Best Nikon Sports Lenses – 2019 Complete Round-up

Are you interested in sports photography?

Capturing an athlete’s every move can be a challenging process, especially if you do not have the right lens on your camera. 

This guide will be a complete breakdown of the lenses are available in the market that fit perfectly for fast-moving photography.

Comparison Chart of the Best Nikon Sports Lenses

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D

  • Equipped with ED glass elements
  • Comes with a zoom ring which is rotatable
  • 2.5x telephoto zoom lens, making it the best overall
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Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2

  • At VC mode 3, the performance is 5 stops
  • Supports teleconverters, making it the runner-up
  • Provides three different modes for different shooting situations
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Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G

  • Equipped with 3 ED elements
  • Nano Crystal Coat which reduces flare and ghosting in images
  • Comes with the all-new VR2 and image stabilization, making it the best for the money
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Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm

  • Zoom and focal rings are at reversed positions for stable zoom
  • HRI elements as well as Nano Crystal Coating for reduced distortion
  • Equipped with 6 ED elements, making it the best Nikon lens for indoor sports photography
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Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G

  • HRI lens element and 2 ED glass elements
  • Comes with vibration reduction stabilization to eliminate blurriness
  • 5.5x telephoto zoom lens, making it the best Nikon D3200 sports lens
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Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6G

  • D-type design allows for a more precise focus
  • G-design for selecting apertures in some SLR cameras
  • 4.3X telephoto zoom lens, making it the best Nikon D3100 Sports Lens
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Tamron Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di

  • Comes with a 6-year warranty
  • Built-in motor for accurate autofocus
  • Has a close focusing ability, that makes it the best Nikon D5100 Sports lens
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What Size of Lens Do I Need For Sports Photography?

When you’re looking for a sports lens, you need to look for the right focal length as well as the aperture. Usually, photographers rely on a 70-200mm lens with an f/2.8 aperture because it focuses on subjects well, while softly blurring the background. However, in some cases, where the photographer and athlete have a large distance between them, such as in surfing, they would require superzoom lenses, which will also offer brighter glass.

For general photography, an f/5.6 aperture will work. However, in places where you need all the focus on the subject and the background blurred so the attention falls on the athlete, a wider aperture and telephoto lens are the way to go. The best fit would be to go for an f/2.8 aperture with a 300mm-600mm lens.

How Do I Choose a Lens For Sports Photography?

In order to choose the right lens, there are a few things you need to consider. The following are some factors to think about before making a purchase:

Motor Speed

You obviously want a lens with blazing-fast autofocus. This is because sports photography is all about capturing fast-moving subjects. Thus, you need a Nikon lens equipped with a Silent Wave Motor feature to allow you to take silent but fast pictures.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D 

Telephoto Lens

This can vary amongst the different uses present and you need to find one that suits your type of sports photography. For some instances, a short lens can provide what you need; however, in some places, you need a longer lens, so your ideal lens will be in the 300-400mm range and should be able to support a teleconverter for extra length if needed.

Speed

You will need a super-fast lens that can capture fast-moving athletes and this will come with an f/2.8 or lower aperture. This may be expensive, but will definitely give you a better result than an f/4, which would be slightly cheaper than the lower apertures.  

Quick Take - Best Nikon Sports Lenses

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

  1. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D
  2. ​Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2
  3. ​Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G

Review of the Best Nikon Lenses For Sports Photography

Now that you understand what you need to look for before purchasing a sports lens, let’s dive into the reviews of the best ones from Nikon currently available in the market. Here are some sought-after lenses for sports photography:

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

PROS

  • Well-built with metal for challenging situations
  • Produces tack-sharp, flawless images each time
  • Aperture ring allows for more precise operation
  • Provides great value for the money
  • f/2.8 aperture allows it to shoot images at a super-fast speed

CONS

  • Images may be way too soft at 200mm and f/2.8 aperture
  • Really heavy and can be tough to carry around for lengths of time
  • In high-contrast situations, there is some level of chromatic aberration

