best professional video camera for sports

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Despite all the technological advances that can be found in shiny new cameras the Canon 6D is still a great camera best video camera to record soccer games,best camcorder for sports 2020. And just because other cameras have advanced significantly since 2012 this does not automatically make the Canon 6D over the hill, past its sell by date, irrelevant or obsolete.

As with all of the Ultimate Guides I create, I have poured countless hours of research into this article to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision.

I have seen way too many camera articles that either don’t cover everything you need to know or they’re not updated frequently. Camera technology changes quickly, so to have the best information, you need the most updated information.

In my opinion, to truly understand what makes a good video camera, you need to have used them day in and day out in a variety of different situations.

I’ve been a professional filmmaker and photographer since 2018 and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Alaska Airlines, Kayak.com, Prague Tourism, Visa, Airbnb, and many more. If you’re curious to see the full list of companies we’ve worked with, just head over to our Work With Us page.

Additionally, growing up I played any sport I could get my hands on and even played baseball in college so I have an inside understanding of the different situations you could find yourself in while recording a sporting event.

From these experiences, I think I’m in a good position to help you find the perfect camera for whatever sport you will be filming.

  1. Sony a6600

The first camera in this article is the mirrorless a6600, an APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C). First things first, we have UHD 4k at 30fps and 1080p at a very useful 120fps. We have no time limit for recording, so your footage is really only limited by the memory card capacity you have.

On the subject of battery, we have a very handy 2280 mAh battery, which is a step up from the frankly poor offering in the a6600 with its 1080 mAh battery. To accommodate the larger battery, the overall thickness of the grip is also larger now which gives it better ergonomics compared to the a6600.

It also has the space for an extra custom button next to the menu button and a flip, touch screen for shooting in those awkward places.

It means the weather-sealed alloy body is comfortable and easy to shoot with. Even with longer lenses, it doesn’t feel as unbalanced as some other mirrorless cameras can.

The ISO range is 100 to 32,000 and is extendable to 50-102,400, which, when paired with the five-axis, in-camera stabilization (up to 5-stop), makes it perform very well in low-light.

When shooting in low-light situations, I find that autofocus on other cameras can sometimes hunt excessively or lose the target.

However, with the Sony a6600’s phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus system, it allows for crisp low-light performance and lock and tracking of moving subjects. These are both especially important for capturing a wide range of sports.

PROS:

Improved battery life over the a6400.
Better ergonomics.
Great low-light performance.
Faster and more accurate autofocus with real-time tracking and eye autofocus when shooting video.
No limit on record time.
Addition of a headphone output so you can monitor the sound easier.
Has 5-axis in-body image stabilization which is equivalent to a 5 stop faster shutter speed.

CONS:

It still records in 8-bit which is not as good as the 10-bit you can record at on the Panasonic GH5, Panasonic S5, and Fuji X-T4.
There is an additional crop when shooting in 4K (~1.05x in 24 FPS and ~1.2x in 30 FPS).
It still has a rolling shutter issue.

  1. Sony a6400
    sony-a6500-with-zeiss-16-70-f4
    If you like what you see with the Sony a6600 or Sony a7III, but want to save a considerable amount of money, the Sony a6400 could be a good choice depending on how you plan to use it. The two biggest downsides with this camera when compared to the a6600 and the a7III is much shorter battery life and the lack of built-in image stabilization.

Let’s take a closer look at the battery life difference as I think it’s important to point out for a dedicated sports camera.

The Sony a6400 uses the Sony NP-FW50 battery. Based on my experience you should be able to get just over an hour of continuous 4k video shooting with this battery. On the other hand, the Sony NP-FV100 which the Sony a6600 and Sony a7III use is a larger battery and will double your battery life.

Both batteries will work, but for some of you, having a longer battery life will make it much easier and more convenient to focus on recording the game.

If you can get over these two big negatives, the Sony a6400 is an awesome camera. It uses the same sensor as the more expensive Sony a6600, so you’ll get the same image quality and incredible autofocus features using the classic Sony combination of 425 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points.

