Best Lenses For Sports Photography – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

Want to take a beautiful shot of soccer players? Or want to capture the spirit of your favorite team? You need a high-quality sports photography lens.

Sports photography is getting progressively more and more competitive, so make sure you are equipped with the very best lens on the block.

Scan through this detailed buyer’s guide, and we are sure that you will have found the perfect option by the time you are done.

Comparison Chart of the Best Lenses For Sports Photography

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

  • Built with image stabilization feature
  • Best overall and best lens for sports photography
  • Comes with inner focusing system with USM adjustment
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Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

  • Runner-up
  • Featured closing distance is 3.6 feet
  • Lens construction consists of 12 elements in 10 groups
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Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens

  • Best for the money
  • Maximum magnification value is 1:4
  • Equipped with the maximum aperture of f22-f32
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Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L

  • Best lens for night sports photography
  • Designed with heat shielding measures
  • Has dust and water-resistant fluorine coatings
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Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D

  • Best Nikon lens for sports
  • Equipped with a rotating zoom ring
  • Covered in multiple coatings to give exceptional results
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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm

  • Minimum aperture is f/22
  • Minimum focus distance is of 3.6 feet
  • Best Nikon lens for indoor sports photography
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Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens

  • Best sports lens for Canon rebel
  • Equipped with a full-frame digital sensor
  • Easy to carry around since it only weighs 16.8 ounces
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Can Any Lens Be Used For Sports Photography?

A simple one-word answer to this question is no. If you want to click high-resolution pictures and add value to your art, then you must be familiar with a variety of lenses and which one is appropriate for your niche. In this case, as we are talking about sports photography, an ideal lens for sports photography will allow the photographer to reach farther or closer to the focus, as required.

Longer focal length lenses are used to click all the action that is happening on the ground, field, or court. On the other hand, wide-angle lenses are perfect for clicking closeups of the players. So no, not every lens can be used for sports photography.

How Do I Choose a Lens For Sports Photography?

One must consider the following factors when choosing a high-quality lens for sports photography:

Type

Generally speaking, wide-angle, telephoto, prime, and zoom lenses are optimal for sports photography. In addition to this, medium focal length lenses are also used by some professional photographers. The ideal type for you depends on your point of focus and what kind of motion you want to capture.

Price

As sports photography is all about focus and motion, you need a lens that is designed and crafted to exercise precision. Have a rough idea about your budget and make a list of the lenses that fit your criteria. The price must do justice to the features of the lens. If this is your first time doing sports photography, then purchasing the most expensive model is not a good idea at all.

Reviews

When choosing the right lens for sports photography, always look at the ratings and reviews left by customers or users. Having a detailed look at your options will help you understand how well a particular lens is performing compared to its competitors. In addition to this, you will know the perfect focal length range for a particular type of photography.

Quick Take - Best Lenses For Sports Photography

Before we dive into our review, here are the best lenses for sports photography:

  1. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
  2. ​Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
  3. ​Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens

Review of the Best Lenses For Sports Photography

Let us look at some of the remarkable main features, pros, and cons of the very best sports lenses on the market. Whether you’re just starting out in sports photography or are looking for a replacement for your current lens, the following options can all be excellent choices. 

Best Overall and Best Lens for Sports Photography Canon:
 Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Lens Only

PROS

  • Easy to carry and move around
  • Easily compatible with Canon cameras
  • Front lens does not rotate while focusing
  • Reduces motion blur when holding in the hand
  • Construction consists of 16 elements in 13 groups

CONS

  • Does not take the best close-ups

What Recent Buyers Report

Most photographers who got their hands on this lens were extremely happy with the quality of shots taken with it. One of the recent buyers reported that he liked its solid build, and there is no plastic to see or feel on this stunner. Another buyer reported that image quality did justice to its price. Overall, buyers were highly satisfied.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This product is a high-quality, high-performance, L-series telephoto zoom lens, and this is one of the many reasons it stands out to us. In addition to this, you can buy a separate tripod stand for this, which provides exceptional ease to the user.

Who Will Use This Most

Photographers who are passionate about sports photography and love to carry and run with their lenses to get the best shot possible would enjoy this model a lot. It is easy to carry, fix, and mount, and most importantly, when you are trying to focus, it does not rotate.

Bottom Line

Featuring 70-200mm focal length and 1:4.0 maximum aperture, this is the best overall canon sports photography lens that you would find on the market. So, start saving up money from your photography gigs and spend it on this bleeding-edge state-of-the-art lens and improve the quality of your art significantly.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

PROS

  • Equipped with a filter size of 58mm
  • Perfect for a graduated and polarizing filter
  • Comes with precise, smooth, and soft autofocus
  • Smooth switching between manual and autofocus
  • Extremely easy to carry as it weighs around 13.8 ounces

CONS

  • Slower shutter speed for sharp images
  • Lack of full-time manual focus override

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers of this spectacular lens are very happy and satisfied with their purchase. One of the buyers complimented its good zoom range, and the others appreciated the fact that it comes with a remarkable image stabilization feature. Overall, each buyer was happy with the high quality of the images that it produced.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens is above average in almost all of the important categories. One of the things that differentiates it from others on the market is its 1-year warranty. This way, you can use it with care just the way you like, knowing you would be able to get it repaired in case of any emergency.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are someone who is new to the field of photography or sports photography, in this case, this lens would be perfect for you. While it is not really the best option for professionals, users can use it for experimentation and become the best at sports photography.

