The 12 Best Sports Video Cameras in 2018

The 12 Best Sports Video Cameras in 2018

Finding the best sports video camera takes a lot of effort. Choosing the camera with the right features may make you want to give up. Don’t take sports videos with just your phone! This list will help you find a winning sports video camera to fit almost any activity.

The 12 Best Sports Video Cameras

    1. Canon 6D Mark II
    2. Nikon D500
    3. Canon 7D Mark II
    4. Canon 80D
    5. Fuji X-T2
    6. Fuji X-H1
    7. Sony a7 III
    8. Sony FDR-AX53
    9. NEX-FS700
    10. Canon XF405
    11. GoPro HERO6
    12. Panasonic GH5S

 

Choosing a Video Camera for Sports

The type of sports you plan to shoot play an important role in choosing a camera.

Type of Sports

  • For arena and field sports, get a camera with built-in zoom or can handle a long lens.
  • Moving around a lot? Get something small. If it’s compatible with accessories, it will still be very functional.
  • Is your goal to take video of yourself or your friends doing things like skiing or cycling? You’ll want a sports video camera that can attach to your helmet or handlebars – like a small action cam.

Type of Camera

There are several types of sports video cameras to consider:

  • DSLRs: With a sturdy construction, they accept a variety of lenses and are excellent in low light.
  • Mirrorless cameras: Loved for their portability and quality. They’re relatively new on the scene and making big waves in the video world.
  • Camcorders: Dedicated video cameras that can simplify taking high-quality videos so you can focus on the action.
  • Action cameras: Tiny cameras designed to survive adventures—whether you’re on a rugged mountain trail or in the ocean.

Sensor Size

Sensor size is important when choosing a camera. Cameras with full frame sensors (equivalent to a piece of 35mm still film*) generally perform better in low light. This can help create cleaner footage indoors or in variable lighting conditions over smaller APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensors. They generally have better dynamic range and accentuate shallow depth of field for a more cinematic look.

*More on sensor sizes: You may think that a “full frame” sensor is the standard sensor size for all digital cameras. This is largely true in the photography world but it’s not currently the case in the filmmaking world. Super 35mm (which is closer to APS-C in the photography world) has been the standard film/sensor format for cinema cameras since the mid-1990’s. To video folks, Super 35mm is thought of as “full frame” but it has an approximate 1.5x crop factor compared to still photography’s full frame. Learn more in Sensor Size and Filmmaking: Choosing the Right Camera for Your Project.

Rolling Shutter

Full frame cameras tend to be heavier and more expensive. Most full frame sensors produce an annoying quality known as the “jello effect”, or “rolling shutter effect”. Rolling shutter involves pixels being scanned row by row from left to right until the entire sensor has been scanned and completes the exposure. The exposure terminates in the same manner, with the pixels on the sensor shutting off row by row, from left to right.

DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and most digital cinema cameras use a rolling shutter. It’s important to note that while DSLRs also have a mechanical shutter, it is recessed when the camera is set to video mode. If the camera is stationary and the object moves quickly (or vice versa), a sideways lean of subjects can be seen. For example, buildings shot from a speeding train can look like they are leaning in your footage. The larger the sensor, the worse the jello effect can be due to the larger surface area that needs to be scanned.

There are methods to avoid rolling shutter effects (learn more about that in An Introduction to Frame Rates, Video Resolutions, and the Rolling Shutter Effect) and newer cameras, such as the Sony a7 III, are getting better at preventing the effect. It might be a factor in deciding which camera works best for you.

Video Resolution

1080p has long been the standard for video but cameras with 4K are on the rise. While 1080p is good enough for most applications, 4K will give you the most flexibility in post-processing. If you are shooting in 4K and planning on a 1080p output, you can crop to recompose or apply a digital stabilization effect without losing vital pixels. Even if you don’t have the ability to view a video in 4K, they tend to look better when scaled down to 1080p than when recorded natively in 1080p.

Is 4K absolutely necessary? If you need the most latitude when editing your footage, 4K could give you exactly what you need. But if you don’t need that capability, shooting in 1080p can save you memory space! Learn more about deciding what’s right for you in Do You Need 4K? An Independent Filmmaker’s Experience.

Autofocus

It’s important to decide if you want to rely on autofocus. This is a situation where your subjects are most likely going to be moving fast and taking time to focus manually or wait while your camera tries to lock focus may mean missing the shot. Look for a camera with a lot of focus points. Many cameras that excel at video have Dual Pixel Autofocus, which provides especially fast tracking in video mode.

LCD Screen

Good LCD screens make your life a lot easier. A high-quality LCD allows you to see exactly what you are recording plus camera settings and audio levels. Many screens are fixed to the back of the camera. The most useful ones are able to flip or tilt so that you can see what you are shooting when filming at odd angles.

