With summer winding down and the back-to-school season upon us, many parents and students are thinking about school activities—sports in particular.
They will want to capture better pictures of their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and best buddies that highlight their athletic prowess on the field or court.
While it’s possible to shoot okay pictures of baseball, football, soccer, tennis, golf, etc., with practically any decent camera, your customers will stand a much better chance of snagging that iconic action shot if they opt for a camera like the 10 detailed here. Our selection includes DSLRs, mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras and high-spec all-in-one compacts.
All of the cameras here have certain things in common.
1. Great responsiveness, with minimal shutter lag, advanced autofocus (AF) systems that lock onto the subject almost instantly and also superior tracking performance.
2. Blazing burst rates for shooting still pictures in rapid sequence to increase the odds of getting that perfect frame.
3. Outstanding video specs, often with 4K capture options and/or Full HD 1080p at 60 frames per sec (fps).
4. High-magnification, high-res viewfinders as well as large, tilting, touch-screen LCDs for shooting at various angles.
5. High-res image sensors integrated with advanced image processors that deliver maximum ISO settings and outstanding low-light performance at high ISOs.
At least two cameras on our list, the Nikon D500 and Canon EOS 80D, provide an anti-flicker capability for flicker-free videos and more natural color when shooting in a school gym under fluorescent lights or flickering light sources.
While the 10 cameras detailed here are not the only ones that’ll do a creditable job at shooting school sports, they’re definitely among the best. We think your back-to-school-minded customers will agree.
Top Cameras for Capturing School Sports
The sleek, X-mount mirrorless camera delivers a full complement of advanced features and capabilities. An upgraded 24.2 megapixel, APS-C-format CMOS sensor and an advanced new image processor head the specs. Together they provide a maximum full-res burst rate of 6 fps, sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600, Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps and impressive responsiveness. The X-A3’s electronic shutter option boasts shutter speeds up to 1/32,000 sec to capture fleeting moments on the court or field.
Other features include: a 180º tilting, 3-inch, 1.04M-dot LCD screen with touch AF, touch shoot and other options; a 77-point contrast-detection AF system; an intelligent pop-up flash; built-in Wi-Fi connectivity; film simulation modes; and a self-timer with eye detection, smile detection, buddy timer and group detection modes. In addition, in-lens optical image stabilization (OIS) provides a 3.5-stop anti-shake advantage for handheld shots in low light.
There is also a wide range of special effects filters as well as scene position settings. The X-A3 comes in three color versions: brown, silver and pink. With 24–76mm-equivalent Fujinon XC 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OIS II lens, $599.* fujifilmusa.com
Canon EOS 80D
This impressive DSLR incorporates an upgraded 24.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor and a 45-point, all-cross-point AF sensor coupled to a Digic 6 processor. It also includes Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DAF) technology that delivers superior lock-in and tracking of moving subjects. And it is optimized for shooting video or high-speed action in live view. Moreover, the 80D’s anti-flicker function automatically compensates for flickering light sources to provide consistent exposure and color accuracy during continuous shooting.
Other key features are: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60/30 fps in the MP4 format for sharing on social sites; a 7-fps, full-res burst rate with AF; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, swiveling, touch-screen LCD monitor; built-in Wi-Fi with NFC (near field communication); and a sensitivity range of ISO 100–16,000 that’s expandable to ISO 25,600 (stills). For working with telephoto lenses and extenders, 27 of the camera’s AF points are capable of focusing down to f/8, and their dual cross-focus design offers enhanced precision at wider apertures.
The 80D also offers a glass pentaprism, a pro-grade shutter designed for 100,000 cycles and a 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor that enhances exposure metering and AF performance. $1,099. usa.canon.com
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5
The new flagship of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera line is targeted at serious shooters looking for pro-caliber performance and a robust feature set. Its 20.3MP Digital Live MOS sensor, minus a low-pass filter, is mated to an upgraded Venus engine. They partner to deliver 4K, no-crop video at up to 60 fps and Full HD 1080p video at up to 180 fps for slow motion playback. The GH5 also boasts a full-res burst rate of 12 fps and sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600. In addition, it offers 10-bit internal recording with select settings, 6K photo mode at 30 fps and 4K photo mode at 60 fps.
