By David Virostko, Hunting Consultant, August 2015
For the past 15 years, I have been working full-time in the hunting industry. Besides guiding hunters in the fall and consulting hunters during the other months of the year, my main duties have been heavily involved in print media publications and videography. Having been responsible for pre-press, layout, and design for two different hunting magazines, I can tell you that I have seen thousands upon thousands of kill photos, live photos, scenery photos, and the likes. In addition, having filmed, edited, and produced some of the bestselling hunting DVDs in the last decade, I have used, tested, and tried every video camera possible as well.
Because of my resume, over the years I have had a truckload of hunters call and chat about what equipment I personally use to capture some of the video and cover shots that they have seen from me in the past. When talking to these guys, I can tell that many of them are hoping that I have some magical equipment that no one knows of. While I always feel like I am letting the person down who is on the other end of the line, the truth is, I don’t have any fancy gear, lenses, or the likes. I keep my camera arsenal as simple (and cheap) as I can. This is two-fold – one, because I am a pretty simple guy myself and I get easily confused, and two, I would rather spend every spare penny I have on tags, hunting gear, and/or both before spending it on camera equipment. Don’t get me wrong, the equipment I use is top-notch, but what I am trying to say is that it doesn’t break the bank either. The following is a list of cameras, both video and still, that you can find in my truck, camp, and backpacks on any given day I am in the field. Instead of going into great detail as to the capabilities of these pieces of equipment, I am simply going to touch on what I carry and why I value them as part of my camera arsenal.
You will never find me without my Phone Skope kit attached to my Samsung S5. It’s literally an everyday part of my phone. Why? Because it’s so easy to use and you just never know when you will need to snag some awesome Phone Skope action. This one tool has been an absolute gamechanger in the way I capture video, both while scouting and hunting.
In any scouting or hunting situation, once a target animal is found, I then set up my long-range glass and start videoing with my Phone Skope attached to it. I do this until I have what I think is sufficient footage. Once that is done, if the animal is worthy of some better, up-close filming, I then try to sneak in and get some "Marty Stauffer-Wild America" quality footage of the targeted animal. By first capturing video with my Phone Skope at a distance, I have ensured myself that I at least have some great footage before I go bumbling in and mess up the stalk.
Canon Vixia HF G30 HD
I have owned several great video cameras over the years, but the one I rely on currently is the Canon Vixia hf G30 HD. I have owned this camera for a little over a year now, and there are still new and awesome features on this camera that I am learning about. One of the most impressive is the internal doubler. With the push of a few buttons, the G30 allows you to have 40x optical without having to pack a screw-on doubler lens. This is perfect for those kill shots out to 400 or so yards, but what makes it even better is that you can pan back to the hunter just after the shot without having that annoying vignette black ring.
The G30 is not ultra-compact, but it’s not as big as the old Canon G2 either. I have really enjoyed the ease of use and video capturing capabilities that the G30 has, and I would encourage anyone who is looking to purchase a great all-around video camera to check them out.
If I’m going to be 100% honest, I am not really a huge fan of the "action" cameras like the GoPro. However, they do have their place and they do make for some great "filler" footage. In addition, I have been thankful more than once that I had my GoPro on and running. I really like to use them when I am guiding hunters as I can flip the camera around and use it to video behind me. It is during these times that I am able to catch those rare scenes of the hunter and his true emotion when he doesn’t really know a camera is on him.
Before I used a GoPro, I was intimidated by them, but seriously, these cameras are really easy to use. They are also very versatile in that you are able to mount them just about anywhere. From your head, shoulder, and chest to your rifle, bow, or vehicle, the POV angles you are able to capture from the GoPro are amazing.
Canon G10 through G12
I have owned and still own DSLR cameras, and while they do take amazing photos and have lens-changing capabilities that set them into a class of their own, they are also somewhat sophisticated pieces of equipment. I like to use my Canon EOS T5i for capturing live photos at “just out of arm’s length” distances. However, when it comes to snapping some great scenery, action, support, and kill photos, surprisingly enough, the DSLR is not my favorite.
Instead, I have long been a fan of the Canon G10, G11, and G12 for my kill photo/support photo needs. These cameras have been the best user-friendly cameras I have ever used, but what’s even better is that they capture some absolutely amazing photos. The color quality and flash control are second to none, and in the world of point-and-shoot ease, the Canon G10 through G12 series are tough to beat. Don’t worry about whether or not they take high enough resolution photos; I have taken several photos that have been used as cover shots for a couple of different magazines with the Canon G10 and Canon G12 cameras.
I love the technology that we have nowadays. Our phones are getting better and better at what they are able to do with quality of still photos and video capabilities. While I would NEVER EVER use my cell phone for kill photos or those truly awesome support/scenery photos, I do use my Samsung often to snag quick scenery, support, or candid shots and video. I do this mainly for social media posts. Again, NEVER EVER rely on your cell phone for kill photos you wish to submit to a print publication. However, don’t be afraid to pull your phone out for a quick snapshot or a quick video cameo, especially if you have a social media post in mind.
In addition to the camera equipment I mentioned above, I also carry a good set of carbon fiber tripod legs and a good fluid head to mount my video equipment on. My tripod of choice is the Swarovski CT 101 legs, and my fluid head of choice is the Manfrotto 502AH or the 701HDV. I also have to admit, albeit embarrassingly, that yes I do carry a selfie stick around for those times I need to shoot some second-angle shots with my GoPro.
I just want to reiterate that you don’t have to spend a small fortune to arm yourself with some very high-quality and easy-to-use camera equipment. Again, I try to keep things simple, small, and easy. The equipment I use has produced images that you have seen in the Huntin’ Fool magazine as well as several other western hunting publications in the past. The video equipment I use is more than enough for high-quality hunting DVDs as well as webisodes, family videos, and the likes. Good luck, and remember to take way more photos than you think necessary and shoot way more video than you will ever need. It’s these memories that can never be recreated but can be relived by capturing them all on film.