What Recent Buyers Report

This telephoto lens works blazing fast in all situations and extremely well in low-light conditions, as well. Its results are extremely promising, with lightning speed autofocus that allows you to take picture after picture without slowing down. Overall, it produces high-quality images at the fastest speed.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens is designed with the best features and the highest quality materials to give you the most out of your photographic experience. The ED elements and SIC glass help in color correcting and reducing flare or ghosting of the images taken. Plus, it is designed to give you the most powerful performance you could ever want in a telephoto zoom lens.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this lens is huge and has a wide aperture and huge zoom lengths, it specifically caters to the needs of professionals who do sports photography. It’s also suitable for individuals covering events, portraits for weddings or birthdays where they need to focus on the subject and blur the background, and nature photography, as well.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the best lens to capture all those fast-moving athletes engrossed in the game, then this is the best one you can find. With its speedy autofocus and flawless image quality, you will be able to get the best shot each time and will not be disappointed.

Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2 for Nikon FX Digital SLR Camera (6 Year Tamron Limited Warranty)

PROS

  • Has a great image stabilization feature
  • Comes with a tripod collar integrated into it
  • Throughout the range, the resolution is also excellent
  • Construction is phenomenal, with a weather-sealed build
  • Optics of this lens is stellar, especially with an f/2.8 aperture

CONS

  • Corners or edges of the image may be dimmed
  • Zoom ring is not as smooth as that of other lenses
  • At 70 and 200mm, the image quality becomes softer

​What Recent Buyers Report

This is an ultimate lens for sports photography. The lens stabilization allows users to take tack-sharp images without any blurriness. Moreover, it has a great build quality that makes it highly durable and efficient to use for a long period of time in any condition. Overall, it is a stunning lens.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reason this lens had to be on our list is simple. Its high resolution will render you speechless, as it not only focuses on the subject accurately but also gives you the most natural-looking and creamy bokeh in the background. This lens is packed with performance, which makes it a great purchase for sports photography.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this lens renders such silky bokeh, it can be used by professionals for portrait photography where the subject is focused on and the background is dimmed. Moreover, it can also be used for nature, architectural photography, and sports as well, because of its image stabilizing feature that lets you take images of fast-paced objects.

Bottom Line

If you want a great lens that can take amazing, sharp images even if you have jittery hands, then this one's for you. It will promise the highest quality images that will make you confident in your photographic abilities and stun you with its powerful performance and supreme features.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED Vibration Reduction II Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Compatible with a teleconverter
  • Image quality of this lens is phenomenal
  • Images have the least amount of distortion
  • Weather-sealed so that it is splash and dustproof
  • Image stabilization feature is embedded, so you can say goodbye to blurry photos

CONS

  • Not for beginner-level users
  • There may be vignetting at the f/2.8 aperture
  • Extremely heavy to carry around for a long period of time

What Recent Buyers Report

Photographers praised this camera lens and dubbed it one of the best ones Nikon has ever made. The lens quality is superior to other lenses and the image quality is one of a kind. The vibration reduction technology gives fast and accurate images and reduces color fringing so you can get even colors throughout the image.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens has been tested by professionals all around the world and has become a popular favorite and highly recommended lens. It performs outstandingly in any lighting conditions and also operates phenomenally in harsh or challenging situations because of its sturdy and robust build.

Who Will Use This Most

This lens is specifically designed for professional shooters who need a flawless lens for either wildlife photography or sports photography. In fact, some portrait photographers also live by this lens. The high-quality features such as a longer focal length and brighter aperture make it useful for any type of action photography.

Bottom Line

This lens is big, robust, and packed with the best features you could ever want in a sports lens. It's one of the best lenses you could go for and provides a bang for your buck. Plus, its bright aperture and robust construction cater to the demands of professional photographers all around the world.