Built-in, 5-axis image stabilization works in conjunction with select lenses to activate Dual IS 2 with enhanced shake compensation up to 5 stops. And the camera’s advanced 225-zone Depth from Defocus AF system locks onto players in only 0.05 sec! Other key features include: a 0.76x, 3.68M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF); a big 3.2-inch, 1.62M-dot free-angle touch screen; dual UHS-II SD card slots; and Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth connectivity.
The GH5 is built on a magnesium alloy chassis with die-cast front and rear frames. Its construction is also weatherproof, dustproof and freezeproof. $1,999.99. panasonic.com
Nikon’s formidable DX-format (23.5×15.7mm) DSLR set a new standard for the class with its 20.9MP CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Expeed 5 processor. They deliver a blazing, full-resolution burst rate of 10 fps and 4K UHD video at 30 fps. Furthermore, a native ISO up to 51,200 can be bumped up to an incredible ISO 1,640,000 for shooting in dark or difficult lighting conditions. It also features an anti-flickering function for shooting under fluorescent lighting, as in gymnasiums.
The D500 employs a Multi-CAM 20K 153-point AF system with 99 cross-type points to enhance AF speed and accuracy. Plus, its large, 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD works at high and low angles. And an updated version of SnapBridge provides Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity. The DSLR’s well-balanced ergonomic body has conveniently placed controls, is constructed of durable, lightweight magnesium alloy and is dust and weather sealed for working in challenging conditions.
The standard AF-S DX Nikkor 16–80mm (24–120mm equivalent) f/2.8–4E ED VR lens features 4-stop effective VR (vibration reduction) IS and provides sports mode and a silent wave motor to deliver extra-fast AF speeds. With lens, $2,499.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III
Sony’s SLR-styled, all-in-one compact is a high-end long-ranger with a 1-inch, 20.1MP Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor integrated with a Bionz X processor. The point-and-shoot camera delivers an impressive 14-fps, full-res burst rate. It also records 4K UHD video at 30 fps and Full HD 1080p video at up to 960 fps for dramatic slow motion clips. Its sensitivity settings span from ISO 64 to 12,800. A FAST AF system can achieve precise focus in just 0.09 sec and provides predictive focus for greater accuracy with moving subjects.
Other features include: a 24–600mm-equivalent f/2.4–4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens; built-in Optical SteadyShot stabilization; a 2.35M-dot OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD; pro video functions like S-Log2/S-Gamut and a mic input; and WiFi/NFC. Moreover, its lens aperture can be de-clicked for silent operation when shooting video and a dual rec mode lets users shoot 17MP stills while recording video, with 8MP stills able to be saved during playback.
The RX10 III has a weather-sealed body and an electronic shutter with speeds up to 1/32,000 sec for shooting in bright light. $1,399.99. sony.com
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Similar in looks to the previous Olympus OM-D E-M1, the Mark II incorporates a new 20.4MP High-Speed Live MOS sensor to deliver much faster, more precise and reliable AF. A new dual FAST AF system has a wider area, 121-point AF array covering nearly the entire Micro Four Thirds format. Each AF point is a cross pattern sensor that combines the speed of phase detection and the precision of contrast detection.
Taking its AF capability to a new level, Olympus says it’s the fastest AF system they’ve offered. That’s why this model has an impressive 60-fps, full-res burst rate without AF, 18 fps with AF using its built-in electronic shutter and 15 fps using its mechanical shutter, which employs a floating design to minimize shock.
The Mark II also captures DCI 4K video (4,096×2,160) at a cinematic 24 fps and 4K UHD video at 30 fps. It provides a host of sophisticated video controls, has configurable dual SD slots and an HDMI-out port.
Other features include: a 2.36M-dot, EVF; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot articulating touch screen; in-body 5-axis sensor-shift IS; ISO settings to 25,600; RAW shooting; a 50MP high-res shot mode; a customizable control array; and weather-sealed construction. $1,999.99. olympusamerica.com
Featuring retro-inspired styling, Fujifilm’s X-T20 is an APS-C-format, X-mount mirrorless camera aimed at serious still and video crossover shooters demanding high performance in a compact package. Its 24.3MP, APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor (sans a low-pass filter) and X-Processor Pro processor combine to deliver a full-res burst rate of 14 fps (8 fps with its mechanical shutter).
