Whether you’re shooting sports from the sidelines or a wildlife migration in deepest Africa, you’re going to want a camera that’s fast and responsive enough to catch all the action.
Yet, choosing the right tools to suit such conditions comes with many considerations, and the first thing to know is there are always tradeoffs when purchasing gear. While top-of-the-line full-frame cameras offer the fastest continuous shooting speeds, the most discerning autofocus systems, and the largest camera buffers, these perks come at a considerable cost, besides adding size and weight to your bag. If you want the best possible performance in tough situations, a fast and powerful camera packing the latest technology is key. However, a casual enthusiast with affordability and ease of use in mind might consider other camera options with the understanding that certain creative and technical feats could be a stretch.
Another valuable shopping tip from the B&H Live Chat staff is this: “When purchasing a new camera, it’s more practical to stay with the same brand, due to existing familiarity with menu layouts and camera controls, not to mention compatibility between lenses and other accessories.”
Whatever your preference and price point may be, here’s a wide-ranging shortlist of cameras recommended for sports, wildlife, and action subjects to help jumpstart your adventures in 2022.
1. Canon EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR
Continuing its tradition of flagship DSLRs for action and sports, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III features a 20.1MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a DIGIC X processor to enable continuous shooting up to 20 fps in live view, and 16 fps when working with the viewfinder, plus a buffer that allows raw+JPEG bursts of up to 1,000-frame sequences. The refined EOS iTR AF X autofocus system uses 191 points to acquire focus on subjects quickly and accurately, including 155 cross-type points that excel in varied lighting conditions. When working in live view, Dual Pixel CMOS AF uses 3,869 manually selectable points to provide smooth, natural focusing. Face-tracking and head-detection AF functions use Deep Learning Technology to maintain critical focus on moving subjects, while an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 50-819200 allows for impressive low-light performance. The EOS-1D X Mark III has been designed for the pro shooter, with a durable magnesium alloy body that is weather- and dustproof. For motion footage, the camera supports DCI 4K-resolution video recording at up to 60 fps, with 10-bit 4:2:2 color, as well as raw 5.5K video, plus Full HD 1080p recording up to 120 fps to allow for slow-motion playback. Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS permit seamless wireless connectivity, and a built-in Ethernet port allows for faster wired LAN file transferring.
2. Canon EOS R6 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For Canon shooters seeking an affordable transition to mirrorless, the EOS R6 offers a lightweight alternative, featuring a 20MP full-frame CMOS sensor paired with a DIGIC X processor for continuous shooting up to 12 fps with a mechanical shutter, or a silent 20 fps with an electronic shutter. In a first for EOS cameras, the R6 features 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization that can compensate for up to 8 stops of camera shake, to help steady low-light shots at slow shutter speeds, while the camera’s native sensitivity from ISO 100-102400 (expandable to 204800) facilitates work with moving subjects. Dual Pixel CMOS II AF offers quick and accurate focusing using 1,053 selectable points covering the entire field of view, enhanced with Deep Learning Technology for improved subject tracking and precise eye, face, and head detection for people and animals. Autofocus capabilities are further complemented by a Touch AF system, which allows for changing focus by tapping or dragging your finger across the rear LCD. The camera’s 0.5" 3.69m-dot electronic viewfinder has a high 120 fps refresh rate, and a rear 3.0" 1.62m-dot touchscreen LCD offers a vari-angle design to accommodate working from high and low angles, as well as front-facing recording to serve vlogging needs. Beyond stills, the 20MP sensor offers UHD 4K video recording at up to 60 fps, and Full HD at 120 fps for slow-motion playback. On the outside, the camera’s durable, weather-sealed body is built to handle tough working conditions and inclement weather, while dual SD UHS-II memory card slots allow for flexible storage needs, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for wireless sharing and remote camera control.
