Best Nikon Lens for Sports [2021 Review]

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Sports photography can be tricky, not only for beginners but also for experienced photographers. With lots of rapid movements filled with adrenaline-shot expressions, sports provide plenty of opportunities for you to showcase your photography skills that are easy to miss. For that reason, we have selected the best Nikon lens for sports to help you capture the best action shots.

Our Top Nikon Lens for Sports Reviews

Anyone who has ever been into the world of sports photography will tell you that capturing award-winning shots can be a difficult task — especially if you don’t have the right equipment. Instead of taking shots that increase the wow factor, you may end up shooting a series of blurry pictures.

Lucky for you, we did some research and identified some Nikon lenses we believe will be the best options for sports photographers. 

Brand
Best Overall
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500MM f/5.6E ED
Best for the Money
Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR
Best Cheap Pick
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G ED VR II
Product
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration...
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed...
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR...
Compatible Mountings
HB-71
Nikon DX
Nikon DX
Lens Type
Telephoto
Normal, Telephoto
Telephoto
Rating
Best Overall
Brand
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500MM f/5.6E ED
Product
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration...
Compatible Mountings
HB-71
Lens Type
Telephoto
Rating
Best for the Money
Brand
Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR
Product
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed...
Compatible Mountings
Nikon DX
Lens Type
Normal, Telephoto
Rating
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G ED VR II
Product
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR...
Compatible Mountings
Nikon DX
Lens Type
Telephoto
Rating

Best Nikon Lens for Sports Overall: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500MM f/5.6E ED

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration...

The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR is super sharp, particularly as it tracks players on the field. Assuming you wanted to pan cars for racing in sports mode, the lens will outstandingly bring out a super sharp shot than when not panning.

The vibration reduction is exactly what you need to get impressive clarity even at low hand-held and ISO. It doesn’t come with a tripod mode. The VR stabilization compensates for the camera shake effects for up to 4.5 shutter speed stops. The lens will bring the depth of the pitch into details without compromising the players’ size or the quality of the photos.

With the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500MM f/5.6E ED, you can focus on the subject fast. It doesn’t matter the aperture you’ve selected as well as the speed of the event you’re trying to shoot. It maintains the flare low even at high white light levels.

It has a silent motor AF technology that brings out fast near focusing to suit still shots and live recording necessary for sports photography. It also has an electromagnetic aperture mechanism to provide sufficient exposure control stability that is particularly beneficial in sports photography.

Although the lens should fit most Nikon camera models for sports, make sure it’s compatible with the model you have. The lens comes with a front and lens cap for protection, a semi-soft case, and a Bayonet Hood.

What We Like

  • Minimal flare
  • Sharp at all apertures and lengths
  • Minimal distortion
  • An Impressive focus at all lengths and apertures

What We Don’t Like

  • Little chromatic aberration
  • Minimal Vignetting above 400mm
Sale
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration...
  • Compact super telephoto zoom lens for birding, wildlife, motorsports, events and more
  • 500 millimeter of zoom power on fx format DSLR; 750 millimeter equivalent on dx format DSLRs,...
  • Fast f/5.6 constant aperture for beautiful out of focus backgrounds and low light performance

Best Nikon Lens for Sports for the Money: Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR

Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed...

Another Nikon lens option for sports is the Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 E ED VR. It gives you the balance between quality and value for money.

One of the most outstanding features of the lenses is a wide zoom that extends way out to 300mm, bringing a closer view of the moving subject to shoot those memorable sporting actions.

The Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 E is created to be a compact lens to offer hand-held shooting opportunities. It comes with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction technology to compensate for 2.5 stops of camera shake effects. That means that you can shoot in low lighting conditions that other sports lenses can’t handle.

If your sports photography mainly focuses on outdoor and daytime events, you can be sure to receive top-notch results. Like the rest of the Nikon’s AF lens series, it is equipped with a silent wave motor to allow quick focus on the fly. That rapid response is important in sports where a one-second delay could mean missing the chance to take an amazing shot.

We also noticed that the Nikon 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 features a great resolution, amazing contrast, and low chromatic aberration. The nine-blade diaphragm makes it easier for still shots and video shoots.

The lens has a tough weather-resistant build, making it possible to capture great sporting events even in harsh weather conditions. However, as it is with a majority of stepping motor lenses, there’s no distance focus scale.

The overall performance is excellent, and the quality of shots is absolutely top-notch. It may seem expensive but worth the investment.

What We Like 

  • Excellent image quality
  • Silent autofocusing
  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like 

  • Barrel distortion at shorter  focal lengths
  • Different focal lengths have varying sharpness levels
Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed...
  • Capture sports, wildlife, concerts, landmarks and more with phenomenal clarity and precision
  • Maximum angle of view (DX-format): 22°50', minimum angle of view (DX-format): 5°20', maximum angle...
  • Ultra-fast, near silent autofocus powered by a stepping motor (AF-P)

Best Cheap Nikon Lens for Sports:  Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6 G ED VR II

Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR...

