Hunting is more than a hobby or a pastime. Each hunt is an adventure unto itself. If you enjoy watching hunting shows, you have probably wondered what it would take to record your own adventures at a similar quality to what you see on TV. The truth is that it is actually pretty simple if you have the best camera for hunting at hand.
Not so long ago, it would have been impossible for a lone hunter to trek out into the wilderness with all of the equipment necessary to record a hunt. Before digital cameras existed, filming a hunt meant carrying the necessary film stock, along with multiple cameras and stands. The advent of the digital camera changed all that, but the first examples were not great hunting filming cameras.
Digital photography has come far enough to make filming hunting relatively routine. The modern hunter has several options when choosing a camera for hunting. Depending on your needs, any one of them may work for you. Many hunters are now combining cameras on their hunts, bringing multiple angles and higher production values to their hunting videos.
Best Camcorders for Hunting
Panasonic AG-AC160APJ HD Handheld Video Camera
Panasonic’s AC160 is a 2.2-megapixel camera that delivers up to 1080p video quality at a variable frame rate for slow- and fast-motion filming. It has a 1/30-inch, 3-MOS sensor, built-in optical image stabilization and an impressive 22X HD zoom lens. Users can select between manual and auto focus, the latter of which has a one-button turbo function that lets it achieve focus on moving objects in .5 seconds.
The internal microphone records sound in Dolby Digital Stereo, and everything is stored on removable SD cards. Outputs include HDMI, USB 2.0, HD-SDI and IEEE 1394. There is also a 3.5-mm headphone jack and a built-in speaker. The monitor is 3.5 inches and full-color LCD. Users may find its 5-pound weight cumbersome in the field, but there is no arguing with the audio and video quality of the finished product.
- Fast-acquisition auto focus
- Ability to use manual focus
- Variable frame rate for brilliant slow-motion filming
- Impressive 22X zoom lens
- Has remote control function for zoom, focus, iris, record and stop
- Weighs more than many other options
- Professional quality comes with sticker shock
Panasonic HC-X1000 Trail Camera
For the average user, the HC-X1000 offers comparable video quality to the AC160, but at a more wallet-friendly price. It has a 1/2.3-inch, 18.9-megapixel MOS sensor. The LEICA Dicomar f/1.8 lens has 20X optical-zoom and electronically linked focus, zoom and iris rings. There are three physical lens filters, and the HC-X1000 records in constant 4K video at 50 to 60 frames per second – all with effective image stabilization.
This camera has a built-in infrared emitter to allow nearly undetectable night-time recording. The built-in microphone records in AAC, Dolby Digital AC-3 2-channel stereo, or Linear PCM formats, storing recordings on dual SD cards. The HC-X1000 has a rotating, 1.1-megapixel display and provides HDMI, USB 3.0 and composite video/audio interfaces. Shutter speed is variable from 1/6 to 1/8000 of a second for recording fast action. This camera weighs just 3.42 pounds and offers Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Large-aperture lens works well in low-light conditions
- Weighs less than some cameras of comparable quality
- Optical zoom produces clearer video than digital zoom
- Records excellent action videos
- Offers Wi-Fi connectivity
- Image quality is noisy for the top-consumer class
- Wi-Fi is not intuitive to set up
Canon VIXIA GX10 Wireless Video Camera
Canon VIXIA GX10
This consumer-grade Canon VIXIA model has a 1.0-inch CMOS sensor that records in 4K UHD at 60 frames per second. It can also record slow motion in full HD at 160 frames per second. The large sensor allows for low-noise video with a shallow depth of field that is comparable to that of DSLR cameras. The dual-pixel autofocus enables crystal-clear action video, and is complemented by 15X optical zoom and five-axis image stabilization.
Video resolution is variable 4K, 1080p and 720p, and both video and stills are recorded on dual SD cards. The .24-inch electronic view finder and 3.5-inch display both have 1.56-megapixel resolution. The display also has touchscreen functionality. The GX10 has Wi-Fi connectivity for remote access to stored videos and live streaming.
