If you’re looking for a sports photography camera, you can’t go wrong with a Canon. Canon has more than just a long history of making reliable DSLRs. It also produces some of the best lenses out there for action photography. However, finding the right Canon may confuse you.
I’m Caleb, and I’ve been a photographer for five years and I specialize in sports. I’ve covered tons of events in many different sports, from football to basketball to boxing. I’m pretty familiar with Canon’s products, as my go-to camera is a Canon.
In this guide, I’ll talk about which cameras from Canon’s wide range of offerings are actually good for sports photography. I’ll also talk about some things to look for in a sports photography camera.
- You can get into sports photography with even an entry-level Canon camera.
- In sports and action photography, a camera’s shooting speed can have a major impact on its performance.
- The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is my recommended sports photography camera, due to its mix of shooting speed and image quality.
- The Canon Rebel T6i is my recommended camera if you’re on a budget or aren’t sure you’ll stick with sports photography.
Both Canon and Nikon make professional-grade cameras that can get great results in sports photography. However, Canon is the more common brand to see on the sidelines. This is partly because Canon has a great track record of making cameras that are suited to sports.
Usually, photographers are well-accomplished by the time they get to photograph major leagues like the NFL. Because of this, they usually have higher-end gear, such as the full-frame Canon EOS-1D X series of cameras.
When shooting sports, you’ll want to keep as much control over your shots as possible. You should avoid using automatic modes. Instead, manual mode, or the modes with limited automation such as aperture priority or shutter speed priority, are much better options.
The Canon EOS R3, one of the company’s newest mirrorless models, is the most suited one for the sports niche. Among other things, this camera can boast a 30fps continuous shooting speed, which will be very useful to sports photographers.
What Makes The Best Canon for Sports Photography
When you look for a camera for sports photography, there are some things you should consider. While image quality is important, you should also keep in mind the shooting speed. After all, this can have a big impact on catching fast moving action.
Also, consider what you plan on doing with the photos. If you’re just posting them on the internet, resolution isn’t as important. On the other hand, if you’re shooting photos to make prints, you’ll need a good resolution to make the prints look good.
It’s also worth thinking about smaller details you might have ignored normally. Sports photography is more demanding than many other types of photography. Details like ISO range, battery life, and even the camera’s processor can make a big difference in performance.
The 4 Best Canon Cameras for Sports Photography
It’s time to go over the top four Canon cameras for shooting sports. All of these cameras are good choices in their own right. When picking which one is the best for you, you’ll have to consider your own situation and what you want in a camera.
1. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (Best Overall)
- Resolution: 20.2MP
- Continuous Shooting: 14fps
- ISO Range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 409,600)
- Sensor: Full-frame
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II isn’t the newest camera on the market, having come out in 2016. However, it takes the top spot here because of its balanced specs, which give a good compromise between image quality and shooting speed.
The 14fps shooting speed is what places this one above some other cameras that have higher resolutions. Because let’s face it, being able to take a really high-resolution photo doesn’t matter if you can’t make the shot in time.
And while you can easily get cameras these days with higher resolutions, that doesn’t mean the image quality from the EOS-1D X Mark II is bad. It’s quite the opposite, especially if you’re using the camera with a high-end lens.
The ISO range of 100-51,200 may fly over the heads of some as a relevant spec, but in sports photography, ISO can be quite important. If you’re shooting a sporting event in low light, the 1D X Mark II has the ability to handle it.
Finally, the 1D X Mark II is a versatile camera. Even if you buy this one for sports, there are plenty of other niches you can use it in. That includes action or nature photography, as well as portrait photography.
If there is a con, it’s that most newer cameras in a similar price range have a higher resolution. And as a full-frame DSLR, the 1D X Mark II is noticeably heavy and bulky.
My Verdict: The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is suited for any sports photographer who needs lightning-fast shooting and high quality images.
2. Canon EOS R3 (Best Mirrorless Full-Frame)
- Resolution: 24.1MP
- Continuous Shooting: 30fps
- ISO Range: 100-102,400 (expandable to 204,800)
- Sensor: Full-frame
If you want a mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR, the EOS R3 is the answer. It’s not only one of the newest cameras from Canon, it’s also one of the most advanced.
