Best Nikon Lens for Sports Photography

Sports photography can be incredibly difficult. Quick movement under huge floodlights can be hard to capture, and instead of a victorious snap of the winning goal, you might end up with a blurry photo that ruins the whole effect. The best thing that can improve your circumstances and hold you in good stead when you shoot sports is a solid lens. You need a specific lens to take your sports shoots to the next level, and Nikon has a lot of options to help you out.

In order to capture those high-energy, spirited moments from the best angle and in the best light, you need high-powered sports lenses which can capture every flash of movement with ease. You should look for durable lenses with a good zoom range so you can really get up close and personal with the players on the field.

Also, a speedy lens is important for keeping up with rapid changes and movements, and a VR (Vibration Reduction) feature will be a blessing when you’re shooting amidst a crowd of cheering fans. Handheld shooting will also give you sharper shots as long as you’re protected from any camera blur.

Nikon can definitely deliver all this and more. So choose your best Nikon lens for sports from this list given below if you’re into sports photography or videography.

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DETAILS


Nikon AF-S - Best lens for sports
  • Lens Type: Telephoto
  • Compatible Mountings: Nikon F-Bayonet
  • Focal Length: 500mm
Nikon AF-S - Best lens for sports
  • Lens Type: Telephoto
  • Compatible Mountings: Type E AF-S lens with built-in CPU and F mount
  • Focal Length: 180-400mm 
Nikon AF-P - Best lens for sports
  • Lens Type: Telephoto 
  • Compatible Mountings: Nikon F-Bayonet
  • Focal Length: 70-300mm
Nikon - Best lens for sports
  • Lens Type: Telephoto 
  • Compatible Mountings: Nikon Z
  • Focal Length: 70-200mm 
  • Lens Type: Super- telephoto
  •    Compatible Mountings:   Nikon FX 
  •   Focal Length: 300mm 

8 BEST NIKON LENS FOR SPORTS REVIEW

1. NIKON AF-S NIKKOR 500MM LENS

Nikon AF-S - Best lens for sports

My first pick for the best lens for sports photography is this prime 500mm lens from Nikon. I agree that it is expensive, but it’s far from the most expensive lens on this list, and if you’re a photographer or a videographer, you know that lenses run the gamut in terms of price point.

Let’s just say you’re going to get your money’s worth with this, even if it costs you upwards of $3K. Even when you’re shooting wide open, the quality of this lens will ensure that your footage is razor-sharp. Aside from having the usual ED elements, Super Integrated Coating and Nano Crystal Coating, this lens also has a Phase Fresnel element which makes it much lighter despite the focal length.

Now, I'll speak about my user experience with this lens. I was able to view every detail in high definition, from the feathers of a cork to the texture of the goal netting. So, I would not just consider this a great sports lens as it also works perfectly for wildlife shoots because you can guarantee that every detail of your subject will show up starkly.

The lens has a nine-bladed diaphragm that gives you a smooth bokeh effect, and the light build of the lens makes it very easy to shoot handheld with it.

Overall, an unbeatable lens, even though it’s not cheap, will improve your sports photography by leaps and bounds.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 500mm super-telephoto lens
  • f/5.6 maximum aperture
  • The focus distance is a minimum of 10ft
  • VR feature up to 4.0 stops to handle camera shake
  • Four programmable AF buttons
  • Five switches
  • Fluorine coating to prevent smudging

Pros

  • Super light and compact
  • Portable
  • Very quick focusing
  • Sports mode included for fast panning
  • Hardly any vignetting

Cons

  • An f/4 lens might have had slightly more depth, but the images are still very sharp

2. NIKON AF-S NIKKOR 180-400MM LENS

Nikon AF-S - Best lens for sports

At roughly the $12K mark, I would suggest this lens for professionals who are serious about shooting sports.

Now, let me take you through the lens' top features that I found helpful for sports photography and videography. This is a pretty large lens, and it is also a bit heavy, so shooting on the handheld for extended periods might be a bit challenging (despite the VR feature). But the results are well worth it. The makeup of the lens ensures very few aberrations, which is necessary when you're zoning in on fast-moving footage.

The autofocus is quick and accurate. The lens easily captures sharp details from edge-to-edge of each shot and shoots well across frames, although it does get a bit less sharp at the minimum aperture of f/32.

With this super-telephoto lens, you can also take perfect macro shots as it can focus up to 6.6ft. The Sports Mode for VR gives you a firm base to shoot and works up to 4.0 stops. And its rugged build makes it great for tough shooting environments.

In sports photography, you need to capture shorts in precise color and contrast. Well, you can get that done using this lens. Adding to it, you also won't have any complaints on the optical capabilities front.

Definitely worth listing in the best Nikon lens for sports catalog!