3. Canon EOS R Mirrorless Digital Camera
The past few years have seen multiple iterations of mirrorless cameras introduced into the marketplace. As the first step in Canon’s mirrorless evolution, the EOS R offers yet another viable option for Canon shooters on a budget who are anxious to make the switch. Featuring a high-resolution 30.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 8 processor, the EOS R offers continuous shooting up to 8 fps for photographing moving subjects and a sensitivity range up to a native ISO 40000 (expandable to 102400). The camera’s advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system uses 5655 selectable phase-detection points across a majority of the sensor for quick and accurate focusing down to -6 EV when working in dark conditions. The EOS R supports UHD 4K video recording up to 30 fps at 480 Mb/s, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 60 fps and HD 720p at 120 fps for slow-motion playback. Audio can be recorded using the onboard stereo microphone or an optional external mic via the 3.5mm mic jack. The camera’s integrated 3.69m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder has 0.71x magnification, offering clear and bright eye-level viewing, while the rear 3.15" 2.1m-dot LCD swivels to suit working from high and low angles and touchscreen functionality for intuitive control over shooting, playback, and menu navigation controls. Also bringing up the rear, a customizable Multi-Function bar can be set to control four camera functions using right, left, slide, and press movements.
4. Canon EOS 90D DSLR
Crop sensor cameras can benefit sports and wildlife shooters seeking to get more zoom out of any given lens. This fact, paired with an attractive price point, makes the Canon EOS 90D DSLR a great choice for budget-conscious enthusiasts looking to upgrade from a point-and-shoot or entry level model. Featuring a 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor with a DIGIC 8 image processor, the 90D offers a continuous shooting rate up to 10 fps with a mechanical shutter and 7 fps in live view. The combination of sensor and processor achieves enhanced image clarity, resolution, and dynamic range, along with adept sensitivity up to ISO 25600 and low noise to support shooting in a variety of situations. Fast action capture relies heavily upon the broad coverage of a 45-point all cross-type phase-detection AF system, ideal for tracking and maintaining focus on moving subjects, and quick and precise focusing in difficult lighting conditions down to -3 EV. For those working across platforms, UHD 4K30p and high-speed Full HD 1080p video is supported at 120 fps, while the 5,481-point Dual Pixel CMOS AF system benefits live-view shooting and movie recording by providing smooth, natural focusing quality. Additionally, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity allow you to pair mobile devices with the camera to transfer files wirelessly for sharing your photos and movies online.
5. Nikon D6 DSLR
Another flagship DSLR, the Nikon D6 houses a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor, an EXPEED 6 processor, and the high-density Multi-CAM 37K autofocus system featuring 105 cross-type points and 1.6x greater frame coverage than previous models. When working with moving subjects, 17 custom Group Area AF settings can be used to set and maintain focus on subjects featuring busy backgrounds or fast movement. Photographers wanting to capture sports action or animals running at top speeds will benefit from the 14 fps maximum continuous frame rate for up to 200 consecutive frames. Midnight wildlife feed times and night games won’t be as challenging to shoot with the native sensitivity range of ISO 100-102400 and the expanded range of ISO 50-3280000. Photographers who work in video will be pleased with the D6’s 4K UHD video-recording capabilities at 30, 25, and 24 fps frame rates, as well as Full HD and HD recording support. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work in conjunction with Snapbridge for seamless wireless file transferring and remote camera control from a mobile device, while a built-in wired LAN function enables a seamless transfer of stills and movie files for expediting an entire post-production workflow. For more robust wireless file transferring, the D6 is also compatible with the optional WT-6A Wireless Transmitter.
