Picking the Right Camera for Great Action Shots
Everyone and his dog want to be an action photographer. That’s fine; it’s an amazing calling and one of the most intense, rewarding branches of photography. However, it’s also darned difficult to get into – not least because action shooting requires a very specific set of capabilities in your camera that you don’t have to worry about with, say, landscape shots. But don’t worry – we’re here to help. Here we outline the most important things you should be looking for in a camera when considering a career in action photography.
Make no mistake, your camera will have to have excellent focusing if you want your pictures to come back as anything other than a blur. That means either a camera with near award-winning auto focus, or one with an easily-manipulated focus ring you’re comfortable with using. Basically, your camera has to be able to capture something moving too fast for the human eye to comprehend and translate it into a nice, sharp picture – something you won’t get without a good focus. The Nikon D5200 is a good place to start.
One of the greatest things about the digital revolution has been the addition of things like ‘Image Stabilisation’ to semi-pro cameras. Putting it simply, IS cancels out the shaking of your hands, giving the same effect as a traditional camera mounted on a tripod. While it can’t remove a severe wobble, it makes enough of a difference to be worth investing in. Especially when photographing a high-speed object, the slightest tremor can turn your perfectly-framed shot into a dog’s breakfast. It also works well in low light conditions where the flash is off – indispensable if you’re planning to photograph dingy outdoor events like BMX races in the rain.
Continuous Shooting Mode
How many shots do you think the pros take for each good, published one? Try somewhere in the region of ‘hundreds’. If you’ve got something happening in your viewfinder, you need to be able to squeeze off dozens of shots in rapid succession, rather than just one or two. This is literally one of the most important extras you’ll need on a camera for action shooting. At the end of the day, it may make the difference between selling a shot and missing out on publication by the skin of your teeth.
Quick Shutter Speed
If you’re going to be shooting stuff like race cars, you want a shutter that can fire off at speeds of hundredths of thousandths of a second. This allows you to capture the beautiful ‘sharp’ quality typical of all good action photography. At the same time, bear in mind that a fast shutter speed is going to require a high ISO, so make sure the model you’re eyeing up performs well with both shutter speed and ISO. This should stop your pictures from coming back underdeveloped or drenched in the ‘grey fog of death’ – familiar to anyone who has ever tried shooting indoors without a flash to hand.
Size & Weight
Remember that you’re going to be lugging that thing round muddy racetracks, around the edge of pitches and God-knows where else. Make sure it’s light and compact enough to not become a burden as you find yourself racing around after that ‘perfect shot’. It’s all very well investing in all the lenses and gizmos and gadgets – if the moment comes and you’re too busy trying to manipulate a big, cumbersome box to get a picture it won’t matter how well equipped you are. The best idea is to aim for a nice Digital SLR that fits your grip and you can get used to manipulating like a part of yourself.
There you go. With all this in mind, you’re ready to start investing in an action photo camera. Good luck!