Tips for choosing a sports photography lens – What is the best lens for sports photography

One of the main challenges for sports photographers, is that they are photographing moving subjects. Anyone who has photographed their kids sporting event, will know how hard it was to get a sharply focused shot.

Most beginners will attempt to shoot a sports event with their all purpose lens. However, unless you like the effect of motion blur, you will need to look at purchasing a fast lens for your sports photography needs.

What is a fast lens?

A fast DSLR lens, is one that has a low aperture f number. For example, a lens that offers f/2.8 is faster than a f/4-5.6. The downside, is that faster lenses are more expensive. Unfortunately, if your serious about capturing great sports shots, then there is no getting around this.

Fast lens motor is also important for sports photography

A fast lens motor is also important so it can autofocus quickly. For example, Canon offers a range of ring USM lenses that automatically focuses quicker than non USM. We have a current list of Canon ring USM lenses. For those with Nikon SLR cameras, it’s good to look for a lens that offers a Silent Wave Motor (SWM). Fast autofocusing is the main advantage of silent wave motor’s.

Best Telephoto lens for sports photography

The DSLR lens you choose to purchase for your sports photography needs, will also need to be a telephoto lens. How long of a telephoto lens, will depend on what your intending to shoot. Obviously you will need a longer telephoto lens if you’re going to be photographing a football game, when compared to a roller hockey event. Generally, you should be looking at purchasing a 300 or 400mm telephoto lens. If you find you need extra distance coverage, you can always use a teleconverter as well. Therefore it’s important to purchase a telephoto lens that is compatible with teleconverters, so you do have that option later on down the track.

Best DSLR Canon lens for sports photography

EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM is currently one of the best sports photography lenses on the market for Canon users. It is a fast, ring USM lens, that results in sharp images. It’s also fully compatible with Canon EF 1.4x and EF 2x extenders, in case you find later on you need extra distance coverage.

Best Nikon lens for sports photography

For Nikon DSLR users, the AF-S VR NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens is currently one of the best for serious sports photographers. It is a high speed telephoto lens that has an inbuilt Silent Wave Motor for fast autofocusing. It is also compatible with Nikon TC-17EII (1.7x), TC-14EII (1.4x) and TC-20EII (2.0x) teleconverters.

The downside to both these recommendations is that they are expensive professional models. The EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM, sells for around $3900 USD at time of writing, and the AF-S VR NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens is $6500 USD. However, if you intend on doing a lot of serious sports photography, then they are well worth the money.

Yikes!! Isn’t there a cheaper sports photography lens?

You could get away with a cheaper 200mm focal length telephoto lens. Especially if you also attach a teleconverter to your setup as well. A good lens for closer sports photography, is a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens, which currently sells for around $1500 USD. For Nikon camera owners, there is the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for approximately $1700 USD.