Bottom Line

This lens offers maximum aperture, comes with multiple elements, and clicks high-quality pictures, which makes it one of the very best on the market. Get rid of your older lens, attach this new one to your camera, and treat the world with your beautiful and detailed pictures.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

PROS

  • Comes with multi-layer lens coating
  • Minimum focusing distance is 59 inches
  • Features 14 lens elements in 10 groups
  • Designed and optimized to use with SLR cameras
  • Compact and intelligent design reduces flare and ghosting

CONS

  • Does not fit on all models
  • Sometime one may face a minor glitch in autofocus

What Recent Buyers Report

One recent buyer reported that he enjoyed taking photographs of the moon and even detailed close-ups of flowers, which means it is a great macro lens that can also help you take close-ups of the players in action. Another buyer reported that this was a top-notch lens for capturing beautiful pictures, and most importantly, it even does justice to its price. Almost every user has praised the image quality it provides.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Our favorite aspects of this product are its price and its versatility. This lens is not difficult on the pocket; it is easily affordable, especially considering its quality. Also, one can use it in multiple scenarios. From taking pictures of athletes, the moon, landscapes, and flowers, this beautiful Sigma macro telephoto lens is perfect for taking any shot, and it never disappoints.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this is a macro telephoto zoom lens, its uses are almost endless. Those wanting to not only take close-ups of the action on the field but also capture portraits of the star players will find this to be a great option. Those who are looking to get a feature-rich, top-notch lens that doesn’t compromise on the image quality and provides great value for money should absolutely jump at this opportunity.

Bottom Line

With this attached to your camera, you’ll know that you have your hands on one of the greatest sports photography lenses of all time, so click as many amazing pictures as possible and take your business to the next level. Get maximum use out of the stunning features this model has to provide and use them to your benefit.

Best Lens for Night Sports Photography:
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L is III USM Lens

PROS

  • Provides remarkable image quality
  • Best to use in harsh weather conditions
  • Reliable and durable for shooting outdoors
  • Minimizes the chances of ghosting and flaring
  • Comes with super spectra coating and air sphere coating

CONS

  • Slightly heavier on the pocket

What Recent Buyers Report

Almost every photographer that has this lens on his or her shelf is extremely satisfied with its performance. One of the many recent buyers reported that he recently clicked a game with this lens in harsh weather conditions. He was very surprised by the high contrast that it provided. Overall, buyers had hardly anything to complain about with this.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens comes with various coatings that reduce the chances of ghosting and flare. In addition to this, we find it to be a great option since it is suitable for clicking the perfect photos in harsh weather conditions and rain.

Who Will Use This Most

Night-time photography can be difficult because of the lack of light. That becomes even more difficult when there are quick movements of the subjects involved. However, this is the best for sports photographers who prefer to take remarkable shots of sports at night. Plus, if you are thinking about covering a sports event and there are predictions of wind and rain, then you have nothing to worry about. This lens is designed to survive every condition.

Bottom Line

Stop overthinking and get your hands on this beautiful lens that is crafted and features multiple layers and coatings to survive harsh weather conditions. With this fitted on your camera, you don’t have a reason to miss out on night matches, even during harsh weather conditions. Feel free to capture any match you please.

Best Nikon Lens For Sports:
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D ED Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Features a diaphragm blade of 9mm
  • Clicks pictures with a focus distance of 4.9 feet
  • Perfect for sports, portraits, and nature photography
  • EDI glass elements also ensure the high-contrast image
  • Equipped with EDI glass elements for high-resolution pictures

CONS

  • Slightly lacks in the sharpness department

What Recent Buyers Report

Every single sports photographer that has access to this spectacular lens appreciates its performance. One of its recent buyers reported that he was not sure regarding its performance at first, but after reading its manual and playing around with its settings, he said that this had become one of his favorites. The same is the case with almost all other users.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Many features make this Nikon sports photography lens a superb option. One of those features is that it has EDI glass elements. These allow the photographer to capture high contrast and high-resolution pictures. In addition to this, it does not have a heavy price tag attached to it, making it a great choice.

Who Will Use This Most

Those who wish to take beautiful and natural portraits of athletes playing at night time would be satisfied with the results of this lens. Even raw images taken with it turn out to be beautiful. So if you fall under those categories, then you would be wise to consider this lens as an option.

Bottom Line

This is one of the most spectacular lenses on our list. Since it is made by Nikon, you know that you can’t go wrong with it. Plus, it comes with several great features that make it a top pick for sports photography.

