6 Best Canon Cameras For Sports (…and 6 to avoid)

Sports is one of the most fun and exciting genres a photographer can shoot. But it also requires gear that can keep up with the speed of the action.

My top pick for the best canon camera for sports photography is the Canon R5. It has all the features you need to capture even the fastest moving sports at extremely high image quality.

Keep reading for my full breakdown of this camera and five others that might be right for you.

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Top Pick

1. Canon EOS R5

This 45 megapixel beast can keep up with the best in terms of shooting speed and autofocus and still give you high resolution images to get spectacular sports photos.

This might be a bit of a surprise for some of you that I didn’t choose the flagship R3, but hear me out.

The R3 costs about $2000 more and you’re not gaining much in terms of features that are helpful for shooting sports plus you’re losing 20 megapixels in resolution which limits your ability to crop in on the action after you take the photo.

The R5 also made my overall list of the Best Cameras For Sports Photography.

So let’s get to why I chose the R5 as the top pick. First let’s take a look at the specs…

Canon EOS R5 Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Megapixels: 45
  • Sensor Size: Full-Frame Dual Pixel CMOS
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 102,400)
  • AF Points: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II covering Approx. 100% Area with 1,053 point AF Area (w/ Subject tracking of People and Animals)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 12 fps with Mechanical Shutter (up to 20 fps Electronic (Silent) Shutter)
  • Stabilization: 5 axis in body image stabilization (IBIS)
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 5.76m dots, 120fps refresh rate, 0.7x magnification
  • LCD: Fully Articulated 3.2-inch touch screen, 2.1m dots
  • Max video resolution: 8192 x 4320 @ 30p / 4096 x 2160 @ 120p
  • Memory Card: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II and 1x CFexpress
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 138 x 97.5 x 88.0mm (5.45 x 3.84 x 3.46 in.)
  • Weight: 738g

Those are pretty impressive overall and when it comes to the ones that count for shooting sports, the R5 has everything you need.

In terms of fast shooting, you’re getting 12 fps with the mechanical shutter and up to 20 fps with the electronic. In my experience, anything 12 or higher is plenty for shooting even the fastest moving sports and 20 fps is incredible.

While using the R5, I never felt like I was missing the shot. 12 fps was enough in many circumstances, but when I really needed the extra speed (like trying to time a batter’s swing) then the 20 fps really delivered.

Note: The actual frames per second can vary based on the lens you’re using (especially when adapting older DSLR lenses) as well as the speed of the cards you’re using. For fastest rates and minimal buffer, use a fast CFexpress card and set it to write only to that card.

But the important feature here isn’t ONLY the frame per second, it’s that you can get that fast shutter speed while using the full features of the R5 autofocus system, which up there among the industry leaders.

The R5 autofocus system has Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system with 1053 available AF zones. The subject tracking works exceptionally well.

But aside from the specs, I found that it was easy to use and track the subject. Even with other players running in front of the subject, I was able to keep tracking the player with the ball. This is a small detail but invaluable.

Even when shooting sports where the players wear helmets, I was able to finds the heads and even detects the eyes under the helmet if the player is large enough in the frame. This is a massive upgrade from even the best Canon DSLRs, where is can be difficult to get eyes in sharp focus in similar conditions.

This is a major reason why I recommend mirrorless cameras for any kind of action shooting. The average person will get better results from a mid-range mirrorless camera than even a high end DSLR when it comes to shooting in tricky focusing situations like sports.

Ok, let’s talk a little about the downsides because no camera is perfect.

The electronic viewfinder (EVF) does have a blackout for a fraction of a second when shooting. For some, this can make it tricky to follow fast moving action. There is a “High Speed Display” mode that is available when shooting in High Speed (H) mode, but this replaces the blackout with the shot you just took so you’re still not getting a live feed from the sensor.

This is one place where the stacked sensor of the R3 does outperform the R5. It’s up to you whether it’s worth giving up 20 megapixels to get rid of the EVF blackout.

Overall, I loved this camera and it was a pleasure to shoot with. If I had to pick a Canon camera to shoot sports with, this would be the one.

But, it wouldn’t be my overall top pick for sports among all camera brands. If you’re not locked into the Canon system then you can get both (and a lot more) in the Nikon Z8 for a similar price.


2. Canon EOS R6 Mark II

Although the R6 Mk II has a lower megapixel count than the top pick above, it still shoots fast, has great autofocus, and is over $1000 less.

The Canon R6 Mark II made the second spot on my list because it gives you many of the important features you need at a price point that is far lower than the R5.

Essentially, what you are getting with the R6 Mark II is a slightly less full features camera compared to the R5.

