Let’s start off with the good news: the number of high quality point and shoot cameras available has never been higher. The bad news? The number of high quality point and shoot cameras has never been higher. You'd think that having so many fantastic options would be great but it actually just makes it harder for the average non-photography expert to figure out which one is right for their exact needs. And if you have kids that play sports, your needs could be very specific. No worries though. We’ve taken a look at the latest round of point and shoot wonders and have put together recommendations matching up specific models with some of the most popular sports. It doesn’t get much easier than that. You're welcome.
BASEBALL, SOFTBALL, TENNIS, GOLF
Biggest challenge: Any sport that involves kids swinging bats, rackets or clubs will require a camera with a relatively fast burst mode to freeze the action and have a chance to capture the critical moment of contact. You'll want to look for a camera that can shoot at least 10 or even 11 frames per second. Along those same lines, some cameras can capture 4K video and allow you to select individual frames to save out as photos. The downside is that those photos can sometimes tend to be a bit blurry depending on the model.
Secondary challenges: While many of these sports allow you to get closer to the action than what’s possible on a sport played on a large field (see football, soccer and lacrosse below), it’s still helpful to have a decent zoom lens if possible.
Not as important: Outdoor sports have the built-in benefit of natural sunlight which is a huge photographic advantage. Because of this, finding a camera with high ISO settings or a sensor with superior low-light capabilities isn’t nearly as important.
FOOTBALL, SOCCER AND LACROSSE
Biggest challenge: The fields these sports are played on are huge. And since game officials really frown on photographers being on the field, having a camera with an extensive zoom is an absolute necessity. But read the fine print when comparing models. Manufacturers use different terminology to express the amount of zoom. Some use the traditional lens measurement of millimeters while others use an optical zoom multiplier such as “30x optical zoom”. I would be skeptical of “digital zoom” numbers since those are kinda enhanced with software which is never quite as good. Also, there’s no universal standard for calculating optical zoom numbers so it might be helpful to do a little research. In general, I would want an optical zoom that translates to at least 200mm and preferably 300mm magnification.
Secondary challenges: Even with a zoom lens, the action tends to be so far away for these sports, it can still be a challenge to zoom in close enough for tight action shots. One way to fake a tighter zoom is to crop in tighter using photo editing software. To get good results with this technique, it’s important to find a camera with the largest possible sensor for the sharpest images even after they’re cropped.
Not as important: If you’re shooting high school football games at night, choosing a camera with high ISO settings and a light sensitive sensor will be very helpful.
BASKETBALL, VOLLEYBALL, WRESTLING
Biggest challenge: Shooting an indoor sport is an extremely tricky photographic challenge. Gyms are notorious for being dimly lit so choosing a camera with high ISO capabilities (25K - 50K is not uncommon) and a lens with a wide aperture to let in more light is your best bet (anything close to an f2 is great).
Secondary challenges: Since it’s much easier to get close to the action with indoor sports, it can be helpful to have a lens with a wide zoom range so you can pull back to capture shots right in front of you and zoom in when there’s a play further away.
Not as important: Since indoor sports are played on relatively small areas (at least compared to football and soccer fields), it’s not as important to have a super long zoom lens.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though all of these cameras offer some truly amazing features, the one thing no camera can do is guarantee great photos. The biggest factor in capturing great pictures is you. Learning how to frame a shot, anticipate the action and get in the best position is just as important—if not more so—than any camera functions. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place to learn how to do all that and more. So keep checking in. We have lots of great posts in the works. And as always, if you have comments, questions or just want to share some of the great photos you’ve been taking, feel free to give us a shout. We love hearing from our readers. Don’t forget to check out on Facebook and Twitter as well.