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

  • Comes with a rotating tripod collar
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the range
  • Equipped with optical stabilization feature to eliminate blurriness
  • Well-constructed, with a strong and sturdy build for harsh conditions
  • Super-sharp display of images and quality, with extra attention to details

CONS

  • Has some level of distortion
  • Corners or edges are dimmed at f/2.8
  • Images may have some chromatic aberration

What Recent Buyers Report

Users labeled this as a state-of-the-art lens because of its high functionality and great specs. Its focus is awesome, and it gives better contrast and brighter colors throughout the image. Moreover, the vibration reduction is fast throughout the entire time, and the dust and splash-proof glass make the lens durable, as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This has all the features you would ever want in a telephoto zoom lens. The focus is fast and accurate, and it operates flawlessly in low-light conditions. It can produce astounding images with the many different glass elements that combine to reduce ghosting or flares and minimize distortion. It also features lens VR stabilization that eliminates blurriness.

Who Will Use This Most

Professional photographers who shoot portraits for weddings and other such events will find this to be quite useful as it is a lens that allows you to capture the subject while beautifully blurring the backgrounds. It is also ideal for indoor sports photography and renders silky bokeh.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a lens that will capture the subject precisely and give you close focus and beautiful quality, this is for you. It’s the perfect addition to your lens kit if you’re on the hunt for a great indoor sports photography lens, as its features will allow you to accomplish breathtaking shots.

Best Nikon D3200 Sports Lens:
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • A very portable and versatile lens
  • Fast zooming and autofocus for speedy shots
  • Has excellent zoom range and provides tack-sharp images
  • Has a great build and construction for durability and strength
  • Vibration Reduction technology allows the colors to be even and the image to be stabilized

CONS

  • Focus ring rotates during autofocus
  • Autofocus makes noise in video shooting
  • Some delay before the VR starts functioning

What Recent Buyers Report

For the price and the quality, this lens is an amazing purchase, as it provides a bang for the buck. The focal length is usable and the build is strong and compares to high-end, more expensive lenses. It is a great, all-around lens that focuses accurately and produces high-quality images.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens has HRI and ED elements that allow you to capture images from a distance, making them seem like they are close. The VR and image stabilization features allow you to take blur-free images and sharper stills as well as high-quality videos. In every aspect, this lens performs outstandingly.

Who Will Use This Most

This lens is great for photographers who like to capture nature and is even great for wildlife photography. It is also a good find for those photographers who like capturing portraits and need a high-quality lens at a reasonable price. It is perfect for D3200 users who want to capture sports photos.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced lens for sports photography, this is the one to go for. It is lightweight, easy to carry, and a perfect addition to any beginner’s kit. So, if you’re on the hunt for a high-quality lens with advanced features and great build at a low price, this is the one to choose.

Best Nikon D3100 Sports Lens:
Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6G

Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6G Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Low level of distortion in the images taken
  • SWM and IF allows a silent and sharper focus
  • Very sharp lens that provides you with high-quality images
  • Sweet spot at shorter lengths, where you can get the best shots
  • Image stabilization feature is amazing and eliminates blurriness

CONS

  • Shutter speed is not that fast
  • Sharp edges but softer centers
  • At longer focal length, there is a visible level of chromatic aberration

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens gives you the extra reach you want and zooms in on the subject very smoothly. Moreover, the image stabilization feature works amazingly in normal light conditions and is super-light and easy to carry around, so you can use it without straining your wrists.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a lightweight camera lens packed with great specs and powerful performance. It is an amazing telephoto zoom lens with ED elements embedded in it so that it can keep the chromatic aberration at shorter lengths as minimal as possible. The shutter can work at any time of the day, without worrying about the blurriness.

Who Will Use This Most

Ideally, this camera lens is designed to take candid shots or sports photos because of its speedy shutter that allows you to take high-quality images of fast-moving subjects easily. Moreover, if you own a D3100, this is the one for you. It will allow you to use the maximum potential of the camera while delivering the best shots.