Canon EOS R6 Mk II Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Megapixels: 24.2
  • Sensor Size: Full-Frame Dual Pixel CMOS
  • ISO Range: 100-102,400
  • AF Points: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II covering Approx. 100% Area with 1,053 point AF Area (w/ Subject tracking of People and Animals)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 30 fps RAW burst mode with 12 fps with mechanical shutter, and up to 40 fps using electronic (silent) shutter
  • Stabilization: 5 axis in body image stabilization (IBIS)
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots, 120fps refresh rate, 0.76x magnification
  • LCD: Fully Articulated 3.0-inch touch screen, 1.62m dots
  • Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ 60p / 1920 x 1080 @ 120p
  • Memory Card: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 5.45 x 3.87 x 3.48 in. (138 x 98.4 x 88.4mm)
  • Weight: 680g

The biggest difference is the 24.2 megapixel sensor. You’ll be giving up some ability to crop in on your shots while maintaining a high resolution.

I have been using higher resolution cameras to shoot sports and gotten used to shooting a little wider to make sure I get everything I want in the frame and then crop in later. But as long as you don’t plan to make any large prints, the lower resolution is not a major factor.

One benefit you get from having a smaller 24.2 MP file size is that this camera can actually shoot at a higher frame rate. The smaller file size makes it easier for the camera to push more frames at a faster rate. The R6 gives you 12 fps with the mechanical shutter and a massive 40 fps with the electronic shutter.

The R6 Mk II gives you the same excellent autofocus system as the R5 with the same 100% coverage and 1,053 focus points. You’ll also get the same excellent subject and eye tracking focus modes.

I really didn’t see much difference in terms of autofocus from the R5 to this camera. Canon has put their excellent focusing algorithm into all their higher end cameras. There may be a tiny bit of speed difference but not enough that I noticed.

You also have the 30 fps RAW burst mode. This feature allows you to shoot a burst of 30 RAW images in a second and the camera will stack all those photos under a single thumbnail image in your playback screen.

I love this feature for shooting sports because the optimal way to use a high frame rate camera is to use it in short bursts to try and capture the perfect moment. By giving you a very fast 30 fps and organizing it in a stack, you can treat each burst as a separate shot. It’s a little thing but makes reviewing your images a little easier.

Raw burst mode also includes an optional pre-shooting feature. When enabled, you can half-press the shutter button to tell the camera to begin buffering frames. When you press the shutter button, the camera will capture a half second of buffered pre-click images and a half second of post click images.

The R6 Mk II also has some screen blackout but when you are shooting at frame rates like 30 fps and above, the flicker is so fast that it doesn’t affect your subject tracking very much.

Overall, this is a very impressive camera and even outperforms the R5 in some aspects. So the choice comes down to which features you think are more valuable.

Budget Pick

3. Canon EOS R50

The R50 is a crop sensor camera with a number of high end features that makes it a lighter and more affordable option.

There are some benefits to shooting sports with a crop sensor and if they appeal to you then the R50 is a great option. Especially since you can get it for well under $1000.

A crop sensor camera gives you more reach with the same focal length lens compared to a full frame camera. The crop factor for Canon is 1.6x which means that a 100mm lens on a crop sensor camera will have the same field of view as a 160mm lens.

Additionally, crop sensor cameras are typically smaller and lighter which can be a big benefit if you want to make it a little easier to get through an entire game without more arm fatigue or back pain.

This is the kind of camera I would put in my bag to take to my kid’s soccer game when I didn’t want to take out the bigger camera body.

Now let’s take a look specifically at the R50…

Canon EOS R50 Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Megapixels: 24.2
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.6x crop) CMOS
  • ISO Range: 100-32,000 (exp to 51,200)
  • AF Points: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II (100% coverage)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 12fps (15fps w/ electronic shutter)
  • Stabilization: None
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots, 60fps refresh rate, 0.95x magnification
  • LCD: Fully Articulated 3-inch touch screen, 1.62m dots
  • Max video resolution: 4K video up to 30p (no crop)
  • Memory Card: 1 slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I)
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 116 x 86 x 69 mm (4.57 x 3.39 x 2.72″)
  • Weight: 375g

The 24.2 megapixels is on par with the R6 Mk II and with the crop factor you may not have to crop in as much to get closeups of the athletes.

With a shooting speed of 12 fps with a mechanical shutter and 15 fps with the electronic shutter, you’ve got enough speed to capture fast moving action.

The viewfinder is a bit of a step down in both resolution (2.36m dots) and refresh rate (60fps) compared to the full frame options above, but this is something you might not even notice unless you compared both side by side.