Best Nikon Lens for Indoor Sports Photography:
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens

PROS

  • Equipped with 9 diaphragm blades
  • Takes excellent photographs in low light
  • Comes with innovative design and control
  • Image stabilization and captures outstanding sharpness
  • Features weather-sealed coating, making it durable and reliable

CONS

  • Might be a little difficult to afford

What Recent Buyers Report

One recent buyer is extremely satisfied with the performance of this product; he reported that he is satisfied with its closer focus, less weight, less flare, better contrast, minimal focus breathing, faster focusing, metal filter threads, and a long list of other features. Another buyer appreciated that it was very easy to navigate. Almost all other buyers had more or less the same positive things to say.

Why it Stands Out to Us

With ideal shutter speed, perfect aperture, remarkable focal length, and precise focus, this lens is capable of taking stunning photographs even in low light settings. Plus, it offers more than a dozen features at quite a fair price.

Who Will Use This Most

Want to capture players in indoor photography, wedding receptions, or wildlife flora and fauna at dawn and dusk? If yes, then this is a perfect photography lens for all of these uses. Click stunning close-ups and portraits and spread your art in your surroundings. As it comes with collar rings, you can adjust it between horizontal and vertical shooting, making this model ideal for a variety of scenarios.

Bottom Line

If you have a knack for indoor photography, then save up some money, get your hands on this indoor photography lens, click some stunning moments, and increase the quality of your work. We assure you that you will not be disappointed by the quality and performance that it offers.

Best Sports Lens for Canon Rebel:
Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

PROS

  • Shares 13 element optical system
  • Most easily affordable Canon lens
  • Comes with a USM, instead of a DC motor
  • Very easy to mount compared to many others
  • Allows you to give dramatic effects to the picture

CONS

  • Takes a long time to focus

What Recent Buyers Report

One recent buyer reported that he wasn’t sure if he would be investing in this telephoto lens. But after using it and experimenting with it, he finally realized the precision and high-quality result that it offered. Another buyer said that this lens made him realize that he wanted to pursue a career in photography. All in all, we find that users loved this product quite a lot.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of the most affordable lenses on our list. It takes beautiful pictures and portraits of wildlife and nature. In addition to this, the very fact that it comes with a zoomable type of rotatable focus makes it very impressive.

Who Will Use This Most

Do you like to take a close-up of a beautiful bird sitting on a branch? Or do you wish to take excellent photographs in low light? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you would find a true companion in this Canon rebel lens. It promises to deliver excellent results in every circumstance. Plus, its ability to capture in low light makes it great for sports photography.

Bottom Line

Photography is an art and a skill, but if you have access to a 75-300mm lens with the maximum aperture, then the value of your art is increased by several times. So, investing in a quality lens is very important. This will offer you high-resolution pictures and autofocus instead of manual focus.

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

When you are buying a camera lens for sports photography, you should keep some cautious considerations in mind, as these will help you select a high-quality model.

Mounting

Always buy the camera first, and lens second. If you already have access to a camera, it is well and good. If you don’t, then buy a camera that is ideal for sports photography. Scan through the manual of your camera, and you will come across a section that talks about mounting a lens on it. Read it through and choose a lens that is easy to mount, does not fall off, and, most importantly, is compatible with your camera. Otherwise, investing in a model that does not give you excellent results is nothing but a waste of time.

Important Features

Always look for some of the key features that make a sports photography lens stand out from the rest. Choose an option that complements the autofocus, speed, and accuracy of your camera and eventually clicks stunning, detailed action pictures and portraits. In addition to this, ultra-fast primes or high-zoom end lenses are ideal for clicking moments on the field. Lastly, make sure that the maximum room aperture would remain constant throughout your zoom range.

Conclusion

We understand that buying a photography lens is a lot of work, but we hope that our detailed buyer’s guide has proved to be of great help. Just incorporate all the tips and tricks we've presented and carefully evaluate lenses based on their pros and cons, and we are sure you will be able to take your sports photography to new highs.

People Also Ask

Here are short and precise answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by people who are looking for the best sports photography lenses.

Is a Macro Lens Good For Sports?

Most sports photographers are more comfortable with a lens that is wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle. These are best to click pictures of huddles. Macro lenses, on the other hand, are perfect for taking detailed shots, for example, taking pictures of the shoes of the players or the details on a trophy.

What is the Best Aperture For Sports Photography?

If you want to capture the very best shots at a sports event, then make sure your aperture is set to the maximum. There are two common maximum apertures of a telephoto lens: f/4 and f/5.6. Set your camera and lens on this setting, and we assure you that you would be able to take the most detailed picture. 

What is the Best Shutter Speed For Sports?

As players are in constant motion, if your lens or camera does not work in real-time, then you won’t be able to capture the moment you wanted to. There is a standard shutter speed for sports photography. Most professional sports photographers go by the speed of around 1/1000 of a second.

How Do You Photograph Action Sports?

There are a couple of points that you must keep in mind when photographing action sports. Always use fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Opt for a wide aperture camera lens to add depth, increase ISO of your camera, and lastly, use more autofocus in the areas of contrast. 

What Should the Shutter Speed Be For Action Shots?

When shooting action shots in football, baseball, soccer, or dancing, the key is to increase your shutter speed to freeze the action shots. The ideal shutter speed to get the premium result is 1/1000. You can even set it to 1/500 as a starting point, but for better results, stick to 1/1000.