The a6400 also features the improved addition of real-time autofocus tracking in video mode, which will help you focus on the player you want to.

On the video side, it also has the same 4k and 1080p frame rates that you’ll find in the Sony a6600 and Sony a7III. It can shoot in 4k at up to 30 FPS (frames per second) and up to 120 FPS in 1080p. The best part is that it doesn’t have the 30-minute 4k recording limit which you’ll find on the Sony a7III

Overall, if you don’t care about switching batteries during the game and plan to use a tripod, the Sony a6400 could be a great fit.

PROS:

Great value camera at a reasonable price point.
Good selection of 4k and 1080p frame rates including up to 120 FPS (frames per second) in case you want to capture slow-motion footage.
Uses the same sensor as the more expensive Sony a6600 so you’ll get the same image quality and autofocus performance.
Excellent autofocus with the 425 phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus points that cover most of the frame. Also, get real-time tracking when shooting video.
No 4k recording limit.
CONS:

No built-in image stabilization versus the 5-axis image stabilization in the Sony a6600 and Sony a7III.
There is an additional crop when shooting in 4K (~1.05x in 24 FPS and ~1.2x in 30 FPS)
Still uses the Sony NP-FW50 battery which doesn’t give you the best battery life.

  1. Sony a7 III
    photo of black sony camera held in hand
    Notes From The Field: Sony recently released of the Sony a7C. The camera is a more compact and simplified version of the Sony a7 III and comes with nearly identical technical specs as the Sony a7 III. There are a few upgrades including better color science, a fully articulating flip out screen, and no 4k recording limit. On the other hand, there are some negatives with the Sony a7C to keep in mind too including lack of dual card slots, less customizable buttons, no joystick to move the autofocus point, and it may be harder to hold if you have bigger hands. Additionally, the current list price puts it only slightly cheaper than the a7III. With that said, if you like what you see with the Sony a7 III, and would benefit from no 4k recording limit and a fully articulating screen, it may be worth looking into the Sony a7C.

This Sony A7 III is a full-frame mirrorless camera that packs an impressive punch. The step-up in quality when compared to the Sony a6600 and Sony a6400 is easy to see.

The full-frame sensor provides, better depth of field (DOF), low-light performance (the sensor is x2.5 bigger than the Sony a6400 and Sony a6600, meaning larger and more sensitive pixels), and wider dynamic range.

So, aside from these more obvious differences, what else does the A7 III offer above and beyond the Sony a6400 and a6600?

First, let’s dig a little deeper into the improved autofocus and low-light performance. The Sony a7 III has an excellent standard ISO range of 100 – 51,200 versus 100 – 32,000 on the Sony a6600.

The contrast-detection and phase-detection autofocus have been improved to 425/693 points spread across the sensor, which cover 93% of the frame. This is compared to the 84% of coverage on the Sony a6600. If you want to capture fast-moving sports, in low-light, then this is tailor-made for you.

The impressive 5-axis in-body image stabilization in the a6600 is also in this camera which will allow you to shoot smoother footage at longer focal lengths.

Honestly, I did have to work hard to find any negatives with this camera performance-wise. Out of everything, I would have to say the 30 minutes recording limit is the biggest let-down.

This would be enough for many shooting scenarios but it might be difficult if you want to continuously shoot a sporting event.

The second issue isn’t related to the camera specs itself but seems so avoidable. An external battery charger is not included, which is a pretty big bummer considering the camera is at the higher end in our price range.

PROS:

Very excellent low-light performance.
Improved battery life over the Sony a6400 and has the same battery as the Sony a6600.
Impressive autofocus that is inherited from Sony’s top of the line Sony a9.
Dual media card slots. This means you can simultaneously record to two different SD cards providing a backup to your footage or you can use it for extra memory capacity.
Bigger body, more customizable buttons, and a joystick to move the focus which all lead to better handling.
CONS:

An external battery charger is not supplied.
30 minutes recording limit.

