4 Best Sony Lenses for Sports Photography

If you’re into mirrorless sports photography, you’ve probably at least come across Sony lenses. After all, Sony is the biggest camera company to focus on the mirrorless market. But if you’re unfamiliar with these lenses, picking one can be a daunting task.

I’m Caleb, and I have five years of experience as a sports photographer. I’ve shot games across several sports, ranging from football to basketball, so I’m familiar with the lenses you’ll need for various situations.

In this article, I’ll go over the ones made by Sony and which are the best at sports photography. If you’re unsure which Sony lens is the best for you, keep reading for a detailed explanation.

Key Takeaways

  • When picking a lens for sports, having the widest possible aperture is helpful. This helps with getting sharp action shots but also with low-light performance.
  • 70-200mm lenses like the Sony FE 70-200mm F/2.8 GM OSS II are some of the most versatile and widely used in the sports photography world.
  • If you’re shooting a sport like basketball where you’ll spend much time close to the action, consider a shorter-ranged lens like the Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM II.
  • Super-telephoto lenses like the SonySEL400F28GM 400mm or the Sony FE 600mm F/4 GM OSS are great for shooting more distant sports like racing or track and field.
Is a Telephoto Lens Good for Sports Photography?

Yes. In fact, telephoto lenses are basically a necessity for sports photography, and your main lenses will almost always be this type.

A 400mm lens will cover your needs for most sports. For some sports, 400mm can actually give you too much range, making you miss chances for closer shots.

It depends. A 70-200mm lens is one of the most versatile lens types you can get for sports. However, in sports with a large field, 200mm probably isn’t enough range to capture plays happening far away from you.

No, image stabilization isn’t a need for sports photography. Some sports photographers willingly go without it because it can slow down shooting. However, it can be useful, especially if your lens includes a ‘sports mode’ for stabilization.

What Makes The Best Lens for Sports Photography?

Here are some things to look for to ensure you get the best quality lens for sports photography.

  • Max Aperture: This is one of the most important things to consider. If the lens has a wide maximum aperture, which will be represented by a lower f-stop number, you’ll be able to get sharper action shots and shoot better at low-light venues.
  • Range: As obvious as it sounds, consider whether the range of the lens fits your goals. Not just the maximum range, but the minimum one too. If your focal length is stuck too far out, you can miss plenty of great shots closer to you.
  • Vignetting: Vignetting is when the edges of a photo become darker. It usually happens with zoom lenses and super-telephoto lenses, at the further out part of their range. Make sure your prospective lens doesn’t have heavy vignetting for the best results.
  • Anti-Glare: As a sports photographer, you’ll probably end up shooting outdoor games where the sun is facing you. A lens with strong anti-glare features can keep your shots from getting ruined by this.
  • Mount: Ensure your new lens is designed for your camera’s mount. If you get this wrong, you’ll either have worse performance with the new lens or you’ll be unable to use it at all.

The Best Sony Lenses for Sports Photography

In my opinion, these stand out as the best Sony lenses for sports photography. Each lens has a distinct use, so no matter what sports you plan on shooting, you’ll probably find that at least one of the lenses here is useful to you.

1. Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II (Best Overall)

  • Focal Range: 70-200mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount

The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II is probably the best choice if you need versatility. This lens covers the 70-200mm range, arguably the most important for sports photography. You’ll find many uses for this lens across several sports.

Mirrorless cameras trend towards the lighter side, and that can also apply to mirrorless lenses. This one, in particular, has a lightweight build, making it easier to carry around during a long sporting event without tiring.

As expected of an f/2.8 lens, it also brings sharp performance and can freeze the action well, even when compared to other lenses with the same maximum aperture.

The build also includes many switches to control various quality-of-life features. For example, you can pick between three modes for image stabilization. Limiting the autofocus range to a certain distance is also an option.

On the negative side, there’s noticeable vignetting when shooting at f/2.8. Obviously, that’s an especially big con for sports photographers, who need to keep a wide aperture much of the time. 

My Verdict: The Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II is the most versatile of Sony’s lenses, making it an excellent choice for any sports photographer.