Overall, this is a great budget option if you want to save some money and get started shooting sports photography.

Crop Sensor Pick

4. Canon EOS R7

The R7 is a crop sensor camera with professional features that is perfect for the aspiring sports photographer looking to upgrade to a mid-range camera body.

Every major brand has a crop sensor body that’s built with near professional level specs and the R7 is that in the Canon Mirrorless lineup.

It’s more expensive than the R5 but still comes in about $1000 less than the R6 Mk II with a lot of features that are perfect for sports photography.

Canon EOS R7 Tech Specifications

  • Lens Mount: Canon RF
  • Megapixels: 32.5
  • Sensor Size: APSC (1.6x crop) CMOS
  • ISO Range: 100-51,200 (expandable to 102,400)
  • AF Points: Dual Pixel CMOS AF II covering Approx. 100% Area with 651 point AF Area (w/ Subject tracking of People and Animals)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 15 fps with Mechanical Shutter (up to 30 fps Electronic (Silent) Shutter
  • Stabilization: 5 axis in body image stabilization (IBIS)
  • Viewfinder: EVF, 2.3m dots, 120fps refresh rate, 0.7x magnification
  • LCD: Fully Articulated 3-inch touch screen, 1.62m dots
  • Max video resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ up to 60p / 1920 x 1080 @ up to 120p
  • Memory Card: 2x SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
  • Dimensions: (W x H x D): 5.20 x 3.56 x 3.61 in. (132.0 x 90.4 x 91.7 mm)
  • Weight: 530g

To me this camera body is in that sweet spot right in the middle for the photographer that wants to shoot sports and perhaps is beginning to invest in some quality telephoto lenses, but isn’t quite ready to spend a ton on a body.

The 15fps mechanical shutter and 30fps electronic shutter speeds are plenty for any sport. So you can feel comfortable that you have the ability to capture the right moment.

The R7 also sports Canon’s excellent subject tracking autofocus system. Because this is a crop sensor, you’re only getting 651 focus points (which is less than the full frame cameras above). But with the smaller sensor, that’s plenty for covering the entire frame.

The 32.5 megapixel resolution is also a really good choice by Canon. Higher than that would be overkill on a crop sensor but it still gives you plenty of resolution to crop in post-production.

I really liked the feel and handling of this camera, especially for a crop sensor camera. Sometimes crop sensor cameras sacrifice ergonomics for a smaller size, but this has enough size to make it easy to handhold even with larger lenses.

While it’s not the overall best Canon camera for sports photography, this is probably the one that would be perfect for most of you out there.


5. Canon 6D Mark II

For those of you that aren’t ready to give on on DSLRs, the 6D Mark II is a great choice for shooting sports.

You can probably tell that I am not a big proponent of buying a new DSLR at this point. They are still great cameras (and I still use my old DLSR all the time), but there’s really not a compelling reason to invest in buying a new one if you need a camera now.

That being said, if you are looking for a solid Canon DSLR for shooting sports photography, then you can’t go wrong with the 6D Mark II.

As an added bonus, you can find it for under $1500 currently.

Crop Sensor DSLR Pick

6. Canon 90D

As far as crop sensor DSLRs go, this is one of the best on the market for sports photography.

The Canon 90D is a great crop sensor camera body that you can usually find for around $1200. It’s basically the DSLR sibling to the R7 above…a crop sensor body with a lot of professional features built in to it.

6 Canon Cameras You Should AVOID For Shooting Sports


This is a great camera and a proven professional sports powerhouse.

So why did I list it down here are one to avoid? There’s really no good reason to spend over $6000 on a DSLR nowadays.

Yes, it has an excellent autofocus system…for a DSLR. But that has been eclipsed by the autofocus systems of the new mirrorless cameras above.

With a continuous shooting speed of 20 frames per second, the 1DX Mk III is fast, but that’s the same as the top pick above that comes in at about $2,500 less!

If you really want the top of the line pro camera and have that much to spend then go for the R3 instead. Although, you can save over $2000 and do quite well with the R5. But however much you want to spend, there are better options out there now for less than the 1DX Mk II.

M6, M50, M200

If you can still find these available new online, avoid them. Canon’s experiment with the M line was more or less a failure. The cameras themselves aren’t necessarily terrible, but they aren’t developing the M lens lineup anymore and have gone all in on the RF system.

5D Mark IV

Another good camera whose day has past. The R6 Mark II can be had for a similar price and the difference in the autofocus systems alone is enough to choose the R6 Mark II over the 5D Mark IV.

