Motorsport photography is quite unique, and so are the requirements of the camera gear you use to capture the action The high-speed nature of the...
Best Camera For Motorsport Photography in 2024
The high-speed nature of the on-track action really pushes the ability of even the best cameras available. Autofocus tracking, frame rates and buffer size all get pushed to their limits when capturing motorsport photos.
However, camera technology is ever-evolving as different manufacturers bring new developments with each new camera body they release. With that in mind, heading into the new motorsport season for 2024, here are the best cameras available for motorsport photographers.
As Canon’s top tier (at the time of writing this) sports mirrorless body, it stands to reason that it would be the brand’s best-suited camera for motorsport photography and my personal camera of choice heading into 2024.
But what made the Canon R3 stand out to me when I tested it, prompting me to purchase the camera body when it was first released, was the speed and responsiveness of the autofocus system. Even from using the latest Canon 1DX at the time, the improvement was enough for me to want to make the move across to the Canon R3 as well as all the other incremental improvements you see with each new evolution of technology.
There are a couple of drawbacks to purchasing an R3 in 2024; firstly, it is quite a costly purchase, especially if you need to buy two of them as a professional. While aspiring professionals might find it a bit too expensive when just stating out.
Also, there are always rumours that something better is on the horizon. The widely rumoured Canon R1 could potentially be released this year. With the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Canon has a history of releasing updated versions of its 1 Series (particularly the 1DX range) cameras in the lead-up to each Olympics which would suggest that something better than the R3 may not be far away.
Cheaper Alternative To The Canon R3
If the Canon R3 is a bit too far out of your budget, then the Canon R7 is a solid cheaper alternative.
A step up from the entry-level cameras, the R7 is a good middle-of-the-range option in Canon’s camera line-up. Obviously not as featured-packed as its top-of-the-line counterpart, the R7 does benefit from some of its features being filtered down – notably the vehicle subject detection autofocus mode.
The crop sensor does give the added benefit of extra reach, which certainly does come in handy in capturing motorsport photos from the spectator areas at most race tracks, but there are limitations in its speed and performance as you would expect for the price difference.
While it’s not enough for me to switch brands, Nikon also has some very good camera options for motorsport photography. The stand out is Nikon’s flagship mirrorless camera, the Z9.
As the undisputed top-tier camera in Nikon’s mirrorless range, the Z9 features the best that the brand has to offer, including its own advanced auto-focus system that includes 3D subject tracking of multiple subjects. From my experience with the Z9, albeit limited compared to Canon, it is equally as responsive, picking up race cars and following them without issue.
The Nikon Z9 easily beats its Canon rival with a higher-megapixel sensor but loses out with a slower frame rate for full RAW images, a smaller buffer and high ISO performance. Either way, both cameras are very good tools for motorsport photographers to use.
That said, there are a couple of other considerations when it comes to the Nikon Z9. While it is the top tier of Nikon’s range, it was only released a month after the R3. So, if Nikon wants to keep pace with whatever Canon is working on with the R1, I would expect an upgraded version of the Z9 in the not-too-distant future as well.
However, the biggest thing to consider when looking at the Z9, given that you are probably already a Nikon user, is the other cheaper cameras in the Nikon mirrorless range, the Z8 in particular. All of which I’ll get into in the next section.
Cheaper Alternatives To The Nikon Z9
As I just mentioned, the Nikon Z8 is a slightly cheaper alternative to the Z9 with nearly identical internal specs: same sensor, same processor, same frame rate. Externally there are some differences. The Z8 is smaller without a vertical grip and has a smaller battery, but you can purchase the battery grip, which resolves both of those issues.
Additionally, the Z8 doesn’t feature onboard ethernet and only has one CFexpress slot, its second card slot being an SD UHS-II (the same as the Canon R3).
Alternatively, the Nikon Z6II is an even cheaper alternative. Designed as a step up from their entry-level cameras, it features the frame rate and buffer size that you’d want for motorsport photography but lacks subject detection and some of the autofocus responsiveness of the other two Nikon options mentioned above.
Due to arrive in January (this week at the time of posting this), Sony’s latest iteration of its high-speed sports camera, the A9III, promises a bunch of new technology that should appeal to motorsport photographers.
The global shutter on a full-frame stacked sensor is touted as having many benefits including the complete elimination of rolling shutter. Although, if I’m honest, I’ve never seen a noticeable issue with rolling shutters in motorsport photography in any mirrorless camera I’ve used or tested. Other improvements in autofocus and 120fps shooting do seem very interesting.
That said, the A9III is expected to have less dynamic range than you expect from other Sony Alpha cameras, which isn’t ideal.
My best advice for Sony photographers is to wait until the Sony A9III comes out and is thoroughly tested before making any decisions about which camera body to purchase in 2024.
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I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.
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