Like the 1D X Mark II, the R3 was designed with fast shooting in mind. It’s meant for the action and sports photography niche, and its newer technology allows it to reach an impressive 30 frames per second for continuous shooting.
The EOS R3 also has a good 24.1-megapixel resolution. This is enough resolution to comfortably make decent sized prints from your photos without worrying about quality loss.
Also, another advantage of the R3 is that it’s likely to stick around for a while. Canon is moving away from DSLRs and towards mirrorless cameras in the future, so the company will probably continue making new lenses for the R3’s RF mount in the coming years.
The major downside to the EOS R3 is the price. Because it’s a newer camera that only came out in 2021, you’ll have to pay close to the full price to get one. By comparison, many of the other top sports photography cameras have been out for a bit and have had price drops.
My Verdict: The EOS R7 is fast enough to catch the biggest plays, and is a good fit for sports photographers who want to jump to mirrorless.
3. Canon EOS Rebel T6i (Best Budget Option)
- Resolution: 24.2MP
- Continuous Shooting: 5fps
- ISO Range: 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600)
- Sensor: APS-C
Not everyone has tons of disposable income to drop on a sports photography camera. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the Canon EOS Rebel T6i covers the fundamentals for a better price than the more advanced Canon full-frame cameras.
The price is obviously one of the best features of the T6i. The camera came out in 2015, and as part of Canon’s entry-level to intermediate series, it was relatively cheap back then. The price has fallen further these days, making it one of the more accessible cameras out there.
However, even if it’s cheap, it’s still capable. The resolution, for example, is 24.2 megapixels. That’s slightly higher than the EOS R3, which is both newer and much more expensive.
The Rebel T6i is also smaller and lighter than Canon’s full-frame DSLRs. If you aren’t used to carrying around a heavy camera and lens, or you’re trying to save space in your bag, this is a major upside.
However, not being a full-frame camera also means you’ll miss some of the quality and sharpness that you’d get with a model like the R3 or the 1D X Mark II.
My verdict: The EOS Rebel T6i is a good beginner camera for its compromise between price and quality, but would also serve intermediate photographers on a budget well.
4. Canon EOS R7 (Best Mirrorless APS-C)
- Resolution: 32.5MP
- Continuous Shooting: 30fps
- ISO Range: 100-32,000 (expandable to 51,200)
- Sensor: APS-C
The EOS R7 is another recent Canon model, only launching during the summer of 2022. This one isn’t a full-frame camera either, but it makes up for it with a very high resolution.
The resolution is 32.5 megapixels. If you’re shooting sports photos to turn into physical prints, this high resolution will ensure they come out looking great, even at larger sizes. Also, it gives you the freedom to crop heavily in editing and still have a high-res end result.
The EOS R7 has the same top continuous shooting speed as its full-frame cousin, the R3. This 30fps continuous shooting speed with an electronic shutter makes it ideal for catching fast-moving plays in sports like football or basketball.
Also, like the R3, the R7 is a mirrorless camera using the RF mount. As Canon moves towards mirrorless more in the future, they’ll almost certainly release new and more advanced lenses to work with this mount and further increase performance.
The biggest con here is that, while the R7 is a high-resolution camera, you aren’t getting the extra quality offered by a full-frame sensor.
My Verdict: The EOS R7 is a surprisingly cheap mirrorless camera with great shooting speeds. It’s great for sports photographers who want fast shooting speed and high resolution without paying for a more expensive full-frame model.
Canon is one of the top brands for sports photography, and it’s not hard to see why. They have a track record of making great action photography cameras, and I’ve just shown you four of the best ones from their current lineup.
You can’t go wrong with any of these cameras. However, if you’re still not sure, there are other brands you might want to look at. Nikon is considered Canon’s main rival, and they also make some high-quality sports cameras. Sony, meanwhile, is leading in mirrorless cameras.
Do you currently use a Canon for sports photography? What do you think about the brand, and are there any Canon cameras you think should be here? Tell me what you think in the comments.