- Large sensor enables high-definition recording at high-frame rates
- Dual-pixel auto focus offers superior functionality
- Image stabilization works regardless of dimension of hand shake
- Touchscreen display is a touch of class
- Physical buttons are assignable for different functions
- Remote access to imagery is perfect for stand hunting
- Has pro-grade functions but records consumer-grade video
- Can have overheating issues when recording high-def in hot temperatures
With its 1-inch stacked CMOS sensor, Sony’s FDR-AX700 shoots professional-grade video. Stacked sensors use a top layer for image gathering and a bottom layer for processing, enabling the AX700 to 2160p video at 30 frames per second (FPS) and up to 1000 FPS slow motion. The sensor has 14.2-megapixel resolution, and the camera sports a 12X optical zoom. The touchscreen LCD monitor (3.5-inch) and OLED electronic view finder both offer unbeaten clarity and vivid color contrast. The AX700 records on dual SD cards.
The phase-detection Fast Hybrid AF uses 273 points covering 84 percent of the frame to keep fast-moving game infocus. User-adjustable settings include AF Tracking Depth Range (1 to 5, narrow to wide) and AF Subject Switching Sensitivity (1 for Locked On to 5 for Responsive). Variable shutter speeds lens with a max of 1/10000 of a second provide crisp action sequencing. The ZEISS Vario-Sonnar lens is state of the art, as is the 4K1 High Dynamic Range2 video.
- Cinematic video quality
- Lightning fast variable auto focus
- Extra-fine LCD display is mesmerizing
- Manual zoom and focus simpler than most other pro-quality cameras
- Weighs just 2 pounds
- Menu is tricky to operated
- Oddly placed tripod mounting point (towards the front)
Best Action Cameras for Hunting
GoPro’s HERO6 is an updated version of the action camera that started a revolution and is one of the best action camera for hunting. These tiny, ultra-portable cameras offer go-anywhere versatility coupled with high-definition video. The HERO6 shoots has a maximum video resolution of 2160p at 60 frames per second (240 FPS at 1080p), with vivid 4K reproduction. It has an effective photo resolution of 12 megapixels, recording images in JPEG format.
The HERO6 also boasts waterproof functionality up to 30 meters, so washed-out hunts won’t mean a ruined camera. The built-in microphone records in basic stereo and has a wind-noise reduction feature. This camera also has Bluetooth and Wireless LAN interfacing, with an onboard GPS receiver. Mountable in any number of ways, the HERO6 also includes a 32-GB microSD card.
- High-definition video
- One of the smallest 4K cameras on the market
- Allows creative mounting
- Bluetooth operation
- Does not have a zoom
- Occasionally glitchy software, requires an update
Tactacam Bow Pack
Tactacam Bow Pack
The Tacticam 4.0 Bow Pack includes the same camera as we covered in the 4.0 Gun Pack review above, except it includes an innovative attachment for mounting on compound bows. The camera attaches to the stabilizer bushing on any bow via a flat-black mount, though at just 4.4 ounces it does not have much of a stabilizing effect. Still, users can continue to utilize an existing stabilizer by simply mounting the Tactacam elsewhere on the riser.
Tactacam’s 4.0 comes with a single rechargeable battery, though backup batteries are available to extend the woeful 2.5-hour battery life. Charging and video transfer are both done via miniUSB port. Video quality is impressive (1080p at 60 frames per second), and a low-light sensor helps the camera to continue to record adequate video at dusk or dawn. Operation is intuitive, silent and hassle free. This just might be the best action camera available for hunting.
- Works in cold conditions (unlike most camcorders and digital cameras)
- Mounts simply via the stabilizer bushing on almost any compound bow
- Produces a unique, down-the-line video of target
- Affordable compared to camcorders and digital cameras
- Weatherproof body and microphone
- Fit inside mount is a bit loose (allowing some vibration)
- Simplicity also indicates a lack of functions
The Tactacam SOLO is a purpose-built bow hunting camera, similar to the Tactacam4.0, but with just a bit more basic functionality. Users can still control the camera via Wi-Fi connection to a smartphone, and resolution remains 1080p at 30 frames per second. The zoom is reduced from 5X on the 4.0 to 3X on the SOLO, but the microphone still cuts at 100 decibels. The bow mount is also the same stabilizer-bushing-mounted unit, while the gun mount retains the barrel-mounting function of the 4.0.
