Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography

10 Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography in 2022

Picking up the best Nikon lenses for sports photography can help you to capture wonderful unparalleled photos. Sports photography is one of the most challenging photography genres of them all. 

Subjects are constantly moving, doing different actions, and you have to keep up the pace to capture the perfect shot. As a professional sports photographer, you don’t want to run around trying to shoot the best angle and later find out that the images came out blurry.

So in sports photography, you can capture stunning images if you use powerful cameras and lenses. Powerful lenses offer unique features with significant motion capturing ability. 

In this guide, you will know what Nikon lens is best for action shots and how you can pick one for you. 

What kind of lens do I need for Sports photography?

You know you will not sit there and shoot before buying a perfect Nikon lens for action shots. Most of the sports events contain 95% percent of fast-paced moving subjects. To capture every shot perfectly, you will need,

  • A good Telephoto lens with an excellent focal range.
  • Higher the max range to be able to zoom further.
  • A wide aperture gives fast shutter speeds.
  • Stabilization built-in to handle zoomed-in shots better

There are three major areas of a lens that we must look out for while buying a Nikon lens for sports photography. These are,

Motor Speed

In sports, as a photographer, you have to shoot while your subject is in motion. So the lens you want to use should have fast autofocus, and lenses with Silent Wave Motor provide that. 

Telephoto Lens

The requirements of this feature depend on the type of sports photography you do. For indoor sports photography, you might not require high standards telephotos lenses. On the other hand, for outdoor sports photography, a powerful telephoto lens is best when the subject is far away.

Speed

To capture the subject with a fast motion lens with f/2.8 or lower aperture is the perfect one. So if you are looking for the best lens for soccer photography, this would be the configuration of an ideal lens. Though these lenses are expensive, they will give you value for money.  

10 Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography

So we have enough education on what kind of lens is the best fit for sports, and now I think you will be able to choose the best Nikon lenses for sports photography. I have listed the zoom lenses and prime lenses separately to choose from according to your requirements and budget.

5 Best Nikon Zoom Lenses for Sports Photography

The major selling point of a zoom lens is it has zoom rings that allow you to zoom in & out without moving your positions. Though the fixed aperture and image quality compared to prime lenses would definitely go for a challenging debate. Keeping them aside, let’s know about our top picks for the best Nikon zoom lenses for sports photography.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED

Buyers of this lens claim it as one of the best balanced Nikon lenses for Outdoor sports photography in terms of pricing. With the fantastic build quality and accurate focusing, it is an all-around performer for long-distance sports photography.

Why it Stands Out

It stands out to us because it has HRI and ED elements that enhance its zooming capabilities. As we are talking about sports photography, it is important to shoot from a distance. With Nikon AF-s dx Nikkor 55-300mm lens, you get professional VR and image stabilization features to capture noiseless and sharp images. 

Who Will Use The Lense

One reason is adequate to buy this lens, and it can capture blur-free images and the budget-friendly price tag it offers. For people looking for a cheap Nikon lens for sports photography, it’s the perfect one for them. You can even shoot wildlife portrait photos with it as well. 

Bottom Line

If you have a D3200 camera by any chance, then you can bang for your buck with it. It can work as the best Nikon lens for sports videography as well. 

Pros:

  • Great Value
  • Useable Focal Length
  • Mid Range Light Speed
  • Decent Build

Cons:

  • Telescoping Body
  • Loss in Sharpness

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G DX AF-P ED

Sometimes you require zooming in and getting some extra reach to cover your subject. But you always get pulled back by the thought of getting noisy shots. Nikon 70-300mm lens can be the solution for your extra reach. It can zoom in to your subject smoothly, and the amazing image stabilization feature lets you shoot with minimum wrist movements.

Why it Stands Out

This telephoto zoom lens has ED elements embedded in it, and it helps photographers keep the chromatic aberration at shorter lengths minimum. Another stand-out feature of the Nikon 70-300mm zoom lens is its weight. The item weighs at 1.05 pounds only, and the shutter also provides images with almost zero blurriness in them.

Who Will Use The Lense

Photographers who shoot in fast-moving sports such as football, soccer, baseball, etc., looking for a Nikon lens for action shots can capture perfect moments. The shutter speed of this lens is blazing fast and ensures that you don’t miss a bit while shooting. Photographers who have a D3100 can use this lens and get the maximum potential output from their camera.

Bottom Line

If you ask me to mention a list of the best Nikon lens for outdoor sports photography, I would definitely keep this one in it. It provides value money experience, and so if you are an amateur photographer, you can try this one for sure.