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 180-400mm telephoto zoom lens
  • Constant f/4 maximum aperture
  • 1.4x built-in teleconverter allows you to stop down to f/5.6
  • 8 ED elements and Nano Crystal Coating
  • Weather-sealing repels dust and moisture
  • Comes with a removable tripod collar
  • Has a Zoom lock switch
  • Function buttons available
  • 9-bladed electric diaphragm

Pros

  • Very solidly-built
  • VR is very reliable
  • Very sharp
  • Focuses quite fast
  • Focus and zoom rings move very smoothly

Cons

  • Quite expensive

3. NIKON AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300MM LENS

Nikon AF-P - Best lens for sports

On the opposite side of the spectrum, this is a very cheap lens suitable for amateurs and hobbyists, or even for professionals who want to expand their kit.

Being a sports photographer, it's evident that you need to travel a lot. Trust me; this lens will become a favorite companion for travelers as it is a lightweight lens with a plastic mount making it easy to carry around and put to use quickly.

I know no one is going to purchase a Nikon lens just for its portability. It also needs to perform well. So, let me go straight to its performance and build characteristics. The lens has a 4.3x zoom range, with accessible, well-placed zoom and focus rings for quick adjustments.

There's no VR switch, which might be a bit of an inconvenience, but you can go into your settings to turn on or switch off the function. 

The lens has an ED element to manage chromatic aberrations, and you can use it as a macro lens just because of the large zoom range. You shouldn't experience any problems with glare or ghosting, either. Internal focus works quickly and responsively and is great for tracking players across the field.

Despite the low price, you also get very good results with bokeh when you're shooting on this lens with a seven-bladed diaphragm. Although it's an all-plastic lens, it's well-suited to DSLRs. All in all, you can't go wrong with this lens, considering how little you're paying for it. It's a bargain, and it delivers quality across the board. However, if you are fond of Nikon make sure to check these top Nikon lenses that anyone would love to add in the lens collection.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • Also good for portraiture and landscapes
  • It can be used as a semi-macro lens
  • VR helps in low light
  • Stepping motor for better autofocus
  • The camera menu has Access Lens options
  • 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens
  • f/4.5 - f/6.3

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Very light and portable
  • Great for shooting handheld
  • AF is great for video
  • Great range

Cons

  • Largely plastic build

4. NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200MM LENS

Nikon - Best lens for sports

Going back to more moderately-priced options, this is a pro zoom lens that will take your sports photography up a notch. It's built for Z mirrorless cameras and has a solid metal construction, with a lot of sealing to protect from dust and moisture.

About my experience: This lens gave me very sharp, accurate images even at wide-open f/2.8 and I barely noticed any kind of aberrations.. I also found that it has a Fluorite element in the construction to enhance clarity. 

When I researched how the lens could achieve this optical performance, I realized there is an SR(Short-wavelength Refractive Element) and other aspherical elements included in the lens's design.

You will hardly notice focus breathing and any distortion issues. The zoom and focus rings turn smoothly and effectively, and autofocus is responsive and quick enough that you'll be able to capture rapid changes on the tracks or in the field.

I was looking for a quiet autofocus lens, and I'm glad this lens ensures the same. Also, the lens does wonders in taking macro shots and close-up shots because it has a focusing distance of up to 0.5m from the subject.

For the ease of hand-held shooting, the VR feature advertises up to 5.5 stops and works quite well to give you pretty crisp results.

Overall, a world-class lens also great for nature shots, portraits, and weddings. Get one soon!

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens
  • f/2.8 maximum aperture
  • Optical zoom of 2.9
  • Programmable Function buttons
  • Limited depth-of-field
  • OLED panel shows setting details
  • Ruggedly-built

Pros

  • Sharp, detailed optics
  • Weather-sealing protects from smudges and water
  • Hardly any vignetting
  • Very accurate color
  • Tripod collar included

Cons

  • Quite heavy

5. NIKON AF FX MICRO-NIKKOR 200MM LENS

Want to capture detailed close-up shots of a soccer game? Well, this lens 300mm super-telephoto zoom lens will help you get that done. It'll capture everything in vivid detail, and your footage will be crisp and lively from edge to edge.

In terms of optics, I really loved working with this lens because the effective focal length of 300mm f/4 did not shorten during close-up shots and also ensured perfect defocusing effects(bokeh). I recommend this lens for nature or wildlife photography because the lens also works significantly as a macro lens with a minimum focusing distance of 1.45m.

I liked the sharp images produced by this lens, even at f/4. However, you can also use a teleconverter with it for more precise shots. If you need to work in a low-light conditions, I suggest using this lens on newer Nikon DSLRs.

It's better to shoot on manual with this lens, but as a sports photographer, you might be turning to autofocus quite a bit. Telephoto zoom lenses are known for their autofocusing speed. And as this lens comes with a silent-wave-motor, this lens will give you quiet autofocus with high-accuracy. You won't have to deal with any significant distortion issues either. Unlike the 70 - 300 mm Nikon zoom lens made of plastic materials, this lens barrel is made of metal.