- Similar functionality to more-expensive Tactacams
- Mounts for either gun or bow are included in package
- 3X zoom brings hunting action to the fore
- Simple and intuitive to operate
- Silent operation
- 3X zoom is not very powerful
- No slow-motion function (off or on only)
Best Digital Cameras for Hunting
Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless
Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mirrorless
The micro four-thirds Live MOS sensor sports 20.3 megapixels and an improved (over previous generation) Venus Engine chip adds a processing core, resulting in 1.3 times faster image processing. The ISO range is an impressive 100 to 25,600, enabling sharp and clear fast-motion photography. A burst mode allows for 12 shots per second. The electronic view finder magnifies .76X and has an impressive 3,680,000 dots, while the 3.2-inch, variable-angle, touchscreen display has 1,620,000 dots. The GH5 also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
But video is what hunters want, and the Lumix GH5 delivers. It can record video at 4K resolution with up to 60 frames per second. Users can program multiple focus points, to pull focus from the background to a deer on a trail, for example. The GH5’s Depth of Defocus (DFD AF) autofocus system utilizes 225 focus points within the frame for quick focus adjustments. Autofocus tracking parameters and sensitivity are all adjustable. Users can also pull single frames (18MP quality) from video for use as stills.
- Weatherproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit
- 4-million-dot OLED viewfinder
- Allows continuous video recording
- First Lumix with dual SD-card slots
- Sharp, 3.68MP OLED viewfinder
- Autofocus is tricky, requiring finding a correct setting among many
- Silent mode is almost, but not entirely, silent
Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV Bridge
Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV Bridge
The Sony Cyber-Shot is the camera that started the trend toward large sensors in bridge cameras, but the RX10 IV ups the ante with impressive autofocus and a blistering 24 frame-per-second burst mode. The 1-inch Exmor RX CMOS sensor has 20.1-megapixel resolution and the OLED viewfinder offers 100-percent frame coverage. This camera shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second (at 100 Mbps).
The real stars of the show here though are the autofocus and the zoom capabilities of the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens. The phase-detection AF situates 315 points of focus in the middle 65 percent of the frame, utilizing Sony’s proven High-Density Tracking AF. Focus is achieved quickly and accurately. The 24X optical zoom is light years ahead of DSLR technology. If that doesn’t reach your game, you’re too far away. The variable apertures and shutter speeds in video mode enable creative use of available light.
- 24X optical zoom in a 2.4-pound camera
- Excellent center-of-frame autofocus capabilities
- Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity
- Great hunting filming camera that can do it all
- Weather resistant for hunting in tough conditions
- Only 400 shots per battery charge
- Limited to 30-minute video sessions
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless
The X-T20 features a X-Trans CMOS III sensor that eliminates the need for a low-pass filter, which can inhibit resolution at the pixel level. The autofocus system includes 325 focus points, utilizing both contrast and phase-detection auto focus. Maximum video resolution is 2160p at 100 Mbps continuous. The maximum 60 frames-per-second rate is only possible in HD (1080p) mode, though.
The video is top notch, but wildlife photographers will appreciate the X-T20’s truly silent electronic shutter. The fastest shutter speed is a blazing 1/32,000 of a second (1/4000 for the mechanical shutter). The 3-inch folding display articulates for multi-angle use, and it sports 1.04-megapixel resolution. Images and video can be transferred wirelessly via Wi-Fi, as well as with the HDMI and USB 2.0 connections. The rechargeable Lithium-ion battery can last as long as 50 minutes shooting continuous 4K video.
- Prosumer quality at a more affordable price point
- ISO ranges from 100 to 51,200 for all-lighting capabilities
- Truly silent (and fast) electronic shutter
- Records images exactly as they appear in EVF or on display screen
- Film-simulation modes add cinematic flare to hunting videos
- There’s an onboard speaker, but no built-in mic
- Does not work at temps below freezing
Cupid Bow Cellphone Mount
If the state of the art bow hunting cameras are all out of your price range, here is a simple workaround that can get you recording your hunts. The Cupid-bow cellphone mount connects directly to the riser of most compound bows. Rather than preventing the use of a stabilizer, the Cupid mount allows the stabilizer’s bolt to pass right on through. It is one of the most affordable ways a bow hunter can get into filming hunting. Be careful though;once you catch the bug, it will only get stronger over time.
- Enables use of cellphones as bow hunting cameras
- Works for GoPro and similar action cameras for hunting
- Does not take up the stabilizer bushing
- An affordable alternative to expensive action cameras
- No comparison to the other options on this list
- Only whets the whistle for filming hunting adventures
Why film a hunt?
Whether it is good times with great friends or a father-and-son outing, some adventures are worth preserving. Those of us who are a certain age can only revisit our early hunts in our memories. The only records of our first kills are likely fading Polaroids, if even. Recording those adventures to share with others and to reflect on later is the purest reason to film a hunt.
Tracking Game Movement
Besides reminiscing, there are more practical reasons to film a hunt. All hunters are familiar with that rush of adrenaline when a buck creeps into range. Our senses may be heightened in that moment, but the details will likely be lost. What direction did the dear come in from? Were there any others in the brush that went undetected? Filming a hunt preserves a record of what happened, one that you can refer back to later when you want to move a blind or set up a feeder.
Review of Kill Shots and Misses
Another tactical reason to film a hunt is the opportunity to analyze your technique after the fact. No one wants to lose a wounded deer, but where was it hit? Was there something you could have done differently? Having everything on film is a great way to fine-tune the art of the hunt. It helps you make vital decisions about equipment that might make the difference the next time.
What Types of Cameras?
There is a wealth of cameras on the market, and muddling through them all to figure out which one makes the best hunting camera is daunting. In truth, there are only so many types of camera that will work for this type of filming. Choosing the right one is simply a matter of deciding what you want the finished product to look like.
Action cameras are small, portable cameras that can be mounted on pretty much anything to record activities. The GoPro was the first example of this type of camera on the market, and has since been used to film everything from skydiving to motorcycling. Their ease of use and endless mounting options make these little guys great hunting cameras. However, these cameras typically don’t have the zoom features of other types of cameras. The image quality also may not always be what a hunter needs.
The digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera revolutionized photography, but there are now better options for hunting purposes. Bridge cameras fill the gap between point-and-shoot digital cameras and bulky, expensive DSLRs. A bridge camera typically sports a dedicated zoom lens to rival any DSLR, enabling the hunter to fill the frame with game no matter how far away.
Mirrorless cameras are smaller and simpler to operate than DSLRs, yet they offer comparable video quality. These cameras lack the mirror and prism that allow users to view through the lens of a DSLR. Instead, the frame is viewed through an electronic viewfinder. Unlike a DSLR, there is no need to swap view modes when switching from photography to video. Another advantage of a mirrorless camera for hunting is the silent electronic shutter.
Digital cameras have their place, but many hunters find the camcorder simpler to use when hunting. Camcorders are dedicated video cameras. They can’t shoot stills like digital cameras can, but hunting video cameras rarely needs to take photographs. Camcorders often have no-fuss zoom functions and their auto focus (AF) functions are less complicated than those of mirrorless and DSLR cameras.
A camcorder also usually has a built-in microphone, whereas a digital camera will at best have a microphone jack.
If you decide to use an action camera, mounting on a firearm or bow makes for some interesting video. Any of the other hunting filming cameras we feature can be mounted on a tripod, though that would add pounds to your pack. Mounting a camera on a tree is another option. It doesn’t matter which option you settle on, but be sure to mount your camera so your hands can remain free for the shot.
Camera for Hunting Comparison Chart
|Camera for Hunting||Megapixels||Display||Weight||Rating|
|Panasonic AG-AC160APJ||2.2-megapixel||3.45-In||5.3 pounds||9|
|Panasonic HC-X1000||18.9-megapixel||3.5-In||3.42 pounds||9|
|Canon VIXIA||1.56-megapixel||3.5-In||2.5 pounds||6|
|Sony FDR-AX700||14.2-megapixel||3.5-In||2.06 pounds||7|
|PANASONIC LUMIX GH5||20.3-megapixel||3.2-In||3.34 pounds||9|
|Sony Cyber‑Shot RX10||20 megapixels||7.5-In||2.32 pounds||9|
|Fujifilm X-T20||24.3 megapixels||3-In||3.5 pounds||9|
The thing that separates TV-quality hunting footage from amateur hunting video has always been the quality of the equipment. But the days of VHS are thankfully over. Modern hunting filming camera options allow the casual hunter to create videos of a quality that previous generations could not have envisioned. There has never been a better time to start filming your adventures.