10 Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography

This is a guide covering the 10 Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn about:

  • Best overall Nikon lens for sports photography
  • Best budget Nikon lens for sports photography
  • Best Nikon video lens for sports
  • Pros and cons
  • Price
  • Important features
  • And more

Let’s dive in.

best nikon lens for sports photography

10 Best Nikon Lenses for Sports Photography

Click/tap on each lens name to jump to that section. At the end of each section, there is also a link to jump back to this table to make it easy for you!

In a hurry? Check out our top pick!

1. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens
– Sharp results
– Practical for different situations
– The widest aperture creates beautiful bokeh

Sports photography is heavily dependent on powerful lenses and a powerful camera. With Nikon, you’ll never run out of options.

But sometimes, you can easily get confused if you find yourself browsing a variety of Nikon sports lens options.

What does the best Nikon lens for sports photography look like? That’s highly subjective since it will depend on several factors.

You should consider available lighting, your distance from your subject, plus, whether you are taking videos or photos. All these things can affect which lens you should pick.

1. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens
BEST ALL-AROUND
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens
– Sharp results
– Practical for different situations
– The widest aperture creates beautiful bokeh
2. Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
BEST BUDGET LENS
Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
– Minimal distortion and chromatic aberration
– Great range
– Does a good job producing wide-angle shots
3. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Standard Zoom Lens
BEST VIDEO LENS
NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens
– With 5-axis dual detect optical VR
– Runs smoothly on video
– With a new customizable control ring
Sharp results
4. AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G
– With vibration reduction
– A great range for multiple scenarios
– Sharp results
5. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G
– Versatile range
– With vibration reduction
– Sharp results
6. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E
– Perfect for shooting from a distance
– Can take steady shots
– Sharp results
– Accurate colors
7. NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR
NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR
– Sharp results
– With vibration reduction of up to 5 stops
– Takes smooth videos
8. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G DX AF-P ED Zoom-Nikkor Lens
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G
– Great range
– Sharp results
– Accurate AF
9. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
– Fast and accurate AF
– Beautiful bokeh
– Sharp results
– Cool tint
10. Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G
– Sharp images
– Minimal ghosting
– Minimal flare

What is the Overall Best Lens for Sports Photography?

1. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens

Sports photography isn’t just all about shooting portraits.

Ask any professional photographer and they will tell you that they will also need to capture the venue and things that go on behind the scenes.

This is also the reason why sports photographers always have a wide-angle lens on standby. What if you can have everything in one package?

The Nikon AF FX Nikkor 24-85mm F2.8-4D IF zoom lens is a handy option for different scenarios.

Though it may not be able to take photos of subjects from afar, you can still get some decent shots when you use the 85mm focal length of this lens.

The aperture is also not too bad at F2.8. This can create beautiful bokeh and still perform well in low-light situations.

However, the problem with this lens is that you will also need to have proper lighting since you can’t use F2.8 in the entire range of the zoom lens.

As far as results are concerned, you get sharp results and an easier time to adjust to what type of subject you’re trying to shoot.

Some prefer to use this as their walk-around lens since it acts as a wide-angle lens, portrait, and even a macro lens.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 24-85mm f/2.8-4D IF Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Sharp results
  • Practical for different situations
  • The widest aperture creates beautiful bokeh
Cons
  • Aperture is not uniform across the zoom lens’s range

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What is the Best Budget Nikon Lens for Sports Photography?

2. Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens

Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens

Finding a starter-friendly pick when you’re in the market for the best Nikon lens for sports photography might feel like a challenging task.

For this category, we’ve picked the Nikon 18-70mm F3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX zoom lens.

This lens is a practical choice if you’ll have to shoot wide-angle shots for portraits.

If you’re a bit close to where the action is, then this could even work as the ideal lens.

It comes with a quick and accurate AF, coupled with optics that can produce minimal chromatic aberration and low distortion making it easier for you to edit your shots during post-production.

Since its motor runs quietly, some are using this to cover sports events. It is a good pick if you want to create video content.

As for the downside, the results are not as sharp as other high-end lenses. Also, the build is not something that feels sturdy.

