Essential Motorsport Photography Starter Kit for Beginners – Tips and Recommendations

by Jan 4, 2024

So you want to try your hand at motorsport photography? Or maybe you just want to take your photos up to the next level.

Making sure you have the right equipment when you’re just starting out in photography can be a little confusing. What’s a good starter kit? And how do you compare different cameras and lenses?

To help you out, I’ve put together my best advice and recommendations that will point you in the right direction.

Already have a camera and are looking to upgrade your lens/lenses? Check out this post.

Starter Budget

Essential Motorsport Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

When you are just starting out in motorsport photography, you don’t need to worry about having the newest and flashiest camera gear out there. The best camera is the one that you already have.

Being a motorsport photographer is more about improving your skills and perfecting your art rather than spending thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest camera gear. However, if you don’t have any gear at all, start with a camera kit.

Several camera manufacturers offer starter kits, however, my recommendation is to choose either Canon or Nikon. They both offer starter mirrorless photography kits that will allow you to grow and invest in new gear as you develop your skills without having to start over at any point. Much easier and cheaper in the long run.

Sony does offer professional gear, but their starter kits are on a different platform with a separate lens mount. So as you start to build and outgrow your gear, you will need to abandon one system and adopt another. At the same time, other camera manufacturers aren’t as well represented with professional-tier equipment.

When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to go overboard with spending. Just about every professional motorsport photographer started out on a basic camera with a cheap lens or two.

The most crucial thing is to work on your skills and practice your technique on whatever equipment you have. And then only once you start to hit the limitations of the gear you are using, should you then look to upgrade.

In terms of starter kits from Canon (which is the brand that I use), I would recommend the Canon EOS R10 with RF-S 18-150mm IS STM lens as a good starting point without a significant investment.

This will allow you to get acquainted with the Canon ecosystem and learn your craft, not just for motorsport photography but for a variety of styles. The lens seems a little short, but being a crop-sensor camera, it gives you 240mm of reach compared to full-frame cameras, which is a good place to start for motorsport photography. Despite being an entry-level camera, it features a high frame rate, ideal for high-action moments in motorsport.

In fact, a much older DSLR equivalent of the current R10 is what I started with (a Canon 60D).

Canon EOS R10 with RF-S 18-150mm IS STM lens pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (DigiDirect)

Alternatively, on the Nikon side, the Nikon Z 50 + NIKKOR 16-50mm + 50-250mm VR Twin Lens Kit Z50 is also a very good option. I do like the fact that Nikon still offers a twin-lens kit allowing you to be comfortable with interchangeable lenses from the moment you open the box. But it is two years older technology with a slower frame rate and a smaller sensor.

Nikon Z 50 + NIKKOR 16-50mm + 50-250mm VR Twin Lens Kit pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (DigiDirect)

That said, if your budget is a little more flexible, spending a bit more money on a camera in the intermediate range will last you a bit longer as you build up and start to push what the camera gear is really capable of. Especially if you looking to take your motorsport photography a little more seriously.

Canon’s EOS R7 has been specifically designed as an intermediate-level sports camera, making it ideally suited for motorsport photography. It is still a crop sensor, but its feature list includes many that you expect from professional-grade cameras. Making the R7 ideal as you start to pursue motorsport photography professionally.

Canon EOS R7 with RF-S 18-150mm IS STM lens pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (DigiDirect)

Alternatively, Nikon’s Z5 has been designed as its gateway into its professional range of camera bodies. It’s a full-frame body, so the kit lens doesn’t quite have the same reach. But it has all the features you need as you look to pursue motorsport photography more seriously.

Nikon Z5 + NIKKOR Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 Kit pricing – US (Adorama), UK (Park Cameras), Australia (DigiDirect)

As I mentioned at the start of this post, just keep in mind, that as you are starting to build up your gear, it’s always better to begin with a brand that you can continue to use as you progress to better and better equipment. Buying new lenses and other gear for the camera you already use is easier (and cheaper!) than jumping back and forth between different brands and setups.

That said, if you have an older DSLR (or get a very good deal on a second-hand DSLR), there is no reason you can’t use it starting out in motorsport photography. Just keep in mind to be cautious about how much you invest in the platform before you need to make the switch to a modern mirrorless camera.

Getting Your Specs Right

When choosing your gear, keep in mind that motorsport photography is the pinnacle of high-speed action photography. That’s why, regardless of your budget, you need to look for high-quality gear that will grow with you as you continue to build up your skills.

In motorsport photography, high frame rates and good autofocus systems will make a huge difference. Unsurprisingly, all of this comes at a price, but the upside is that good quality lenses will last you decades, so it’s worth saving a little longer to spend a little extra on better glass.

As you progress, I highly recommend having at least two camera bodies. On a racetrack, action happens quickly, and you often don’t have the time to change lenses to adjust.