It is capable of 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps and Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps. Its sensitivity range tops out at ISO 51,200, and it boasts a shutter lag time of only 0.05 sec so shots aren’t missed.
The camera’s wide-field, 91-point, hybrid AF system can be divided into 325 total areas for enhanced focusing accuracy. Custom AF-C settings provide a choice of five presets, depending on how the subject is moving. Other features are: a 2.36M-dot EVF; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD; built-in Wi-Fi; film simulation modes for stills and videos; and an advanced scene recognition mode. $899. fujifilmsusa.com
Nikon Coolpix P900
For extreme distance shooting with spectacular 83x optical zoom, this crisply styled, all-in-one compact stands at the pinnacle of its class. Its astonishing 24–2,000mm-equivalent f/2.8–6.5 Zoom Nikkor Super ED VR lens has built-in dual-detect optical VR that provides a 5-stop advantage in minimizing the effects of camera shake. If that’s not enough, the P900 also uses 166x Dynamic Fine Zoom technology and 332x digital zoom—effectively quadrupling the optical zoom range.
The P&S employs a 1/2.3-inch, 16MP CMOS image sensor and captures Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps as well as full-res stills at 7 fps. Its snap-back zoom button gives users a quick zoomed-out view. Once they find the subject again they can release the button and the lens zooms back in. It also has a 3-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle LCD screen as well as an eye-level electronic viewfinder.
Other features include: built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS; full auto and manual exposure control with a PSAM mode dial; and sensitivity settings equivalent to ISO 12,800. $599.95. nikonusa.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500
Assertively styled in downsized DSLR fashion, the DMC-FZ2500 long-range compact features a 1-inch, 20.1MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor. Its 20x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 26–520-equivalent f/2.8–4.5 zoom lens plus built-in ND filters let users set four levels of ND. The hybrid photo/video lens has barrel controls and uses an internal guide-pole mechanism to provide smooth, stable zooming and suppressed image shift. In addition, seamless iris control is achieved with a nine-blade diaphragm and galvanometer-type actuator.
The FZ2500 captures DCI 4K video at 24 fps, 4K UHD at 30 fps, a true 24 fps and 25 fps with a high bit rate of 100 Mbps. It can download while recording video via an optional micro HDMI cable.
Furthermore, a contrast-based AF system features Depth from Defocus technology, enabling AF in as little as 0.09 sec. The P&S can also capture bursts at 12 fps (in AFS mode) for a maximum of 100 JPEG or 30 RAW images. Moreover, photographers can play back a 4K video sequence recorded at 30 fps to select the single best still image. They can also adjust focus after capture. It also features Wi-Fi, a 2.36M-dot OLED LVF (live viewfinder) and a free-angle, 3-inch, 1.04M-dot touch monitor. $1,199.99. panasonic.com
Sony Alpha α6500
The α6500 uses Sony’s 4D Focus system to lock focus in 0.05 sec and capture all the action. It features a 2.4M-dot OLED EVF as well as an APS-C-size 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor, a Bionz X processor and a new front-end LSI. The trio achieves sensitivities of ISO 100–51,200. Its AF system has 425 phase-detection AF points positioned over nearly the entire image area and also includes contrast-detection. Plus, 5-axis OIS provides a 5-step shutter speed advantage. Furthermore, with touch-screen AF, users can lock focus by touching a subject on the 3-inch, 922K-dot LCD. When using the EVF for framing/shooting, the LCD can be used as a touch pad. Shooters can drag a finger across the screen to shift focus points.
In addition, the magnesium alloy α6500 shoots 11 fps with continuous AF and exposure tracking. Faster processing enabled by its front-end LSI results in a huge buffer supporting high-speed bursts for 307 frames. In addition, the α6500 records 4K video in the Super 35mm format. It uses the full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K information and oversamples the data to produce “4K footage with exceptional detail and depth.”
It also records 120-fps Full HD with AF tracking at 100 Mbps for edited 4x/5x slow motion clips. Other features include a 200,000-cycle-rated shutter and Wi-Fi/NFC/QR compatibility. $1,299.99. sony.com
*Unless otherwise noted, all suggested retail prices are for the camera body only.