Pros:

  • Has great zoom
  • Blazing fast shutter speed
  • Can long-distance zoom subjects smoothly
  • Amazing image stabilization

Cons:

  • Autofocus is occasionally a little slow

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D ED

With proper lighting, most lenses perform outstanding, but when you have low light scenarios, these lenses struggle to get quality images. With this lens, you can shoot stunning photos even in the low lights. You will get blazing fast autofocus to shoot premium quality photos at lightning-fast speed.

Why it Stands Out

The outstanding design, premium quality of materials in the building, and the ability to capture stunning images make this lens stand out. You get perfect colors as it has ED elements and SIC glass built-in for color accuracy. This telephoto lens offers you the powerful photographing experience that you dream of.

Who Will Use The Lense

As the lens has a wide aperture and huge zoom lengths, photographers of soccer action photography or any fast-moving sports photography can use it. Photographers who are looking for the best lens for baseball events will love this lens for sure. Other than this, individuals covering events and shooting portraits for weddings or birthdays can also carry this lens.

Bottom Line

With this lens’s stunning image capturing ability, you will get a value for money photography experience. It’s a fast telephoto lens that can shoot incredible photos in low light.

Pros:

  • Strong build quality
  • Can capture a high-quality image
  • Smoothly separate the subject from the background

Cons: 

  • It does not come with a lens hood

Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED

For photographers who love to shoot with their bare hands, this Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm lens will be worth a try. In this lens, you get improvements in several areas, such as improved image quality, autofocus, speed, VR image stabilization, and many more.

Why it Stands Out

It stands out because of its ability to bring balance between size, zoom power, and vibration reduction. These abilities allow photographers to shoot great handheld photos and videos of sports, action, concerts, weddings, wildlife, and more. With this lens, you can shoot on the go from nearly any distance.

Who Will Use The Lense

Indoor and outdoor sports photographers will use this lens because of its ability to provide crisp and clear photos while using it with bare hands. So photographers who cover events where moving with a tripod gives extra pain can use this lens.

Bottom Line

It’s a great addition to the latest generations of Fx and DX cameras, as you can get peak performance with the lens. Because of its versatility, photographers can capture every portrait and close-up shot perfectly.

Pros:

  • Have significant distortion at the extreme edges
  • Focuses much faster than the older AF-S lens
  • Lighter than the AF-S lens
  • Zoom is smooth to use

Cons:

  • The focus is a bit soft

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

This lens is famous for its amazing focusing ability in low light with speed and accuracy. It’s a bit heavier than usual ones, and because of that, it’s durable than any other lenses out there. Using this lens, photographers will get a standard telephoto zoom range with image stabilization.

Why it Stands Out

The inclusion of the Vibration Reduction for better image stabilization and 7 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) elements helps this lens stand out in the crowd. The Nano Crystal Coat reduces ghosting and flare for even greater image clarity. The Super Integrated Coating (SIC) helps light transmission and offers superior color consistency.

Who Will Use The Lense

This lens is beneficial for not only fast-paced sports photographers but also event and wildlife photographers as well. Though it’s slightly expensive, you can consider it as one of the best Nikon zoom lenses for sports photography. Professional photographers with years of experience use this lens the most.

Bottom Line

This is the last zoom lens of this list, but it’s not the weakest for sure. It doesn’t matter if your subject is moving or still. With this lens, you will be able to capture the perfect crispy shot you were always planning.

Pros:

  • Sharpest lens among its competitor
  • Autofocus is ultra-fast and ultra-quiet
  • Colors are pleasing, realistic, and brilliant
  • Contrast is profound

Cons:

  • The Lens hood is plastic

5 Best Nikon Prime Lenses for Sports Photography

The focal length of the prime lens is fixed, and it remains between 12mm and 5200mm. Prime lenses offer much wider apertures than zoom lenses. It helps these lenses to let more light into the camera sensor and shoot stunning images in low light. Below I have listed some of the best prime lenses for indoor/low light sports photography.

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens

It’s a great action-capture performance lens for sports photographers. According to some professional photographers, it’s the sharpest and clearest lens. You can shoot any kind of portrait or commercial project with this lens. The bokeh of this lens is very smooth and can be achieved almost effortlessly.

Why it Stands Out

The primary two points that make this lens stand out are the low light abilities and background blur perfectionism. Because of the sharp background blur ability, you can capture images with a creamy bokeh effect. In low light scenarios, you can capture a relatively better image with this lens. 