If you have ever seen me trackside, you’ll have seen that I have at least two different cameras with two different lens configurations at the ready (occasionally three!), so I can quickly react to whatever presents itself. Having multiple different setups ready also helps prevent getting dirt inside your cameras, which can be a real issue if (when) it ends up on your sensor.

Ideally, you want to have a long lens (200mm to 400mm range) and a wide lens (16mm to 100mm range) to be able to showcase different aspects of the on-track action (and off-track, for that matter).

The Best Camera Is The One You Have

The Best Camera Is The One You Have

If you already own a camera but have never photographed motorsport events before, chances are, your existing equipment might be enough for the job – at least in the beginning.

While I’ve made some recommendations for someone who is just starting out if you already have your own camera equipment or even access to a friend’s camera they aren’t using, that might just be enough to get you started.

The biggest limitation, particularly when taking photos from the spectator areas, is the zoom range of your lenses. If you have a good camera body that you use for other types of photography, you may only need a different lens for the camera body, and you’ll be good to go.

For example, if you only have wide lenses for landscapes or short prime lenses for portraits, you might need to consider investing in or borrowing a long lens – at least a 200mm would be a great start.

Comparing Camera Starter Kits

When choosing a camera starter kit, you can also see what other photographers are using and what they recommend.

But the biggest thing to keep in mind is what style of photography they are basing their recommendations on. What works best for someone who takes portraits in a studio or vast landscapes on a tripod is certainly not going to work in sports and action photography like motorsport.

Before committing to purchasing a camera and heading down the path of one camera manufacturer or another, by all means, do your research and compare different products. However, at the end of the day, you have just got to use whatever feels comfortable to you.

Camera gear is ever-evolving, there is always something new coming, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Stick to the basics and look for what feels right for you within your budget and go from there. You can always add different lenses and other gear to improve your setup as you learn and develop your skills.

Still confused? Shoot me a message or leave your question in the comment section below!

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

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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9 Comments

  1. Lorri Graboske

    Hi I’m a beginner looking into motorspoit’s photography. there’s so many options in cameras I want to make sure I make the right choice for my purchase, I don’t have a large budget, what would you recommend for a beginner in motorsports photography? Thanks 📸

  2. Rhys Vandersyde

    At this very moment, my recommendation would be to look at the Canon R7 with a twin lens kit if you can make that work. The Canon R10 will be a little cheaper and will get you comfortable with the Canon mirrorless system and R mount lenses. I believe the Z50 is a comparable alternative on the Nikon side of things. As is the Sony a6400 if you want to venture in that direction.

    You will be able to save some money and get some good quality DSLR gear second hand right now as pros start to switch across the mirrorless, but since you are starting fresh, it is better to start with the mirrorless systems so that as you build up your kit it will continue to grow with you.

  3. David Sandle

    Hi Rhys. I use a canon 7D MK2 with a 55-250mm for taking motorsport photos. I’m looking into replacing this with a 70-200mm 2.8 but was wondering if image stabilisation is a necessity or would the earlier lens without it be ok ??
    Thanks

  4. Rhys Vandersyde

    Is Image Stabilisation necessary? No, not really. Does it help? Yes, absolutely.
    You’ll definitely see an image quality improvement by upgrading to the 70-200 2.8, as I mentioned in this article. But if you are on the borderline between buying an older version and a new one, I’d wait a little longer and get the new one, as you’ll hold on to it for a long time. Lenses well outlast camera bodies.

  5. Chloe Dummett

    Hi Rhys! We have an ARC team and am looking at taking photos of the team, in the pits and on track what do you think of the Canon EOS r50 with dual lens kit?

  6. Rhys Vandersyde

    I personally haven’t used the R50 yet, so I’m not sure exactly what it is capable of. That said the Canon dual-lens kits are usually a pretty good place to start. If you need more information, send me a message.

  7. Keri Dabroski

    Hi,
    I am so thankful I came across your page. I have learned so much and greatly improved on my motorsports photography. I have a 90d that I use for my photography with Tamron 70-200 f2.8 g2. I am looking at getting a second body along with another lens, 24-70 f2.8 ii. What are your thoughts on the R6 Mark ii, pros and cons,? Thank you!
    Keri

  8. Rhys Vandersyde

    Thank you. Glad you are getting value out of this site. Unfortunately, the R6 Mark II is the one body in the Canon mirrorless lineup that I am yet to test. I have told good things, but I haven’t been hands on with it. Stepping up from the 90D, the crop sensor of the R7 might be more familiar, but a full-frame sensor will give you more width and better low-light performance. Which given that you are looking at the 24-70 as well is probably more of what you are looking for.

  9. Pit crew member

    I’m in far away from you and hope to start a new journey with motorsport photography with a new version of mine. But I haven’t a camera or anything at the moment. Your articles and your guidance are most helpful to me as a beginner. I want to grow up this talent. Thank you in advance.

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