Size and Weight

There is a wide range of camera sizes available. From tiny action cams to big DSLRs, the size of your camera impacts what you can do. If you are planning on shooting sports from the sidelines, then this isn’t a huge deal. If you want to go mobile with your gear, size makes a big difference. You don’t want to mount a DSLR on your bike helmet (a car, sure)!

Headphone and Microphone Ports

If recording sound with your videos, make sure your camera can do it. Most cameras have built-in microphones but the sound quality isn’t the best. A camera that accepts external microphones is a better audio choice. Headphone ports allow you to hear what the camera is “hearing” in real time.

Lens and Zoom Options

The camera you choose impacts the lenses you use (or whether you can change lenses at all). If you are looking for a camera to use with lenses you already own, check compatibility. Some lenses are only designed to work on cameras with certain sensor sizes. A crop sensor lens may not work on a full frame DSLR.

If you are planning on shooting far from the action, choose a camera with significant zoom capabilities or can take a lens with a long range. If you choose a camera without interchangeable lenses, be sure that it is able to zoom far enough to capture the action.

Weatherproofing

Weatherproofing is useful for extending the life of your camera, especially if you shoot in adverse conditions. If the events you like to shoot are often dusty or take place in wet environments, look for a camera that is sealed against water and dust. The ultimate in weatherproofing is a camera that can be taken underwater, which is where a lot of action cams shine!

Still trying to figure out which camera is best for you? Here are some of our favorites.

*Scroll right to see full chart.

Fuji-X-H1 Sony-Alpha-a7-III GoPro-HERO6 Panasonic-GH5S
Camera 6D Mark II D500 7D Mark II 80D Fuji X-T2 Fuj X-H1 a7 III AX53 Sony FS700 XF405 HERO6 GH5S 
Type DSLR DSLR DSLR DSLR Mirrorless Mirrorless Mirrorless Camcorder Camcorder Camcorder Action Cam Mirrorless
Sensor 26.2 MP Full Frame 20.9 MP APS-C 20.2 MP APS-C 24.2 MP APS-C 24 MP APS-C 24.3 MP APS-C 24.2 MP Full Frame 16.6 MP 1/2.5″ (6x Crop) 11.6 MP Super35 8.29 MP 1” (2.7x Crop) 12 MP 1/2.5″ (6x Crop) 11.93 MP MFT
Max Video Resolution 1080p, 60 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 1080p, 60 FPS 1080p, 60 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 4K, 24 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 1080p, 240 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 4K, 30 FPS 4K, 60 FPS
AF 45 phase detection points, all cross-type 153 phase detection points, 99 cross-type 65 phase detection points, all cross-type 45 phase detection points, all cross-type 325 hybrid points (91 zone focusing) 325 hybrid points (91 zone focusing) 693 phase detection points, 425 contrast detection points N/A (contrast detection only) Contrast or phase detection depends on lens/adapter used Dual Pixel CMOS AF, contrast detection Contrast detection only 225 contrast detection points
Screen 3″ articulating touchscreen 3.2″ tilting touchscreen 3″ articulating touchscreen 3″ articulating touchscreen 3″ tilting LCD 3″ tilting touchscreen 3″ tilting touchscreen 3″ articulating touchscreen 3.5″ articulating touchscreen 3.5″ articulating touchscreen 2″ touchscreen 3.2″ articulating touchscreen
Weight 1.51 lbs 1.89 lbs 1.61 lbs 1.61 lbs 1.12 lbs 0.74 lbs 1.43 lbs 1.3 lbs 3.25 lbs 3.7 lbs 4.8 oz 1.46 lbs
Microphone Port 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 2 x XLR ports 3.5mm, 2 x XLR in handle unit 33.5mm with adapter 3.5mm
Headphone Port No 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm Not in body, 3.5mm in optional grip Not in body, 3.5mm in optional  grip 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm 3.5mm None 3.5mm
Memory 1 x SD 1 x SD 1 x CF, 1 x SD 1 x SD Dual SD Dual SD Dual SD 1 x SD 1 x SD Dual SD 1 x microSD Dual SD
Max Clip Length 30 min 30 min 30 min 30 min 10 min, 30 min with optional grip 30 min HD, 20 min Full HD, 15 min 4K 30 min Limitless** Limitless** Limitless** Limitless** Limitless**
Cost* $1,999 $1,997 $1,349 $1,199 $1,599 $1,899 $1,998  $998  $7,699  $3,499  $499  $2,498
3 Day Rental* $83 $83 $54 $54 $69 $75 $82  $65  $269  $165  $36  $100

* All pricing at the time of this writing and subject to change.
** Recording time is limited by memory card and battery capacity, not by camera.

