Best Canon Lens For Sports Photography – Indoor and Outdoor
Do you own a Canon camera and wondering, what is the best Canon lens for sports photography? If you're confused about what to buy to aid your foray into sports shoots, this article has you covered! You'll have some of the finest lenses to choose from; whether it's the best Canon lens for indoor sports or the best Canon outdoor sports lens, we'll walk you through it.
WHAT IS THE BEST CANON LENS FOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY?
Generally, most kinds of sport (whether you're shooting indoors or outdoors) tend to be quite fast-paced, so you need to rely on a quick and accurate autofocus speed and fast shutter speeds so you don't miss anything. Wider apertures can help both inside and outside, as the lens can be adjusted according to lighting.
Also, the lens should be able to capture distant subjects from a distance. Because you can't get close to the sportsperson to click a picture while he is playing for his team, right? That's where a telephoto lens proves a wonder-worker.
If you're a sports enthusiast wanting to shoot live videos of your favorite soccer game, a short-mid telephoto lens is enough.
However, if you're a professional, it is a must to own a long-range telephoto lens. I know they are heavy and also costly. But at the end of the day they will give you stunning results.
Table of Contents
- WHAT IS THE BEST CANON LENS FOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY?
- LIST OF BEST CANON LENSES FOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
- BEST CANON LENS FOR INDOOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
- INDOOR SPORTS LENSES FOR CANON DSLR CAMERAS
- INDOOR SPORTS LENSES FOR CANON MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
- BEST CANON LENS FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
- OUTDOOR LENSES FOR CANON DSLR CAMERAS
- OUTDOOR LENSES FOR CANON MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
- BUYING GUIDE
LIST OF BEST CANON LENSES FOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST INDOOR LENS FOR DSLR
CANON EF 70-200MM F/2.8L USM
BEST INDOOR LENS FOR MILC
CANON RF 70-200MM F2.8 L IS USM
BEST OUTDOOR LENS FOR DSLR
CANON EF 100-400MM F/4.5-5.6L IS II
BEST OUTDOOR LENS FOR DSLR
CANON EF 600MM F/4L IS USM
WHAT TYPE OF SPORTS YOU WANT TO SHOOT?
BEST CANON LENS FOR INDOOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
The best indoor sports photography lens should have a focal length in the range of 24-70mm or 70-300mm. Not only that, the lens should ideally be able to track fast movements, not discounting a steady and quick focus, of course.
And the most important and must-have feature is this "Wide aperture." Yes, as we know, indoor sports events are usually conducted in dimly lit spaces, so it is necessary that the Canon lens performs the best in low-lights.
INDOOR SPORTS LENSES FOR CANON DSLR CAMERAS
1. CANON EF 70-200MM F/2.8L USM LENS - BEST LENS FOR INDOOR SPORTS
This telephoto lens is a common choice for sports photography, and it's probably the best lens for basketball in particular because it's great for tracking tight action shots.
If you're interested in shooting sporting events that have a limited range, this is one of the best sports photography lenses Canon has to offer.
Although you can't use it as effectively when shooting sprawling field sports, you should have great success in smaller arenas and indoor sports shoots. It's also great for shooting portraits of your favorite sportsperson, which is a nice bonus if you're investing in a pricey lens.
The lens weighs almost 1.4 kilograms which is not a surprise for a telephoto lens. However, the build quality of this lens is appreciable.
A combination of plastic and metal elements gives you a strong, hefty lens with the zoom ring placed near the back for easy access. This makes shooting handheld during an exciting match very convenient.
It has a fluorine coating on the front and rear elements to keep the lens clean. Also, the lens is weather-sealed, so you can use it for outdoor shoots as well.
This Canon action lens will also give you good landscape shots when paired with the best sports camera. So if you're looking for an all-rounder, you've found it.
With this lens shooting in low light becomes much easier because it has a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8. So, taking sports photographs with quick shutter speeds becomes easy with this lens. Great, right!
Lastly, the image stabilization and autofocus of this lens work very well. The autofocus is fast, accurate and also helps to cut down on any blur.
