Sports photography is one of the most exciting genres you can find in the broad spectrum of image creation. The intrepid sports photographer needs to understand the subject they’re covering so that can anticipate that perfect shot.
Knowing that a football team has a talented tight end that they go to often on third and medium situations gives you the advantage of pre-focusing on a sport on the field where he will most likely turn to catch the ball on a curl route.
Setting up on the baseline for action shots of a basketball player flying in on a fast break puts you ahead of the game as well, and so does finding the best lens you can use for each venue.
Here are Our Top Sony lenses for Sports Photography!
From our experience, there is no such creature as a “one size fits all lens” for sports photography. Sports are just too broad a field to determine one lens to use in all situations.
If you have a Sony camera body, the good news is that you have a lot of options when it comes to buying the best Sony lens for sports photography.
Before we review the best Sony lenses for sports, let’s briefly describe the venues you’re likely to find in sports photography.
Types of Sports Photography Venues
- Daylight – afternoon football, baseball, track and field, soccer – A fast-focusing telephoto
- Mixed outdoor light – rodeo, evening football, late afternoon baseball, evening auto racing – Wide aperture telephoto
- Stadium night sports – Friday night football, night baseball, professional rodeo – Wide aperture, fast focus telephoto
- Gymnasium – basketball, wrestling, boxing – Wide aperture, medium-length telephoto
- Indoor pool – swimming, water polo – Wide aperture, fixed lens, short-range telephoto
Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM Full-Frame Large-Aperture G Master Lens
Best Sony lens for indoor sports photography
Why buy the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM Full-Frame Large-Aperture G Master Lens?
You probably expected to find a monster, 600 or 1000mm telephoto lens listed first as one of the best Sony lenses for sports photography, but instead here is this minuscule fixed 50mm. At first glance, this lens looks just like the one that probably came with your camera. A “Nifty-Fifty” is hard to beat, simply because it matches the magnification of the unaided human eye.
It is a classic, “What you see is what you get lens” and in the hands of a professional, it produces unparalleled quality images.
There is no zoom, no telephoto magnification, just you and your camera.
For indoor sports, it is hard to beat. The secret is the wide 1.2 aperture that will gather light even in the most dimly lit settings.
This is a perfect lens for wrestling and boxing, where the athletes are often in heavy shadow from the glare of overhead lights, or in compromised, high-contrast positions when you click the shutter. It’s these types of positions that make the greatest sport images.
What you’ll love about the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM Full-Frame Large-Aperture G Master Lens
You’re going to love the depth of field this lens can offer. With aperture settings from a blazing fast 1.2 to a standard F-22, you can capture high-quality images in any light setting. You won’t need a strobe since a 1.2 aperture can garner light better than any other Sony lens on the market.
The 50mm length is standard and should be familiar to every sports photographer.
There is a psychological intimidation factor that comes with shooting next to someone with a long telephoto lens. You’ve probably seen them at sporting events, making a show of their equipment, but it’s the photographer not the size of the telephoto lens that makes the difference.
A 1000mm lens in the hands of someone who has no idea what they’re doing, doesn’t understand the sport, and has no idea where to stand will not produce great images. A 50mm with a skilled photographer will always produce marketable images. This lens will deliver.
What you won’t love about the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM Full-Frame Large-Aperture G Master Lens
You’re not going to like the price. It lists at a price 10 times greater than a 50mm F-1.8 lens and is easily three to four times the price of a 50mm with an aperture of 1.4. The reason is the glass, this lens is packed with it, and you’ll notice immediately by the weight in comparison with narrower aperture lenses with the same focal length.
You won’t like the limitations of a fixed 50mm lens if you’ve grown dependent on a longer telephoto, or a zoom telephoto lens.
Positioning, anticipation, and knowledge are all required with this lens to generate those incredible images. If you don’t understand the sport you’re shooting, have no idea where to stand or how to position your camera, and don’t want to spend the time learning those things, get a longer zoom and leave the quality of the FE 50mm F1.2 to the professionals.
Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens
Best Sony lens for sports videography
Why buy the Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens?
If there is a “go-to lens” in outdoor sports photography, the range of this long zoom might be the closest to the one size fits all ideal.
This may be the best Sony lens for outdoor sports photography in a well-lit venue. With a maximum aperture of 4.5, it’s not suited for most indoor use, but if there is ample light, you can’t go wrong with this lens.
The 70-350mm zoom offers tight shots to an extreme magnification 17.5 times your unaided eye, perfect if your press credentials aren’t good enough to get you close to the action. This lens provides enough zoom adjustment to close in or move out from almost anywhere, making it a great choice for video work. This is in the mix for the best budget lens for sports photography Sony offers.
What you’ll love about the Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens
You’re going to like the variable zoom. We often look down on the lowly zoom lens, but it has its place and is easy to use. Ease of use can leave time for creativity, which leads to greater sales of your images once you find the right combination of light, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO.
This lens allows you to use the knowledge you’ve accumulated behind the viewfinder to the best of your ability.
