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Gear — Sports

The gear you need in the field to capture the action of sports

Read our sports how-to guide


While mirrorless technologies continue to improve, the autofocus capabilities and frame rates of current DSLR cameras have made them the default choice for sports photographers, but that won’t last much longer. Nikon and Canon are the dominant players in the pro sports world. Nikon and Canon’s flagship full-frame cameras, the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, offer the fastest autofocus tracking and continuous shooting in their lines. They feature high-ISO performance and rugged construction. The recently announced Sony a99 II promises pro-level performance with a consumer-friendly price. There are some advantages to using APS-C cameras for sports, namely the focal-length multiplier with full-frame lenses. The Nikon D500 packs much of the same punch as the D5 in a smaller body, and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is the Canon shooter’s pro level APS-C. Sony’s new a6500 promises tremendous focus and capture speeds. So too, in the Micro Four Thirds world, do the new Olympus OM-D E-M Mark II and upcoming Panasonic GH5.

Nikon D5
Nikon D5


Lenses tend to be a longer-term investment, and these are the most useful choices for sports work. Looking back over the last decade of work, I’d guess 90 percent of my favorite images come from my 17-35mm ƒ/2.8 and 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 lenses. Both zoom ranges are available in any good system. Many companies offer slightly slower ƒ/4-5.6 versions that are a little easier on the pocketbook, but don’t give you as soft backgrounds or low-light performance. The 200-500mm range is another must for sports, along with a 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverter.

AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm

Simple Remote Camera Kit

A quick list of items in my primary remote kit: Two PocketWizard or other radio transceivers, remote camera trigger cable, Platypod Pro Max floor plate, Manfrotto 496RC2 Compact Ball Tripod Head, Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magic Arm with Camera Platform and Super Clamp, and steel safety cable.

PocketWizard Plus III
PocketWizard Plus III

Monopods & Supports

Tripods are often prohibited in many sporting venues, so monopods are a solution that still offers high mobility. You can spend more on the lighter weight of carbon models, but a Manfrotto XPRO 4-Section Aluminum monopod is a bargain and hard to beat, and the carbon model is only a touch more expensive.

Manfrotto XPRO 4-Seciton Aluminum Monopod
Manfrotto XPRO 4-Section Aluminum Monopod

Rain Covers

Shoot outdoor sporting events long enough and the wet stuff will start to fly. The Think Tank Hydrophobia covers are a great option, but I’ve often relied on the OP/TECH Rainsleeve and covers from LensCoat.

Think Tank Hydrophobia
Think Tank Hydrophobia


I can’t recommend a quality backpack enough. Thanks to smart zipper placement, you can now access your gear without ever taking off a pack or setting it down in wet or dirty environments. Check out the Lowepro Flipside line. If you’re dedicated to field sports or solely indoor venues, you can’t beat the convenience and offload of the weight of a nice-quality roller bag like the Think Tank Airport Series, Lowepro Roller, Tenba Roadie, Manfrotto Professional Roller Bag and others.

Lowepro Flipside
Lowepro Flipside



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