Sports photography involves capturing sports-events, games, and other athletic activities. While shooting these events, the photography perspective can range from photojournalism to documentation. Magazines, newspapers, digital media, and promotional sites publish such images. Plus they are put to good use for building personal portfolios. 

Shooting sports requires a passion for speed and action. This means the photographer's mind must have the calibre to actively anticipate the next few seconds or the next movement. Sports photography is a versatile genre that involves portraiture, documentary photography, vernacular photography, action sequences, and more. 

To shoot stunning images and videos of something dynamic brimming with energy and movement, you require capable gear. As a result the tools used to capture sports must be as swift as the game itself. Efficient and accurate performance of the camera and lens will enable you to capture 'the shot of your lifetime'. 

Each genre comes with its requisite of specific equipment. Apart from professional use, if you wish to capture your favourite sport in stunning detail, your gear plays a significant role. Sports ranging from football and rugby to motorsport and the Olympics, require the action to be frozen in time.

To assist in capturing the best sporting moments we recommend a kit which contains a dedicated sports camera and telephoto lens. For the best outcomes here are some of our recommendations.

Sony A9 II Speed For Sports Photography

Designed for speed, the Sony Alpha A9 II features an improved version of the BIONZ X image processor and a front-end LSI. The camera utilises a full-frame, Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor with 24.2 effective megapixels. Its upgraded quality and processing performance ensure faster results. 

Features: 24.2Megapixels, Advanced Exmor RS CMOS Sensor, Improved BIONZ X Image Processor and Front-End LSI.

Specifications:

  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Camera Format: Full-Frame (1x Crop Factor)
  • Pixels: 24.2 Megapixel
  • Maximum Resolution: 6000 x 4000
  • Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Sensor Size: 35.6 x 23.8 mm
  • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
  • Image Stabilisation: Sensor-Shift, 5-Axis
  • Exposure Compensation: -5 to +5 EV (1/3, 1/2 EV Steps)
  • Continuous Shooting: Up to 20 fps at 24.2 MP for 239 Frames (Raw) and 361 Frames (JPEG)
  • Up to 10 fps at 24.2 MP for 239 Frames (Raw) and 361 Frames (JPEG)

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The A9II Is Built For Speed

The A9 II allows continuous shooting at a rate of 20 frames per second using an electronic shutter, and at 10fps using the mechanical shutter. The sensitivity of the camera's sensor ranges from ISO 50 to 204800 with low noise capabilities. High range of sensitivity makes this Sony a perfect fit for all lighting conditions. 

The camera comes with a depth of 14bits, allowing the user to have sufficient flexibility during the post-production stage. The combination of Front-End LSI and the high bit depth provides precision in colour and tonal reproduction. 

Featuring Blazing Fast Autofocus

The Fast Hybrid AF comes with 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points, for fast and accurate focusing. Since the AF points cover 93% of the sensor, the system incorporates high-density tracking. 

The advanced AF algorithm flawlessly tracks the subjects, even when in motion. It also offers various functions like Lock-on AF and the Expand Flexible Spot. The lock-on features let you fix the focus, whereas the latter employs nearby points to maintain sharpness when the subject is in motion. 

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Full length of rugby player kicking ball for goal against clear blue sky

Moreover, the Eye AF function helps in spotting the subject's eyes, and it is available in AF-S as well as AF-C modes. A Focus Magnifier enhances the performance of the AF system. Sony Alpha9 II comes with a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilisation. It is effective up to 5.5-stops of stabilisation, resulting in crisp and clear photographs. 

The A9 II is ideal for shooting both stills and videos. It supports recording of UHD 4K videos up to 30 frames per second. You can also shoot 6K resolution with excellent details and high-quality output. 

The mirrorless camera features a Quad-VGA OLED Electronic Viewfinder with a 3.69m dot resolution. It also has 0.78x magnification with a built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that lets you share data wirelessly to other devices is a must. You can connect the camera with a compatible smartphone device for a live-image view through the screen of your phone. The wireless connection lets you remotely control the shutter of the camera. 

The Sony A9 II mirrorless system and the improved focusing ability helps in capturing swift movements with simple operations. 

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Sony's FE 100-400mm is a versatile lens, ideal for sports and wildlife photography. The lens has an optical construction of 22 elements in 16 groups. The design of the lens comes with three ED elements, out of which one is considered Super ED for minimal aberrations. All the elements have Nano AR coating, which prevents lens flares and other unwanted reflections. 

Features: E-Mount Lens, Full-Frame Format, One Super ED Element and Two ED Elements, Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating.

Specifications: 

  • Focal Length: 100 to 400mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4.5 to 5.6
  • Minimum Aperture: f/32 to 40
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Format Compatibility: Full-Frame
  • The Angle of View: 24° to 6° 10'.
  • Optical Design: 22 Elements in 16 Groups
  • Diaphragm Blades: 9, Rounded
  • Filter Size: 77 mm (Front)
  • Dimensions (ø x L): 93.9 x 205 mm
  • Weight: 1395 g

Why We Recommend the Sony FE 100-400mm Lens

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The maximum aperture of the zoom lens ranges from f/4.5-5.6. The Sony 100-400mm is a G-master lens with a Direct Drive SSM Autofocus System and Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilisation System. The diaphragm of the aperture has nine blades that create an attractive bokeh. 

The design of the lens includes a variety of functions and settings for experimentation and smooth operations. The features include a zoom torque adjustment ring for a firm rotating mechanism. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 3.22', and a switch that determines the limits of the focus range to ensure sharp results. 

In addition to these controls, the FE 100-400mm offers multiple focus-mode buttons, i.e., AF and MF (AutoFocus and Manual focus). The lens has a rotatable tripod attachment thread, as well. 