1. Canon 6D Mark II ($83 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

As Canon’s entry-level full frame DSLR, the 6D Mark II carves out a niche among DSLR owners. The 6D Mark II strikes a balance between high-level features and low cost. Perhaps the greatest benefit to video shooters is the fast and accurate Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. It also has a fully-articulating touchscreen. This combination allows users to to keep their subject in focus no matter which side of the camera they’re on. The full frame sensor gives both still and video photographers improved low light capabilities.

In order to keep this camera at an amazing value, there are some compromises. Most noticeably is the lack of 4K video. For many shooters, 1080p/60 video will be just fine. But if you are looking for 4K, this camera is not for you. Despite being more robust than the original 6D, you don’t get the full weather sealing of a true pro-level camera body. But with the ability to pair with Canon’s impressive L-series lenses, the 6D Mark II take amazing shots at an affordable price.

2. Nikon D500 ($83 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Fitting in the same price point, the D500 is Nikon’s competition to the 6D Mark II. Depending on your needs, certain features will either be a major draw or could leave you disappointed. Unlike the 6D Mark II, the D500 allows you to shoot in 4K UHD at 30 FPS in addition to 1080p/60. The tilting touchscreen is perfect for viewing and focusing while holding the camera lower, such as at eye level for a child’s sporting event. The lack of full articulation will limit vloggers who want to hold the camera in more unusual positions.

The APS-C sensor is a mixed bag depending on what you are shooting (especially the 2.25x crop when shooting 4K). For sports and wildlife photographers who need a lot of reach, this will be incredibly useful. If you are in tight quarters, it’s going to be very hard to get a true wide-angle shot. If you’re looking to shoot 4K video using Nikon lenses, the D500 is the camera for you.

3. Canon 7D Mark II ($54 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Canon designed the 7D Mark II with sports and wildlife photographers/videographers in mind. This is Canon’s top-of-the-line APS-C camera. It is designed for serious shooters who don’t need a full frame body. The 7D Mark II has Dual Pixel Autofocus for fast, accurate tracking in movie mode. This camera’s HDMI port transfers uncompressed footage while a headphone jack lets you monitor audio quality in real time. The 7D Mark II’s video resolution maxes out at 1080p at 60 FPS. For most users, this is good enough.

The 7D Mark II is a popular choice for people who want a well spec’d (but still reasonably affordable) APS-C camera for sports and wildlife shooting. It competes with the Nikon D500 and in many ways comes out on top. For people who want to take stunning sports videos, this is an excellent and reasonably-priced choice.

4. Canon 80D ($54 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

As the update to Canon’s 70D, the 80D packs some impressive features into an affordable package. Despite having fewer autofocus points than the 7D Mark II, it uses the same Dual Pixel AF for fast and accurate focusing. You might notice a difference in extremely demanding situations, but the 45 AF points will be plenty for most users. A fully articulated touchscreen (like the 6D Mark II’s) gives enormous position flexibility and is more useful than the 7D Mark II’s fixed screen.

As a tradeoff for the lower price, the 80D does leave out a few capabilities. You get far less weather sealing with the 80D, meaning you should think twice before taking it out when the weather turns bad. A lower-level processor and metering system might be a limiting factor, especially when taking still images. They are still improved over the previous generation 70D, though. Despite these shortcomings, the 80D is capable of delivering great video with all of the standard benefits a DSLR offers.

5. Fuji X-T2 ($69 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Mirrorless cameras are a great choice for photographers and videographers who want a lot of the functionality of a DSLR but aren’t keen on carrying around all that weight. The Fuji X-T2 has a 24MP APS-C sensor, dual card slots, and the ability to take 4K video at up to 30 FPS. The optional battery grip not only increases battery life but also adds functionality to the camera by extending 4K recording time, improving autofocus, and providing a headphone jack.

The X-T2 is a very good camera for videographers who want a moderately priced and highly portable camera for sports videography. This camera finds the perfect balance between value, features, and quality and is a great sport camera option for anyone from experienced videographers to those who are just purchasing their first camera.

6. Fuji X-H1 ($75 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Fuji’s mirrorless X-H1 offers some great improvements while maintaining the small size that mirrorless enthusiasts enjoy. A noticeable improvement is a 5-Axis in-body image stabilization to reduce camera shake. It is also capable of shooting DCI 4k (a slightly wider format than UHD 4K) at 24 FPS and extended high speed recording at up to 120 FPS for full HD video. Dual SD card slots provide flexibility and security in recording your files.

For more versatility in your video’s look without relying on post processing, there are 16 film simulations you can choose from to recreate the look of classic films for both still photos and videos. Or you can choose a high dynamic range F-Log gamma profile for more flexibility when color grading yourself.

