The Best Canon Indoor Sports Lens for 2024

What is the ultimate Canon indoor sports lens?

  1. Canon RF 100-300mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens
  2. Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens
  3. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens
  4. Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens
  5. Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8 L IS USM Z Lens
  6. Adapt one of the Best Canon DSLR Camera Indoor Sports Lenses

As a generalization, the above list is sorted in preference, utility, performance, and price descending sequence.

Do you own a Canon DSLR camera? Our Best Canon DSLR Camera Indoor Sports Lens recommendations page has your recommendations.

Indoor Sports Sample Picture

About Canon Indoor Sports Lenses

The indoor sports photographer typically faces one of the biggest challenges in the photography world. Basketball, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, dance, equestrian, etc. events are typically held under dim, spectrum-starved venue lighting. The photographer is often confined to one location while the participants move around – a lot. And the participants usually don't move slowly.

An indoor sports lens needs to have a very wide aperture to enable a shutter speed fast enough to stop the action under the poor lighting conditions. "Adequate" in these situations usually involves a significant compromise between motion-stopping shutter speeds and noisy high ISO settings.

A prime (fixed focal length) lens is often the right choice as these lenses typically get the widest apertures. Of course, the disadvantage of the fixed focal length lens is that you can't properly frame the fast-moving athlete as they go from close to far or far to close. The results from a prime lens in this scenario often require resolution-destructive cropping when the subject is too far away and creative framing when the subject is too close.

When it comes to indoor sports, the biggest problem with zoom lenses is that they seldom feature a max aperture wider than f/2.8. F/2.8 is usually what I consider the absolute minimum aperture opening for a successful indoor sports shoot.

In dimly lit arenas, even a max aperture of f/2.8 may require the use of ISO settings so high that an unacceptable amount of noise in your images is the result, especially with an APS-C/1.6x FOVCF DSLR camera. I shoot indoor soccer in one venue where f/2 on a full-frame body is not even adequate.

With a prime lens, you need to select the lens and position that works best for the particular combination or carry a couple of cameras with different focal length lenses mounted.

Autofocus performance is a big differentiator between lenses when action sports are the subject and light levels are low. While most lenses can capture a distant subject running perpendicular from you across a court (a constant focus distance), it takes a good lens to be able to focus-track a rapidly approaching or departing subject at close distances or with tight framing. Economy lenses will not typically be up to this challenge.

The focal lengths needed for indoor sports photography vary greatly, but the 70-300mm range covers most of the requirements.

The Best Canon Camera Indoor Sports Lenses

Canon RF 100-300mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Buy  ► Rent  ►

1. Canon RF 100-300mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Extraordinary Image Quality, High Utility, Outstanding Overall Performance

The RF 100-300mm Lens was a game-changer. Before, photographers had to choose between a 70-200mm and a 300mm lens to get an f/2.8 aperture, and some photographers had to carry both. The RF 100-300 provides the full range of those two lenses, plus all the missing focal lengths.

Image quality was not sacrificed to bring us that range, and this lens takes us to a new level of zoom lens image quality, including producing insanely sharp images. The RF 100-300 is so sharp that with-extender image quality remains uncommonly excellent.

This lens is a superb choice for chasing people, especially people in action, including in low light. While the 100-300mm range is optimal for many sports, extenders take this lens up to 600mm, bringing the center of large playing fields into this lens's range.

The RF 100-300 is expensive, but it delivers a full set of best-available features, including an excellent AF system, image stabilization, and professional-grade build quality.


Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens

Buy  ► Rent  ►

2. Canon RF 135mm F1.8 L IS USM Lens

Insanely Sharp, Ultra-Wide f/1.8 Aperture, Outstanding AF Performance, Impressive Image Stabilization System, Professional Grade

The RF 135mm F1.8 L IS is one of the highest performing lenses ever created.

If you like sharp, this lens has your name on it.

Additionally, the 135mm f/1.8 focal length and aperture combination is super useful, especially for photographing people, including people participating in events. Few lenses can blur the background more diffusely than this one, and making the subject pop from a blur of color is differentiatingly beautiful.

F/1.8 combined with a 5.5-stop image stabilization system (8 stops coordinated with IBIS) is ready to tackle extremely low light scenarios, and weather-sealed, professional-grade build quality is ready for high-volume daily use.


Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

Buy  ► Rent  ►

3. Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

The Entire Package: Impressive image quality and Overall Performance, Wide Aperture, All of the Right Focal Lengths, Image Stabilization, Pro-Grade Build, Incredibly Compact

The Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens is my go-to general-purpose telephoto zoom lens, and with an f/2.8 aperture, this focal length range represents the longest available without a big step up in size, weight, and cost. This lens is the right choice for a very high percentage of general telephoto photography needs, with sports being ideally covered.

Few want to compromise image quality, and this L-series lens delivers greatness in that regard. Fast and accurate AF? That box is checked. Pro-grade, weather-sealed build quality? Ruggedness is built in. High-performing image stabilzation is there for you when the tripod is not, and the wide aperture enables stopping motion in low light.


Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens

Buy  ► Rent  ►

4. Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens

Incredibly-Wide Aperture, Impressively Sharp Wide-Open, Pro-Grade Lens, Focal Length is Wide for Many Sports

This lens is fat, heavy, and, especially for an 85mm prime lens, expensive. However, the sharp, background-blurred images this lens produces at f/1.2 will quickly have you overlooking any downsides of this lens. This lens rules low light gynasiums.

The RF 85 F1.2 L gets the full L-series pro-grade build quality and performance features.


Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8 L IS USM Z Lens

Buy  ► Rent  ►

5. Canon RF 24-105mm F2.8 L IS USM Z Lens

Record Setting Focal Length Range and Wide Aperture Combination, Outstanding AF Performance, High Performing Image Stabilization System, Overall Professional Grade

Welcome to the world's first 24-105mm f/2.8 lens. For many photographers, this lens ends the 24-70mm f/2.8 vs. 24-105mm f/4 debate. With the formerly available professional-grade standard zoom lens choices, 70mm on the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens was not always long enough, and f/4 on the Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens was not always wide enough. With the RF 24-105mm F2.8 L IS USM Z, you can have the extended focal length range and the wider aperture, and that difference is big.

What subject is that record setting focal length range and aperture combination ideal for? People are at the top of that list. This focal length range affords a wide enough range of perspectives and subject framing to be the single lens for a wedding, including the details, or portrait shoot. The 24-105mm focal lengths are short for many sports, but when the action is close, it works, and the wide aperture is ideal for blurring the background and for stopping motion in low light.

Image quality was not forsaken to obtain the desirable focal length range and aperture combination. Though the strong barrel distortion at the wide end requires correction, this lens produces outstanding image quality.

Quiet, high-performing image stabilization and AF systems further aid this lens's photographic advantages, and the red ring indicates that this full-featured lens is built for the rigors of professional use. The "Z" designation highlights compatibility with Canon's Power Zoom Adapter, indicative of this lens's high video utility.

This lens is expensive, heavy, and large, but professional people photographers will find the advantages far outweigh the downsides.


6. Adapt a lens from the Best Canon DSLR Camera Indoor Sports Lenses List.

Huge Selection, World-Class Options


The list above is not an exhaustive list of lenses that can be used for indoor sports photography, but they are my top choices. Also, visit the Canon Lens Recommendations page for other recommendations, including recommendations for Canon mirrorless camera outdoor sports lenses.

Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!
Can we stay in touch?Free Newsletter
Bryan Recommends
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Terms of Use, Privacy  |  © 2024 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!