But overall, it’s still a great lens to have in your bag in case you are going to cover sports events.

Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens
Nikon 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Minimal distortion and chromatic aberration
  • Great range
  • Does a good job producing wide-angle shots
Cons
  • Doesn’t feel sturdy
  • Doesn’t give you the sharpest results

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What is the Best Nikon Lens for Sports Video?

3. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Standard Zoom Lens

NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens

So what if you’re one of those who also need to create video content?

If you need a Nikon lens that can come for video content, then you’d want to consider using the Nikon Nikkor Z 24-70mm F4/S standard zoom lens.

What makes it a good choice?

For starters, it’s a lens for mirrorless cameras. Between DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the latter produces less noise, easier to carry when you don’t have a tripod.

Aside from the fact that it can be paired with a lighter camera, it comes with a 5-axis dual detect optical VR.

It also runs smoothly when taking videos, and you also have a new customizable control ring.

This lens is also known for producing sharp results regardless if it is taking photos or videos.

What’s not to like?

If you’re particular about the construction of your lenses, this lens is made mostly of plastic.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S Standard Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • With 5-axis dual detect optical VR
  • Runs smoothly on video
  • With a new customizable control ring
  • Sharp results
Cons
  • Made mostly of plastic

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4. AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G

The most common concern when picking a sports photography lens is its ability to take steady shots.

The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm F3.5-6.3G ED vibration reduction zoom lens can minimize wasted shots.

With its vibration reduction feature, it’s easy to take photos of moving subjects whether it’s an athlete or a car.

It also comes with a great zoom range making it an all-around lens that you can carry around in the venue.

The results are also sharp in the entirety of the lens’s range. Colors are also accurate making it a favorite even by professionals.

It could easily be the best Nikon lens for sports photography if not for a few flaws.

For instance, beginners might find it too complicated to use especially in low-light.

Plus, it is still bulky and heavy.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G
AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • With vibration reduction
  • A great range for multiple scenarios
  • Sharp results
Cons
  • Bulky and heavy

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5. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G

For those who find 18-300mm a bit too overkill for their sports photography gig, then you could settle with the shorter Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm F3.5-5.6G ED vibration reduction zoom lens.

Though it’s a slightly shorter pick, it can still be a contender for the best Nikon lens for sports photography. It can even be used when shooting nature.

This lens is an ideal pick if you don’t have a tripod. With its vibration reduction capability, it can lessen shaky shots and even allow you to shoot moving subjects without a tripod.

When it comes to its results and functionality, it’s understandable why some professional photographers consider this lens as a top contender for the best Nikon lens for sports photography.

This lens produces sharp results, offers a versatile range, and is equipped with fast and accurate autofocus.

What’s not to like? If you are expecting a lens that can produce beautiful bokeh, then you’d want to look for other lenses.

It’s not something that you want if you are looking to shoot portraits. It doesn’t open wide enough to give you a bokeh effect.

Also, the zoom control has a bit of resistance when you are doing manual focusing.

But overall, it produces pro-level shots.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Versatile range
  • With vibration reduction
  • Sharp results
Cons
  • Doesn’t produce bokeh since the lens doesn’t open wide enough

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

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

Are you looking for a lens that can give you the advantage to take superb photos even when you are keeping a great distance from the subject?

There are instances when sports photographers can’t get close to the action. In this scenario, you’d need to have a zoom lens that can get the job done.

That’s where the Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 200mm-500mm F5.6E ED vibration reduction zoom lens comes in handy.

It’s a practical pick for serious sports photographers, nature photographers, and even for those who are doing surveillance.

The only thing that is not good about this lens is that it works well when you use it outdoors or in a venue that has good lighting.

If not, then that will be a problem. But considering the quality of the shots, functionality, and ability to take steady shots, it’s something that you want to invest in.

It can be considered by pros as their go-to lens, and potentially the best Nikon lens for sports photography especially if you are at least 50 meters away from your subject.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Perfect for shooting from a distance
  • Can take steady shots
  • Sharp results
  • Accurate colors
Cons
  • Doesn’t do well if the subject is not well-lighted

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7. NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR

NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR

The Nikon Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm F4.5-6.3 lens is a perfect choice if you’re looking to take portraits in well-lighted situations.