2. CANON EF 24-70MM F/2.8L II USM - BEST CANON CAMERA SPORTS LENS
This is definitely one of the must have DSLR lenses if sports photography in low light is your thing. It's a standard zoom lens and surely counts as one of the Canon pro lenses because it's built for people who are professionals.
You get quick autofocus results when shooting fast action, and with a constant aperture of f/2.8, you should get a lot of light no matter where in the zoom range you are.
You'll also get a really good color balance with minimal ghosting issues thanks to the lens coating. This is one of the best Canon lenses for sports hands down, especially if you're shooting indoors.
The high-speed CPU on this lens gives you crisp and fast autofocus results, and the fluorine coating on the front and rear keeps the lens clean of fingerprints.
This is a great lens to take for outdoor shoots too, because it's resistant to dust and water, and you also get great bokeh results thanks to the 9-blade diaphragm.
The zoom lock lever is for locking the zoom in place, so the lens is easier to transport without any damage.
With a maximum magnification of 0.29x, this lens is perfect for those close-up victory shots during a long match.
It's well-built with a shock-resistant barrel and has a compact build, so you can transport it with ease. You should get sharp, quality photos, and the autofocus speed won't disappoint.
The focal length range gives you a lot of room to play with as well. Hence, this Canon fast lens is a winner.
3. Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM
Canon has several lenses that would fall in the category of the best sports lens, and this one is in the running for sure. You can expect bright and sharp results with this Canon low light lens, as it has a fast aperture.
It shines in natural lighting as well, so even if you're shooting slower sports outdoors, you can expect good shots. Although autofocus speed is modest, it is extremely accurate.
This is a short telephoto lens with a 9-blade diaphragm for smooth bokeh. It weighs around 950 grams but is extremely rugged and well-built, with metal and quality plastic elements.
The fluorine coating helps keep the lens clean and the weather resistant design allows you to use the lens amid harsh weather conditions as well. The lens also has a distance marking scale, which is useful.
I paired this lens with my Canon 90d to see if it really does the job and I'm surprised. This lens takes stunning shots in low light, and also achieves accurate focusing of the subject.
You'll see hardly any chromatic aberration in your shots, and the photos will be beautifully rendered. You won't see much distortion either.
Overall, the lens is definitely worth purchasing!
INDOOR SPORTS LENSES FOR CANON MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
4. CANON RF 70-200MM F2.8 L IS USM - BEST LENS FOR BASKETBALL PHOTOGRAPHY
The Canon RF 70-200mm is an expensive Canon lens that delivers a quality performance. It may just be the best lens for indoor sports photography at this price point, and it's worth the investment.
This is a prevalent lens for professionals looking to add a top-performer to their sports photography equipment.
The 70-200mm telephoto focal length is the ideal range for capturing an indoor championship or a basketball match.
Adding to it, the image stabilization system makes this the best sports lens for Canon users in recent years. With quick shutter speeds and sharp performance, no matter what lighting situation you're shooting in, you're bound to love this lens.
As you can expect at this price point, this is a very well-built lens with rings that turn smoothly. As part of the Canon L-series, you can expect this lens to perform well when used regularly, and the fact that this is a weather-sealed lens means it's going to remain cool even under extremely sunny conditions.
The zoom lock is well-placed for easy access, and the lens' focusing is entirely internal—all in all, a great Canon indoor sports lens for your mirrorless sports cameras like Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS R6 and much more .
The lens comes with UltraSonic Motor. You can find USM in most of the top rated Canon lenses. This motor allows for a powerful, fast and quiet autofocus and permits full-time manual focus override.
Moving on the internal lens's internal optical structure: The internal optics of this lens includes a 9 bladed circular aperture that is responsible for giving perfect background isolation to your pictures and videos.
This is a pro-level lens that will yield sharp and clear results. The smooth and accurate autofocus will be very much welcome when you're taking action shots, and it has a collapsing design for better portability.
