographers who may not have the money to spend on the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, this is a great option to consider instead for indoor sports photography. The IS II lens is a newer one that has image stabilization and better image quality, but this non-IS lens is a high quality option that gives adequate performance in an indoor venue.
Decently Built, Great Autofocus Accuracy & Speed, Wide f/2.8 Aperture, Amazing Image Quality
If you are closer to the big picture or action, this can be an awesome option for you to consider. This lens is powerful enough to keep up with fast-paced and up-close action while delivering stunning image quality that will certainly impress you. This is a great option for capturing indoor sporting events.
Part 3: Best Cannon Outdoor Sports Lenses
You should know that professional sports photographers typically carry around 2 bodies to capture outdoor sports. One will have a super telephoto lens and the other with a mid-range zoom, such as a 70-200mm range.
The Ultimate Choice for Sport Lenses
As a photographer, if I ever have to only choose one lens to capture a gorgeous image at a sporting event this is the lens that I would have with me. Not only does this lens offer phenomenal quality images (which includes offering a diffuse background blur), it also has an incredibly accurate and fast AF. It is also weather-sealed with a fantastic build quality that can stand up to professional use. I know that I can count on this particular lens to give me an impressive shot as long I capture the image properly. Its 400mm focal length works very well in many situations, especially out on the field. Its reach can be further increased through the use of extenders. Aside from the much pricier Sigma 200-500mm, this is the longest f/2.8 focal length lens that you can get.
The Best Telephoto Zoom Lens
If you want an impressive zoom lens that more than excels in sports photography, this is the only choice. It is best used when capturing sport images that are happening a little closer to you. If you see a professional sporting event, you will generally see this specific lens mounted on a camera that is draped over the shoulder of a professional who is also using one of these aforementioned lenses on their monopod. When the action gets close to them, the camera with this lens comes out and they start shooting with that. If action is up-close to the photographer, the focal length is necessary for more rapidly changing frames. Its zoom feature only makes this a more valuable lens.
For those who may not be able to splurge on a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens from names like Nikon or Canon, this can be your best option. With it being around $1,000 less than the options from those larger brands, you can only notice a marginal difference in performance. There are even a lot of ways where this 3rd party lens even excels over the brand names, though this does come with some caveats. It will focus at a slightly lower rate than the Canon/Nikon varieties and the build just does not quite compare. If you are on a budget, this is the best option for you.
4. Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM “Sports” Lens
Decent Image Quality, Great Focal Length Range, OS, Wide f/2.8 Aperture
While this is not the fastest focusing lens available, this lens does still do very well with capturing a wide range of sporting action in various lighting conditions. The AF speed is adequate enough for sports photography. It also has a great build quality and an aesthetically pleasing lens. If you need optical image stabilization, you do have that capability.
Professional Grade Build Quality, Accurate and Fast AF, Great Focal Length Range, Amazing Image Quality
This range is amazing for sporting events. It is a complete makeover of the incredibly popular earlier version of this model. It keeps a lot of the benefits of the older model, there can be some issues when there is little light and the background not being blurred as strongly in other options. It can be expensive, but it is a lighter and less expensive option than other comparable lenses.