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Whether you’re shooting a basketball game from the sidelines or the great wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, you’re going to want a camera with a lens that’s fast enough to catch all of the action. While some prefer the flexibility of an interchangeable-lens system with a large sensor, others dislike the bulk and weight of the gear involved. Fortunately for us all, technology is catching up to those of us who want a small camera with a large sensor and the ability to change lenses. Whatever your preference may be—below is a list of ten cameras recommended for sports, wildlife, and action photography for your adventures in 2016.
For the absolute latest flagship release, the new Canon EOS-1D X Mark II features a 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 6+ processors, and a 61-Point High Density Reticular Auto Focus II with 41 cross-type points and a center point sensitive to -3 EV. This durable magnesium-alloy body has been designed for the pro shooter, delivering 16 frames per second when working in live view, and 14 fps when working with the viewfinder, not to mention the ability to record up to 170 raw files in a single burst when using a CFast 2.0 memory card. An expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50-409600 allows for greater low-light performance. Furthermore, the weather- and dust-proof EOS-1D X Mark II supports DCI 4K-resolution video recording at up to 60 fps, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 120 fps for slow-motion playback. A built-in GPS module allows for in-camera geo-tagging and auto time sync while Wi-Fi sharing and wireless remote control is supported when using the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter.
Another recent release, the Nikon D5 houses a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor, an EXPEED 5 processor, and 153-point Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect auto focusing. Photographers wanting to capture a fast-paced sports game or animals in the wilderness running at top speeds will be delighted by the 14 fps maximum continuous frame rate with fixed focus and mirror lock-up. For those desiring full auto exposure and focusing, a slight drop to 12 fps is sure to capture the perfect action-packed moment with precise focusing. Nighttime wildlife feed times and night games won’t be as challenging to shoot with the native sensitivity range from ISO 100-102400 and the expanded range of ISO 50-3280000. Photographers who also work in video will be pleased with the D5’s 4K UHD video-recording capabilities. Wi-Fi connectivity is possible with the optional WT-6A transmitter.
For flagship performance in a compact DX-format body, the Nikon D500 DSLR Camera is another recent release to the market. Featuring a 20.9MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor, it houses the same EXPEED 5 processor and 153-point Multi-CAM 20K phase-detect autofocusing as the D5 for significantly less of an investment. Sports and wildlife shooters alike will readily take advantage of the 10 fps continuous shooting rate for up to 200 frames in a single burst. The native sensitivity range from ISO 100-51200 with an expanded ISO 50-1640000 is able to handle tough lighting situations. The D500 also offers up to 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps. Multiple sharing options like the built-in SnapBridge Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, and Near Field Communication (NFC) are all supported to provide quick methods for connecting to your mobile device.
Another APS-C offering, this time from Canon, is the Canon 7D Mark II, which features a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor with dual DIGIC 6 image processors and a continuous shooting rate of 10 fps. This fast action capture relies heavily upon the 65-point all cross type phase-detection AF system that makes it a great choice for sports and wildlife photographers. The combination of dual image processors and CMOS sensor contribute to the native ISO range of 100-16000, which can be expanded to ISO 51200. For those working across platforms, Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at up to 60 fps and benefits from Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast focusing during video and live view.
For a lot of speed in a compact mirrorless body, the Nikon 1 V3, available here with the 10-30mm kit lens, combines an 18.4MP 1" CMOS sensor and an EXPEED 4A image processor to achieve 20 frames per second with full-time autofocus capabilities. Once the focus position is fixed after the first frame is recorded, continuous shooting captures up to 60 fps—perfect when you’re close to the action. The intuitive Hybrid AF system combines both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods to capture all of the action with extreme precision. In addition to the high-resolution still photographs, Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at 60 frames per second with a sensitivity of 12800 and full-time focusing for constant sharpness. While many photographers still wrinkle their noses at a tilting screen, it affords easier visibility from a variety of angles that would be otherwise impossible with a traditional viewfinder. For the traditionalist, an auxiliary electronic viewfinder is included. The camera’s built-in Wi-Fi enables you to quickly share photos immediately after recording them. For existing Nikon shooters looking for a compact camera solution, slip the FT-1 Mount Adapter onto the Nikon 1 V3 so you can work with all your favorite F-mount glass.
Featuring a 24.35MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the Pentax K-3 II has a PRIME III image processor, optimized for high-speed shooting at 8.3 frames per second, and a competitive ISO range of 100-51200. Twenty-seven distinct phase-detection points include 25 cross-type for quickly and accurately pinpointing focus. Image quality and overall versatility is improved upon with a selectable anti-aliasing filter to gain higher resolution and sharpness or to protect against moiré. The sensor-shift design compensates for up to 4.5 stops of camera shake, aiding even the most experienced fast-action shooter, especially with longer focal lengths. Full HD 1080p video recording is supported in multiple frame rates along with time-lapse capture with the interval timer.
For those wanting to take advantage of Fujifilm’s history in traditional film-based photography, several Film Simulation modes mimic some of the classic film types in the compact Fujifilm X-T1, which offers a 16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor and an EXR Processor II, both contributing to its top continuous shooting rate of 8 frames per second. The expandable ISO range, from ISO 100-51200 is equally competitive, as is its proprietary X-Trans sensor, which takes advantage of a randomized pixel array instead of the more commonly used resolution-reducing optical low-pass filter. Digital Split Image and Focus Highlight Peaking enable fast and efficient manual focusing. Built-in wireless connectivity allows for instant sharing of photos and videos to your Android or iOS mobile device, as well as remote camera control and monitoring.
The Sony a77II features a 24.3MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and a BIONZ X image processor that work together to produce continuous shooting at up to 12 fps for as many as 26 RAW frames. Translucent Mirror Technology enables the 79-point AF system with 15 cross-type points to work seamlessly while photographing in continuous shooting mode or while recording video and it enables full use of live view and the electronic viewfinder during shooting. Full HD 1080p video recording is supported at both 60 and 24 fps. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC are both available without a complex setup.
For a smaller and more compact Sony body, the 14.25 ounce Sony a6300 is an advanced mirrorless option featuring a redeveloped 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor that work simultaneously to produce continuous shooting up to 11 fps. A 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system allows for High-density Tracking AF for increased accuracy when following moving subjects across the image frame. Due to the on-sensor design of the AF system, it also works when shooting UHD 4K video, which is possible at a high 100 Mbps for maximum quality. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC are also supported in the a6300 for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites.
For those wanting everything (or as close to everything as technology will allow) in one package, the Sony RX10 Mark II offers a 20.2MP 1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor with a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 lens. This all-in-one camera offers a flexible built-in zoom that eliminates the need to carry additional lenses. Its constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 and sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 provides excellent low-light capabilities. The BIONZ X processor enables continuous shooting up to 14 fps and contributes to the camera’s precise and speedy autofocus, as well as UHD 4K video recording. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC round out the RX10 Mark II for direct sharing, as does its moisture- and dust-resistant construction, a built-in pop-up flash, and the Sony Multi-interface shoe for connecting flashes, microphones, lights, monitors, and other accessories.
While far from exhaustive, this list is meant to be a springboard into the pool of advanced, fast cameras 2016 has to offer for all of you sports and wildlife enthusiasts. As every photographer knows, cameras are only going to get smaller, faster, and more technologically advanced as the year goes on.