It is built with superb optics that can provide users with sharp results. It gives a decent range for those who are looking to shoot portraits.

Plus, it is also something that videographers love to use. It can produce smooth results, with no noise from its AF motor.

The VR image stabilization can offer up to 5 stops. It means that you can easily use it without a tripod.

You can have it hand-held considering its weight and get good results out of it.

Now, what’s not to like? It’s a perfect camera if you have a full-frame mirrorless Nikon camera like a Z6 or Z7, then it is probably a top pick for the best Nikon lens for sports photography.

However, if you have a DX camera, then you’d be dealing with a cropped version of your shots, which could mean a bit of adjustment on your end.

NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR
NIKON NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR example image – Source
Pros
  • Sharp results
  • With vibration reduction of up to 5 stops
  • Takes smooth videos
Cons
  • Cropped when used in DX cameras

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8. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G DX AF-P ED Zoom-Nikkor Lens

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G

If you are using a DX camera and you have to shoot photos of your subjects from a distance, then we’d highly recommend that you check the Nikon 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G DX AF-P ED zoom lens.

It gives users that crisp and sharp results. The colors are accurate as well thanks to its superior quality optics.

On top of that, it comes with an accurate AF motor. However, one thing that you might not like about this lens is that the AF motor tends to pulsate when it tries to find the subject.

At times, you could be miss out on some moments because of this.

Unfortunately, it’s more of a beginner sports photography lens than a pro lens.

Despite its reputation as a novice sports lens, it can still be considered as a top pick for the best Nikon lens for sports photography.

However, it’s something that we don’t recommend as your main lens.

It’s a good addition to your gear bag in case you need a backup lens for your work.

Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6G
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G DX AF-P ED Zoom-Nikkor Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Great range
  • Sharp results
  • Accurate AF
Cons
  • AF motor tends to pulsate lagging when it comes to finding moving subjects

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9. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G

We find prime lenses in sports photography a bit difficult to use. However, with the right preparation, prime lenses can come in handy in different situations.

If you already know how far you are going to be from your subject, then this can come in handy and even do better than your zoom lenses.

If you’ll notice the Nikon AF-S VR Micro Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF ED lens, it comes with a wide aperture that most lenses don’t offer.

Expect beautiful bokeh with this lens. Plus, you also get to have sharp results, cool tint, and reduced chromatic aberrations.

The focus is also fast and accurate minimizing times where you miss picture-perfect moments.

It also weighs around 279 ounces which makes it a decent lens to carry around.

We tried using this lens without a tripod and it didn’t disappoint. Its vibration reduction feature does a good job of minimizing shakes.

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED example image – Source
Pros
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Sharp results
  • Cool tint
Cons
  • Single focal length that will only allow you to take photos in one spot

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10. Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G

The Nikon 55-200mm F4-5.6G ED Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor zoom lens is a common gear found on bags of different photographers.

It’s a good pick if you want a highly versatile lens that you can use to shoot photos of subjects from different positions.

Since it can be used in different situations, it is a candidate for the best Nikon lens for sports photography.

The lens is known to produce crisp and sharp images, minimal ghosting, and flare, plus an AF that can capture the subject accurately.

However, the autofocus tends to be a bit slow which can be a bit problematic if you are going to use it for sports. But on most occasions, it can get the job done.

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G
Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Sharp images
  • Minimal ghosting
  • Minimal flare
Cons
  • Slow AF motor

→ Jump Back to Table

Final Remarks

Hope you enjoyed this buyer’s guide on the best Nikon lenses for sports photography.

If you are looking for the best Nikon lenses for sports photography, it is important to consider the reason behind the purchase.

Are you looking for a portrait lens? Are you looking for something that performs well in low-light scenarios and produces great bokeh?

Or maybe, you want something that can take wide shots? Next, be sure to compare the lenses that we’ve featured to get the best bang for your buck.

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