3 Best Mirrorless Cameras for Sports Photography

Mirrorless cameras are all the rage these days, and more companies are embracing them. But if you’re buying one to shoot sports, you may be confused about what to buy. After all, mirrorless cameras get less attention than DSLRs when it comes to sports.

I’m Caleb, and I have five years of experience as a sports photographer. I’ve shot games across a number of competitions and sports, so I know what goes into a good sports camera. 

In this article, I’ll list the best mirrorless cameras for sports photography, and who each one is best for. I’ll cover both the pros and the cons, so if you’re thinking of going mirrorless but aren’t sure about the model, keep reading for the full overview.

Key Takeaways

  • The Sony a1 is one of the best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now, and it excels with sports because of its image quality and fast fps.
  • The Canon EOS R7 also features lightning-fast shooting speeds but comes in much cheaper due to its crop sensor.
  • The Nikon Z 50 is a good entry-level option due to its combination of affordability and quality.
  • A camera’s continuous shooting speed is one of its most important specs when it comes to shooting sports.
Are Mirrorless Cameras Good For Sports Photography?

Yes. While DSLRs have traditionally been the go-to for sports photographers, mirrorless cameras are getting more popular. These days, you can get the same performance with a mirrorless camera, even when shooting sports.

Why Are Photographers Going Mirrorless?

One of the main reasons is that mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts. This makes them more convenient to carry around, and also lowers their price. Another reason is that mirrorless cameras tend to excel at video.

Is It Worth Switching From DSLR To Mirrorless?

It depends. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras don’t have lens compatibility, so buying a mirrorless camera also means you need a new lens collection. This makes it a pretty big investment. If you plan on using mirrorless cameras long-term, however, now is a good time to switch.

Is Mirrorless The Future Of Photography?

It’s hard to say for sure. DSLRs aren’t dying off entirely by any means, but more manufacturers are adopting mirrorless cameras as their flagship models. Unless something changes, mirrorless is the big trend in the industry right now.

What Makes The Best Mirrorless Camera for Sports Photography?

When considering a camera for sports photography, there are certain things you should look for.

  • Sensor: If you want the best image quality, go with a full-frame sensor. Full-frame cameras are more expensive, but the payoff for this is better sharpness and clarity. This is just as important for image quality as resolution.
  • Continuous Shooting Speed: Because sporting events play out quickly, a fast continuous shooting speed helps a lot for catching everything.
  • Resolution: Resolution isn’t the most important thing in sports photography, but it still matters. This is especially true if you’re taking photos for print.
  • Autofocus: A sports photographer doesn’t have time to manually adjust the focus. If you have a good autofocus system, you’ll have a much easier time tracking your subjects properly.

The 3 Best Mirrorless Cameras for Sports Photography

These are my three best mirrorless cameras for sports photography. Each one is on the list for a specific reason: overall quality, cost value, and value for beginners. 

While there are other cameras that fit into each category, the ones I’ve chosen are the ones that, in my view, embody these qualities the best.

1. Sony a1 (Best Overall)

  • Resolution: 50.1MP
  • Continuous Shooting: 30fps
  • ISO Range: 100-32,000 (expandable to 102,400)
  • Sensor: Full-frame

The spec that immediately jumps out for the Sony a1 is the resolution. Coming in at 50.1 megapixels, the a1 is obviously a very high-res camera and will give you a lot of freedom to crop your photos without losing quality. In sports, this is important.

It’s not a one-trick pony, however. That high resolution is combined with excellent shooting speed. At 30fps, you aren’t in danger of missing parts of an action sequence because your camera can’t keep up.

Also, if you dabble in video also, you’ll find the a1 is a leader in that area as well. Its video resolution is 8K, but you can also choose to lower it to 4K and shoot at 120fps.

The last major strength worth mentioning is the autofocus. It goes beyond the autofocus featured in some of Sony’s other cameras, and includes 120 calculations per second when tracking the subject.

The camera only came out in 2021, so the big con is the price. The a1 is still on the cutting edge, and its price hasn’t dropped much since coming out. While it has some of the best features money can buy, it’s inaccessible to most photographers.

My Verdict: The Sony a1 is the most capable mirrorless camera you can get for sports photography right now. It’s best for professionals who can spend big for the best equipment.

2. Canon EOS R7 (Best Value)

  • Resolution: 32.5MP
  • Continuous Shooting: 30fps
  • ISO Range: 100-32,000 (expandable to 51,200)
  • Sensor: APS-C

The Canon EOS R7 is on the upper end of APS-C cameras, featuring a continuous shooting speed of 30fps with electronic shutter. As you may have noticed, this places it on par with the higher-end Sony a1 in that area.

The resolution is on the upper end, too. With 32.5 megapixels, the R7 goes above what most crop sensor cameras offer, especially at this price point.

It also has 651 autofocus areas, which makes for a smooth experience when tracking a moving target in one of the multiple autofocus modes offered. 

But one of the largest advantages the R7 has is its price. Because the camera is mirrorless, and crop sensor instead of full-frame, it comes in cheaper than most other models with similar resolution and shooting speed.

Of course, for that price, you have to sacrifice something. The main con here is the lack of a full-frame sensor. While it does bring the price down, it leaves some quality lacking compared to something like the a1.

My Verdict: The Canon EOS R7 is best for photographers needing good specs without breaking the bank.

3. Nikon Z 50 (Best For Beginners)

  • Resolution: 20.9MP
  • Continuous Shooting: 5fps (expandable to 11fps)
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 204,800)
  • Sensor: APS-C

The Nikon Z 50 is arguably a better beginner camera than the EOS R7 because it comes at an even cheaper price. In fact, it’s the only camera on this list that really falls under the entry-level category.

If you do pick up the Z 50 as a beginner camera, however, you’ll still have decent enough specs to stay competitive. The obviously important spec here is the continuous shooting speed, which can go up to 11fps. This is faster than the large majority of lower-end models.

The resolution here won’t blow anyone away, but it’s good enough that you won’t have to actively worry about your image quality suffering because of it. 

The Z 50’s autofocus isn’t as advanced as the a1 or the R7, but it does include 209 focus points to track moving targets better. 

The model’s downside is that, obviously, most of its specs are targeting an entry-level to intermediate crowd. You can definitely get good results with this camera, but the resolution and lack of full-frame mean you’ll probably want to upgrade down the line.

My Verdict: The Nikon Z 50 is an entry level camera, but its faster than average shooting speed makes it a good choice for prospective sports photographers.

Final Thoughts

It seems like mirrorless cameras are all the rage these days, with more brands putting their focus into them and releasing higher-end models for the mirrorless market. 

Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of the best mirrorless cameras to invest in for sports photography. 

Are you planning on moving from DSLR to mirrorless? Do you think there’s another camera that should have been on this list? Let us know in the comments.

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