To conclude, The USP of this lens is in the sharpness and clarity of your snaps. And as far as my user experience is concerned the lens is unbeatable in terms of performance and one of the best Nikon lenses for sports.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • f/4.0 maximum aperture
  • Great for FX and DX cameras and film
  • Maximum magnification ratio of 0.27x
  • Internal focusing mechanism
  • Non-removable built-in lens hood
  • Super Integrated coating
  • 2 ED glass elements to produce high contrast images
  • Nine-bladed diaphragm
  • Ability to switch between automatic to manual focusing using the lens' focusing ring

Pros

  • Very sharp at every aperture
  • Great manual focus
  • Very ruggedly-built
  • Great contrast and accurate color
  • Minimum vignette noticed

Cons

  • As it is a telephoto lens, you will notice some amount of lens flare and ghosting
  • Does not have a back element so attracts dust easily.

6. NIKON AF-S VR MICRO-NIKKOR 105MM LENS

This is another affordable option you can opt for if you’re on the hunt for a solid lens for sports shoots, but you need to stick to budget prices.

This isn’t exactly a budget option, of course, at roughly $900, but the price of a lens can run into the thousands, so it’s close enough to budget for some photographers. It also delivers a really good performance for the price and is one of the best lenses for sports on the market. As a macro lens, this has a largely metal-build and is great for all-purpose use too.

It’s great for both FX and DX cameras, and the Nano Crystal Coating and ED glass elements help to reduce any kind of aberration and enhance the overall optics of the lens. Internal focus is quick and speedy as well.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 105mm medium focal-length macro lens
  • f/2.8 maximum aperture
  • VR makes it easy to shoot on handheld
  • SWM (Silent Wave Motor) for quick and quiet autofocus
  • Nine-bladed diaphragm
  • Not zoomable

Pros

  • Good for portraiture and nature photography, as well as sports
  • Excellent bokeh
  • Super sharp
  • Great when shooting in low light

Cons

  • Focus breathing might be a slight issue
  • On the heavy side

7. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70MM LENS

At roughly the $2K mark, if you want an upgrade of some cheaper lenses, this is a semi-premium option to jazz up your sports photography. This is a solidly-built Z lens with a great zoom range that will serve you well for your sports shoots or for taking sports videos.

Anti-glare coatings help to reduce any ghosting and flare issues, and the lens is properly weather-sealed to resist water and dust. VR up to 5.0 stops (the lens relies on built-in stabilization in Nikon cameras) helps to make it easier to shoot on the handheld. This is a great lens, and any distortion can be corrected in-camera via settings. It’s also pretty sharp, especially when you’re shooting wide open.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 24-70mm zoom lens
  • f/2.8 constant maximum aperture
  • Fluorine coating optimizes lens for solid shots in all weathers
  • Programmable function button
  • OLED panel included
  • Nikon’s Stepping Motor ensures quiet autofocus

Pros

  • Silent and quick autofocus
  • Very ruggedly-built
  • Tack-sharp
  • Great bokeh
  • Very good macro performance

Cons

  • Quite large and heavy
  • Some slight focus breathing

8. NIKON AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70MM LENS

And lastly, this is a great basic zoom lens with VR up to 4.0 stops, which makes it a good option for handheld shooting. The lens is built with minimal plastic elements and is weather-sealed against dust and moisture, so shooting in tough conditions will be fine.

The focus ring is smooth and responsive, and autofocus is quick and precise. With sharp clarity in your snaps and great color saturation, this is a top-notch lens and definitely one of the best Nikon lenses for sports. At around $1.7K, it won’t be too much of a pocket-pinch either.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

  • 24-70mm standard zoom lens
  • f/2.8 constant aperture
  • The electromagnetic diaphragm ensures rapid auto-exposure control
  • Nano and Fluorine coating to protect from dirt and moisture
  • ASP/ED element enhances optical excellence

Pros

  • Great VR capabilities
  • Very good performance in low light
  • Very good color rendering
  • Quiet and quick autofocus

Cons

  • Some softness at the center might be expected
  • 82mm filter is required if you don’t own it
  • A bit heavy to lug around

CONCLUSION

Aspiring sports photographers and videographers must invest in good, quality lenses to keep up in a competitive field. Even as a hobbyist, the importance of having a top-quality lens far outweighs the importance of having an expensive camera. So this list will serve as a great starting point if you’re looking for standout performers in the sports lens market.

Nikon’s success as a brand is well-known, so you can rely on their lenses to exceed your expectations. Buy any of the lenses on this list, and you’ll be snapping away close-ups of a team celebration or an action shot of a star player making a winning goal in no time at all.

Halena
 

Hi. This is Halena here. I have dipped my toe in the cinematography world for a few years. So I work tirelessly to help people choose the best filmmaking gadgets by listing out the top 10 gadgets in my blogs. I make sure the listings are up to date and I have worked on some how-to articles to help you with technical kinds of stuff. I believe that any good information is worth sharing and I think that justifies why I am a blogger.

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