Bottom Line

This multipurpose lens allows you to take images of buildings, birds, nature, portraits, and is an all-around great lens, especially if you’re an amateur in photography. The value of money it provides is phenomenal and it is also super lightweight and easy to carry for longer periods

Best Nikon D5100 Sports Lens:
Tamron Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di

Tamron Auto Focus 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens with Built in Motor for Nikon Digital SLR (Model A17NII)

PROS

  • Overall great value for money
  • Lightweight and easy to carry around
  • Resolution at shorter lengths is mind-blowing
  • Equipped with a macro feature for macro photography
  • Has an amazing resistance to flare and ghosting in shots

CONS

  • Noisy focus, which can be annoying
  • Autofocus may be a little slow compared to other models
  • Front element rotates, which may make it difficult to use a polarizer with

What Recent Buyers Report

This lens has an amazing macro ability that allows you to take great quality shots from a distance with special attention to the details of the subject. Moreover, it allows the photographer to capture tack-sharp images each time, with less distortion and a pleasant bokeh.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reason this lens made it on the list is because of its high-quality specs and great price. It is equipped with the advanced low dispersion glass element. Thus, it lets you take images that are free of chromatic aberration and have a consistent color theme throughout the image.

Who Will Use This Most

If you like capturing nervous insects from a good distance and want the quality to be extremely refined and sharp, this lens is for you. It is an amazing lens for macro or nature photography and a great choice for beginners to practice macro photography on. It works exceptionally for sports photography on a D5100 too.

Bottom Line

Within such a price range, this is definitely a strong contender in the market for a great telephoto lens, especially for sports photography. It can capture the subjects with clarity while blurring the background for maximum focus and effect. Overall, this lens will not disappoint you.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Now that you’ve read the reviews of the best lenses for sports photography, let’s take a look at the aspects you need to cover before purchasing one.

Autofocus and its Responsiveness

The first thing to consider is the autofocus. Action and fast-paced movements require a fast shutter speed and autofocus to capture the motion and the movements of the athletes.

Maximum Aperture

You need a lens that has a wider aperture, preferably f/2.8, so more light can be captured in the image sensor to work in poorly lit or dim environments, especially at nighttime.

Focal Length

The next thing you should look at is the maximum focal length of your lens. You must know how far away you will be from the subject to determine which one is best suited for your type of sports photography. You also need to know which aspects of the sport you’re going to be shooting.

Lens Ergonomics

In order to decide which lens is more suitable for you, you should consider whether comfort comes as your top priority or not. For this, you need to check whether the lens comes with a tripod collar, where the focus ring is placed on the lens, and whether or not it is equipped with AF-on and lock button.

Conclusion

Since lenses are a crucial component that can make or break your photography experience, it is imperative to choose one that fits your list of needs. Hopefully, this article gave you insight on how to choose your next lens, and which aspects to consider before purchasing your new Nikon lens.

People Also Ask

If you are still facing some ambiguities and doubts on which sports lens you should get, this portion may help clarify some of your concerns as we answer a few frequently asked questions.

What is the Best Shutter Speed for Sports?

If you are a professional who engages in action photography for a living, a 1/1000 of a second to stop motion shutter speed is the right shutter speed to use during the day time. However, for nighttime sports shooting, you need a faster f-stop and you need to increase the ISO of your camera.

What is the Best Aperture for Sports Photography?

For sports photography or any other kind of action photography, you need a lens with the maximum aperture so you can capture more depth of field. The standard aperture you need for your telephoto lens is f/4 and f/5.6. For a larger depth of field, go for f/8 or f/11, but make sure you keep an eye on the shutter speed.

What Are the Best Settings for Sports Photography?

For stop action, you need faster shutter speeds of about 1/1000th of a second. In order to capture action photography, you need slower shutter speeds of about 1/250th second. Next, ensure that your camera is set to the lowest ISO setting in order to freeze the action. For natural or daylight photography, a 100 or 200 ISO is perfect.

What is the Best ISO for Sports Photography?

Usually, photographers aim for a 1600 ISO between the 800-3200 range. It allows shooting at faster shutter speeds if you’re shooting action photography. However, you can automatically set ISO settings by allowing your camera to choose which ISO setting it thinks is better for the type of photography you’re engaging in.