Marcum Recon 5 Underwater Camera Review: Is it Right For You?

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I’m obsessed with underwater footage. In fact, I can sit on YouTube all day long watching other people catch fish as long as I can see what’s going on underwater. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to purchase my first Aqua-View when it came out years ago and that’s why I didn’t hesitate now when given the opportunity to purchase Marcum’s portable unit: the Marcum Recon 5 Plus.

What to Expect from Underwater Cameras

TRADEOFFS

Every purchase decision comes with trade offs. Underwater cameras are no different.

There are 2 trade offs you really have to consider when purchasing an underwater camera: quality vs. portability. At this point with technology, you can’t have both.

The bigger and heavier the unit - the better the quality. It will work better in deeper conditions, cloudier days, and dirtier water.

The smaller, cheaper, and lighter units are just that - more portable and affordable.

Take your pick.

When determining which of these units is going to be right for you is going to depend on your style of fishing. Are you primarily fishing in a wheelhouse? Then it might be a good idea to invest in a higher quality, larger camera (like Marcum’s Mission that you can find here).

Do you fish out of a portable? Do you move a lot? If yes, then the smaller, Recon, will likely be a better choice for you. The point is…

Don’t go into buying a portable underwater camera (such as the Recon 5) expecting it to perform to the same level as a full size premium unit. It’s not made for that - and it’s size and price reflect that. It’s important to keep this in mind.

For those of you looking for an affordable and portable underwater camera - than here is a full review of the Recon to determine if it is right for you.

ABOUT THE MARCUM RECON 5

Marcum Recon 5

The Recon Features

Marcum’s portable unit is branded under the name “Recon 5”. It’s small, lightweight, and perfect for both structure finding and clearwater fish viewing.

Below are the specs - taken directly from Marcum (I will breakdown the significance of these in the positives and negatives below).

  • 5” Widescreen LCD Monitor

  • 16:9 Aspect Ratio, Sunlight Readable,

  • 800 x 480 Pixel Hi-Res Color

  • Switchable Color & B/W

  • 1/3” CMOS Sensor Offers Optimal Low-Light Performance

  • 110° Field of View

  • Darkwater Adjustable LED or IR Lighting

  • 50 ft. Camera Cable

  • Rechargeable Internal Lithium Battery

  • Up-to 6 Hours of Continuous Run-Time

  • Comes With a Softcase/Portable Pack

Marcum Recon 5 vs. Marcum Recon 5 Plus

Marcum Recon 5 is broken down into two options, each at a different price point. Everything is the same except the PLUS gives you the ability to record straight to an SD card - with limitations. More on this below.

Marcum Recon 5: I’ve found as low as $267

Marcum Recon 5 PLUS: I’ve found as low as $290

Most people don’t need to record. If you have no interested in working with video, then pass on the PLUS and get the regular Recon 5.

THE GOOD AND BAD

THE GOOD

A screenshot of the Marcum Recon 5 Plus footage. Afternoon, cloudy conditions, clear water, 15 feet.

A screenshot of the Marcum Recon 5 Plus footage. Afternoon, cloudy conditions, clear water, 15 feet.

Video Quality

Perhaps one of the best parts of this camera is that the image quality is REALLY GOOD for its size and price point. Unless you are fishing in a really dirty body of water - such as Upper Red Lake in Minnesota - you are going to be able to find use from this camera. In fact, when fishing a clear lake in Minnesota, I was able to see perfectly clear in 30 feet of water on a cloudy day. You won’t get that in dirtier water - but either way it’s pretty impressive.

Screen Size

The viewing screen is also adequate. The 5” size is a perfect compromise: small enough to keep the unit compact but big enough to actually see. The only catch here is it’s clarity. It’s not going to be as crisp as the Aqua-Vu Revolution (I tested them side by side) - but the Aqua-Vu also comes in at roughly $100 more.

Recording

This is going to be both a positive and a negative. Playback on the actual unit itself is superb. However, recording to the SD card on the plus is where things get complicated.

Recording straight to a microSD card, in theory, is incredible and should be a positive. It’s easier, more efficient, and more affordable than buying an external recorder. Let’s face it, you are more likely to record and use video if you don’t have to deal with hooking up extra accessories. Unfortunately, the hardware is only as good as the software - which is why it it becomes more of a negative (read below).

Price

The price is a major positive with this unit. With the ability to buy the Recon around that $260 mark, it’s hard to go wrong. You get a quality, affordable underwater camera at a bargain of a price. The Marcum Recon 5 is a tough camera to beat when it comes quality, portability, and price.

The Bad

There are really two big negatives about the Marcum Recon 5 units that everyone should be aware of:

  1. The cable retractive system (it’s just simply bad)

  2. Processing and viewing video from the 5 plus (both a positive and a negative).

We will break down each below.

The Cable Retractive System

A different cable retracting system would go a long ways into improving this device. In fact, there isn’t even a way you can reel this cable up. Sometimes I get so annoyed with it I simply pile it up and throw it in the case. This is both time consuming and straight up annoying to unravel later. If you are innovative, you might be able to design your own retractable system - but it’s not something I have the time or patience to do.

Recording

Let me start by saying that playback on the device is completely fine!

The issues start becoming evident when you want to work with those recordings on your computer. This seems to be due to software issues.

The underwater footage is awesome. The fact that you can record the underwater footage on the Recon 5 + with nothing but an SD card is even better - as long as you have the right viewing software to work with it.

Unfortunately for Windows users - you don’t have the right software built in - at least as of 2019. To view this content, you are going to NEED to download a different player than Windows Media Player. A good alternative is VLC. Not a big deal - but definitely not ideal.

The other issue is that the files corrupt. I’ve found the best way to combat these issues is by doing 2 things:

  • Update your camera software.

  • By the recommended higher quality SD cards. Don’t cheap out.

Finally, the software file will be disproportionate. I’m hoping Marcum takes care of this issue with a software update - but at least for right now it comes in rectangles that need to be transformed in video editing software. This is a hassle that most people don’t want to deal with.

Is it Right For You?

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For most people, the Recon is going to be a perfect bargain underwater camera. It’s easy to pack up and move with. The video quality is suberb in clear and semi clear water (really anywhere the soil doesn’t consist of heavy clay) and the price point is right. Even if you want a larger, more permanent camera to display on your TV in your wheelhouse (which you can technically do with the Recon too) having a Recon along to check for structure would still be an added bonus. It really comes down to your budget and fishing needs.

Just remember, the key is to understand your price point and what you are getting. If you want a top of the line camera - then look for a top of the line product. If you want a portable, affordable unit then the Recon is right for you.