  1. Panasonic S5

The Panasonic S5 is the newest full-frame camera from Panasonic that takes all the goodness from the Panasonic GH5 which made it so popular with video shooters and makes it even better in all aspects.

At its current price point (which is at about the same level as the Sony a7III), you get a much better value when considering its video and slow-motion video capabilities. These extra frame rate choices can be nice to have especially if you want to capture high-quality slow-motion footage.

Most importantly the autofocus system in the S5 is the newest and best offering from Panasonic to date and is better than what you find in the Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic G9. With that said, it’s depth from defocus autofocus system is still not as good as the Sony autofocus system. This is unfortunate as autofocus performance is one of the most important features when it comes to shooting sports.

For the video specs, you’re able to shoot in 4K UHD at up to 60 FPS in 10 bit (4k UHD 10 bit 4:2:2 if shooting up to 30 FPS) and in Full HD at up to 180 FPS in 10 bit as well. Just to give you a quick comparison, the Sony a7III can only shoot in 4k at up to 30 FPS in 8 bit and in 1080p up to 120 FPS in 8 bit as well.

Also, If you ever want the flexibility to output your video to an external recorder for the highest quality video codecs possible you also have the option too. For example, if you record externally, the S5 can shoot at an unreal RAW 5.9k in 12 bit 4:2:2 at up to 30 FPS. Of course, this would take more memory and you would have to edit the video footage before being able to use it.

Similar to the other Panasonic cameras, you also get a fully articulating screen that is crisp and clear even in daylight conditions, and the S5 also has of the best IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) systems that you will find.

It’s unfortunate that there is a record limit when shooting in 4K at 60 FPS or if you want to shoot 4K in 10-bit bit depth, but the video features that you find in this camera are hard to compete with at its price point.

PROS:

You have the flexibility to shoot at a wide range of high-quality video frame rates such as 4K UHD up to 60 FPS and 1080p up to 180 FPS.
There is no record limit when you’re shooting in 4K with an 8-bit bit depth.
The S5 is a full-frame camera which means it has better low light performance and you have more flexibility when cropping in (for example the camera has an APS-C size crop when shooting in 4k 60 FPS.
Very good IBIS system.
You have the ability to record in 4k 10-bit 4:2:2 which will give you better video quality than the 8-bit codec found in other cameras such as the Sony a7III.
Has Panasonic’s newest autofocus offering and is improved when compared to the GH5 or G9.
Impressive ergonomics with a bunch of customizable buttons and a joystick-like the Sony a7III
A flip touch screen that fully articulates in all directions that is similar to the Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic G9.
Dual media card slots. This means you can simultaneously record to two different SD cards providing a backup to your footage or you can use it for extra memory capacity.
Very good value at its current price point considering all of its video-specific features.
CONS:

Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) autofocus system still doesn’t work as well as the contrast-detect and phase-detect autofocus system on the Sony a7III.

  1. Panasonic GH5
    photo of black panasonic camera with white background
    Panasonic’s GH5 is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds that is the biggest competitor to the Sony a7 III in this article and is jam-packed full of video features.

It shoots 4k up to 60 FPS and 1080p at 180 FPS which blows the Sony a7 III away. You also have the ability to record the 4k footage in 10-bit 4:2:2 either internally or externally which is crazy considering the price point it’s at.

When shooting outdoors in the daytime, the flip touch screen is easy to use and is crisp and clear, no matter how bright the conditions were. The best part is that the screen fully articulates so it makes it easy to shoot with it at any angle.

HOWEVER, the low-light ability and autofocus on the Panasonic GH5 are not as good as the contrast-detect and phase-detect system on the Sony A7 III.

This is probably the biggest downside of the camera especially when low-light ability and autofocus are two of the most important features to have when shooting sports.

