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Whether it’s football, athletics, cricket, tennis, rugby, motor racing, family fun at the local park or something else, there’s always some kind of sport to shoot.
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Compared to compact cameras and compact system cameras (CSCs), a DSLR’s optical viewfinder gives you a real-time, uncluttered view of the sports action right through the lens. There’s no flickering electronic viewfinder with a limited refresh rate, so panning is easy with a DSLR (to maximize movement).
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Unlike most compact cameras, DSLR lenses’ manual zoom rings make it faster and easier to set exactly the focal length you want. Under the bonnet, DSLRs’ phase-detection autofocus systems are faster and more accurate than compact cameras or CSC’s contrast-detection systems.
This is especially true when tracking people or objects in continuous autofocus mode and in dim lighting conditions.
We’ve all seen pro photographers at sporting events, touting camera and telephoto lens combinations that cost around £10,000/$13,000. Indeed, the latest fully pro-spec bodies often cost £5,000/$7,000 on their own, so what can you expect for just £500/$650? As it turns out, quite a lot.
If you have a budget digital SLR that’s a few years old, a newer budget body is likely to give you a higher image resolution. You can also expect faster image processing, which often helps deliver a faster continuous shooting rate, which is essential.
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You’ll also enjoy good all-round image quality, especially when it comes to low-noise performance at high ISO settings. For both drive rate and sensitivity, it comes down to speed.
To capture a defining moment in any sporting event, it’s often best to shoot a series of images in quick succession. But how fast are these budget DSLRs? The Canon EOS 1100D and Nikon D3100 are the slowest of the group with a maximum drive rate of 3fps (frames per second).
However, if you switch to Raw quality mode instead of shooting JPEG, the Canon EOS 1100D still drops to just 2fps. Switch to raw+JPEG mode and the 1100D limps along at a terribly pedestrian 0.8fps.
The Nikon D3200 and D5100 have a combined fastest maximum drive rate of 4fps, while the Canon EOS 550D and Canon EOS 600D are not far behind at both 3.7fps.
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With a fast memory card, you can expect to keep shooting with most of these cameras at their maximum drive rate for about 100 shots, although the Nikon D3200 slows down after about 40 shots. At least, that’s the case if you’re shooting in JPEG mode.
In raw mode, you can quickly close any of the camera’s internal memory buffers. Canon buffers have room for five or six raw files, and Nikons between 13 and 18.
For example, we found that with the faster SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC card, the Nikon D3200 had significantly faster write speeds than the D5100, writing full-buffered raw files to the card in just 15 seconds compared to the D5100’s 25 seconds. That’s no mean feat considering the D3200’s buffer is even larger than the D5100’s.
There are many optically stabilized lenses available for Canon and Nikon DSLRs. That’s good news for preventing camera-shake, especially when shooting with a telephoto zoom lens. However, no amount of stabilization can help you freeze the action in sports shots.
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The only way to do this is to use a fast shutter speed, which is not a problem outside on a sunny day. When it’s cloudy, and even more so in indoor arenas, you’ll need to increase the camera’s sensitivity to enable faster shutter speeds.
We used to consider ISO 800 film too ‘fast’, but the latest digital SLRs can deliver decent image quality even at ultra-high sensitivity settings of ISO 3200 and above. This is a testament to how far DSLRs have come, and will enable you to shoot in a whole range of challenging situations.
All the cameras here but the Nikon D3100 extend their standard sensitivity range to ISO 6400, and all but the Canon EOS 1100D offer extended sensitivity settings equivalent to ISO 12800 (and ISO 25600 for the Nikon D51200).
Image quality tends to look grainy and lacks fine detail at extended ISO settings, but at least you should be sure of a sharp shot even in very low lighting conditions, which is better than getting no shot at all.
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Those sensors with much higher resolution enable you to crop images more tightly and still end up with shots large enough for printing. Nikon lists the advantages of the D3200, along with its class-leading 24.2MP sensor.
In practical terms, however, this resolution doesn’t enable much larger prints than the 18MP Canon EOS 550D and 600D. However, when you consider that you only need a 3MP image for a full A4 (around US letter size) photo print, cropping can often reduce the need to use a long telephoto lens.
However, tight cropping does not come without its drawbacks. When you’re only using a small section of the image, it makes heavy demands on lens quality, especially in terms of sharpness and color fringing, even though current Nikon DSLRs feature automatic correction for the latter.
Another potential risk of image sensors with very high resolutions is increased image noise, especially when using high ISO settings in low-light conditions. The physical dimensions of the sensors are the same, so a higher resolution demands more pixels placed in the same overall area.
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Individual pixels are therefore smaller and collect less light, making image noise more of a problem. When you crop too tightly to use only a small portion of the image, noise can become more noticeable.
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There are many reasons why you might be considering a video camera for sports. Maybe you want to highlight talent for recruiting purposes, or you just want to showcase certain actions. And although modern smartphones are certainly capable of filming sports, having a dedicated camera for the job will increase the professional quality of your footage. So keep reading for some of the best video cameras for sports that will suit different budgets and needs.
Before buying a camera to film sports, it’s important to consider the specific nuances of the specific sport (or sports) you’ll be filming and where your footage will end up. It’s also important to evaluate whether you’re shooting a professional-level sporting event, a mid-level event, or something more casual. This will also influence what type of camera makes the most sense to bring along. For example, if you want to cover an event end-to-end, you want a camera without recording limits. This feature is less complicated if you just want to create a highlights reel from footage.
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In this buying guide, we explore a few different styles of cameras for shooting sports that fit different budgets. At the higher end is the cine camera. Cine cameras will allow you to shoot at very high resolutions and even give you the ability to swap lenses depending on what you’re shooting—making them the tool of choice for many professional-level shooters.
If you don’t need something too advanced, there are other options. For example, a short action cam would be better for capturing a unique angle or POV shoot. They are also great for filming action sports as they are usually rugged and waterproof. Finally, a mirrorless camera can be a great choice if you want something to film 4K video but don’t mind the ability to shoot high-quality stills as well.
Our picks for the best video cameras for sports Best professional video cameras for sports: Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro G2
Why it made the cut: This versatile cine camera offers 15 stops of dynamic range, can record up to 300fps (great for capturing slow-motion footage), and its external controls make it easy to switch settings while the camera is moving.
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If you have used a DSLR camera before, you will have no trouble getting comfortable with this Black Magic Cine Camera. Although it may seem like an expensive option for filming sports, it’s a fraction of the cost of the gear most broadcast stations use. But it will still get you high-quality footage of the big game. Plus, it has ATEM Switch integration, which means it’s a great choice for multi-cam live streaming.
The Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro G2 can shoot 120fps in 4.6K and up to 300fps at 1080p for dramatic slow-motion shots. It offers 15 stops of dynamic range at ISO 3200 and has a USB-C expansion port for recording directly to an external drive. Finally, Blackmagic RAW
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