This lens is a similar option to the Nikon AF-P 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 E ED VR

The lens can extend up to 200 mm, making it easier to get a closer view of what’s happening in the field or pitch.

The lens is compact rather than too weighty, making it friendly on your back while shooting sporting events for several hours.  You will lose a couple of advantages associated with a wider aperture that provides room for faster shooting with top-notch clarity.

As with the other types of Nikon lenses for sports discussed above, this lens also has a Silent Wave Motor to improve accuracy and responsive autofocusing. Besides, the camera shake effect can also be controlled by the Vibration Reduction technology.

The lens has an integrated coating that brings out that superior look while reducing the lens flare. We found it is a good bet for sports photography considering its price. It has a retractable lens that users can detach while not using it, thus increasing its useful life. With a powerful zoom performance range of 55-200mm, you can easily capture award-winning images from those sporting events.

In a nutshell, despite the few limitations, the lens can come in handy whenever you want to produce awesome sports images. Unlike other Nikon lenses, you may not notice a degree of aberration in shots above 250 mm focal lengths. However, suppose you’re using it to capture indoor sports. In that case, you will realize that you need to compensate for the aperture by using a tripod or increasing ISO.

However, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4.-5.6 G ED VR II has a lower sharpness in the corner than in the center. It isn’t easy to easily note the difference in sharpness too.

What We Like 

  • Minimum chromatic aberrations
  • Compatible with most Nikon Cameras

What We Don’t Like

  • The AF Motor can get noisier than those of similar lenses in the market
  • Not suitable for manual focusing
Sale
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR...
  • 55-200mm zoom Nikon lens with f/4-5.6 maximum aperture for Nikon digital SLR cameras
  • 2 extra-low-dispersion (ED) glass elements for minimized chromatic aberration and superior optics
  • Silent Wave Motor produces quick and quiet high-speed autofocusing; weighs 9 ounces

Best Long-range Nikon Lens for Sports: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/ 4E PF ED VR

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300MM f/4E PF ED Vibration...

A solid 70-200mm telephoto is enough to capture the shots you’re after for most sporting events. However, we realized that certain events like the cross country might need a better reach lens. If you’re into the long-range type of sports photography, the best option for you is the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR.

The fantastic piece of professional-grade glass will eliminate all the limits imposed by reach, giving you an up-close and personalized view of the action, regardless of the position in the pitch. Not only does the lens bring you closer to the action, but it will also guarantee you of getting images as captivating as you see on the viewfinder.

Some of the outstanding features include the Silent Wave Motor, Extra-Low Dispersion Glass, Vibration Reduction Technology, and A fluorine coat. You can now counter the challenges of sports photography and produce quality images, thanks to those amazing features.

The features will also help to create consistent quality images without sluggish focus or the camera shake effects. With F/4 aperture, users can have additional control over lighting for fast and reliable sports photography performance.

What We Like

  • Very sharp from edge to edge
  • Optically stabilized
  • Maximum and minimum focal length of 300mm
  • Lightweight design

What We Don’t Like

  • Not compatible with older cameras
  • Expensive
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300MM f/4E PF ED Vibration...
  • Perfect for fashion, portraits, nature, wildlife, sports, and more.Vibration Reduction Fixed Zoom...
  • Phase Fresnel lens provides superior chromatic aberration compensation performance
  • Nano Crystal Coat reduces lens flare and ghosting; Focus distance indicator :Yes

Best Z Mount Nikon Lens for Sports: Nikon S 70-200 f/2.8

NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom...

If you have a Z Mount body and ready to invest in sports photography, the ideal option is the Nikon S 70-200 f/2.8. Indeed this great piece of glass promises and delivers extraordinary results.

The lens is designed specifically for Z mount bodies with a meticulous focus on picture clarity. Overall performance makes it possibly the best 70-200 in the market currently. The features are everything you desire for a modern lens to serve you in sports photography.

It has a consistent aperture of f/2.8 that allows broad low-light shooting possibilities even when extended to the highest focal length. The top-notch aperture in combination with two autofocus motors makes steady fast autofocusing a reality. That means that you can comfortably shoot in almost any type of sports event. Besides, you can also enjoy a near-silent shooting performance that adds to your shooting experience’s accuracy.

Other additional features of the Nikon S 70-200 f/2.8 include coatings like fluorine coat and Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat to prevent reflections and dirt that may ruin your shot’s quality. Besides, the lens’s body is ruggedly crafted against moisture and dust, making sure it can withstand windy field conditions.