PROS:

The image quality is one of the best and you can shoot at crazy flexible high-resolution frame rates like 60 FPS at 4k and 180 FPS in 1080p.
You can record in high-quality 10-bit 4:2:2 which will give you increased flexibility in post-production.
Impressive ergonomics with a bunch of customizable buttons and a joystick-like the Sony a7 III
A flip touch screen that fully articulates in all directions. The only other camera in this article with a fully articulating touch screen is the Panasonic Lumix G9.
Dual media card slots. This means you can simultaneously record to two different SD cards providing a backup to your footage or you can use it for extra memory capacity.
Good value as range of features would be expected on a much more expensive camera.
CONS:

Low-light performance is not as good as the Sony A7 III.
Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) autofocus system does not work as well as the contrast-detect and phase-detect autofocus system on the Sony a7 III.
It is a Micro Four Thirds sensor versus the APS-C sensor on the Sony a6400, Sony a6600, and Fujifilm X-T4 and the full-frame sensor on the Sony a7 III and Canon EOS R.

you have a sport you’re looking for that isn’t in this list (we didn’t exclude them on purpose, but may have merely overseen the inclusion), let us know in the comments or shoot us an e-mail and we’ll be happy to help!

Nikon D3300

One of the best video camera for most sports

Recommended sports: Most sports (indoor\outdoor)

The Nikon D3300 has appeared in way too many ‘best-of guides’ to count (even ours, such as the best DSLR camera under $500). With that being said, we’d recommend it for just about any sport without getting into too much detail for necessities. It is extremely affordable (unless you want some different lenses or accessories, keep that in mind), has a great environment adaptation abilities (whether you’re indoors or outdoors), films in 1080p HD quality, and possesses a 24.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor (feasible quality for most applications, even semi-pro) if you want to take some pictures while you’re at it.

The only thing that may get in the way is holding it steadily for sports that will require you to survey the court\field\playing area (for that, a camcorder may be easier to use for you since you can strap it to your hand — check out our next pick for that). That’s why we’d recommend this for all sports that you can set it on a tripod to keep stationary, unless you trust your hands to either hold the tripod to see the game\practice or just the camera itself. The zoom is also great for those trying to snatch up smaller balls within the clip (golf, hockey), which is why we list the Nikon D3300 as the best video camera for filming (most) sports in the world today.

Sony Alpha a6000

One of the best mirrorless cameras for filming sports in HD

Recommended sports: Most sports (preferably faster-paced games and practices)

The amazing mirrorless cameras are quietly taking a step over a lot of DSLR models when it comes to affordability and quality. There are some out there who argue the mirrorless camera internal system is better quality than a DSLR, but we’ll leave that debate up to you. To review the specs and features, here’s what you’ll be getting for its middle price-point (as compared to other video cameras in here): 24 megapixels, amazing autofocus (that’s why it’s so good for sports, especially fast-paced athletics), and great adaptability to your environment since it has phase and contrast detection within the autofocus mechanism.

If you have the money, this thing is amazing. As stated previously, it’s great for sports that will need to capture quickly moving individuals and teams, but any application will do this beast. CNet’s Alpha A6000 review thought it was solid for the price. Also be sure to keep in mind the costs for lenses if you plan on grabbing a few for differentiating the picture; otherwise, the body of the Sony Alpha a6000 will do fine with most applications unless you’re going pro with your videos.

Canon VIXIA HF R700

One of the best camcorders for filming sports videos

Recommended sports: Popular outdoor sports (basketball, baseball, football, lacrosse)\filming from a distance

The Vixia HF R700 is one of the best camcorders for filming sports, especially if you’ll need to go back and forth, zoom in-and-out on the fly, and seek for some outdoor-tailored lighting preferences. It’s also super cheap if you’re comparing it to some other heavy-hitters in the video camera for sports world. It has a nice compact size to help if you’re traveling from game to game and practices, has wonderful zoom functions with 57x, great for long-range if you’re sitting far away from the sport you’re watching (golf, soccer, or merely any sport in a larger stadium), and offers Full 1080p HD video quality.

There’s not much to miss with this one — it’s budget-friendly and offers the necessities you’ll need for most sports you come into contact with. It also has some image stabilization built-in to it which helped us put this in our list (since that’s basically a need for any sport). It helps correct those pesky shakes that may happen while you film (nobody is perfect!).