7D Mark II

This was an excellent camera when it was released in 2014. It’s a crop sensor body with pro features at an affordable price point.

So why am I saying to avoid it?

Well, it’s old. Almost 10 years old at the time I’m writing this. Even if you can find it at a great price in some places, you’ll just get better capabilities with something like the R50 above that has a faster shutter speed and better image quality.

So it’s not a bad camera (if you already have one) but just not something I would recommend investing in now.

Why You Should Trust Me

I’ve been a professional photographer for about a decade and have had the opportunity to try a wide variety of cameras and lenses and shoot a lot of different genres of photography. I also speak to experts that shoot sports all the time to help determine what to look for in these cameras.

Top Factors For Choosing A Canon Camera For Sports Photography

After shooting local sports for a few years, here are the top features and specifications I would look for in a camera to shoot sports.

Autofocus System

The most difficult thing about shooting sports at any level is getting the right thing in focus at the right time. The faster and more accurate your autofocus system is, the better your results will be.

The latest mirrorless cameras have really taken a huge leap forward in autofocus technology in recent years. Because they use the sensor itself to acquire focus, mirrorless cameras can have far more coverage across the frame than DSLRs. They also use contrast detection which tends to be more accurate and doesn’t require tuning like DSLRs.

Mirrorless cameras have also begun to employ smart algorithms that let your camera do things like detecting the eyes of your subject with often impressive accuracy and speed. This can be very helpful for shooting sports because the goal is often to get the eyes of the player in focus.

Most of the the Canon mirrorless cameras have excellent AF systems including something called eye autofocus which does a really great job at finding the eyes of a person (even a fast moving athlete) and locking onto them. Even if the sport involves helmets, these cameras will lock onto the helmets and even get the eyes inside the helmet in focus on some angles.

This is one of the main reasons why I recommend the mirrorless cameras above as my top picks for sports.

Continuous Shooting Speed

Continuous shooting speed is important while shooting sports. You still have to time it so that you press the shutter at the peak of action, but the ability to shoot 10 or more frames per second will improve your chances of capturing the perfect moment.

But don’t rely on this too heavily. Developing the skill of capturing the perfect moment is important for shooting sports too.

Another factor that goes hand in hand with continuous shooting is buffer size. This is the number of photos you can shoot continuously before your camera needs a break to write the files to your card.

Cameras with faster processors and those that use faster cards like CFexpress are going to have larger buffers and let you shoot at high speeds longer.

Dynamic Range and Low Light Performance

You might associate dynamic range and low light performance with other types of photography, but once you start shooting sports in varied situations, you’ll realize how important it is to have a good sensor…here’s why.

Dynamic range is the ability to capture bright areas and dark areas in the same shot. Often, sporting events take place outside in direct sunlight, which means very bright spots and harsh shadows. If your camera sensor has a good dynamic range, you can recover these extremes when editing the photos after the game.

Another common situation sports photographers encounter is low light. You might think that your local high school gym is bright, but if you want to shoot at high shutter speeds, those gym lights often are not bright enough.

That means using higher ISO settings in order to use fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the action. The better your camera can handle these high ISO settings, the better your images will turn out.

Ergonomics and Usability

Sports move fast, so you’ll want a camera that handles well and allows you to change settings fast and accurately in order to get the best results.

Canon has a long history of making cameras for professional sports photographers. So even their less expensive models benefit from that history

Even the new, smaller mirrorless cameras are made with ergonomics in mind. So rest assured that every camera on this list is going to be easy to use.

Lens Selection

You have to consider the lens lineup that will work with the camera that you choose. Canon has a massive lineup of EF mount lenses at all focal lengths and price ranges for it’s DSLRs.

But the lens lineup for Canon R mount mirrorless cameras isn’t quite as good as the Nikon Z or Sony lineups. However they’re slowly catching up and you can still use an adapter to use all of the old Canon glass, which means a massive range of options (many of which you can find used at great prices).

Ruggedness and Durability

Sports photographers tend to put their cameras through some tough use. You may find yourself shooting in the rain, snow, wind, heat, and other tough weather. You’ll also be moving around a lot and often be quite rough on your camera.

Canon cameras, especially the ones on this list, are built quite well in terms of ruggedness. They are all weather-sealed to some degree and can survive normal bumps and heavy use.

DSLR or Mirrorless For Sports Photography?

In general, modern mirrorless cameras are going to be better for shooting sports photography. The new and quite impressive autofocus systems in mirrorless cameras are often going to give you better results than DSLRs.

DSLRs will eventually become outdated so it is a smart decision to invest in one of the mirrorless systems if you are buying a camera today.

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