By looking at the results you achieve with this lens, you’ll realize that it has been painstakingly designed to be fast, optically superior, and reliable than other competitors in the market. The lens is an investment for serious photographers desiring to break the record in the world of sports photography. If you want to enjoy an excellent performance for your Z Mount, this is probably the best you can get.

What We Like 

  • Fast and quiet autofocus
  • Excellent optics
  • Anti-smudge, dust, and splash protection
  • Minimum focus breathing

What We Don’t Like 

  • Premium pricing
  • Tripod foot is not Arca compatibles
NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom...
  • At 70mm, focus can be achieved as close as 0. 5m from the subject
  • Lens utilizes standard 77mm filter thread
  • Lens offers customizable Function buttons and control ring for versatility

Features to Consider for Nikon Lens for Sports

After extensive research days, we feel that those are the best Nikon lenses for sports options in the market currently. However, we know that you might want to consider other factors to make sure you choose the best Nikon lens for sports.

Let’s look at the specifications you need to keep in mind before making the final decision.

Sports photographer using a Nikon lens during an official game

Focal Length

You may have the desire to be a seasoned sports photographer who shoots a variety of sports. However, most sports photographers initially focus on shooting one or two types of sports. That’s where the focal length comes in.

Always consider the conditions of the sport you’re shooting. Sports with bigger pitches like soccer and football may need lenses with longer focal lengths. In contrast, indoor sports like volleyball, table tennis, and basketball may call for wide-angle lenses.

In live sports, there is never a middle ground for lens perspective. You might be typically be blocked in the sidelines away from the events unfolding or right up close to it- for example, in the dressing room after the match. 

The two scenarios call for a variety of lensing options. While you can rely on a telephoto, a wide-angle lens may also come in handy when shooting b-rolls and interviews before and after the main match.

As time goes, you will be forced to have two bodies with varying lens options. However, before you make the final purchase, think about how close you need to get to capture memorable moments from the sport.

Aperture 

A fast and reliable aperture is a concern for most sports photographers. Purchasing a lens with a wide aperture that lets enough light and enabling you to use fast shutter speed will give you an added advantage over your competitors.  A wide-open aperture is essential for night games or indoor sports that aren’t lit well.

Depending on the type of sports you’re covering, there’s a possibility you might want to crank up the shutter speed to capture shots in slow motion.

If you’re shooting on a camera that records at 240 fps, the shutter speed will be set at 1/500, meaning that the exposure will drop quite a bit

Suppose your sports shooting focuses on outdoor events that occur in broad daylight. In that case, you can go for other details like price and zoom range to sacrifice aperture to a certain degree.

Its almost impossible to find a telephoto zoom lens with an f/1.4, but a lens that will open up to f/2.8 may come in handy to achieve the desired results- particularly when compared to many zoom lenses that range from f/4-f/5.6

Otherwise, make sure you get a Nikon lens for sports with the widest aperture you can afford to ensure you can get reliable results in all lighting conditions.

Fast Autofocus

Speed is important in sports photography. It takes a blink of an eye for a sporting event to happen, and if you’re working with a lens that can’t focus fast, you will miss a majority of them.

If you want to avoid the frustrations and disappointments of taking blurry or missing out on award-winning shots in a match, make sure you get a Nikon lens for sports with fast autofocus capabilities.

Seamless speed can ruin or make your sports photography career both with the slick, firing shots and focus.

Photographer documenting a rollerblade competition

Image Stabilization

It is easier said than done to achieve a stable when shooting in a live sports event. Sometimes you may find yourself shooting in fields surrounded by fans cheering, stamping, or worse still, knocking your camera from time to time. What’s even worse is that you might be likely shooting on a long lens that wreak havoc on the image quality in the event of a shake.

It’s always advisable to go for Nikon lenses for sports with image stabilization. They come in handy to help you reduce the effect of a camera shake in chaotic shooting conditions. Even if the shooting environment is conducive, you will need to have image stabilization to smooth out tilts and pans that you create on the telephoto lens you’re using.

Zoom

Occasionally, you might need to use a zoom lens to efficiently ensure you get the action on your frame. You don’t want to purchase a zoom lens that will cover a standard range like 24-105. Alternatively, go for a Nikon lens for sport with a longer zoom like the 70-200mm series. A wider zoom such as ab 11-16 can also serve the purpose. That will ensure that you have sufficient range to cover the dynamic changes in the pitch.

It would be best if you also considered buying lenses that will still maintain focus as you zoom in or out (parfocal). Shooting sports require speed, and having a parfocal lens will help you move even faster.

Conclusion

Ultimately the choice of Nikon lens for sports you choose will heavily rely on your budget, the sports events, and your personal goals. We guarantee you that the options highlighted above will deliver the desired results.