2. Sony FE 24-70MM F2.8 GM II (Best For Short Ranges)

  • Focal Range: 24-70mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount

If the 70-200mm lens is the most versatile, the Sony 24-70mm F2.8 GM II falls somewhere around the second place. This is an excellent secondary lens for capturing close-up shots you can’t get with your main lens. For some sports, it can make a great primary lens.

Like its larger cousin, this lens is notable for its weight. It comes in 22% lighter than its predecessor and has a smaller build too. 

Another area where the GM II beats its predecessor is in autofocus. It has a quicker autofocus, and this development might have to do with Sony targeting the lens at both the photo and video markets.

The lens is also very sharp at its maximum aperture, f/2.8. There’s a bit of a vignette at that setting, but not as much as what you’d get with the 70-200mm lens.

When it comes to cons, many will argue the price is the big one. After all, this lens doesn’t reinvent the wheel or add much in the way of crazy new features, but its price is still very high for a relatively small lens.

My Verdict: The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II makes an excellent second lens for any sports photographer. It also works as a primary lens if you’re shooting a sport that requires less range.

3. Sony SEL400F28GM 400mm F/2.8-2.8 (Best Super-Telephoto)

  • Focal Range: 400mm
  • Max Aperture: f/2.8
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount

The main advantage offered by the Sony SEL400F28GM 400mm lens is clear: it gives you double the range of a 70-200mm lens and lets you get longer shots that were previously inaccessible. It’s great for sports like football, which are played on a larger field.

The lens has a notably good max aperture for a lens of this type. It comes in at f/2.8, which is better than most super-telephoto lenses. While some others reach this level of performance, they’re few compared to narrower lenses.

Lightweight is becoming a trend with Sony lenses, and this one fits into that mold also. It has a lighter build than other 400mm super-telephoto lenses, and its status as a mirrorless lens probably has something to do with that.

Additionally, the lens elements are designed to reduce flare and ghosting, which is always important for a lens that you’ll probably end up shooting outdoors toward the sun reasonably regularly.

There is an inherent drawback with this lens, however. As a fixed lens, it doesn’t zoom in or out. While the lens is still pretty usable for shooting sports, the fixed range makes it less versatile than a lens where you can track subjects by zooming.

My Verdict: The Sony SEL400F28GM is excellent if you’re willing to spend big to unlock new shots and capabilities and if you want a super-telephoto lens that isn’t oppressively heavy.

4. Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS (Best For Extreme Ranges)

  • Focal Range: 600mm
  • Max Aperture: f/4
  • Mount: Sony E-Mount

In a way, the Sony FE 600mm F4 GM OSS lens resembles the previously mentioned 400mm option. It will unlock a lot of new shots for you and let you shoot even distant action at outdoor sporting events. You’ll have an edge over others who simply can’t reach the same ranges.

It fits into the lightweight design philosophy of Sony’s newer lenses, but the build itself is still made from good materials, specifically magnesium alloy. Though, realistically, there’s only so much weight you can shave off of a lens this size.

Even with the lens size, the autofocus mechanism still moves quickly and sharply. It’s a fixed lens, however, so all of your changes to focus will happen at the same focal distance of 600mm.

Like the 70-200mm lens, it’s worth noting that this one has several useful controls built onto the lens body, and they’re laid out conveniently to find them in one place quickly. The build is also sealed, so you don’t have to worry about taking this expensive lens to outdoor events.

The obvious negatives here are the fixed range and the narrower maximum aperture. However, while it is worse than f/2.8 when it comes to low-light performance, f/4 isn’t bad for a lens with this kind of range.

My Verdict: Most sports photographers won’t need a 600mm lens, but if you do need this kind of extreme range for shooting outdoor events, the Sony FE 600mm GM OSS is a great option.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Sony’s lenses are just as usable for sports photography as those made by Canon, Nikon, or any other major company. And if you’re interested in lightweight lenses, or mirrorless sports photography in general, they might be the right brand for you.

What do you think of Sony’s high-performance lenses? Do you think any are missing from this list? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *