Expert Recommendation

.
Best Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $1000
Expert (2 Recommendations)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 19, 2008 Updated: October 7, 2008
Overview

If you’re not looking to spend over a grand on a camera body that is going to take some mean action shots, let me assure you: this is the right place to be! The way action camera ratings go with DSLRs is always based on autofocus, continuous shooting speed, buffer, ISO performance, and usability. In this class, it just so happens that the Nikon D200 comes up the strongest overall with the Pentax K20D and Canon 40D running right along side of it. Keep reading if you want to see why!

Best badge
My Best In Class Pick
Nikon D200 (Body Only)

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I’m a firm believer that an action photographer needs a well built machine. Yeah, sure… some people sit comfortably on the side lines taking action shots. However, I feel the majority of us are often times a part of the action or surrounded by it. And even those sideliners get taken out by the action sometimes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPZ8MyqXESQ

See what I mean? :P And where I am going with this is that the D200 is the most robust, well built camera of its class with full weather proofing. That means water, cold, heat, and shock resistance. I hope that photographer was shooting with something of the sort at the time!

But what’s a well built camera without the proper capabilities to shoot action shots? Luckily, the D200 follows through on those as well. It has an 11 point auto focus sensor as well as a 7 point sensor in wide angle mode. Its max continuous shooting speed is 5.0 frames per second (fps). The buffer on this camera is 31 JPG (Buffer is the amount of photos that can be temporarily stored before they are put into memory– basically you can take 31 photos without letting up on the shutter before the camera needs a second to throw them in storage). Lastly, the ISO (the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light) is 100-3200.

Overall it’s a well rounded body for action sport needs! There’s a reason why most National Geographic photographers shoot Nikon. Also, when it comes to lens selection Nikkor lenses offer some of the best out there. I’d personally recommend the Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF DX VR lens with this setup. And if you ever want to upgrade camera bodies, this lens will always be in your quiver for it!

A quick note: you might be asking yourself, why does this guy never talk about megapixels? Here’s the thing, megapixels have nothing to do with image clarity. Take a 12 megapixel compact pocket camera and shoot the same shot with a 5 megapixel DSLR and the image quality/size it could be blown up to will always be blown away by the SLR. When SLRs only have a difference of 1-5 megapixles give or take some depending on the lenses/camreas etc. there is really no difference that is going to come out of your photos and how good they are when it comes to action photography! :)

Comparison with Pentax K20D (Body Only)

The Nikon D200 has a higher continuous shooting speed and more robust build.

Comparison with Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens)

The Nikon D200 has a higher continuous shooting speed and more robust build.

Pros
  • +
    11 Auto focus points
  • +
    5 fps shooting speed
  • +
    Full weather proofing
Cons
  • -
    Could have a higher buffer
Nikon D200 (Body Only) is the Best Digital Camera for Action Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Nikon D200 (Body Only)
  • Best Price: $899
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens
    $729.95 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.2 sec
  • Burst Speed: 5.0 fps
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Nikon D200 (Body Only)
2
Pentax K20D (Body Only)
3
Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $899.77
Weatherproof Fully Partial Partial
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 5.0 frames/sec 3.0 frames/sec 3.0 frames/sec
Max ISO Setting 3200 3200 3200
Buffer 31 JPG 38 JPG 38 JPG
Megapixels 10.2 14.6 14.6
2
Pentax K20D (Body Only)

The only reason this camera is coming in second is because of its slower continuous shooting speed and less robust build. Personally, I feel these are the two most important things to look at with an action camera. If the camera fires off significantly less frames in a second it can be a big deal if you’re trying to capture that perfect moment. It was definitely a close call between the D200 and the Pentax K20D. This camera has 11 auto focus points, a 38 JPG buffer, 100-3200 ISO, and has some water proofing with its anti dust build and water resistance. So in this sense, it measured fairly close to the D200. However, its max shooting speed is 3.0 fps. One sort of cool feature about it though is that it has a burst mode that shoots 21fps at a fixed 1.6 megapixels. Cool feature, but in my opinion is just not brilliant enough at only 1.6 megapixels. Overall this camera is a solid camera for action photography.

Comparison with Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens)

Really the same – only a brand preference

Pros
  • +
    11 Auto focus points
  • +
    Dust and Water resistant
  • +
    14.6 megapixels
Cons
  • -
    3 fps shooting speed
  • -
    Could have higher buffer
Pentax K20D (Body Only) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Pentax K20D (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Resolution: 14.6MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 - 0.5s
  • Burst Speed: 2.9 fps
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (5 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens)

This is essentially the SAME exact camera as the Pentax K20D. They’re both manufactured identically with different logos. Buying the Samsung versus the Pentax K20D would just have to do with your brand preference. :)

Comparison with Canon EOS 40D (Body Only)

The Samsung GX-20 has better weatherproofing and more auto focus points.

Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Samsung GX-20 (with 18-55mm Lens)
Want More Opinions? See:
4
Canon EOS 40D (Body Only)

Let’s get something straight quick. By putting this camera in 4th, does not do it justice. This class is CLOSE. It’s literally a race with a photo finish ending. So it’s more like the Nikon is #1 the Pentax and Samsung are #1.1 and the Canon EOS 40D is #1.2 if you get what I mean?!

Why this one is in the back is because it only has 9 auto focus points and the only weather proofing it has is the battery door and storage compartment which means virtually none. Other than that, it has the fastest continuous shooting speed of all the cameras at 6.5fps and a buffer of 75 JPG when the high ISO noise reduction feature is turned on. Also, it’s ISO … like all the rest int his class is 100-3200.

Pros
  • +
    6.5 fps shooting speed
  • +
    75 JPG buffer
Cons
  • -
    9 auto focus points
  • -
    Poor weather proofing
Canon EOS 40D (Body Only) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Action Photos Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon EOS 40D (Body Only)
Specifications
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • AF Shutter Lag: 0.4 sec
  • Burst Speed: 6.3 fps
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

How It Works

You tell us your budget, intended uses, and desired features. We show you personalized recommendations from unbiased experts to quickly identify the best digital camera for you.

Advertisement

best hdtv Looking for an HDTV? BestInClass.com also provides expert recommendations for the best HDTV for you.