When it comes to filming sports, which video camera or camcorder you need to buy can be a bit tricky. Although a few factors are important such as your budget and need for accessories, the specific types of sport(s) you foresee yourself needing to film in will determine which video camera is best as well. Will you be indoors or outdoors? You may need a light-sensitive camera. Is the sports fast-paced? You want to make you sure you have a model that offers auto-focus (and great quality at that). Will you be sitting from afar? Make sure you get some great zoom technology. We list these out in a bit more depth and give our favorite video camera picks below.
Table of Contents
Choosing the Best Video Camera for Filming Sports
- Your overall budget – This is the obvious most important factor when shopping for any piece of electronic that is considered an investment. When it comes to video cameras, there is a broad range (to our advantage) to give us numerous options that fit right where we want them. For those wanting to be go big, there are some high-end options out there that will bring you beautiful quality clips. For others with lower budgets, there are still viable options out there that we’ve found.
- Video Resolution – 1080p is an absolute must, especially nowadays as 4K video resolution becomes more popular and affordable (it still isn’t the standard, though). We don’t recommend going any lower.
- Which sport(s)? Although we review the video cameras in more detail below, here’s a list of our immediate picks based on popular sports. Keep in mind these are for those looking for an exact answer. A lot of these cameras can overlap many different sports (such as DSLR’s being great for pretty much anything besides extreme sports — but do keep in mind they only allow for 30 minutes of filming at a time and you’ll have to press record again). If the price range isn’t what you were hoping for and want something either a bit cheaper or merely different type, continue reading on or click here to jump to our list of 10.
- Baseball – This is one of the most least stressful sports to film since you’ll most likely be stationary a lot of the time (but probably needing to zoom in and out here and there). Grabbing most of the cameras below will suffice, but if you wanted our top pick, we like the Canon EOS Rebel T5 matched up with a solid tripod since it has great optical zoom.
- Basketball – This sport is pretty uptempo, so we recommend a solid DSLR camera with some auto-focus tech. The Nikon D3300 is great, highly rated by many and pretty affordable.
- Extreme\winter\outdoor sports (snowboarding, skiing, wake boarding, etc.) – This all depends on if you’ll be filming yourself in a point-of-view fashion or from afar. Scroll down for some options for stationary filming with a top-rated DSLR, otherwise you can never go wrong with the famous GoPro HERO.
- Football – It can go either way here — you’ll either want to keep it stationary (grab either of the previous DSLR’s listed for baseball or basketball) or a camcorder such as the Canon VIXIA HF R700 to keep in your hands for some versatility while you’re in the stands or on the sideline.
- Golf – Since you’ll be lugging it around from hole to hole, we like a lightweight camera on a tripod (recommended previously) with some great detail since you want to try and grab the ball in your shot (and then probably zoom in when it lands). We do know some who merely like to film their swing so that will entail some simple stationary filming. We like the Sony Alpha a6000 since the mirrorless technology is great for capturing detail to snag that small ball into the picture.
- Hockey – The puck is pretty small, so it really depends on the distance you’ll be filming. Grabbing a recommended DSLR or mirrorless model and a tripod will do well, otherwise the previously listed R700 camcorder is solid, too. Since it’s a faster paced game, look for autofocus, such as in the Olympus OM-D E-M10.
- Lacrosse – We recommend the same options as football since its around the same pace\size of ball. Plus you’ll most likely be outside.
- Soccer – This is just like football since the field is a bit larger and although you may be able to get away with keeping your video camera stationary (such as others outside with DSLR’s or a mirrorless model), you’ll only be able to capture it from a specific distance that may make the players appear too small. In that case, we like camcorders to help with zooming and surveying the field at a closer view.
- Track & Field – Sunlight sensitivity is key here since a majority of track and other athletics competitions\practices are outside (if inside, we recommend our few DSLR’s listed). It’s also important to find a camera with autofocus if the individuals\teams will be running super fast — in that case, the mirrorless camera we list is perfect if you have the cash.
- Tennis – Typically filmed stationary, we also recommend a solid DSLR camera (the Nikon or few Canon’s below) that was also previously listed in basketball or a solid mirrorless camera will be more than enough. You won’t be needing to move the camera back and forth, although you’ll want some great zoom in at times during breaks and a camera to be able to capture that small green ball they play with.
- Volleyball – We’d recommend the same cameras as basketball if you’re indoors, otherwise an outdoor camera would be the baseball camera we list.
- Water sports (swimming, water polo, etc.) – Although you probably won’t be in the water alongside the race, game, or practice going on, it may be wise to grab a waterproof camera. We also recommend a great auto-focus feature since pinpointing swimmers and being able to decipher them from the splashes may be tough. We really like the Olympus TG-4 due to the environment and harsh-weather friendly features it has.
- Type of camera
- DSLR cameras – As one of the most popular video cameras in the market right now, grabbing one of these regardless of sport won’t ever be a bad thing. They’re also great if you intend on taking pictures with it. They’re by far the most versatile video cameras out there for filming a wide array of sports, although you may start to have some trouble if you plan on having to move the camera a lot with your hands. A big plus is also their interchangeable DSLR lenses to allow for more versatility in finding that picture you want, although many who film sports aren’t really into the look and feel as opposed to just wanting some film to fine tune their craft. As stated previously, we want to remind you to keep in mind however that both DSLR cameras and the next type (mirrorless) only allow you to film 30 minutes at a time! This is a limitation for these and may be make or break for some of you out there because we know many who prefer to film sports by leaving the camera on a tripod for an entire game or practice. Be aware!
- Mirrorless cameras – These are pretty fresh right now, but are continuing to become more popular as the technology and affordability grow. We have a few in here, and recommend them for their capture of detail for sports with smaller balls or objects you’ll want in your videos. Again, only 30 minutes of recording at a time, so make sure you’ll be able to be near the camera to press that record button again (it automatically stops but leaves the camera’s power on, at least).
- Action cams – You know those GoPro and other POV cameras? They have been popular for the past half-decade and are amazing when it comes to filming point-of-view videos for a wide variety of sports that prefer this camera angle.
- Camcorders – These are easier to hold than DSLR, and although continue to drop in popularity in terms of comparison to the past decade, we list a few to give you some options.
- Professional grade – For the pros and even semi-pros — these fit on your shoulder and offer amazing, cinematic quality, albeit for a price. It will depend of course on your budget as well as if you’re able to hold them up (or find a good enough tripod to keep them on).
- Point-and-Shoot – They look like traditional digital cameras and are a bit more rare than the previously listed video camera types. Not many film video, and if they do, don’t go up to 1080p. We did however find a few and listed them in here that provide not only 1080p video quality but great additional features as well. It may be the perfect fit for your sport.
- Additional accessories needed? Don’t forget another big part of buying a video camera and visualizing filming your particular sports. This will affect not only your budget but help you map out how you’ll be filming the videos. First off, you’ll of course need some video editing software to put together and organize the numerous clips you’ll have after a day on the field or court. Do you plan on filming with a tripod and leaving it alone to film the whole game\practice in a stationary manner? You’ll have to buy a solid one. Will you be traveling with it frequently? You’ll have to buy a sturdy case. Other than those popular accessories, the type of camera may entail which additional gear you’ll need as well, such as lenses for DSLR and mirrorless, mounts for action cams, external microphones if audio is important to you, etc.
The Best Video Cameras for Filming Sports
If 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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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).
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).
It isn’t for everyone, but if you buy this thing, you won’t be filming simple video clips of sports like everyone else — you’re going to stand out with the Sony NEX-VG30H, that’s for sure.