The 70mm length is adequate for most short telephoto shots, and the 350mm setting closes in on the action from a long ways away. That’s a great range to use, especially in outdoor venues when you’re trying to shoot from the stands or a distant photographer’s set-aside area. This is a great lens to capture expressions on the faces of soccer players, rugby players or track athletes in the height of competition. Human interest style images always sell.
What you won’t love about the Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens
The 4.5 to 6.3 aperture might be too limiting in certain conditions. It’s not suited for indoor work, and heavy cloud cover could limit your options outside as well. The 70mm isn’t a great long-distance lens even with the widest aperture setting at 4.5. When you extend to the full 350mm the aperture range drops.
The F-4.5 aperture is adequate, but not great for limited light. If you want something faster, you’re going to have to pay for it.
But overall, this is a great utility lens that fits a multitude of distance venues if handled correctly.
Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS
Best long zoom telephoto for sports photography
Why buy the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS
The adage, go big or go home is a good one for this lens. If you want to join the ranks of those guys and gals hanging around stadiums packing heavy lenses that strain the strap, strain the photographer’s necks, and require a monopod or tripod to use, this is the lens for you.
If you’re looking for a cheap lens for sports photography, well, look elsewhere. This one answers the question of what lens do professional sports photographers use since you see them everywhere.
With a magnification of two to eight, these rival binoculars in the ability to pull in close action shots. A 100mm to 400mm zoom telephoto offers a lot of options from the sidelines, and even from the stands if you can’t get one of those hard-to-acquire press passes.
This is a powerful, heavy lens that brings the world into view (literally) from just about anywhere in the stadium.
What you’ll love about the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS
This is the lens for horse racing, auto racing, football, soccer, and zooming in on distant fields events in track and field. It is great for full sunlight and does a good job on cloudy days as well. The F4.5 to F5.6 is considered limited by some photographers, but in the hands of a professional who understands the ins and outs of manual settings, this is a great lens.
It’s heavy at three pounds, but not extraordinarily so, and the fatter design limits length, by increasing diameter, bringing in greater distance with less length, a positive trait for some users, especially if you’re packed like sardines in a photo pit at a baseball game.
What you won’t love about the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6 GM OSS
The price is prohibitive for many photographers and the tight, medium-range aperture of 4.5 to 5.6 limits you to daylight or full light indoor stadium work. You won’t gather enough light in a standard high school, or college facility to create clear unblurred images.
This is a good lens for specific uses. For rodeo, the smaller length, and lighter weight in comparison to more traditional zoom telephotos is a plus. You can get the shot and get out of the way before the bull finds you or the outriders kick dirt all over your lens.
Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art for Sony E Lens
Best sports lens for Sony E mount
Why buy the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art for Sony E Lens
Not all sports photography is shot from extreme distances. If you’re lucky enough to get ringside access for a middleweight title fight, a 24-70mm zoom lens, with an aperture of 2.8 is just about perfect. You can get wide shots of the drooling, fanatical crowd, or close-up shots of the blood spurting from around the challenger’s mouthpiece when the champ lands a hard right uppercut to his chin. Yes, brutal it is, but that’s what sells photographs for the “Sweet Science.”
Aside from boxing, you can get great images of basketball, swimming, and those wide-angle, high-quality equestrian shots that capture the beauty of horse racing.
Yes, this is a lens with that much versatility.
What you’ll love about the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art for Sony E Lens
The size is perfect for most photographers. Weighing slightly less than two pounds, the length, and heft provide great stabilization in handheld photography. This is a “workhorse” lens, capable of a myriad of specific functions. It works well indoors with its 2.8 aperture, the 24mm to 70mm focal length range is great for standard wide angle (not super wide angle) and moderate telephoto work, (slightly greater than the human eye at 50mm) creating a lens that fits the bill for many indoor and outdoor sporting venues.
Set up on the infield at the crucial fifth hurdle in a 110-meter high hurdle race, pre-focus on a lane, and wait until the right moment to get that incredible action shot from a new angle.
This lens works great for wrestling, basketball, and the ever-difficult, volleyball shooting, and it will do the job outdoors with correct angles set and distances established.
You’ll also like the moderately high price. It should be affordable for about any photographer’s budget, making this one of the better Sony lenses for sports photography.
What you won’t love about the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art for Sony E Lens
You’re going to have to think before using this lens. The focal length at 70mm just isn’t sufficient for you to dial in a distance compensation by extending the lens. You’ll have to be in the right place at the right time and this lens can’t do that.
You’ll have to adjust a lot indoors with shutter speed and ISO in dimmer light since 2.8 isn’t sufficient to capture images clearly using ambient light in darker, indoor venues.
While the thinking requirements mean you’ll have to experiment often, that’s a good step in becoming a better photographer.
Sony SEL24240 FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
Best mid-range zoom telephoto
Why buy the Sony SEL24-240 FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
This is a high-end, full-frame lens that offers a different style of blade than standard aperture cameras. Rather than the polygonal-shaped blades that can create distortion along the edge of a wide-open setting, these curved blades compensate for that effect with their unique design. The result is an aperture for mirrorless cameras that allows images to remain clear, sharp, and without any distortion across the width of the photograph. Whether you’re shooting wide angle with the 24mm setting or zooming in like a pair of 12 power binoculars, this lens creates perfect, distortion-free images.
What you’ll love about the Sony SEL24240 FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
You’ll enjoy the quality of the image, no doubt the best feature of this lens, but you’ll also enjoy the wide range of focal lengths a lens that can stretch from a wide angle of 24mm to a tightly closed 240mm can offer.
This is a lens that fills the range of almost all sporting venue photography. You can capture the wide-angle imagery of a huge crowd, or perhaps a sky full of balloons at a hot air balloon rally in one shot. It will capture crisp images of acrobatic aircraft performing at an air show as well as it will create the image of a cowboy about to meet the clear air above an enraged Brahma bull. This lens has all those capabilities when shooting outdoors in natural light.
What you won’t love about the Sony SEL24240 FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Zoom Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
You’re not going to enjoy this lens indoors as much as you will when shooting in full daylight. A maximum F-Stop of 3.5 isn’t good for dim light and is only marginal in well-lit indoor facilities. The full frame, mirrorless cameras aren’t as widespread as standard DSLR cameras operating in standard format either.
You’ll have fewer choices to match this lens with than you would a standard DSLR lens.
The 24-240mm focal length is impressive outdoors, no doubt about it, but inside you’ll be frustrated with blurred images when even your best effort at manual settings can’t quite garner enough light to make the images usable.
My research suggests, that this is a great general lens for outdoor use, but it’s far from the “one size fits all variety lens” that some claim it to be.
Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Full-Frame Constant-Aperture telephoto Zoom G Master Lens
Best Sony lens for overall sports photography
Why buy the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Full-Frame Constant-Aperture telephoto Zoom G Master Lens
What is the best Sony lens for sports photography? Well, if you have the cash, we have the lens. This lens delivers, the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Full-Frame Constant-Aperture telephoto Zoom G Master Lens is the best that Sony can offer for use in sports photography. It’s fast with an aperture of 2.8, has a great focal range from 70mm to 200mm and it has the weight, length, and other physical attributes that add, rather than detract from a camera lens’s handling ability.
This is a fabulous lens that holds its maximum 2.8 aperture across the zoom as you increase or decreases focal length, making it a great choice for video work.
This is an all-around great lens that will work equally well shooting from a dark background into a spotlight-lit boxing ring, or from a hillside capturing the varied colors of the uniforms of cross-country runners against the backdrop of a partly cloudy, brightly lit autumn afternoon. You can almost feel and taste the colors this lens will capture.
What you’ll love about the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Full-Frame Constant-Aperture telephoto Zoom G Master Lens
You’re going to love the focal range of this lens. As every veteran sports photographer knows, being in the right location at the right time is the most important preparation you can make, but even with the best-laid plans, that photographic opportunity sometimes presents itself and without a zoom telephoto at your fingertips, you’re going to miss it. This lens with its great focal range and a maximum aperture of 2.8 allows you to get the shot no matter the conditions.
You’ll find these lenses all along the sidelines in the free camera zones of Division I college football, the NFL, and even commonplace at the Olympics. This is the quality of the lens.
What you won’t love about the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Full-Frame Constant-Aperture telephoto Zoom G Master Lens
The simple answer is the price, it is expensive. You’re going to pay top dollar for this lens, but as they say, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers” when it comes to pricing.
You may not like the focal range either.
While 200mm is a nice telephoto offering, it won’t have the power of a 300, much less one of those sideline monster lenses that range from 500 to 1000mm. The positive aspect is that you’ll be able to hold this lens without a tripod whereas those above 400mm always require a stabilizing monopod or tripod to prevent blurring when shooting free hand.
What lens should I buy for sports photography? That’s the question many beginning sports photographers ask. This isn’t portrait photography and its definitely is not wedding photography, and while it shares the same outdoor venue as wildlife, landscape, and architectural photography, the challenges are much greater since you’re trying to capture motion in an instant, portraying the heart of the venue you’re trying to photograph, and often trying to consolidate an entire game or competition into one image. That’s a challenge.
Sports photography has the widest range of shooting venues, lighting challenges, and image creation standards you can find in the field of photography. What size lens for sports photography is often asked, sometimes rhetorically, but often when seeking an actual answer and there is no clear response since the field is so vast and so varied in nature.
A shorter 24-70mm lens will work indoors and in venues where you can get too intimate distances with the participants. But, if you’re shooting behind a barrier that limits access to the athletes, it’s not going to cut it.
A standard 50mm, the old “Nifty Fifty” remains a great choice for intimate settings but is almost useless in outdoor settings requiring a little space between the photographer and the athlete.
Perhaps the best you can hope for as a sports photographer is to find a zoom telephoto beginning with a focal length of around 70mm and extending to 200mm. This covers most of the range of athletic venues, but once again, not all.
To fully cover all the sporting events you can shoot we recommend a shorter 24mm to 70mm zoom telephoto with an aperture of 2.8 or greater for indoor work, The aforementioned 70mm to 200mm for most venues, and a longer 100 to 300mm zoom telephoto for distance work outdoors.