I have been filming hunting content professionally for over 8 years, and I have used a variety of camera arms and bases over the years to get that job done. Using a camera arm in a tree stand is a no-brainer to me. I know there are productions and shows out there that do not use them, but in my personal opinion they are an essential part of your production arsenal to get quality, steady footage.
However, there are several things you need to think about when considering one of the many brands and sizes of camera arms out there. First thing to think about is, are you going to be self filming or filming someone else? If you are self filming, then you are going to want a small, light camera arm to cut down on pack size and weight. You already have a bunch of other stuff to carry with you to the tree. Weight can quickly become an issue. This application would be perfect for one of the Fourth Arrow Stiff Arm carbon camera arms ($159). They are super light, small, and will work well with a small point and shoot style camera or DSLR.
If you plan on running a heavier camera, or you plan on running the camera for a buddy, your kids, or want to try and get into the freelance game, then you’ll want to beef up the arm size to handle a heavier load. Fourth Arrow makes the Stiff Arm Pro ($299), capable of handling up to 18 pounds. Other heavy-duty camera arms include the Muddy Hunter Camera Arm ($259.99) or the new Out on a Limb Mfg. CA3 camera base and arm ($289.99). These arms are going to hold more weight, but they will also be larger and heavier. The Muddy is the bigger of the two but is simple to operate and is a version of the arm I have been running for a long time. They are super tough and wont let you down. The Out on a Limb Mfg. Base is smaller and lighter so you can pack it easier, but it takes a little more getting used to when it comes to set up. But if its your first camera arm and you have no preconceptions, its rock solid.
There are still a few guys out there, like myself, that run a really heavy setup. My personal camera rig in the treestand is just over 20 lbs. This is abnormally heavy. Most rigs will never surpass 10 pounds. For guys with setups like mine, there aren’t many options. I am running the same arm I’ve been running for 8 years. It’s a base and arm Muddy manufactured years ago but have since stopped making. The Out on a Limb Mfg. Arm will handle that much weight but there are some issues I feel need to be worked out for it to stand up to the abuse an arm like mine will go through in a year’s time.
When you are looking to buy a camera arm, most guys are going to look at price first. Just remember, the camera arm is important, but be sure to save some money for a good fluid head for the arm. The support of that camera and the fluid head that it sits on can be the difference in good footage and great footage. Spend the money to buy a nicer fluid head. You cannot get a good one for $100. Good ones cost money. It’s just like anything else. Buy good gear and it will stand the test of time if you take care of it.