7. Sony Alpha a7 III ($82 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Sony’s a7 III borrows a number of features from their more expensive bodies to make a huge upgrade over the previous a7 models. 5-Axis image stabilization, dual card slots, a stunning autofocus system with advanced subject tracking, and impressive low light performance makes the a7 III capable of handling almost any situation you throw at it. 30 FPS 4K and 120 FPS 1080p allow a broad range of shooting options.

While the lack of a fully articulated screen may be problematic for vloggers, the tilting touchscreen will work perfectly for most users and allows easy focus point control. Enhanced weather sealing helps to keep you shooting when weather turns bad. All around, the a7 III is one of the best sports video cameras for people shooting in almost any condition.

8. Sony FDR-AX53 ($65 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

If quality and simplicity are your primary concerns, the Sony FDR-AX53 is a solid choice among sports video cameras. This consumer level camcorder is small, easy to use, priced well, and surprisingly powerful. This 16.6 megapixel camcorder’s “Balanced Optical SteadyShot” system stabilizes videos when shooting in 1080p and does it well. The AX53 has the ability to shoot 4K video at rates up to 25 FPS. One especially nice feature of the AX53 is the microphone port, which is often absent from other enthusiast level cameras.

This camera won’t give you as much versatility as a DSLR or mirrorless body but it’s also a heck of a lot more simple to use. If you’re not trying to be a professional sports shooter and just want to take nice videos of your kids’ soccer games, this is a good choice. The video it produces is clear, crisp, and bright and all you have to do is turn it on and go!

9. Sony NEX-FS700 ($269 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

The Sony NEX-FS700 is a professional level camcorder for serious shooters who want to take their sports videography to the next level. The FS700 weighs in at well over three pounds – and that’s without a lens being attached. A 3.5-inch articulating screen on the top of the camera lets you frame your shots and adjust camera settings.

This is a serious piece of equipment for serious videographers. This camera’s claim to fame, especially in the sports world, is its ability to record 4K video at an incredibly fast frame rate of 60 FPS. This allows you to produce slow motion videos in ultra high-def resolution. If you want a camcorder with serious slow-mo chops, this is the camera for you.

10. Canon XF405 ($165 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

For anyone looking for an extremely capable camcorder in an easy to use, all-in-one package, Canon’s XF405 is hard to beat. With the ability to shook 4K video at 60 FPS or 1080p at 120 FPS, dual card slots, built-in ND filters, Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, 5-Axis stabilization, and a 15x optical zoom, you can shoot almost any situation that arises.

In terms of usability, the XF405 tries to make shooting comfortable and convenient. a detachable top handle and fully articulated touchscreen monitor allows you to put the camera in the perfect position to get the shot. If you’re looking for a compact camera where you don’t have to worry about changing lenses, the XF405 will give you great results.

11. GoPro HERO6 Black ($36 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

If your idea of shooting sports means that you’re actually in on the action, a GoPro is the obvious choice. GoPros are designed to be mounted on handlebars or helmets, taken in the water, and used in harsh conditions. The HERO6 Black improves on the HERO5 Black with a more powerful processor allowing up to 60 FPS when shooting 4K. it maintains many of the earlier model’s features including built-in WiFi/Bluetooth/GPS and the ability to be controlled by voice commands. When it comes to taking action videos, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

Like all GoPros, the HERO6 Black fits a specialized niche. It’s not what you want if you’re shooting sports from the sidelines and it’s not the best choice if you want high-quality sound. It also doesn’t let you swap out lenses or focus manually. But if you want to mount your camera on your bike as you ride down mountain trails, there is no better option.

12. Panasonic GH5S ($100 for a 3 Day Rental – See More)

Panasonic’s GH5S is one of the first Micro Four Thirds cameras to to truly integrate features designed specifically for helping videographers get the most out of their camera. It features the ability to shoot both DCI and UHD 4K at up to 60 FPS and 1080p at up to 240 FPS. The Dual Native ISO feature allows you to choose whether to maximize dynamic range or noise performance and the sensor boasts improved high ISO performance over the original GH5.

Perhaps most notably, the GH5S does not restrict the length of video clips you can record. Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras will limit how long any single clip can be and rarely allow clips longer than 30 minutes. With the GH5S, you can record for as long as your dual memory cards and battery allow.

For the advanced videographer, the GH5S offers some exciting capabilities including the ability to feed through a full-size HDMI port to an external recorder and V-Log L for increased dynamic range and easier color grading. For those wanting some of the features from Panasonic’s professional cameras, such as the EVA1, but in a more compact and affordable package, the GH5S is a great option.

Conclusion

Picking a good camera for sports videos can be challenging, especially when you consider how many types of cameras are on the market and the different situations in which you can use them. We hope that this article has made your decision a little bit easier. If you’re still having a hard time choosing between sports video cameras, renting a few to take for a spin is a great idea. Getting your hands on the cameras you are looking at can make your decision simple!

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