For beginners, it can seem like an impossible task to know which of the best cameras to invest in. First, work out what sort of shots you want to take. Are you someone who yearns to spend every Saturday on the sidelines, or Sundays in the pit-lane? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of making your sporting passion a professional gig, but don’t have a clue where to start. Luckily, we’re here to tell you that the journey of a thousand miles really does start with a single step, and it doesn’t have to include an expensive state-of-the-art full-frame camera either.
We’re kicking off our list with three cameras that boast a very attractive price point, and come with a particular set of skills. Whether it’s a rapid continuous shooting speed to capture those split-second moments, or a complex AF system with tracking abilities that are stickier than treacle on super glue, we’ve got you covered.
Each of our great choices are compact enough to slip past suspicious security, and include at least a 1.5x crop sensor, effectively making your focal length even longer.
Best budget cameras for action shots 2021
Olympus’ travel-friendly 16.1MP Micro Four Thirds may seem unassuming at first glance, but it carries with it some excellent benefits that make it more than capable of capturing the action. Firstly, the 16MP Live MOS sensor boasts a 2x crop factor, which means any lens you fit will automatically be twice as long as its advertised focal length. So 300mm lenses will actually return a 600mm effective focal length, allowing you to get up close to the action without spending thousands of pounds on glass.
Of course, being closer doesn’t guarantee you’ll capture the action as it happens. You’ll also find a rapid 8.6fps continuous shooting speed, allowing you to rattle off 22 frames of RAWs, maximising your ability to capture split-second moments.
Finally, the built-in 5-axis image stabilisation is ideal to allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds, or handheld at longer focal lengths, without introducing camera shake – perfect for standing at the sidelines in the midst of winter and combating the uncontrollable shivering.
Battery: 330 shots
Card type: SD/SDXC/SDHC
AF: 121-point contrast detect
This may sound like a pricey investment at first, but once you learn it comes with a fixed lens that boasts an equivalent focal length of 24-480mm, it sounds far more appealing. Thanks to the 20.1MP 1in sensor and rather wide f/2.8-4.5 aperture, this optic may well be all you ever need to take great action shots. The wider aperture also means it’s ideal for shooting when light levels drop, while 480mm is great for picking out action. Plus, you’ll never have to splash out on extra lenses.
One feature that Panasonic is renowned for is its 4K Photo, and especially its Burst mode. Not only can you shoot natively at a meaty 7fps, you can also rattle out a 4K video clip and export a single still as an 8MP image. You can even use the 4K Pre-Burst that starts recording as soon as you half-press the shutter button, allowing you to pick out your still frame from up to two whole seconds before you take the shot. This is ideally suited to capturing that must-have enviable photograph that those poor pros work tirelessly for. You can’t beat working smarter!
Battery: 350 shots
Card type: SD/SDXC/SDHC
AF: 49-point contrast detect
3. SONY A6400
Definitely the priciest in our action category, the latest APS-C from Sony is also the most technologically advanced. It includes features found in the company’s flagship action shooter, the 9, and comes with one of, if not the most solid AF system on the APS-C market. The inclusion of real-time tracking makes following your subject easier than ever, and the 11fps continuous shooting speed means you’re almost guaranteed to capture split-second moments as they happen.
A 24.2MP sensor helps create brilliant shots, with a solid dynamic range and colour reproduction, and the 425-point phase-detect AF system also features Eye AF – ideal for pinpointing any rapid athletes. The ISO ranges from 100-32,000, which allows you to work longer into dusk while maintaining fast enough shutter speeds.
Glass with longer focal lengths can become very pricey very quickly, though the latest 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 is excellent. You can also look at a converter, such as the Sigma MC11, and use your existing Canon-fit optics.
Battery: 360 shots
Card type: SD/SDXC/SDHC
AF: 425-point phase detect
How we tested the cameras:
Despite featuring three different sensor sizes, we ensured that each camera was capable of capturing great shots in their given genres, including dealing with higher ISO, and producing pleasing colours.
Functionality and use
We divided our camera recommendations into separate categories, and based our rankings on each camera’s genre-specific abilities. So, for portraits the Eye AF was a major bonus, while dynamic range helped in landscape shooting, and speed in action photography.
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