6. Nikon Z 9 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For blazing speed in a compact mirrorless body, the Nikon Z 9 combines a newly developed 45.7MP FX-format BSI stacked CMOS sensor and an EXPEED 7 image processor to provide a blackout-free “Real-Live” electronic viewfinder and LCD. An electronic-only shutter offers the fastest scanning speeds with dramatically minimized rolling shutter and motion distortion for accurate depiction of rapidly moving subjects, while a deeper buffer enables continuous shooting at 20 fps for up to 1,000 frames in raw, up to 30 fps in jpg, or up to 120 fps at 11MP. The camera’s AF system features an array of 493 phase-detect autofocus points for fast and accurate focusing, with a Starlight mode that permits focusing down to -8.5 EV under low-light conditions to benefit astrophotography and other nighttime shooting applications greatly. As Nikon’s first pro-level mirrorless offering, the Z 9 adopts the popular 3D focus tracking from Nikon DSLRs, while Deep Learning Technology enables automatic subject detection to recognize nine distinct subject types, to lock onto fast and erratically moving subjects parallel and perpendicular to the camera axis. These high-end photo attributes are complemented by impressive video specs, featuring a wide range of resolutions and frame rates up to 8K. Continuous shooting at UHD 8K 30p video can be recorded using full pixel readout for up to 2 hours. Full-frame 4K recording is also available, with up to 120p for slow-motion playback. Using an 8K area, oversampled UHD 4K recording is possible at up to 30p for increased sharpness and detail. Additionally, high-resolution frame grabs can be captured in-camera from 8K and 4K videos, producing 33MP or 11MP stills, respectively. The Z 9’s durable build quality features an ergonomic form factor with a vertical grip along one side to aid in switching between horizontal and vertical orientations. Bringing up the rear, a 3.2" 2.1m-dot four-way tilting touchscreen LCD allows for ease of viewing from a variety of positions, with a user interface that shifts orientation, depending on how the camera is held.
7. Nikon Z 6II Mirrorless
As the second generation in Nikon’s full frame mirrorless ecosystem, the Nikon Z 6II is a smart move for photographers seeking a late-model mirrorless at an attractive price point. The camera’s high-resolution 24.5MP FX-format BSI CMOS sensor and dual EXPEED 6 image processors allow for continuous shooting at 14 fps with single-point AF (12 fps in other focusing modes) for up to 124 frames, and a deeper buffer (3.5x greater than the Z6) for working with moving subjects. A back-illuminated sensor supports a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to 51200 (expandable to 204800) for lush image capture and reduced noise at high ISOs. The Z 6II’s AF system features an array of 273 phase-detect autofocus points with approximately 90% coverage for accurate focusing, while Hybrid AF will further benefit video shooters by automatically switching between phase- and contrast-detect systems to capture all the action with extreme precision. UHD 4K video recording is possible with full pixel readout up to 30p (or 60p after an update to Firmware version 1.10), and Full HD 1080p video recording is also supported at up to 120p for slow-motion playback. The camera’s in-body 5-axis sensor-shift Vibration Reduction compensates for up to 5 stops of camera shake when using Nikon Z-type lenses. And for existing Nikon shooters, this system also enables 3-axis stabilization when using the optional FTZ Adapter with adapted F-mount lenses.
8. Nikon D500 DSLR
For flagship performance in a compact DX-format body, the Nikon D500 DSLR camera remains a proven winner for sports and wildlife shooters on a budget. Featuring a 20.9MP DX-Format CMOS sensor and an EXPEED 5 processor, this camera provides a top continuous shooting rate of 10 fps for up to 200 frames in a single burst, with full-time autofocus and exposure metering. Slower continuous shooting rates, as well as a Quiet Continuous Mode for noise-sensitive areas, are also available. The native sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200 (expandable to 1640000) is able to handle tough lighting situations, while the Multi-CAM 20K AF system offers quick response times to benefit tracking fast and randomly moving subjects. The AF engine features 153 total phase-detection points, including 99 cross-type sensors for improved subject recognition, and 55 selectable points for greater compositional freedom. 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.
9. Nikon D7500 DSLR
Comfortable ergonomics and a sleek profile distinguish the DX-format Nikon D7500, in addition to an even more affordable price point. Featuring a 20.9MP CMOS sensor and EXPEED 5 image processor, this enthusiast-level DSLR delivers a continuous shooting rate of 8 fps for up to 50 raw frames or 100 consecutive JPEGS, a native sensitivity up to ISO 51200 (expandable to ISO 1640000), 4K UHD video recording at 30, 25, and 24 fps frame rates, and Full HD/HD recording at up to 60 fps. In addition to straight movie recording, you can also record time-lapse segments for up to 9,999 consecutive frames generated over one week, with up to 4K UHD/30p output. The D7500’s 51-point Multi-CAM 3500FX II autofocus system offers AF detection sensitivity down to -3 EV and is integrated with 15 cross-type points for even greater accuracy with centrally located subjects. The pentaprism optical viewfinder on top is balanced by a tilting 3.2" 922k-dot rear touchscreen to benefit working from high and low shooting angles. Built-in SnapBridge Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity permit wireless transferring of photos and movies and remote control over the camera from linked mobile devices. On the outside, the D7500 is fully weather-sealed to permit working in harsh environmental conditions, and comes with a built-in pop-up flash for extra illumination when working in low light.
10. Pentax K-3 Mark III DSLR
Featuring a 25.7MP APS-C BSI CMOS sensor, the Pentax K-3 Mark III has a PRIME V image processor, optimized for full-resolution continuous shooting at up to 12 fps, along with UHD 4K video recording at 30p, and a competitive ISO range of 100-1600000. An updated SAFOX 13 AF system features 101 phase-detection points, including 25 cross-type sensors in the middle of the frame, for quick and accurate focusing performance with apt subject tracking capabilities. An advanced 5-axis SR II Shake Reduction system provides 5.5 stops of image stabilization with select lenses to aid even the most experienced fast-action shooter, especially with longer focal lengths. The SR II mechanism also benefits stills applications by enabling a Pixel Shift Resolution feature for richer image detail and resolution, and an AA Filter Simulator function to help mitigate moiré when rendering fabrics and other high-frequency materials.
11. FUJIFILM X-T4 Mirrorless Digital Camera
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-T4, which offers a 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 sensor and an X-Processor 4 image processor, both contributing to its full-resolution shooting rate of 15 fps with a mechanical shutter, 20 fps with an electronic shutter, or 30 fps with an electronic shutter and a 1.25x crop. The expandable ISO range of ISO 160-12800 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. When working in difficult lighting conditions or at slower shutter speeds, the X-T4’s built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization works in conjunction with most X Series lenses to help minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to 6.5 stops. Additionally, 4-axis digital image stabilization can be used during video recording to further aid in steadying footage, especially when recording handheld. Integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity allows for instant sharing of photos and videos to your Android or iOS mobile device, as well as remote camera control and monitoring.
12. Sony a1 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The Sony a1 mirrorless is a flagship camera in the truest sense of the word. Its recently developed 50.1MP full-frame Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor and revised BIONZ XR image processor enable high-speed shooting up to 30 fps with an electronic shutter and 10 fps with the mechanical shutter, while a large buffer memory permits recording up to 155 compressed raw frames, or 165 JPEGs, in one single burst at 30 fps. The a1’s Fast Hybrid AF system incorporates 759 phase-detection points along with 425 contrast-detection areas for quick and precise focusing in a variety of lighting conditions with sensitivity down to -6 EV. This focusing system can be used in all recording modes, to benefit stills and video applications. UHD 8K 30p XAVC HS 10-bit 4:2:0 video recording is possible using the full width of the sensor, offering 8.6K oversampling for impressive sharpness and realism. For ease in handling, low bit-rate proxy files with HD resolution can be recorded simultaneously with the high-res recording mode. And for critical shooting without motion blur, the camera’s enhanced 5.5-stop effective 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system compensates for five different types of camera shake, while advanced subject tracking and Real-Time Eye AF capabilities are effective for humans and animals, including a dedicated Bird Mode. Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC are available without a complex setup, and support for 2.4 and 5 GHz bands enables wireless tethered shooting support, as well as remote camera control.
13. Sony a9 II Mirrorless Digital Camera
Another top choice for sports and action, yet at a friendlier price, the full-frame Sony a9 II features a 24.2MP Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor and an updated BIONZ X image processor that yields impressively quick and responsive performance. Continuous shooting of up to 20 fps is possible using an electronic shutter, or 10 fps shooting with a mechanical shutter, along with a wide sensitivity range up to an expanded ISO 204800. The a9 II’s fast hybrid AF system incorporates 693 phase-detection points along with 425 contrast-detection areas for precise focusing in a variety of lighting conditions with sensitivity down to -3 EV, while High-Density Tracking AF allows for increased accuracy when following moving subjects across the image frame. An enhanced 5.5-stop effective 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system compensates for five different types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting. In addition to stills, UHD 4K video recording is supported at up to 30 fps, along with Quick and Slow Motion recording options.
