As the popularity of social media platforms continues to grow, for many, so does the desire to film their own hunts. Whether the goal is to film the experience for family and friends to enjoy, or seeking a career in the outdoor industry, having the right film gear for the job is crucial. In this article I will share with you my progression in camera gear over the last 15 years and what I believe are the best cameras to capture your hunt.
From a young age, I was immersed in the outdoors and hunting. While most kids my age wanted a new toy from the store, you could find me begging my mom for a new hunting VHS/DVD for my growing collection. Monster Bucks, HS Primetime bucks, Primos Truth series, etc. You name it, I had it. I had always dreamed of growing up and videoing my hunts like the pros, and as I got older, my adventures became more action packed. So, I knew I needed to document my experiences.
In the spring of 2012, with some hard-earned money from working at the local golf course, I purchased my first video camera. It was a Sony HD Handy Cam. I took that camera along with me on numerous adventures and it was the catalyst that sparked my love for logging my hunting experiences. Today, I run several camera setups while filming for the Bowhunt or Die web show. Below I will break down these setups into 3 groups. Primary Cameras, Second Angle Cameras, and Miscellaneous Items.
The Primary Camera is exactly what the name implies. It is the main camera used while filming your adventures. The level of quality needed for your production as well as your style of hunting will ultimately determine which camera best suits you. The 2 popular styles of Primary Cameras include: camcorders and the DSLR.
When it comes to entry level cameras, the camcorder is king. Their easy-to-learn functionality and high quality recordings, paired with a simple point and shoot capability make them unmatched when it comes to recording hunts. There’s a reason it is found in the packs of beginners and professionals alike. Like I mentioned earlier, my first camera purchase in 2012 was a Sony Handy Cam. For $300 I was able to have a camera with high definition recordings that I could easily slip into a jacket pocket. It was the perfect budget friendly, beginners camera.
I have since upgraded to a Canon Vixia HF G21. This camcorder was a step up from my prior Handy Cam and one I would consider as an “intermediate stage” camera. It sports a 20x optical zoom, records full HD videos with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, and allows for external components such as a shotgun microphone and Varizoom Remote Controller. As someone who primarily self-films, I can tell you this, having a camcorder paired with the Varizoom Remote Controller is an absolute game changer for one handed filing operation. With bow in one hand and remote control in the other, high quality hunts are recorded with ease.
Todd Graf’s personal Primary Camera is on the “professional quality” spectrum when it comes to camcorders for filming hunts. His go-to camera is the Canon XF400 professional camcorder. His camera has a 15x optical zoom, 4k video resolution, infrared filming capability, and a low light lens that blew me away the first time I used it. Much like a quality set of glass on high end optics, the lens in this camera captures every ounce of daylight possible making for incredible low light recordings. Several times I have videoed deer right up to last light with very little issues. But for high quality footage, comes a high-end price tag. Be prepared to spend some money.
-Budget Friendly Camcorder Choice: Sony – HDRCX405 HD Video Recording Handycam Camcorder – $228
-Intermediate Camcorder: Canon Vixia HF G21 – $999
– Professional Camcorder: Canon XF400 – $3798
The second option when it comes to Primary Cameras is the DSLR. These cameras are capable of not only taking stellar videos but also fantastic photographs. Their ability to pair a variety of different lenses to create an incredible experience for the viewer is unmatched. Whether it’s B-roll, interviews, time lapse, or slow motion, these cameras can do it all with the best quality. Though I personally do not have much experience with these cameras specifically, many hunters in the outdoor industry gravitate towards the DSLR for their unrivaled cinematic experience. One downside to using a DSLR is it’s two-handed operation, making it a difficult option for self-filming.
DSLR Camera – Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 – $1500
Second Angle Cameras
Secondary camera angles have become increasingly popular in hunting videos. Gone are the days of phony camera shots of drawing the bow back for a shot or spotting an incoming deer. The beauty of a second angle camera is that it can capture these moments in real time. With the option of several action cameras on the market, recording that over the shoulder experience has never been easier.
This action camera is likely the most popular action camera on the market. I have personally owned a GoPro Hero 4, Hero 7, and a Hero 9. The versatility and packability of these cameras is incredible. Whether I’m trying to capture the perfect over the shoulder shot angle on a big buck or getting a multitude of angles in a turkey decoy spread, the GoPro Hero has delivered. Some of the GoPro features include high quality video resolutions, Bluetooth connection, app controlling capabilities, time lapse, slow motion, etc. It is a phenomenal option for capturing any second angle shot.
GoPro Hero 11 – $399
A new action camera taking the outdoor industry by force is the Insta360. These cameras are capable of capturing a 360° view of everything around it with 2 or more lenses. It’s a pretty remarkable camera that comes in handy for a sport in which the action can occur at any angle. Simply place the camera, press record and it will capture its entire surroundings. I’m excited to be packing one in my bag for this upcoming fall and explore the options I have with this action camera!
Insta360 ONE RS – $439
Miscellaneous Filming Items
When it comes to creating quality content it’s impossible to overlook the miscellaneous items that take your camera setup to the next level. Whether you’re up in a tree or on the ground, it is important to have a stable camera arm, tripod, video fluid head, LANC remote (if applicable), a good shotgun microphone, and a camera light. These items can take shaky, out of focus footage and turn them into smooth, high caliber content for a better viewer experience. Below are some recommendations for quality miscellaneous filming items.
Tree Camera Arm – Fourth Arrow Stiff Arm – $219
Tripod – Fourth Arrow Tripod – $119
Fluid Head – Fourth Arrow Video Head – $99
LANC Remote – VZ-Rock Varizoom – $222
Shotgun Mic – Rode VideoMic Pro R – $179
Camera Light – NEEWER Dimmable 176 LED Video Light – $75
For those considering taking the challenge of filming their hunts, remember, it can be extremely frustrating yet incredibly rewarding. Spend time with whatever camera gear you decide to go with and get comfortable using it. In the heat of the moment, when tension is rising, having a camera setup that you trust is crucial to success. Hopefully some of these suggestions help you in the future! Good luck filming this season and don’t forget to hit the record button!
For more info on great gear for filming your hunt, check out this article – Best Gear For Self-Filming Hunts