Best Nikon Camera For Sports Action Shots – Sports photography is one discipline that makes some serious demands on your gear. In addition to the right lens, you also need the right camera. What should be the basis of your choice here? There are countless cameras on the market, but not all of them are suitable for sports photography. Based on my practical experience, I have written some criteria that you should follow if you do not want to make a mistake.
Each genre of photography has its own characteristics, and sports are no exception. They’re fast and dynamic and they’re often in bad conditions for photography, and your gear needs to reflect that. It is often said that good photography requires a keen eye and photographic sense more than good equipment. It’s true that good gear isn’t everything in sports photography, but it does mean a lot. So if you want to specialize in sports photography, be prepared that it might not be cheap.
Best Nikon Camera For Sports Action Shots
When choosing photography gear, choosing the right lens is a must. Often people buy a camera based on its basic specs and buy some basic kit lenses to go with it. This may be a good direction for hobby photography, but not ideal for sports photography.
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Before choosing a camera, first decide what format you will use. Your primary choice is either full frame or APS-C. Both types have their pros and cons, so I’ll list the three main differences here.
With full frame, you can get a shallower depth of field, which is useful in sports for separating players from the field. Full frame also produces less noise at the same ISO, which you’ll experience in poor lighting. But it also has a fundamental disadvantage for the sport: it has no crop factor. Therefore, if you need to use a telephoto lens, you will need to purchase a lens with a longer focal length than APS-C. If you want it with the same minimum aperture value, it will be more expensive and heavier.
I personally use APS-C, even at the cost of more noise and shallower depth of field. For Nikon and its “DX” APS-C cameras, the crop factor is 1.5. When using this focal length, e.g. 200mm, you’ll have the same image after the crop factor as if you were using a 300mm focal length on one of their “FX” full-frame bodies. The benefits of full frame or APS-C are more important to you.
These three features are the most important things to look for in a sports camera.
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When it comes to focusing, pay attention to the number of focus points and whether or not most of them are cross-type. Simply put, these types of points mean more reliable focusing. For a typical photograph, for example, it may be sufficient to have one central focus point and shoot using that point. But sports are full of action and movement, where there is often not enough time to think about composition, so you need as many focal points as possible to choose from.
That’s why I’ve come to really appreciate continuous focus modes that work with multiple focus points. These include modes that also take into account focus points around the subject, and even a 3D subject tracking mode that focuses on the subject while the camera itself selects the focus point based on the movement of the subject. The rule of thumb for these modes is that the tighter the grid of focus points, the better. Today, you may only come across low focus points on DSLRs. Mirrorless cameras now have quite a few of them.
Shooting speed is essential to capture the decisive moment. Imagine a soccer player dribbling the ball, you want his head and the ball on stage. If you only take one picture, you’re unlikely to capture this moment. So you use the camera’s bracketing mode and start shooting the scene in question before the player starts handling the ball, and don’t finish until they stop.
Then you look at the pictures and realize that the ball still isn’t represented properly in one frame. Because you have a camera that can “only” shoot eg: 5 frames per second. That’s why some special cameras can bracket up to 14 frames per second.
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The size of the cache determines how many images the camera can store before writing to the memory card. Here again, the higher the number, the better, because you can create a long sequence of images and then select the right frame.
Unfortunately, sporting events are often held in poor lighting conditions, and even if you use a fast lens, you’ll need a high ISO setting to cope with short exposures. Therefore, the amount of noise at high ISO values is important when choosing a camera. If you’re deciding between multiple cameras, I recommend using one of the online tools out there to compare image quality at different ISOs, like the one at dpreview.com.
Another thing that cannot be underestimated is the ergonomics. But what does that mean? You can work well with the camera – you don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for its menu, and it just fits in your hand. The main thing is to have two dials for separately setting shutter speed and aperture, because the mode you use most is manual mode with ISO set automatically, where you set the highest allowable ISO value for this.
There is also a separate button for setting the ISO value, as well as a button for switching focus modes and a button for adjusting exposure. The top LCD display is great for power saving and quick overview of all camera settings.
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On more expensive cameras, the scene mode selector is replaced by other, more useful setting buttons. For example, the Nikon D500 has buttons for exposure metering, mode selection, white balance setting, and output quality setting. But the truth is, I usually only use these options before the actual shooting starts, so I don’t need to keep them on individual buttons, but you might have a different situation, and it’s more convenient to say the least.
The sturdiness and craftsmanship of your camera is also worth noting. You’ll be shooting outdoors, in bad weather, and with a heavy lens. Because of this, it’s best to have a camera body made of a durable and at least basic waterproofing and dust-proof alloy.
Trust me when I say this, when it comes to craftsmanship, you can’t go wrong with the Nikon D500 or D3xxx, D5xxx, etc.
On the other hand, what is not worth looking into in our era is the maximum ISO and the resolution of the photos. Even the cheaper models are good at these two points, as these are marketing friendly settings that help increase sales. As for the maximum ISO value, I personally mostly set it to 6400 and I only use higher values occasionally. Unless you bought a very old model that has a lot of noise at ISO 6400 or doesn’t even add that value, you don’t need to worry about the highest ISO.
Best Camera For Sports Photography
The resolution of most sensors is at least 20 Mpx, which is enough for sports photography. Many photos are sent to newspapers or social media and need a lower resolution, not a higher one. One big advantage of higher resolution is that you can then crop the images a lot and thereby correct the lens focal length problems a bit.
The downside of higher resolution is a smaller sensor cell size, which means slightly higher noise. Even small permissions have advantages. To simplify things here: lower resolution can help a little in poor light, and higher resolution helps when the focal length of the lens is short.
I hope this article has helped you decide what to look for when choosing a camera for sports photography. I’ve tried to highlight what I think are the most important, but of course there are a variety of features and gadgets that come in handy in sports photography. So if you have any tips that I didn’t mention in my post, please write them in the comments.
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Photography is not only my hobby but also part of my job.
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