Used extensively for the outdoor shooting of action and sports, durability in this Sony lens is another factor to consider. Fortunately, the FE 100-400mm lens has a weather-sealed construction. 

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Cropped view of female cyclist with hands on brakes. Copy space

Built for a full-frame, E-mount camera, the lens is compatible with Crop sensor models, as well. It produces a 150-600mm equivalent focal length with an APS-C sensor. When used with Sony's 1.4x and 2x FE teleconverter, it can extend the focal length up to 800mm. 

The factors mentioned above combine to make the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 a perfect choice for shooting sports and other games. The lens provides an equally sophisticated performance throughout the zoom range, thus giving the photographer a wide range of view and framing. 

Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens

The focus system of the lens is controlled by two Linear Motors that offer better accuracy in performance than the traditional motors. It enhances the speed and efficiency of the AutoFocus tracking when capturing motion. Ideal for sport and wildlife photography, the motors controlling the autofocus system are structured to reduce lagging while shifting focus. 

Features: Nano AR and Fluorine Coatings, ED, Fluorite, and Aspherical Elements, G-Master OSS lens.

Specifications:

  • Focal Length: 600mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Minimum Aperture: f/22
  • The Angle of View: 4° 10'.
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 4.51 m
  • Optical Design: 24 Elements in 18 Groups
  • Diaphragm Blades: 11, Rounded
  • Filter Size: 40.5 mm 
  • Dimensions: 163.6 x 449 mm
  • Weight: 3.04 kg

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The elements used in the optical design of the Sony FE 600mm f/4 OSS include three fluorite elements and one extra-low dispersion glass, which reduces colour fringing and chromatic aberrations. The spherical aberration maintains a balance between a sharp edge quality and the softer effects. 

In addition to the fluorite elements, the aspherical elements and durable, magnesium alloy components control the optics. These components improve the quality of light bending, thus producing stunning results. A Nano AR coating covers the entire optical design, which avoids flares, unwanted reflections, and ghosting effects. 

Sony 600mm Aperture and Stabilisation

The maximum aperture of the FE 600mm f/4 OSS is f/4, which allows the lens to offer low light capabilities. Paired with a wide aperture, its structure has 11-blades in a circular pattern. Also the construction enables pleasant bokeh effects and maintains a natural and smooth feel in the defocused areas of the frame. 

The upgraded Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilisation system helps in achieving sharp images. The Mode-3 algorithm enables you to capture moving objects without any motion blurs. The lens encourages stability and cutting-edge performance while shooting both videos and stills. 

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Soccer ball flying into the gate

Compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters the Sony 600mm lens produces focal range equivalent to 1200mm and up to 1800mm on an APS-C body. As this is the case you can switch between manual and autofocus with the AF/MF button present on the lens. The manual focus responds in linear form to the focus ring.

Known for its outdoor abilities and action performance, the Sony 600mm G-Master lens is weather-sealed. It is a reliable product, resistant to moisture, dust, and any rugged environment. Furthermore, the telephoto ability enables you to reach your subject from a long distance and produce fine-quality images.  

The Best Tripod Kit For Sports Photography

Gitzo

Gitzo tripods, heads, monopods, and other accessories are considered to be an excellent choice worldwide. These products are a synonym to innovation and quality. They were the first ones to use carbon and basalt fibre for the tripod stand and magnesium heads. 

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The brand develops timeless tripods with excellent performance. It offers a versatile range of tripods, suitable for all camera formats- large, medium, full-frame, mirrorless, and film. The tripod is used for stills as well as videos. 

The three categories of tripods are Mountaineer, Systematic, and Traveler. These tripod systems are perfect for wildlife, landscape, or sports photography.

Jobu

Jobu Designs manufactures gimbal heads that complement the high-efficiency and top-notch performance of Gitzo tripods. They balance the weight of the camera and lens to their gravitational centre. Jobu Designs produces three sizes of gimbals, i.e., Jobu Pro2, Jobu Heavy-Duty DMG-HD4, and Jobu Jr.3 series.

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These gimbals are strong and can carry heavy loads based on their respective maximum capacity. Professional photographers widely use Jobu Jr.3. It can lift approximately 4.5kgs, and works best when paired with long lenses such as 100-400mm zoom, 600mm, 300mm F2.8/F4, 400mm F5.6, etc. 

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Alternatively, take a look at our excellent value Gitzo and Jobu tripod kit ideal for sports photography.

Final Thoughts On Sports Photography

Sports Photography is a broad term that includes closeups, wide-shots, and abstract themes. These photographs appear in different media such as print, press, digital platforms, etc. for advertising or documentary purposes. 

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A ski instructor while skiing alone in a ski resort

Sony is a reliable developer of all filmmaking and photography requirements. The Sony Alpha A9 II is a camera built for sports and wildlife photography. It is a rugged model with advanced autofocus performance and a mirrorless system, which ensures a lightweight structure for easy handling. 

The lens range produced by Sony is compatible with the Sony Alpha A9 II and offers smart features to capture sports and other action sequences. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens are the ideal choice for photographing sports games. 

The FE 100-400mm zoom lens offers versatility in framing and composition. However, the Sony FE 600mm f/4 OSS lens provides a prime lens construction and telephoto capabilities. It allows you to shoot details or actions from far away. The image quality of both lenses is uncompromised and beyond comparison. 

The choice of lens depends solely on the user's purpose, and the type of photographs envisioned. 

In addition to the camera and lens, this kit is incomplete without a proper tripod. Gitzo is a classic manufacturer of robust tripods whereas Jobu Designs is a leading producer of gimbal heads. The pair is a fantastic combination for a durable ecosystem to complement your setup.