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1. Panasonic G85
A versatile and rugged 4K mirrorless camera that’s more affordable than the Fujifilm X-T4Check price on Amazon
Another mirrorless camera to make the list, the Panasonic G85 is one of the cheaper mirrorless bodies capable of capturing 4K/30p, 100 Mbps footage. Being a mirrorless camera, its Four Thirds sensor provides superior image quality and low-light shooting performance compared to something you’d find on a camcorder, smartphone or action camera.
The G85 is considered one of the best budget mirrorless cameras for video among amateur filmmakers. It won’t make much financial sense to purchase one for the sake of recording sports clips to share on your Facebook feed, but those filming sports events or aspiring YouTubers will appreciate the leap in video quality.
Two things that make the G85 particularly stand out as a sports video camera is its stabilization and rugged enclosure. Panasonic added an in-body gyro sensor to provide 5-axis body stabilization that reduces camera shake. The weather sealed splashproof and dustproof body mean it can withstand the elements when filming outdoors.
Overall, this is a great choice if the aforementioned Fujifilm XT-4 is outside your budget. The Fujifilm has a larger APS-C type sensor, which does give it a slight edge, but the G85 is still a very capable piece of equipment with arguably more refined image stabilization–something Panasonic have really perfected over their long history as a mirrorless camera technology pioneer.
2. Sony A6600
A YouTuber favorite with great autofocus and IBISCheck price on Amazon
Sony has been quite dominant in the mirrorless camera market for years and it is only recently that DSLR giants Canon and Nikon have entered the market to try and get a tasty slice of the market share.
The Sony A6600 is one of their best-selling APS-C sensor mirrorless cameras, meaning the sensor is the same size as that of the Fujifilm XT-4. It’s probably the best Sony offering in this category (although it is also worth considering the lower end A6400 model). To reiterate, the APS-C sensor is bigger than the micro four thirds standard adopted by Panasonic and Olympus, which yields various advantages when it comes to image quality.
Like the Panasonic G85, the A6600 is also capable of filming crisp 4K/30p footage. However, where the A6600 really shines is its ultra-fast autofocus capability. This makes it especially adept at filming fast moving scenes where the primary subject is constantly changing. Think about when you’re switching to a different soccer player who just received the ball—the last thing you want is a blurry figure until the camera correctly autofocuses. The A6600 will make sure that doesn’t happen.
For those serious about buying a mirrorless camera for recording sports and also fancy themselves as a sports photographer, this is definitely a fantastic choice. This was my go-to mirrorless recommendation a couple of years ago, but the newer Fujifilm XT-4 has taken its place now, which I attribute mainly to the XT-4’s superior ergonomics and 10-bit capability. However, the A6600 does have some advantages (longer battery life, slightly better autofocus system) so it’s not a black and white situation.
3. iPhone 13 Pro Max
The best camera you’ll find on a smartphoneCheck price on Amazon
It might seem strange to see a smartphone make the list but the reality is smartphone cameras have become truly viable pieces of recording equipment. The iPhone hasn’t changed that much over the years, but with each iteration, you can count on the camera being better than ever.
While Android manufacturers like Samsung and Huawei boast impressive camera specs on paper, in practice the iPhone cameras have consistently produced the best results, with natural colors and superior depth of field.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max costs an arm and a leg, but it is easily the best phone for recording video on the market right now. The fact that it has an ultra-wide angle lens (13mm, f/1.8), standard lens (26mm, f/1.5) and 2x telephoto lens (77mm, max aperture of f/2.8) is pretty crazy, but will surely set the trend for upcoming flagship phones. It also features sensor-shift stabilization technology, which means it produces impressively smooth video without the need for a gimbal.
It’s capable of shooting 4K@60fps footage with video quality that is superior to the likes of the GoPro Hero10 and can shoot using the all-new 4K@24fps Apple ProRes footage.
Sports Video Camera Buying Tips
Frames Per Second VS 4K Resolution
When it comes to recording sports, 60fps better captures the motion and makes everything appear more fluid. 30fps is perfectly acceptable (it is what you see when you watch live sporting broadcasts on TV) but 60 fps also has the advantage of allowing you to produce slicker slow-motion effects in post-processing.
Right now, even high end cameras and camcorders do not offer 4K at 60fps. The latest GoPros and iPhone can do it but no one is claiming they are better cameras than the Sony FDR-AX53 4K camcorder, for example.
So given that, in most cases you’re going to end up choosing between 1080p@60fps or 4K@30fps. I’d recommend 1080p@60fps for shooting sports, because a higher frame rate is more important than image quality. If you’re planning to publish video to video platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, you should upscale the 1080p source to 4K beforehand as it provides numerous image quality benefits.
How Can I Livestream The Action?
These days it’s becoming quite popular to live stream events. This could be to your family who couldn’t make that unmissable little league game or your audience who want to watch you play a pick-up game of basketball.
Unfortunately, trying to live stream the action will add a new layer of complexity. Not only do you have to worry about the internet bandwidth and the battery drain, but also the fact that you need to process the camera feed into a compressed, streamable format.
An iPhone or Android, as well as GoPro action cam, can do this natively – just don’t expect amazing footage. This is because they feature a lot of processing power inside that can be used to convert footage to a streamable format such as the RMTP format.
The DJI Pocket 2 can live stream, but you’ll need to purchase the Pocket 2 Do-It-All handle to unlock this feature.
With other systems it’s a bit more hit and miss. High-end cameras usually require another piece of expensive equipment to make it all possible.
Do I Need An Action Camera?
By design, action cameras like the GoPro are perfect when the cameraperson isn’t simply filming from the sidelines. They can be worn or be attached to the end of a monopod, be controlled using voice controls and take a good beating.
Standard cameras simply don’t offer that flexibility. If the GoPro is out of your budget, check out my recommended under $100 action cameras.
However, if you are filming from the sidelines, a GoPro or similar action camera is a needlessly expensive option. A good phone camera will do the job just as well, while a mirrorless camera or quality camcorder will produce better looking videos.
- Basketball/Volleyball/Hockey – Indoor sports all have one thing in common: low-light. The larger sensor found in a mirrorless camera or DSLR camera delivers better low light performance and will help when filming in those often dimly-lit sports halls.
- Swimming/Water Polo – In addition to being indoors, there is a small risk of getting equipment wet if you’re near the action. Keep a lookout for ‘splashproof’ or ‘weather-sealed’ cameras (most cameras are).
- Golf – This isn’t any different to filming any other sport, but if you want to follow the ball fly across the sky like they do on TV, you’ll need some special equipment and camera operating skills.
- Baseball/Football/Soccer – These outdoor sports present optimal recording conditions, but if you’re recording from the stands you’ll want a camcorder with a high optical zoom or a mirrorless camera with a zoom lens.