Marcum Pursuit HD L Underwater Camera: In-depth Review

The technology used nowadays for fishing is absolutely crazy and we mean that in a good way.  It started with basic fish finders and has now advanced to live sonar imaging and underwater cameras.  

These inventions are good for anglers in terms of catching more fish.  But are all these electronic gadgets really necessary?  Well, of course not.  But in a world where the fish still tend to out smart the angler, we need all the help we can get.  

One of the coolest advances in recreation and competitive angling are underwater cameras.  There are lots of really good underwater cameras to choose from.  Among the most appealing is the Marcum Pursuit HD L.  We bought one to learn more about the fish we love catching and after putting it through the paces, we have a few things to say.

Whether you want a camera for use on a boat or for ice fishing in the winter, this camera is seriously worth considering.  We put the Marcum Pursuit HD L through some grueling tests and pushed it to its limits.  Read on to see our complete and brutally honest review of this camera.   

About the camera

There really is no other underwater camera that compares to the Marcum’s Pursuit HD L.  This camera has everything anglers need in a compact package.  Let’s take a look at what features separate this camera from the rest of the pack.

Hand held viewing screen

Marcum did a lot of things right with the Pursuit HD L camera and it shows when you actually start using it on the water.  The main body is made of plastic but it feels durable and well built.  We have used the camera in rain and snow and the weather proofing on the screen, SD card and charging ports held up without leaking. 

The 5 inch LCD screen has surprisingly good resolution for seeing every detail.  However, because of its compact size, we end up leaning in really close to catch the action on screen.  This is not a deal breaker since a bigger screen means sacrificing portability and battery life.

It may seem like a minor feature but the 1/4” – 20 mounting port at the bottom of the camera screen is brilliant.  While the compact size is great for hole hopping on the ice or stowing in a tackle bag on your boat, it can be cumbersome to manage the cable and the viewing screen.  Several times we have come close to dropping the unit while trying to deploy the camera and handle the screen at the same time.  Take advantage of the mounting port by using a tripod to reduce the risk of dropping it.

User interface

Using the camera and navigating menu options relies on 5 simple buttons along the side of the screen.  They include a power button, recording/image capture button, up and down scrolling buttons that also control the IR and LED lights and a menu/enter button.

Figuring out the buttons and exploring the menus takes a little getting used to but we found it rather intuitive after a few minutes.  The main thing is that all the most important features you need to access are one or two button pushes away.  Some buttons also have dual functions decided by pushing versus holding.

For the most part, Marcum nailed the user interface for us.  Simple enough to figure out without referencing directions while still offering all the customization of menu options you could possibly need.  Our only gripe is that the buttons are small and flat making them difficult to push with gloves on.

Recording and playback capabilities

By far, the biggest selling feature of this camera is the integrated video recording.  It’s awesome to watch play back videos of underwater footage.  If nothing else, you can show your buddies a huge fish that just swam right by.  

Other cameras, like the Aqua-Vu, require an additional recording device costing $100 or more to capture video.  It’s a cumbersome system for the average angler.  Especially, since recording video is a big part of using a camera.  

Recording is easy too.  Just hold down the REC button until the record icon appears on the screen.  It really doesn’t get any easier.  A cyclical record feature lets you record for specific lengths of time.  It’s handy for file management but I suggest setting it to 3 or 5 minutes.  Otherwise, you end up with long clips that are a pain to sort through when playing back on the device.   

Video files are in MP4 format for playback on most devices.  To record video data, you need to purchase a separate micro SD card up to 128 GB in size.  An hour of record time requires about 4 GB of space.  We suggest using at least a 32 GB card which lets you record for about 8 hours.

You can watch the footage using the on-screen playback feature.  It’s nice but there is no way to fast forward or rewind any footage during playback on the camera.  Remove the SD card and plug it into an external device like a laptop for easier viewing.

There is also an option to connect the camera to a larger screen via the micro HD video port.  This is a pretty cool feature for replaying videos at home on a television.

Video and image capture quality

The video quality on this camera is astounding.  We’ve played video back on a large, 21 inch computer monitor and it’s nice and sharp.  With 1080p HD video recording at 30 frames per second, we expected nothing less.  

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the image capture capabilities.  Images on the Marcum Pursuit are crisp yet susceptible to motion blur.  In addition, there is a half second or so of lag between the time you push the capture button and when a photo is actually taken.  

Other than being able to capture a memorable moment, we don’t see the benefit of using the image capture feature a lot.  Because the underwater world is full of movement, it is far easier to take a still frame from a video clip in your video editing software.

On-screen display

Marcum has packed in a few more handy features to help anglers make the most of this underwater camera.  The on-screen display shows water temperature, camera direction, camera depth (if powered on before lowering into the water), remaining battery life, date, time and recording status.

You can decide what, if any, on-screen displays you want captured while recording video.  YouTube content creators will appreciate the ability to have a clean video image without a date or time stamp.

Screen size and brightness

A 5 inch screen seems pretty small but it is still remarkably functional.  There are 10 levels of brightness for optimizing view-ability in dark ice fishing pop-ups or in full sun.  However, there is still a fair bit of screen glare from snow or sun light that sometimes makes viewing the small screen difficult even at full brightness.  The screen cover acts as a sun shade and does help cut glare quite a bit.  Position yourself with the sun behind the camera screen for reduced screen glare.

Internal IR and LED lights

More than likely, you’ll find that the IR and LED lights built into the camera are not very useful.  The 1/3 inch CMOS censor in the camera is already superb at capturing video in low light conditions.  In ultra clear water, the lights might let you extend your viewing time in pre-dawn or at dusk.  

More often than not though, turning on the IR or LED light hinders your image.  All the aquatic micro-organisms reflect the light and it feels like you’re trying to look through a snow flurry.  For that same reason, the camera has limited utility at night.

Camera housing

The actual camera itself is top notch.  With a rugged, waterproof housing, this little camera handles all the abuse we throw at it like a champ.  It may be possible to scratch the lens if you are not careful but we have yet to do so.  

Obviously, an underwater camera’s most important feature is image quality.  The Pursuit HD L does not disappoint.  The 1/3 inch CMOS pumps out full HD (1920 x 1080p) video resolution with a generous 110 degree field of view.  

An ingenious friction gimbal tilt system allows for fast and easy changes of the camera angle.  Previous Pursuit HD models required the cable to be manually routed along grooves in the camera housing.  A task made almost impossible while wearing gloves in frigid temperatures.  Thanks Marcum for the improvement!

Battery life

An internal lithium battery makes up the “L” in Pursuit HD L.  And was it ever a much needed improvement.  We easily get 4 hours of run time with the screen near peak brightness.  Turning the brightness down a tad aligns our run time with Marcum’s 6 hour claim.  Even while ice fishing in single digit temperatures, the battery kept the camera going for over 5 hours.

Recharging via the included wall charger and USB cable takes around 4 hours depending on how drained the battery is.  Because it can charge with a USB cable, it’s possible to attach a power bank for a longer run time.

Cable management

With the integrated camera cord reel, taming the 50 feet of included cable is about as easy as it gets.  No matter which underwater camera system you buy, cable management is a frustrating issue.  Marcum did a good job by keeping things portable while still supplying the most practical way to quickly deploy and retrieve the camera.

Our only complaint is the small handle for cranking the spool.  It’s just big enough for a thumb and finger to grasp it.  The handle folds over flat so that the camera can fit in the carry case but they could have still added and extra half inch to the handle for a better grip.

The spool is also a touch too small for holding all 50 feet of cord.  We found that the cable unravels like twisted mono on a spinning reel if you forget to use the cable locking notches on the reel.  However, once the first 10 feet of cable is let out, that problem subsides.  On a positive note, we do like that you can lock the reel so it doesn’t free spool when the camera is suspended in the water at your desired depth.

Water clarity issues

It’s important to have realistic expectations before buying this camera.  The video images are crisp and sharp but the quality of the actual footage you get depends greatly on water clarity.  

If you primarily fish brackish or stained water, the Pursuit HD L (or any camera for that matter) won’t do you much good.  We tried using the camera in lakes with slightly colored water in depths of 40 feet.  Even with the sun high in the sky, the view on the camera only penetrated a foot or two.  

This is a tool best reserved for use in clear water.  Our testing brought us to 4 different lakes with varying levels of clarity.  In the clearest lake, we could see fish swimming up to 15 feet away.  Once, we even saw a fish hookup with a JawJacker 25 feet from the camera while filming through the ice.  On other lakes with lower but still good clarity, we experienced 6 to 8 feet of visibility.   

In all likelihood, you are interested in this camera for watching fish interact with your baits while ice fishing.  After all, that is why we got it.  The Pursuit HD L is certainly well suited for it but bear in mind you generally need to drop the camera down within 6 feet of your lure.  This is mainly because the 110 degree wide angle view makes small baits tough to see from distances beyond that.  

We also found that you can put the camera within 3 feet of your lure without spooking fish.  Any closer and it seems like the fish grow a little wary.

Accessories that make using this camera better

There are two accessories we encourage you to get if you buy the Marcum Pursuit HD L camera.  The first is the Marcum camera panner which is a device made for easy directional control of the camera.  Without a panner, it’s almost impossible to keep the camera pointed where you want it.  

We opted for the Marcum Wireless Camera Panner and it is worth every penny!  Adjusting the camera direction is fast and precise without even getting up from our seat.

The next accessory to consider is a tripod.  Having some way to mount the camera and free up your hands for fishing is essential.  Any tripod with a 1/4” – 20 stud will work.  You could also use other mounting systems that suit your needs.  The main thing is to have some way to set it up for easy and adjustable viewing.

Using the Pursuit HD L for ice fishing

Ice fishing is where this camera really shines.  Not only is the Marcum Pursuit HD L great for hole hopping and scouting out spots that hold fish, it is also a fantastic learning tool to help you better understand how fish respond to your baits.

Since ice fishing utilizes vertical jigging as opposed to casting, you can setup the Pursuit HD L to view your lure in action and watch fish interact with it.  Setting up the camera takes a little more time and effort than you might think however.  Therefore, we don’t often break out the camera unless we know we’ll be sitting in one spot for a while.

How has the Marcum Pursuit HD L worked for us on the ice?  With the right preparation, it works great!  Setting up the camera on the ice entails drilling a second hole for the camera 4 to 6 feet from our fishing hole.  Then, we drop the camera down and connect the panner.  Once we rotate the camera to center our baits in the view screen, we attach the screen to a tripod and settle in for the show.  

It takes 5 to 10 extra minutes to deploy the camera.  Therefore, it’s not practical if you prefer to be on the move.  That’s not to say it’s not useful for hole hopping.  It’s great for punching holes and quickly checking out the situation below the ice.  Inspecting weed lines or confirming the location of structure is fast and precise with the Pursuit HD L.

We have no regrets about buying this camera for ice fishing.  Videos of fish are sharp and detailed. It has turned into an invaluable tool for advancing our knowledge and skills.  

Using the Pursuit HD L on a boat

The Pursuit HD L is definitely geared more towards ice anglers but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful for open water fishing on a boat.  It’s a great tool for scouting new spots, identifying structure or finding weed lines and transitions.  Modern fish finders are powerful tools but nothing beats actually seeing what’s below the surface with your own eyes.  For serious anglers, this camera is indispensable once you appreciate its utility.

However, there are a few limitations to be aware of when using the Marcum Pursuit HD L in a boat.  For starters, trying to control the direction of the camera can be frustrating.  Without the benefit of a panner as you might use on the ice, you just have to twist the cable with your fingers to spin the camera around.  This isn’t such a big deal when quickly dropping it down to inspect a rock hump but it’s impractical if you think you’ll be watching fish strike all day.

We have tried setting up the camera in our boat to watch our lures as we do during ice season but it just isn’t the same.  Boat drift, wind and struggling to keep the camera pointed in one direction make it all very challenging.  

In addition, cable management proves to be much harder in a boat than on the ice.  Plus, as a hand held camera, there is an ever present risk of dropping the whole thing overboard.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a wrist strap attached to the camera either.  Instead, there are only straps on the carry case. 

Overall, we find the camera incredibly useful for scouting applications from a boat but limited in its use as a fish finder or way to watch fish bite your lures and bait.  If you only intend to use it on a boat, try utilizing other tools (like your fish finder) before investing in an underwater camera.

What we like about the Pursuit HD L

Very few underwater camera systems have incorporated so many features that anglers can actually appreciate.  Here is what we like most about the Marcum Pursuit HD L.

  • Compact package that strikes a nice balance between size and functionality.
  • Simple yet powerful video recording capabilities built right in.
  • Integrated cable reel makes deploying and retrieving camera a cinch.
  • 1/4” – 20 mount for attaching screen to a tripod or other camera mounts.
  • Water depth, temperature and directional display is accurate and very useful.
  • Improved gimbal mount allows for simple adjusting of camera viewing angles.
  • Weather resistant screen and protective case for use in almost all conditions.
  • Superb video quality and the 4x digital zoom is actually quite useful. 
  • New integrated lithium battery provides longer run time.  Even on the coldest days, we get 5 hours out of it.
  • Camera performs well in low light conditions such as deep water or at dawn and dusk.

What we don’t like about it

Not everything is sunshine and roses with this camera however.  We found some design flaws that ended up being minor annoyances while using the Pursuit HD L.

  • Screen cover flap doesn’t have any sort of notch for opening and is difficult to open with gloves on.
  • No lanyard or wrist attachment on the viewing screen itself.  Eventually, you will drop the camera during hand held use unless you keep it in the carry case.
  • Battery life indicator is mediocre at best.  Needs a percent remaining indicator instead.
  • Cable reel handle is just a little too small and is tough to grip when retrieving the camera.
  • IR and LED lights have limited use in all but the clearest lakes.

Who should get the Marcum Pursuit HD L

Still not sure if the Marcum Pursuit HD L is right for you?  Let us try and sort that out for you.

This camera is ideal for avid anglers who already have experience with modern fishing electronics and simply want to up their game to the next level.  Ice anglers will definitely get the biggest bang for their buck while boat anglers may only get limited use from it.  

For fishing content creators, an underwater camera is almost required now.  The Marcum Pursuit is a fantastic option for obtaining beautiful underwater footage.  This camera simplifies the recording process compared to other brands.

We don’t recommend an underwater camera for the occasional angler.  It just won’t deliver enough fish catching power to make it worth the $499 price tag.  This camera also won’t work well for anglers hoping to film deep water fish like lake trout or burbot since it only has 50 feet of camera cord. 

Where to buy a Marcum Pursuit HD L camera

We have complete confidence in Scheels or BassPro Shops when shopping for expensive fishing electronics.  

Most places sell the camera for $499.  If you find one for less, be sure you are actually getting the newest Pursuit HD L camera and not the older version which is the Pursuit HD without the lithium battery or improved camera mount.

Summing it up

For those in the market for an underwater camera system, the Marcum Pursuit HD L should be towards the top of your list.  It’s a compact system for anglers on the go while at the same time providing high quality footage.

Marcum did a great job incorporating useful features without over complicating the usability of the camera.  We think the cable management system is simple yet effective.  In addition, the 5 inch LCD screen seems small but delivers a clear and bright image for easy viewing in most lighting conditions.

We can honestly say that we love the Marcum Pursuit HD L camera.  It has certainly helped us learn a lot about fish behavior and the structure of lakes we fish.  It is a blast to use in the right conditions.  For avid anglers (both on and off the ice) it is a worth while tool to add to your arsenal.  Despite a few minor annoyances, we can’t recommend this camera enough!