Best Canon Lens for Sports Photography

sports photography

The main challenge of sports photography is that you are photographing fast moving subjects. Attempting to shoot a sports event with an all-purpose lens will not work for most cases, you need a fast lens for your sports photography otherwise you will get photos with motion blur. In this article, I’ll provide you with a list that contains the best Canon lens for sports photography.

sports photography

There are some features you should consider when choosing a lens for sports photography, they are:

Fast lens:

A fast DSLR lens is one that has a low aperture f-number (Lenses with wider apertures) it allows you to freeze the action. For example, a lens with a max aperture of f/2.8 is faster than the one with f/4-5.6. The downside is that faster lenses are more expensive. Unfortunately, if you’re serious about capturing great sports shots, then there is no getting around this.

Fast autofocus:

A fast lens motor is also important so that the lens can autofocus quickly. For example, Canon offers a range of ring USM lenses that automatically focuses quicker than non-USM. 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 motors.

Focal length

The focal length will depend on how close you can get to your subject (i.e. the type of sport you are shooting) as well as how much cropping you can get with your body. Because a cropped sensor is smaller than a full-frame sensor, full-frame lenses attached to a cropped camera will give the lens a field of view like a longer lens. For example, a cropped camera with a crop factor of 1.6 will give a full-frame 300mm lens a field of view of a 450mm lens.

Obviously, you will need a longer telephoto lens if you’re going to shoot a football game when compared to a roller hockey event. 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.

While your telephoto might be the obvious choice for covering the game itself, your wide-angle lens will be a lifesaver when shooting interviews before or after the main event.

Image stabilization (IS & VR)

Image stabilization and vibration reduction are useful but keep in mind that the system prevents camera shake at slower shutter speeds, and obviously slower shutter speeds are not our concern in sports photography. However, IS/VR is very good for low-light situations (indoor sports photography). So if you are planning on using your lenses for more than sports, you may wish to consider getting a lens with IS.

Zooms

In most scenarios, you’re going to need a zoom lens to cover the action in your frame most efficiently. With that said, you’ll want to avoid buying a zoom lens that only covers a standard range, such as a 24-105. Instead, opt for a longer zoom like a 70-200. Doing so will ensure that you have enough range to capture the dynamic changes in what you’re shooting.

sports photography

Indoor sports photography

Indoor Sports Photography

An indoor sports lens needs to have a very wide aperture to enable a shutter speed fast enough to adequately stop the action. And yes, “adequate” in these situations often involves a compromise.

A fixed focal length (or prime) lens is often a good choice as these lenses typically get the widest apertures. Of course, the disadvantage of the fixed focal length lens is that you can’t properly frame the fast-moving athlete as they go from near to far or far to near. The results from a prime lens in this scenario often require resolution-destructive cropping when the subject is too far away – or creative framing when the subject is too close. With a prime lens, you need to select the lens and position your camera so that it works best for the particular situation – or carry a couple of cameras with different focal length lenses mounted.

On the other hand, the other alternative is the zoom lens. The biggest problem with zoom lenses is that they seldom feature a max aperture wider than f/2.8. And f/2.8 is usually what I consider the absolute minimum aperture opening for a successful indoor sports shoot.

In dimly lit areas, even a max aperture of f/2.8 may require the use of ISO settings so high that an unacceptable amount of noise in your images is the result, especially with an APS-C DSLR camera.

Outdoor Sports Photography

Outdoor Sports Photography

Outdoor Sports Photography

A wide aperture is usually the key to get fast shutter speeds like 1/500, 1/1000 or higher to freeze the action. Outdoor sports are often played in bright daylight conditions where even f/5.6 max aperture lenses will work fine, but fast/wide aperture lenses are still a big advantage. Wide apertures can blur the especially distracting sports venue backgrounds and can yield the fastest shutter speed/lowest ISO setting combinations.

Getting the right focal length is, as usual, very important for selecting a sports lens. Many outdoor sports participants cover a wide range of distances from the photographer’s position. Professional sports photographers shooting big events will usually use at least three camera setups simultaneously – to make sure that they have the right focal length available all the time.

If you are shooting large field sports (soccer, baseball, American football), you are probably going to want a full frame 400-600mm focal length angle of view. If you are shooting track and field, with full access to the venue, any focal length from 24mm through 400mm or even 600mm can be useful. If shooting from outside of the fence or from the bleachers, you probably need 200mm – 400mm depending on your subject distance.

Indoor Sports Photography

Outdoor Sports Photography

My Lenses recommendation for indoor & outdoor sport photography

  • Canon Prime Lenses

Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens

Canon-EF-200mm-f2L-IS-USM-Lens

An exceptionally fast medium telephoto prime, the EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is a Canon L-series lens that is ideal for portraiture as well as indoor sports shooting or other low-light, fast-motion applications. The large f/2 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting and also afford extensive control over depth of field for isolating subject matter using selective focus. Equally impressive, the optical design incorporates ultra-low dispersion glass and fluorite elements to significantly reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations for high clarity. Additionally, Super Spectra coatings have been applied to suppress lens flare and ghosting for high contrast and color neutrality when working in harsh lighting.


Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Versatile due to its mid-telephoto focal length and bright maximum aperture, the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is also distinguished by its high-speed performance and intuitive handling to suit its use in a wide variety of working conditions. As an L-series lens, this Tele prime, of course, features an advanced optical design; two fluorite elements are used to reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations for high clarity and color accuracy and a Sub Wavelength Coating has been applied to individual elements to suppress flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality when working in backlit conditions. The fast f/2.8 maximum aperture also enables extensive control over depth of field for isolating subjects using selective focus, and it also benefits working in difficult lighting conditions.


Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Pairing a favored super-telephoto focal length with a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is a Canon L-series optic well-suited for outdoor, wildlife, and sports applications. The fast maximum aperture enables extensive control over depth of field for isolating subjects using selective focus, and it also benefits working in difficult lighting conditions. Two fluorite elements are used in the optical design to help reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations for high clarity and color accuracy and a Sub Wavelength Coating has been applied to individual elements to suppress flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality when working in backlit conditions.


Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Mixing length and capability, the EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM is a Canon L-series super-telephoto lens distinguished by its advanced design, quick and intuitive handling, and high speed to suit sports and wildlife applications. Using a pair of fluorite elements, along with four aspherical elements, both chromatic and spherical aberrations are kept to a minimum in order to realize sharp, clear image quality with accurate rendering and color fidelity. A SubWavelength Coating also contributes to color accuracy and helps to control flare and ghosting when working in backlit and harsh lighting conditions.


Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Well-suited for sports and wildlife photography, the EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM is a Canon L-series super telephoto lens that blends long reach with fast performance and intuitive handling. Using a pair of fluorite elements, along with four aspherical elements, both chromatic and spherical aberrations are kept to a minimum in order to realize sharp, clear image quality with accurate rendering and color fidelity. A SubWavelength Coating also contributes to color accuracy and helps to control flare and ghosting when working in backlit and harsh lighting conditions.


Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

A fast telephoto prime, the Canon EF-mount 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM from Sigma pairs bright and sophisticated optics with intuitive handling and design. As part of the Art line of lenses, this 135mm f/1.8 is designed for high-resolution rendering and utilizes FLD and SLD glass to control chromatic aberrations and color fringing for notable clarity. A Super Multi-Layer Coating also enhances image quality by suppressing lens flare and ghosting for improved contrast and color fidelity in strong lighting conditions. Additionally, making it an ideal lens for portraiture, the bright f/1.8 maximum aperture pairs with a rounded nine-blade diaphragm to benefit selective focus and shallow depth of field imaging with smooth bokeh.


Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens

Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens

The fastest 135mm telephoto lens in its class. Ideal for indoor sports and portraits with background blur. Two UD-glass elements correct secondary spectrum for outstanding sharpness and color. Compatible with Extender EF 1.4x II and 2x II. The Canon 135mm F/2L is commonly used for Landscape/scenery, Low light, Macro photography, Night photography, Photojournalism, Portraits, Sports/action, Video, Weddings, Wildlife, Wildlife photos and more. The Canon 135mm F/2L is popular because customers like the following qualities of the Canon 135mm F/2L: Consistent output, Durable, Easily interchangeable, Easily mounted, Fast/accurate auto-focus, Fast auto-focus, Lightweight, Nice bokeh, Rugged, Simple controls, Strong construction, Superior build quality and Super-sharp images.


Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

A medium telephoto L-series prime, the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM combines a flexible focal length with a modestly bright maximum aperture to realize a relatively compact and lightweight design well-suited for sports and portraiture applications. Its advanced optical design incorporates a pair of ultra-low dispersion glass elements to greatly reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations in order to realize notable clarity and color accuracy, and a Super Spectra coating also helps to increase contrast when working in harsh lighting conditions. Benefitting the optics, a ring-type USM is employed, too, to deliver quick and quiet autofocus performance along with full-time manual focus control.


Indoor sports photography

 

  • Canon Zoom Lenses

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

A workhorse of a lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is an L-series telephoto zoom characterized by its bright f/2.8 constant maximum aperture and optical image stabilization. The fast maximum aperture affords greater control over depth of field and benefits working in low-light conditions while the Image Stabilizer compensates for four stops of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. As an L-series lens, this 70-200mm also features a sophisticated optical design that uses five ultra-low dispersion elements and one fluorite element to reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations for improved clarity. Also, a Super Spectra coating has been applied to help reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color neutrality.


Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM “Sports” Lens

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM "Sports" Lens

The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens for Canon is a telephoto zoom lens featuring a fast, constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. This lens is the first lens designed under Sigma’s new Sports line of lenses, making it well-suited for fast-moving subjects such as wildlife, nature, aviation, racing, and other similar situations.


Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens

A popular telephoto zoom for a variety of shooting applications, this Canon EF-mount SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens from Tamron is characterized by its bright f/2.8 constant maximum aperture, as well as sophisticated optical and physical designs. In regard to optics, an improved layout contains one XLD element and five LD elements to suppress color fringing and chromatic aberrations for notable clarity and color accuracy, and both BBAR and eBAND coatings have been applied to reduce flare and ghosting.


Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM Lens

A workhorse of a lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM is an L-series telephoto zoom characterized by its bright f/2.8 constant maximum aperture and optical image stabilization. The fast maximum aperture affords greater control over depth of field and benefits working in low-light conditions while the Image Stabilizer compensates for four stops of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. As an L-series lens, this 70-200mm also features a sophisticated optical design that uses five ultra-low dispersion elements and one fluorite element to reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations for improved clarity. Also, a Super Spectra coating has been applied to help reduce lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color neutrality.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

Pairing a versatile range of telephoto focal lengths with a fast constant maximum aperture, this 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens from Sigma is designed for APS-C-format Canon EF-mount DSLRs and provides an 80-160mm equivalent focal length range. The bright constant maximum aperture offers consistent low-light performance throughout the zoom range and also affords greater control over focus placement for shallow depth of field and selective focus applications. Complementing the versatile telephoto range is a sophisticated optical design that incorporates three F Low Dispersion elements, one Special Low Dispersion element, and one high-refractive-index, high-dispersion glass element. This combination of low dispersion designs works to noticeably reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing throughout the zoom range, as well as deliver a high degree of contrast and clarity. Additionally, a Super Multi-Layer Coating has been applied to lens elements to reduce lens flare and ghosting to benefit working in strong lighting conditions. An unprecedented combination of focal length and speed, this 50-100mm f/1.8 lens offers a variety of favored telephoto perspectives in combination with a flexible maximum aperture.


Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

A long-reaching telephoto zoom characterized by a sophisticated optical design and advanced image stabilization technologies, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens is part of the esteemed L-series developed for full-frame EOS DSLRs. One fluorite element and one Super UD element have been incorporated into the lens’ construction, and both help to reduce aberrations and distortions throughout the zoom range in order to deliver notable clarity, image sharpness, and faithful color reproduction. An Air Sphere Coating has also been applied to lens elements in order to reduce lens flare and ghosting for more contrast-rich imagery. Benefitting the optical components of the lens, a four-stop effective Image Stabilizer helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake and can be dedicated to different styles of shooting. Furthermore, a redeveloped rotation-type zoom ring pairs with an internal focusing mechanism, and an Ultrasonic Motor, to deliver quick and intuitive handling to benefit handheld shoot.  Positioned as a versatile option for sports and wildlife photographers, this lens’ list of attributes make it a viable telephoto zoom for a variety of shooting applications.


 

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