The only downside is that it isn’t a DSLR, which is what many people prefer regardless of sport (since it’s the most popular type of camera and allows you to take high-quality pictures which many do while filming sports). Don’t get us wrong, you can take pictures with this one too (it has that feature), but the Canon VIXIA HF R700 isn’t anywhere near DSLR camera quality.

GoPro HERO Cameras

A nice point-of-view action camera for filming sports

Recommended sports: Extreme and water\winter sports, night and dark sports

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of GoPro! We’re not trying to shame you here if you haven’t (if so, we’re glad to help show you what these things are), but we’re trying to prove a point that this is one of the most popular video cameras out there, especially for filming sports (and more particularly, extreme winter, motocross, most outdoor, and water sports). Even more so, if you’ve ever seen those GoPro videos, we recommend it only for those who want a point-of-view camera angle (if you’re going to film others in a sport with it, we’d really just stick with the previous two choices).

In terms of specs and features, the current HERO has a few options, and we’d recommend going with Silver or Black. To highlight one of them, here’s some of the Silver’s numbers and features: it’s waterproof, captures 4K\30, 1080p\240 video clips, grabs relatively higher megapixel photos than other action cams (in case you want photos, too), can sync with your phone, has built-in touch display and video trimming, and amazing settings for dark and night-time environments.

If either of the GoPro Hero models are too expensive, don’t forget they also have even cheaper, more affordable options, such as the ‘regular’ GoPro HERO (very budget-friendly but packed with the essential features and of course, 1080p HD video quality). You can also try to find an older model that may be priced at a discount now that they’re out of date. Lastly, be sure to factor into your budget the specific mounts and accessories you’ll need to purchase separately if you end up going this route.

Olympus TG-4

A solid point and shoot waterproof camera for filming sports

Recommended sports: Water and outdoor sports (baseball, football, volleyball, lacrosse)\more extreme environments

Here’s a point-and-shoot camera that’s highly rated by many, especially those who aren’t just sitting on a bench indoors or at a local park. It has some impressive features, particularly when it comes to its build and stability: waterproof (up to 50 feet), shockproof (up to 7 feet), crush-proof (up to 220 lbf.), and freeze-proof (down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit\minus 10 degrees Celsius).

Aside from that, you’re also getting 1080p HD video quality, a 16 megapixel live MOS sensor for great quality photos, super macro modes, built-in Wi-Fi, RAW capture (it doesn’t compress clips which at times makes them lose quality), and a great high-speed F2.0 wide angle lens to capture the field\court\playing area in front of you.

The Olympus TG-4 is perfect for outdoors and other applications where weather conditions may come into play when competing or practicing. It’s recommend for those who didn’t want a point-of-view camera in a GoPro and preferred to film others in a similar environment. DPReview’s TG-4 review rated it highly.

Canon EOS Rebel T5

Another one of the best DSLR cameras for filming sports

Recommended sports: Most sports

If the recommended Nikon DSLR camera wasn’t good enough for you, here’s another wonderful model to take a look at within this camera type class. It has some solid specs for the price: a 3.0″ LCD screen, 18.0 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) image sensor, their awesome DIGIC 4 Image Processor (great quality for video clips), and of course 1080p HD resolution.

It already comes with a lens so you’re good to go in terms of additional gear besides perhaps a tripod or case. Although we really do recommend the D3300 for a budget-friendly DSLR video camera for sports, the Canon EOS Rebel T5 is also a great pick since it’s rated so highly by many. If you do want to invest some more money on a camera (we don’t blame you), continue reading on for a mirrorless camera recommendation or a higher-quality DSLR you may take a liking to.

Olympus OM-D E-M10

Another one of the best video cameras for filming sports by Olympus

Recommended sports: Most sports\faster paced

This camera has some great features , not to mention the look is awesome (that’s important too, right?). Besides that, you’re attaining a very high-quality image stabilization feature (3-axis in-body), 16 megapixels (live MOS image sensor), an interactive electronic viewfinder, touch AF and shutter, 8 fps sequential shooting and of course, built-in Wi-Fi (like most video cameras these days). To help with the faster paced sports, it pairs with the described image stabilization tech with a great autofocus feature (81 areas selectable) as well.