Who Will Use The Lense

Photographers who work on events with lowlights are prime users of this prime lens. If you want to capture the best images for indoor sports events, then you surely should use this one. Portrait photographers also use this one because the background detection of this lens is excellent. 

Bottom Line

Prime lenses are remarkable for their low light abilities, background blur, and the ability to “see” the shot before you take as the distance is set. Because it’s lightweight and short, it’s easy to take anywhere.

Pros:

  • Provide the best performance in low light condition
  • Lightweight and handy
  • Provide stunning bokeh effect
  • Has the ability to point and shoot

Cons:

  • Plastic build quality

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

If you are starting your sports photography career, then this lens can be a game-changer for you. It offers a very sharp and super quick photographing experience, and in sports photography, you need both of them. The bokeh images that the lens renders are creamy. It can smoothly separate the subject from the background, and so the bokeh effect looks stunning.

Why it Stands Out

According to many amateur photographers, it’s a multi-use lens, and to me, it is the stand-out feature for this lens. You can take out and shoot immediately without worrying about the ISO, contrast, and lighting in the low light scenario with this lens. 

Who Will Use The Lense

Photographers who are starting their career and looking to buy a value for money lens will love this lens. They can just point and shoot the subject, and the images will come out almost perfect. 

Bottom Line

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens is one of the best Nikon lenses for indoor sports photography in the market right now. Indoor sports and events often lack lights, and because this lens has a wide aperture, it can contain more lights than any zoom lens.

Pros:

  • Very sharp and super quick.
  • Produce flawless “Bokeh” effect
  • Great for low light scenario

Cons:

  • Nobody stabilization or VR

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED

With the 8.38 lbs weight and 14.09 x 6.3 x 6.3 inches dimensions, this expensive lens can be the ultimate choice for sports photography. If you ask me to pick the best Nikon lens for sports photography, I will go for Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED.

Why it Stands Out

The phenomenal image quality is this lens’s number one stand-out ability, and as a photographer, you don’t ask for more. The very fast and accurate AF, Pro-grade dust- and moisture-sealing, impressive build quality are some of the features that make it appealing to photographers.

Who Will Use The Lense

Being more Lighter and more rugged than its predecessor, this lens is for fast-moving photographers. So sports photographers, wildlife photographers who do a lot of hiking can easily carry this lens. Photographers who shoot in events that have low light can purchase this lens without any doubt.

Bottom Line

With this lens, you can capture the thrill of sports, action, and wildlife with staggering clarity and precision. Even when you are shooting handheld with challenging lighting conditions, it will provide you with stunning photos.

Pros:

  • Offers sharp images
  • Immediate autofocus
  • It offers a gorgeous bokeh effect
  • Allows to take great shots of wildlife and sports in motion 

Cons:

  • It’s not a budget-friendly option

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm F/5.6E Pf ED VR

Nikon introduced the super-telephoto ability to their smallest, lightest full-frame 500mm prime lens. Its length and widths are 9.2 inches and 3.2 pounds. It’s a powerhouse that allows you to shoot wildlife, sports, and action with unmatched agility. Photographers call it Nikon’s most sensible and thoughtful 500mm super-telephoto to date. It is substantially lighter and more compact than its predecessor.

Why it Stands Out

The size and weight of this lens would be a great selling point and stand-out feature as well. The sharpness and properly balanced colored images it offers will definitely stand out as well. It’s fast to focus and light to hold places it on the top of some expensive lenses also.

Who Will Use The Lense

Professional sports photographers would definitely use it, and other than them, professional wildlife photographers would also love this lens. As it’s a compact and easy-to-carry item, photographers who travel a lot would definitely want to keep it in their collection.

Bottom Line

Prime lenses are always great for indoor sports photography as they produce bright and sharp images even in low light. Being a lightweight and easy to carry premium lens, every photographer should experience this beast for once.

Pros:

  • Great for low light photography
  • Lightweight
  • Can shoot the fast-moving object
  • Can produce sharp and crisp

Cons:

  • It might get faulty or scratchy products out of the box due to rough handling.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED

It’s our last but not the least member of the best Nikon prime lenses for sports photography. It is dust and moisture resistant which helps photographers to use it roughly. The maximum focal length is 200 millimeters and weighs 6.46 pounds. The dimension of this product is 8.03 x 4.88 x 4.88 inches.