The IS has three modes, so you'll be dealing with minimal motion blur if you're an experienced shooter. If you're accustomed to indoor sports photography, you should try using this lens, especially if you're looking exclusively at premium zoom lenses.
CANON CAMERA SETTINGS FOR INDOOR SPORTS
When shooting indoors, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. How should you adjust the settings to get the most out of your Canon lens?
BEST CANON LENS FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
If you're shooting outdoors, you need to be working with the Canon fastest lens. Many skillful shots taken outdoors demand that you always be on your toes, staying on the sidelines trying to get the best angles. But you also need to have some of the best sports photography equipment on hand to take those action shots.
Again for outdoor sports lenses two main features are critical. Firstly, the lens should be able to click pictures at faster shutter speeds (1/500, 1/1000, or higher). Secondly, a wide aperture.
I agree that outdoor sports are conducted in a bright lit conditions however if you wish to focus on the subject and get a perfect subject isolation a wide aperture lens is recommended.
But, as long telephoto lenses usually don't come with wide apertures, I would suggest going for a lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6.
IDEAL FOCAL LENGTH FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS:
For shooting sports games like golf, soccer you need an outdoor lens in the range of 400-600mm. This will get you to cover a large field. However, for sports like running, javelin, a focal range of 24-400mm or even up to 600mm is required. Only then can you accurately capture these track and field games.
So what is the best lens for sports photography outdoors? Let's look at some contenders.
OUTDOOR LENSES FOR CANON DSLR CAMERAS
1. CANON EF-S 55-250MM F/4.0-5.6 IS II - BEST TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS
If the last few lenses have been a bit out of budget for you, but you're interested in getting into sports photography, this is a great entry-level lens if you're shooting outdoor sports. Not only does it come at a very budget-friendly price tag, but this is also definitely in the running for the best lens for action shots.
It has a generous focal length range and is a great all-rounder; you can pick this up for track and field shots as well as large field games. It's quite sharp across its focal range and focuses quietly at a decent speed. This is the best Canon sports lens if you're looking for a budget price.
Although this lens is mainly plastic, it's light and has a large and easily accessible zoom ring. It's got a UD glass element as well to correct any chromatic aberration and has a compact collapsing design.
I am moving on to some internal design of this lens. The construction is made of 12 elements in 10 groups. For giving a decent bokeh, there are seven rounded blades included in the design.
I wouldn't say the autofocus speed is the best. But it's quite decent, and the Micro Motor does its job in giving a less noisy and accurate AF.
Light, inexpensive, and ergonomic... what's not to love? This lens gives you sharp results with quick autofocus and has an AI Servo AF for improved tracking.
Image stabilization corrects up to three stops and will keep most of your images tack-sharp. Pair this lens with the best sports camera like Canon 7D Mark II, and you're good to go.
2. CANON EF 100-400MM F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM - BEST SUPER TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS FOR CANON
Moving on to more high-end options, this is a great sports camera lens for professional sports photographers. There's a solid focal range to play with, and this lens also has some of the best image stabilization features in the game, with up to four stops of correction and three modes.
This is ideal for outdoor shots where you need to track your subjects closely. Your shots should also be tack-sharp across the focal range. You can expect truly premium results from this lens.
This is a compact white lens, which means it'll reflect light on bright days outdoors and keep the lens cool. It's also quite well-built, largely of metal, and weather-sealed with fluorine coating. The zoom ring is large and turns smoothly. The lens also comes with a very sturdy case.
This lens will deliver a sharp performance at every setting, so you don't need to worry about a host of blurry photos when shooting an intense match.
Autofocus is lightning-fast and quiet, and the lens zooms easily and smoothly. You'll also see some brilliant color and contrast in your shots, and you can use this as a macro lens to get up close and personal on the sports field. It's also great for shoots after sunset like football, soccer etc. Thumbs up!
3. CANON EF 600MM F/4L IS USM - BEST EXPENSIVE CANON LENS FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS
At over $14000, this is not a lens for beginners, but you can expect a flawless performance when shooting in sports arenas. This is one of the best action lenses out there, and it's made for shooting sports. This is a super-telephoto lens, so it's ideal for taking close-up shots from the sidelines or in the stands.
