It can be overwhelming trying to decide what video camera to buy when you decide you want to start filming your own hunts. I still remember scouring the internet last summer for hours, reading all sorts of reviews on video cameras, trying to figure out which camera would suit me best without breaking the bank. I wanted something affordable but high quality, and I was lucky enough to find it. Here I offer up a quick review and some helpful tips on the camera I use, along with some additional equipment that I have found essential for self-filming hunts.
First, there are a couple points I need to go over before we get into what equipment I use.
- If you are a beginner, you should look at low- to mid-range consumer cameras to see if you really like it ($200-$500). Video cameras made by Canon, Sony, and Panasonic are going to capture quality video, but you get what you pay for.
- If you want to determine whether filming is for you or not, base your judgements off decent quality footage. The worse the quality of video, the easier it will be to form a negative opinion. There is a reason BestBuy is selling that video camera for $50 and it’s most likely so they can get it off their shelves. Don’t be a fool like me and waste your money the first time around on junk.
- That being said, you don’t need to go high end. The video camera I am using cost $400. It was refurbished with a one year warranty. This camera is now selling for $500-$800 depending on where you look, so pay attention to prices. It’s early in the year and prices will fluctuate; shop around and take your time.
- GoPro’s are nice but best used as a second angle. A video camera with zoom is really a much better option if you’re only using one camera. Also, guys who attach a camera to their bow often miss the shot footage due to the camera jumping from the string after the shot. You’ll sacrifice audio quality as well.
I have fallen in love with filming my hunts and fishing trips. I was blessed with the good fortune of capturing three bow kills on video last fall, you can watch them here and here. Capturing these moments on video is a lot of fun and adds to the whole experience. Having a hunting partner that will switch between hunting and filming with you throughout the season would be ideal (hint, hint to any friends reading this!) Self filming is tough but I highly recommend giving it a shot. The reward far outweighs the trouble.
Canon Vixia HF M500
This camcorder is considered a consumer camcorder by Canon. It takes superb HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second. I have captured a lot of great videos in the short 8 months that I have owned the M500. I record at the highest quality and have played video back on multiple HD LED TVs and the picture looks better than cable HD. It is amazing. The audio quality is ok but would benefit from an external mic of some sort. The M500 worked just fine when temperatures were in the teens. As a beginner’s camera, I could not be happier.
Note: Do not get the M500 confused with Canon’s new camcorder, the R500. The M500 has a larger image sensor than the new R500. The Canon Vixia HF M500 has been discontinued.
Pearstone 0.7x Wide Angle Lens
The problem I have found with consumer camcorders is the narrow field of view. Adding a wide angle lens between .5x and .7x is a great solution. After playing back a few self interviews in the tree stand, I noticed my face was taking up at least 2/3rd’s of the picture. I added this lens and my self interviews saw a reduction of my face, only taking up 1/4 of the picture. One downfall of a wide angle lens, at this price point, is when zooming all the way in there can be some blurriness in the outside edges of the picture.
The 3rd Arm Bandit Series
This is a great little arm that you can easily pack in and out on each hunt. It’s lightweight and sets up very easily, even in the dark. Give the guys at www.the3rdarm.com a look. They offer a wide variety of lightweight arms that fit all the needs whether you’re a beginner or a professional.
BP-727 Extended Battery
An extended battery is crucial, especially during cold weather filming. I use this battery as my main battery and keep the original battery with me as a back-up.
You are going to need a pack of some sort to carry all of your equipment. This sling pack is big enough for a consumer camera, camera arm, and an assortment of other hunting gear. I chose a sling pack because I wanted to stay unrestricted on my way to and from my stand – you never know when you’ll find yourself in a spot-and-stalk situation.
- I like having the camera arm attached to the tree at about shoulder height when I am sitting, which is waist height when I’m standing. You can video most of your filler footage while sitting, allowing you to stay fairly motionless. While standing, the camera is still at a workable height, but low enough to stay out of the way of your bow. I am right handed so keeping the camera on my right side is crucial, especially if I need to make any adjustments while I have my bow in my left hand.
- I will often rubberband a hand warmer around the battery of my camera for when I am filming in colder temperatures. I was surprised how much this helped save battery life while I was filming during temps below freezing.
- Read as many reviews as possible on the video camera you are interested in buying. You will learn about features you may not want and exactly what that camera can do.
- Film everything! The moment I see a deer I turn the camera on and then I worry about getting the camera into focus. You can edit or delete unwanted footage later.
- Play with your camera before you use it. This seems like a no-brainer, but I didn’t and therefore didn’t realize how much space my head was taking up during interviews from the tree stand. It is best to be familiar with every single aspect of your new video camera before using it in the field.
I wrote this post because as a blog reader and researcher, I think it would have made my life a lot easier when I first got started self-filming. These are my own personal preferences and setup and should serve as a baseline for what a beginner, mid-range set up might look like. If you’re interested in the quality of video the camera I use, feel free to check out the Video section at www.Hybrid-Outdoors.com. You can also give us a “like” on Facebook and follow us there.