Why it Stands Out

Nikon’s VR is always great. This lens’s Vibration Reduction (VR) is one of the top stand-out features for sports photographers. It has excellent control over the motion blur that helps to capture amazing portraits with a bokeh effect. With its  f/2 aperture, It offers excellent exposure to its photos.

Who Will Use The Lense

Sports photographers are the number one user of this lens. On top of that, wildlife photographers, wedding photographers, landscape shooters can also use this lens and capture masterpieces.

Bottom Line

It’s an expensive one for sure, so if you are a beginner, you might skip it, but if you can afford it, I suggest you take the experience for once. With this lens, you can take your photography to the next level.

Pros:

  • Produce Sharp and crisp photos.
  • Can capture eye-popping detail
  • Great subject separation for the bokeh effect

Cons:

  • It was a bit expensive

What is the best Nikon lens for sports photography?

From the above segment, we got the chance to know about some of the best Nikon zoom and prime lenses for indoor and outdoor photography. The lenses from the list are handpicked and reviewed based on personal experience. 

In my opinion and some expert photographers, the winner for the best Nikon lens for indoor and outdoor sports photography is the Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens.

Though it’s a bit expensive, it’s still worth buying because, with this lens, you can point and shoot immediately. The images will come out clean, crisp, and sharp with proper lighting, even if you have less light to work with.

How To Choose the Best Lenses for Sports photography?

Choosing the best lenses for sports photography isn’t an easy task. One wrong move and you will end up buying your worst nightmare ever. Check out the below points before buying a lens for any sports photography. I hope the following buying guide will help you to choose the best one for you.

Autofocus and its Responsiveness

As we are talking about sports photography, the lens we need to choose must have faster autofocus. The quicker your lens can focus it can shoot the more speedy object and capture a clear image. Choose a lens with faster shutter speed and autofocus. 

If your object is a fast-moving athlete, then the responsiveness of your lens will save your day. You can choose any lens from the list above according to your budget.

Maximum Aperture

Aperture decides how much light your image will have, so lenses with a wider aperture, preferably f/2.8 or more, will be the perfect pick for you. The wider aperture allows you to shoot in poorly lit or dim environments. So if you are covering any indoor sports event or any lowlights events, choose the lens with maximum aperture.

Focal Length

As a sports photographer, you might need to shoot from far distances from the subject you are shooting. So you should pick a lens with maximum focal length so that you can shoot subjects from a distance as well. To choose the focal length, you must know from how far you are going to shoot. Know which aspects you are going to shoot, and after deciding these two points choose the lens that fits your requirements.

Lens Ergonomics

Last but important is how the lens feels in your hand. If you feel uncomfortable holding the camera after installing the lens, your shooting won’t be a smooth experience. See whether the lens you are going to purchase has a tripod collar or where the focus ring is placed. Also, notice whether the lens has an AF-on and lock button or not.

Build Quality

Build quality is also another deciding factor for lenses. It should have a robust build quality and be lightweight so that you can use it roughly as long as you want. Lenses with Weak build quality might offer all of the above, but they certainly will not give you long-term service.

Lenses with faster autofocus, maximum aperture, and long focal length are perfect for sports photography. From today's list, I would go with the "Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens" as the best prime lens for sports photography and "Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED" as the best zoom lens for sports photography.

For sports photography, a wider aperture is the best, and so usually, f/2.8 or lower focal length lenses are a perfect choice. You will get a sharp focus on your subject while the spectators and background will be blurred accurately.

In sports photography, the settings are not specific. It depends on the scene you are shooting. But below, I have shared a couple of ideal locations for an idea.

  • Shutter Speed: 1/1000th of a second or as fast as possible
  • Focal Length: f2.8 or lower
  • ISO: according to the lighting of your scene.

Nikon cameras and lenses are one of the top gear for sports photography. But it’s obvious that you will get premium service from the higher ones than the baseline ones.

Generally, 70-200 mm is ideal for sports photography, but if you don't want to take risks and most of your shooting range is from far, you can go with the 300 mm to 600 mm.

Final Verdict

We all want the best Nikon lenses for sports photography to capture photos. Very few of us know how to choose one or what to look out for before purchasing one. In this article, I tried to pick the best options and compare them to make a wise decision while buying the lens kit for your sports photography.

Bordie Capron

Bordie Capron

Author

“Bordie Capron is a Sr. Content Maker who is working in The Clipping Path Service an US-based image and video post-production company for over 7+ years. She completed her degree in graphic designing and worked as a graphic designing expert for several years. She always loved writing”

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