The image stabilization system provides up to five stops of correction, with three modes, including one that tracks action. Image quality is generally sharp across the board, and the autofocus performance is unparalleled, and has several functions and features including an AI Servo AF feature. This lens may be the best Canon sports lens out there.
This is a large lens with tactile, smooth rings. The weather-resistant is a plus because you never know when it's going to rain when you're shooting outdoors. It's also protected from dust.
Despite the lens being quite large, Canon has done its best to distribute the weight evenly so it won't be as hefty as it looks, and you can even shoot handheld for long periods.
The autofocus performance of this lens is commendable. Thanks to the Ring type USM motor which is responsible for providing a fast, accurate and a noiseless AF!
This is one of Canon's best lenses, and it shoots very well in manual mode as well. The autofocus system is one of the best in the world, no doubt, and is precise and super-fast. If you're a pro and you're considering this lens, you can expect a dazzling performance.
4. CANON EF 400MM F/4 DO IS II USM LENS
In terms of price, this is a bit of a step down from the previous lens, but at around 7k $, it's still a premium lens and one of the more expensive ones on this list. This is a great prime lens to opt for, and the image stabilization is particularly impressive. This is surely going to make the Canon fastest lens list, and the optics are top-notch.
The lens is pretty small and lightweight on the whole, so while it's good for outdoor sports particularly, it's also a great accessory for any outdoor occasion.
This is a compact lens so it's great for carrying around, and it has dual-layer diffractive optical elements to reduce flare and give better diffraction results. A UD element will give you pin-sharp images, and the lens has a rugged magnesium alloy and titanium construction.
This is a strong lens that's bound to last you for years. It's also dust and water-resistant and has four AF lock buttons, a preset focal recall feature, and a security cable slot. You'll be getting your money's worth with this.
Expect a stellar performance. You'll get perfectly sharp images at f/4, and it's great for shooting handheld. The IS system is almost flawless, with three modes including a tracking action mode. The bokeh is on point, and autofocus is fast and pretty quiet.
Canon's telephoto lenses often deliver the best autofocus, so you can expect nothing less than perfect from this one.
OUTDOOR LENSES FOR CANON MIRRORLESS CAMERAS
5. CANON RF600MM F4 L IS USM LENS
This is a super-telephoto prime lens with a pretty long focal length (ideal for capturing quick movements), and it's got a pro price tag for sure.
You won't get a longer focal length at this aperture. This is one of the best lenses for sports photography Canon has produced in a while and is ideal for shooting field action and running events.
It's also got a pretty impressive build, and even in low light or after sunset, you should get good results. With up to 5.5 stops of image stabilization, there's no stopping you with this lens.
This is a fairly light lens when you consider its bulk, although you might have to break out the tripod for long shooting sessions. The lens has a magnesium alloy build, so it's quite ruggedly built, and the AF and focus limiter switches are well-located.
The focus ring is pretty tactile as well, and the white paint on the lens helps to cut down on heat gain. The lens also has coatings to improve color rendition and quality and minimize flare when shooting outdoors in glaring light. It's also weather-resistant.
With three IS modes, including one for tracking quick action, this lens handles image stabilization like a pro. The customizable focus ring and manual focus levels help to give you a lot of leeway to adjust settings as per your shooting preferences, and the addition of focus presets is quite handy as well.
The optical precision of this lens is outstanding. You're truly paying for quality here.
CANON CAMERA SETTINGS FOR OUTDOOR SPORTS
When you’re buying a new sports lens, you have to keep a few factors in mind.
What sort of lens are you buying?
Telephoto lens: A telephoto lens gives you a long focal length, which means that you can easily pick out players on the field even while you’re sitting in the stands. These are beneficial lenses, whether you’re shooting sports events indoors or outdoors.