14. Sony a6600 Mirrorless Digital Camera
For a sleek, yet fully featured crop sensor mirrorless that’s well-suited to stills and video, look no further than the Sony a6600. Sporting a revised 24.2MP APS-C format Exmor CMOS sensor and a BIONZ X processor, this diminutive, budget-friendly camera can tackle a top continuous shooting rate of 11 fps with full AF and AE, while offering a native sensitivity up to ISO 32000 (expandable to ISO 102400). UHD 4K recording is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps, with no recording time limit, and Full HD 1080p recording is also supported up to 120 fps to benefit slow-motion action footage or to speed up a slow-moving scene. The 4D FOCUS system, which covers 84% of the image area, utilizes 425 phase-detection points along with 425 contrast-detection areas for quick and intuitive performance along with Real-Time Eye AF for both photo and video. The camera’s 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization compensates for five different types of camera shake to minimize blur when shooting in low light and at slow shutter speeds, even when using adapted lenses. A 2.36m-dot XGA Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder features a 120 fps viewing mode for smooth tracking of fast-moving subjects, while the rear 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD incorporates a touchscreen form factor for intuitive touch-to-focus control, and also allows for articulated movements of 180° upward or 74° downward to accommodate working from high and low angles. Beyond imaging capabilities, the a6600 is sheathed in a dust- and moisture-resistant magnesium alloy body to permit working in harsh environments, while built-in Wi-Fi with NFC aids in wireless remote control from a mobile device and sharing images online.
15. Sony DSC-RX10 IV Digital Camera
Bridge cameras can be a practical option for those who want the benefit of a wide range of focal lengths without the trouble of carrying bulky glass and switching out lenses in the field. One popular choice in this category, the Sony DSC-RX10 IV, offers a 20.1 MP 1" Exmor RS BSI CMOS sensor with a 25x Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.4-4 lens. This cost-effective all-in-one camera offers a flexible built-in zoom spanning a 24-600mm equivalent focal length and uses Optical SteadyShot image stabilization to minimize the effects of camera shake by up to 4.5 stops. The BIONZ X processor enables continuous shooting up to 24 fps, as well as UHD 4K/30p or Full HD 1080/120p video recording. Complementing the shooting speed of the sensor and processor combination, this camera also offers a quickened 315-point focal plane phase-detection autofocus system for focus speeds as fast as 0.03 seconds. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity round out the RX10 Mark IV for wireless sharing and remote camera control from a linked smartphone or tablet, while the magnesium-alloy body is weather sealed to permit working in trying environments.
16. Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II Digital Camera
Finally, for an even more economical bridge camera option, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II combines a large 20.1MP 1" high-sensitivity MOS sensor and Venus Engine processor to enable continuous shooting at up to 12 fps with single-shot AF, 7 fps with continuous AF, 30 fps at 8MP in three different 4K PHOTO modes, and UHD 4K video recording at 30p. The integrated 16x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit optical zoom offers a 25-400mm equivalent focal-length range and a maximum aperture of f/2.8-4. A 5-axis HYBRID Optical Image Stabilizer compensates for a variety of camera movements for sharper handheld shooting in difficult light, while a unique Level Shot function automatically detects the horizontal line of an image and keeps it level during shooting, regardless of camera tilt, helping to achieve greater stability. The camera's ergonomic design incorporates a 0.39", 0.74x-magnification electronic viewfinder with a 2.36m-dot resolution and a 3.0" 1.24m-dot touchscreen LCD featuring a free-angle design that flips out 180° to the side and tilts 270° to permit working from high, low, and front-facing angles. Connectivity is assisted by built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for wireless image sharing or remote control from a linked smartphone or tablet.
Only the Beginning…
While far from exhaustive, this list is meant to be a springboard into the pool of advanced, fast cameras on offer for all of you sports and wildlife enthusiasts. But, as every photographer knows, cameras are only going to get smaller, faster, and more technologically advanced in the years ahead.
Do you have a favorite camera for sports or action coverage? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.
For more sports-related news, tips, and reviews, be sure to check out the Sports Photography section of B&H Explora.