For a plus, and this really depends on your personal style if you like to have fun with your clips and photos, it has 12 unique art filters you can apply to what you capture. If you have the money, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 is a wise investment that will last you years if you take care of it, especially if you plan on filming fast-moving bodies in sports like hockey, basketball and more. In Endgadget’s OM-D E-M10 review, they gave it a 90 out of 100 in their global rating.

Canon PowerShot SX720 HS

One of the best point-and-shoot video cameras for the money

Recommended sports: Most outdoor sports\faster paced

Here’s another highly affordable point-and-shoot video camera you may like. It really is one of the highest quality P.A.S. cameras we could find, especially for sports. This is due to the 40x optical zoom, 20.3 megapixel camera, CMOS sensor and DIGIC 6 image processor (high quality videos), 1080p HD (of course), built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, as well as the convenient pocket-size to help with traveling or keeping it safe when you aren’t using it (you’d be surprised at how much this helps when walking to the game or practice, as well as getting ready to leave so you don’t misplace it).

It also has this cool feature we liked for some of you filming sports: a mini highlight reel compiling function (add some music and effects as well). You can then upload it all by uploading it wirelessly to another device. It’s relatively affordable as well, not to mention there’s a feature called “Zoom Framing Assist” that makes the camera automatically zoom in and out when following your subject(s) — the Canon PowerShot SX720 HS is especially great for sports where there’s a lot of movement at one time.

Canon EOS 70D

A professional-grade DSLR video camera for sports

Recommended sports: Most sports

Now we’re starting to get into the higher price ranges, as well as different options for previously recommended video camera types for filming your sports in HD. This particular DSLR video camera is monstrous if you have the cash. In terms of which sports it is best for, it remains to correlate with the other DSLR’s in here but it gives you a step up when it comes to overall video quality and additional features you may like when it comes to luxury.

You’re basically getting higher numbers when it comes to the essential features of a DSLR: 20.2 megapixels (CMOS APS-C sensor), dual pixel CMOS autoview finder (great quality autofocus), a 3.0″ LCD screen, DIGIC 5+ image processor (can support continuous shooting up to 7.0 frames per second), an extended ISO range than other cameras (100 to 12800) (some fancy terminology, right? this is basically some of the best lighting condition adaptability out there for the price), and dual-layer metering (63 zones).

There are definitely some terms here that you may not understand, and if that’s so, you’ll either have to learn to use the Canon EOS 70D to its fullest capability or you can merely buy it for the amazing video quality, autofocus and additional features that help with filming sports (like HDR for pictures, back-light control, multiple exposure, creative filters, and night-time specialty functions).

Sony NEX-VG30H

A hefty price but one of the best pro-grade cameras out there

Recommended sports: Semi-pro and professional sports (most)\faster paced athletics regardless of lighting

Now we’re talking some professional-quality videos of sports here. Although it looks like what the pros film with, it’s still relatively affordable if you were int he market for something above a thousand dollars or two and didn’t want a top-of-the-line DSLR camera. This one is also especially great for filming fast paced sports that you’ll need to move back and forth. This is so not only because of the great autofocus and image stabilization the NEX-VG30H has, but because it sets on your shoulder to help for a smoother transition when surveyed what’s in front of you. It’s known for giving the video clips (and audio) a cinematic feel.

Aside from that factor to take into consideration if you’re thinking of buying this video camera, it also has some very impressive specs\features: it has an interchangeable lens to give you options (more advanced users prefer this of course), possesses an Exmor R CMOS sensor, power zoom, 5.1ch surround sound recording (if you were concerned with capturing the audio of your sports as well), and the capacity for up to 60p frame rates (blows a lot of the lower priced video cameras in here out of the water since this is a big determinant when comparing 1080p).

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