10 Must Have Canon Lenses for Sports Photography (Updated for 2021)

Michael Sand
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NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto LensBest OverallCanon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens
Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom LensBudget PickTamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM LensUpgrade PickSigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM Lens

1. Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens

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Pros:

  • Fantastic image quality
  • Includes image stabilization technology
  • Optical precision is sharp, even at f/2.0
  • Build quality is very solid
  • Lightweight
  • Mechanically sound
  • Includes a lens hood
  • The price is similar to that of the Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens
  • Strong, versatile lens for capturing both action and news sports
  • Produces excellent results

Cons:

  • Not weather sealed
  • Focus tracking, while usually very good, can struggle on fast moving subjects

(Canon EF Mount)

2. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

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Pros:

  • Very High Resolution
  • Great Build Quality
  • F1.2 Aperture
  • Fast and Accurate Autofocus

One of the best lenses in our roundup, this is an upgrade from the original, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. The new lens comes with many improvements including an additional 8mm on the wide end, weather sealing, and improved optical design.

If you’re looking for a high-quality, fast lens that delivers great value for money, this Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens is the one for you.

Built-in Image stabilization minimizes blur that is quite common for slow shutter speeds. It’s extremely sharp both at the center and the corners, making it a great choice for landscapes, architecture, and other applications when you need to make a large print or crop your image.

3. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

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The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras is an update of the original EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM telephoto zoom lens designed for full-frame EF-mount DSLRs. High-resolution performance is achieved through 1 super UD lens element and the color balance a precision glass molded aspherical lens element.

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM improves on the already impressive performance of its predecessor with the addition of an advanced image stabilization system, where only a third of the camera shake is eliminated, with an improved design that provides more noticeable correction.

It also has faster AF performance, with improvements to the ring-type USM with full-time manual focus override (FTM) and a full-time manual focus (FTM) mode with smooth and silent manual focusing. Stronger lens construction is achieved through the adoption of front-group-extension/front-group-internal-extension (FGE/IF) and rear-group-external-extension (RGEX) lens components with enhanced durability. Image quality is also further improved with the adoption of fluorite optical materials.

4. Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM Lens

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Pros:

  • Optically and construction superb
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • Extensive range of focal lengths
  • Weather sealed (can also be used for birding)
  • Useful teleconversion for the 100-300
  • Price
  • Well-built
  • It is fairly sharp from f/2.8

Cons:

  • Heavy and large
  • Sub-par bokeh
  • Multicoated filter is difficult to remove
  • Not a durable lens

If you look at this lens, it does look like something a sports photographer in the 70’s would use. At over 2lbs, who can blame them?

Now, is a day and age where we are able to use technology to our advantage. The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Apo Sports DG is the perfect example of technology moving forward and changing the way we take pictures. This lens is great. It’s a little bit on the heavy side and a little pricey, but well worth it.

5. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

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Pros:

  • Beneficial focal length of 100-400mm
  • Fast autofocus, even when shooting in low light with a high ISO
  • Image Stabilization

This lens is a must for any serious sports enthusiast. The EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens is fairly compact but extremely powerful. This lens is lightweight and easy to handle freeing up your energy for consistently excellent photos without being weighed down. Although this model is a tad slower than its predecessor, it tracks subjects in flight better, and the IS capability is slightly better. The price of the new model is a bit higher, but you get a lot more features for your money. This is a significant lens and for many photographers, it is the only lens they need.

The EF 100-400mm lens comes with a tripod collar as well as a lens hood, though if you use the lens outdoors you will need a lens cover. The lens is easy to operate overall, and the IS gives you a 3-stop advantage in low-light settings. You can shoot at up to four frames per second so you can capture even the fastest moving objects. The lenses are well-made and you can expect them to last you for years to come.

6. Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L is USM II Super Telephoto Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L is USM II Super Telephoto Lens

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Pros:

  • The best telephoto lens you can buy
  • Amazing sharpness
  • Fast AF
  • Lightweight
  • Tripod collar
  • AF/MF switching

This is definitely a 400mm lens that will consider as one of the best lenses for sports photography. You can shoot very distant subjects without having to move closer using a 1.4x or 2x teleconverters. Despite the extremely high price of this lens, it is definitely worth the investment.

It weighs 7.2 pounds as a whole and the lens body is 1.4 pounds alone, but it feels a lot lighter on the hands, and it is comfortable to hold. The tripod collar, however, is not removable, but this is not perfect for hand-held photography.

As an L-series lens it naturally comes with a fully automatic USM (Ultrasonic Motor) that is fast, accurate, and very quiet so that you can make necessary adjustments without distracting your subjects. You also have the option to switch to manual with the flipping switch. Its tripod collar has a rubber texture that will not slip off your stand, but some of the gears of this lens are plastic, which is not ideal.

7. Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens

Our rating: 6 / 10

Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens

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Pros:

  • Range-specific Zoom
  • Water-resistant and dust-resistant sealing
  • VC stabilization
  • Ideal for use at varying distances
  • Motion-detection based AutoFocus (AF)
  • USM – Ultrasonic Motor

Cons:

  • F/2.8 is the minimum aperture
  • No Image Stabilization (IS)

For sports photography, you should be able to capture close action without it getting blurry. You should

Be able to zoom in and get a good shot of that amazing catch. This lens is for you if you like to take candid pictures.

Most camera lenses generally are not good for sports, as they do not do well in low light. In fact, if you are using a professional camera, the lens should be a camera lens, not a consumer-grade lens. Most consumer-grade lenses are not quite sharp and have low picture quality as they try to keep their costs low.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best Canon lens for sports photography?

No two sports are the same, so there’s no one-size-fits all answer to the question of “What is the best Canon lens for sports photography?”. You won’t find a perfect answer on our list, but we do list some of the best ones. That said, we do think that most professional and enthusiast sports photographers should have at least one telephoto zoom and one super-wide angle zoom in their tool kit.

What is the best lens for sports photography?

Before you can make a decision on the lens you need to choose the type of photography you want to do. Then you can research the kinds of lenses that work for the type of photography you want to do. Not only do you have to choose between primes and zooms, you have to decide between low and high f-stops.

In this article we dig into the details of the best long and more general purpose type sports lenses. If you are more interested in telephoto design for sports photography, we recommend this article. Also, if you are interested in wildlife photography, we recommend you read about the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography.

We also recommend looking at the top 10 best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography.

What are the essential lenses for a photographer?

The great thing about today’s cameras is that they can make most photographs possible without extra lenses. Of course, that’s not the case for sports photographers. In fact, not everyone needs every lens listed in this guide. Just as with DSLR guides for portrait photography, many of you will pick a lens or two and then move onto the next part of your camera. For others, a real passion for your craft will lead you down this lens purchasing rabbit hole.

Above all, don’t feel bad if you don’t own any of these lenses or if you think you need them all. Not every pro sports photographer needs them all, either. The most important thing is to actually go out and take some pictures.

What Canon lens do professional photographers use?

With the kit lens bundled in with the purchase of a Canon Digital SLR Camera, it’s tempting to just stick with the kit lens that is both inexpensive and easy to find. Since it’s one of the most affordable Canon lenses, the 18-55mm STM lens is a great Canon lens to get if you are just getting started.

Conclusion

The older lens recommendations for sports photos have been adjusted, and we’ve added two more options to the list. If you’re looking to buy a great telephoto lens for sports photography, then see our recommendations below.

These lenses are suitable for both amateurs and professionals and are practically fool-proof for great results on the field.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto LensBest OverallCanon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens
Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom LensBudget PickTamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD Telephoto Zoom Lens
Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM LensUpgrade PickSigma 120-300mm F2.8 Sports DG APO OS HSM Lens