Zoom lens: Some people club telephoto and zoom lenses together, but there are distinctions. Zoom lenses are ideal for zooming into specific subjects, but they can also easily capture wide angles. A range of focal lengths will be available to you so that you can take both small-scale and large-scale shots. These sports photography lenses are particularly useful when capturing indoor sporting events.
Prime lens: Prime lenses have a fixed focal length so that they won’t offer you as much range as a zoom or telephoto lens. However, prime lenses are also some of the best low light lenses on the market so that you can use them for indoor arena matches or sporting events held at gymnasiums, and so on.
Are you shooting sports indoors or outdoors?
As you can imagine, there’s quite a stark difference between shooting sports indoors and shooting them outdoors. You need lenses appropriate to the occasion. You might think a lot of major sporting events are played outdoors; for example, football is played on a field out in the open. But basketball is quite popular too, and it’s usually played indoors in an arena or gymnasium.
So make sure you’re prepared with the right lens because lenses for indoor and outdoor shoots have different capabilities. Let’s review them briefly.
For indoor sports, aim for a lens that has a focal length of 200-300mm, although you do have to consider which sport you’re photographing and where you happen to be in the arena. Telephoto lenses can be a good choice for outdoor sports.
A lens with an adjustable focal length is a very versatile tool to have. You can set the focal length according to where you are in relation to the subject and decide what kind of shot you’d like to take.
Prime lenses can do in a pinch for indoor photography, especially if you’re shooting in low light indoors and if you don’t require a huge focal range. Prime lenses, therefore, can work very well in smaller areas. Telephoto or zoom lenses might be more useful in larger arenas.
Whether you’re buying a zoom, prime, or telephoto lens, there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. Let’s go through them.
Aperture: This is a basic feature all photographers look at before they purchase a lens, and it will influence the quality of your shots. A constant maximum aperture is a good choice for sports photography. If you’re wondering about the ideal aperture for a telephoto lens (which is the preferred lens when you’re looking for an indoor sports lens), it should be less than f2.8.
If you’re shooting with a narrow aperture, you also get a better depth-of-field (the entire frame will be in focus), which is perfect when you’re capturing an intense match outdoors. However, if you’re using a higher aperture, keep a close eye on the shutter speed.
Shutter speed: Shutter speed regulates how fast your lens takes a shot. Sports photographers will tell you that whether indoors or outdoors, sporting events tend to be high-action, so you have to keep a good balance when it comes to shutter speed. Don’t go too low, or you’ll miss out on crucial action shots. But too high a speed might cause too much blur.
Autofocus: Autofocus is a major consideration when it comes to picking a good lens for sports photography. The function of autofocus is to focus on an object without any manual input from your end, so autofocus speed really matters when you’re shooting high-paced sports. Don’t pick a lens with a slower autofocus response because you’ll tend to miss out on important moments during the match in those seconds your lens takes to focus. A high autofocus speed is a must.
Image Stabilization: Not all lenses come with image stabilization, but it’s very important to the quality of your shots (particularly if you’re shooting without a tripod and there might be some camera shake). A good image stabilization system will help cut down on blur, ghosting, and flare issues in your final shots, so make sure you get a lens that has this feature.
That's about it. I hope this article has provided clear information about the best sports photography lenses Canon. As mentioned above, depending on whether you're going to shoot indoor or outdoor sports, you have to choose the appropriate lens.
But remember, although having a trusty lens with you is a huge part of getting good shots, practice makes perfect. So go ahead and break in your new lens at the local park or a kid's baseball game before heading to the big leagues!
It's well-known that photography is not a cheap profession, but it all depends on the photographer. As long as your lens is relatively sharp, can handle high shutter speeds, and has decent AF and IS systems, you should be able to handle anything that comes up.
Prime lenses are less flexible, but sharper and better in low light. They might be better for indoor shoots where you're not shooting in a huge field or arena. Zoom lenses are much more versatile, but you may have to buy a fixed aperture lens for the best results, which can get expensive.
But a zoom lens does allow you to remain rooted to the spot and shoot. It's best to weigh the pros and cons and see which lens better fits your situation.