What Are The Pros And Cons Of Aqua-Vu Vs Marcum Cameras?

UPDATED 25 AUGUST 2021

by Bill Laney

This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

When it comes to underwater cameras for ice fishing, Marcum and Aqua-Vu are the undisputed market leaders, and together account for the majority of all units being used. But which of these two companies produces the best ice fishing cameras, and which one should you choose if you’re looking to buy a new one?

Overall, Aqua-Vu cameras are cheaper and easier to use than Marcum models, which makes them a great choice for beginners. On the other hand, Marcum cameras provide a significantly better image during low light conditions, or in murky water, which makes them the better choice for dedicated ice anglers. 

Read on for the full scoop on which one is better – Marcum or Aqua-Vu.

Aqua-Vu vs Marcum underwater camera compared

 Aqua-VuMarcum
Image
Price
Image quality in bright light★★★★★★
Image quality in murky water★★☆★★★
Image quality at night★☆☆★★★
Ease of use★★★★★☆
Panning possible?Yes (with MoPod)Yes (with PanCam)
Durability★★☆★★★
Ability to use for open water during summer★★★★☆☆

How did we arrive at these ratings? We used two strategies to compare the performance of both brands:

First of all, we tested the performance of two specific models, the Marcum VS485C and the Aqua-Vu 715C, and compared them side by side. Secondly, we asked 19 ice anglers who have been using ice fishing cameras for at least 5 years, what their experiences have been with both brands.

The table above summarizes the findings from our own experience, combined with the insights we got from other ice anglers. 

For our tests we chose the following two models:

Marcum VS485C

VS485C

While this is one of the most affordable units in their lineup, it comes with an impressive array of high quality technology, including a 7-inch LCD display, camera with CMOS sensor, LED lighting, as well as Color Kill functionality. 

Aqua-Vu AV715C

VA715C

This model is in a similar performance category as the VS485C above, but comes at a slightly lower price. Its features include a 7-inch color LCD screen, color CMOS camera, LED lights on housing, and infra red lighting functionality.

Both models have broadly similar features, and come with 50 feet of cable, sunshield, and storage bag.

Our goal was not to compare the features of the two units in detail, but rather the overall performance quality in the most important categories.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail: 

1. Pricing

At the lower end of the pricing scale Aqua-Vu models tend to be cheaper than Marcum models (though at the high end of the scale this trend is reversed). For example, the shop price for the AV715C is $299 at the time of writing (check current price on Amazon), while that of the VS485C is $399 (check current price on Amazon), even though they offer broadly similar features.

Since pricing can be an important factor, especially for beginners who aren’t 100% sure how dedicated they are to the sport, cheaper cameras are the better option to get you started.

In this category, Aqua-Vu is the winner.

2. Image quality in bright light

When it comes to filming in bright sunlight conditions, both brands perform equally well, and provide stunning clarity and detail of what’s going on under the ice hole. So if you’re only planning to fish during the day, and won’t be out on the ice during dusk, dawn or at night, both brands have got you covered. 

In this category, both brands perform equally well.

3. Image quality in murky water

However, when it comes to murky water, Marcum models consistently provide a better image than Aqua-Vu models. This is probably due to the higher sensitivity of the camera, which also plays an important role for night viewing. 

Similarly, on overcast days, or when there is a thick layer of snow on top of the ice, an ice fishing camera must be able to operate in dimly lit conditions, which is very common during ice fishing. 

In this category Marcum is the better choice.

4. Image quality at night

If you’re a dedicated ice angler, it’s likely that you’ll want to use your camera for night fishing sooner or later. For many species, including walleye, the night shift is more productive than the day shift, plus you tend to have a higher chance of catching a trophy fish. 

Marcum truly shines in the night filming category, and generates a much better image than Aqua-Vu under these conditions. This is due to a combination of higher sensitivity, plus its Color Kill feature, which allows you to switch from color to black and white mode. The black/white mode provides a more crisp and clear image during low light conditions. 

In this category, Marcum is the clear winner.

5. Ease of use

This is another important category for beginners, and Aqua-Vu models generally have a very user friendly design, and are easy to use. This applies both to setting up and using the unit, as well as the sunshield, which is built into the screen mount. In addition, charging the battery is easy and intuitive. 

In contrast to this, Marcum units are quite a lot more cumbersome to work with, and have a steeper learning curve. Also, the sunshield comes as a separate piece that’s attached with velcro to the screen. In addition to being more complicated to set up, it’s also quite common to lose the sunshield, or forget it at home.

In this category, Aqua-Vu is the winner.

6. Camera panning

Panning is very important, especially for ice fishing. You want to be able to see what’s happening all around your ice hole. Both brands can provide this functionality if you buy additional gear to do this. 

For Aqua-Vu, you need to get a MoPod, which enables you to pan the unit by 360 degrees, and for Marcum you need a PanCam System, which likewise enables 360 degree panning. In terms of pricing, both of these systems are very similar.

In this category, both brands perform equally well.

7. Durability

Both brands are quite well known for having issues with malfunctioning parts from time to time, which is unfortunately quite common with complex fishing electronics that’s still relatively young in terms of design and development. 

However, among the anglers we asked, we got more replies complaining about their Aqua-Vu units malfunctioning than their Marcum units, suggesting that the latter are built a little more solidly.

In this category, Marcum is the winner.

8. Using the camera for open water

While this review is mainly focused on ice fishing, the use of underwater cameras during the warm season has become increasingly popular. For example, bass anglers are using them to locate fish close to sunken trees, and walleye anglers are using them to make sure the fish they’re marking are indeed walleye.

So this raises the question: can you buy a single fishing camera and use it equally well during winter and summer, for a range of different applications? 

While both brands can be used on open water, Aqua-Vu is much better in this category, since it provides a whole set of accessories designed specifically for open water use. This includes a trolling fin with the ability to mount the unit viewing forward or backward while trolling, as well as an adaptor to attach the unit to a long pole to scan locations far from your boat. 

So if you’re looking for a model that you can use all year round equally well, this is probably the top choice for you.

In this category, Aqua-Vu is the clear winner.

What’s the best underwater camera for murky water?

Based on our own test results, and the feedback we got from other anglers, Marcum models perform significantly better in murky water, making them the top choice for this. If you’re on a smaller budget, then the VS485C is a good choice. Otherwise, take a look at the Mission SD, or the Quest HD, which are the higher end models. The Quest HD delivers the best image quality with 1080 pixel resolution. 

See also: How to use tip ups for ice fishing

What’s the best Aqua-Vu for ice fishing?

If you decide to go with Aqua-Vu, then the AV715C is an excellent choice, and is currently one of the most affordably priced models that still provides high quality performance. If you prefer one of their more high end models, take a look at the HD7i Gen2, or the HD10i Gen2, which will give you a superior image quality with 1080p resolution.

See also: How to target big walleye ice fishing

Summary

Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of Aqua-Vu vs. Marcum cameras:

Aqua-Vu models are more user friendly and easier to use. Together with the fact that their low end models are cheaper than Marcum, this makes them a great choice for beginners who want to try out an ice fishing camera, but aren’t sure how dedicated they are to the sport, and how often they will be using it.

On the other hand, Marcum models offer much better image quality when it comes to dimly lit conditions, as well as in murky water, which makes them ideal for fishing at dusk or at night, or on overcast days. This superior performance makes them the top choice for dedicated ice anglers, who often fish at dusk, since this is one of the top biting times for many fish.

Curious to learn more about hardwater fishing? Check out our ice fishing tips for pike.

Additional resources: