What’s A Good Starter Kit for Motorsport Photography?
Ready for action? Photographing race cars and motorcycles is ridiculous fun, whether you do it professionally or as a hobby.
However, getting your camera equipment right can be a little confusing when you’re just starting out. What’s a good starter kit, how do you compare different cameras and lenses, and who do you trust when it comes to equipment recommendations?
To help you out, I’ve put together a quick starter kit guide that will point you in the right direction.
In the beginning, 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 high-tech gear. However, if you don’t have any gear at all, start with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera kit.
There are some very reasonable priced twin-lens starter kits available from both Canon and Nikon. And probably other brands as well, but I haven’t spent enough time looking at those options.
When you’re just starting out, you don’t need to go overboard with spending. Just about every professional started out on basic cameras with a cheap lens or two.
Hone your skills and practice your technique on whatever equipment you have; once you start to hit the limitations of the gear you are using, you can then look to upgrade.
That being said, something in the intermediate range will last you a bit longer as you build up and start to push what the gear is capable of.
At the time of writing this post, Canon 90D or Nikon D7500 range is a great place to start as it will offer you plenty to work with and figure out what direction you’re heading.
In saying that, I have no doubt that these two brands also have mirrorless versions of these mid-range cameras in the pipeline to be released in the next couple of years.
When it comes to brand names, it’s hard to go past industry leaders in sports photography like Canon and Nikon. Sony, Fujifilm, and other brands also have good gear, but it is not generally targeted towards the high-speed action of motorsport photography.
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.
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, 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 when it happens.
I often have three different cameras with three different lens configurations at the ready so I can quickly react to what presents itself. Having several different setups ready also helps prevent getting dirt on the sensor if you don’t have to change lenses on the trackside.
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).
Horses for Courses
If you already own a decent camera but have never photographed motorsport events before, chances are, your existing equipment might be enough for the job – at least in the beginning.
If you have a good setup 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, consider investing in or borrowing a long lens – at least a 200mm would be a great start.
When choosing a starter kit, you can also see what other photographers are using and what they’re recommending, but make sure their recommendations and expertise are targeted towards your key area of interest.
A recommendation from a landscape or wedding photographer probably doesn’t hold a lot of weight in sports.
Before committing to buy, 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.
Still confused? Shoot me a message or leave your question in the comment section below!
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.