The Walking With... series of documentaries by the Discovery Channel and The BBC love this bit. Something strikes at or splashes mud into on or snarls into and steams the camera every episode. Perhaps the most alarming was in the episode Land of Giants of Walking with Beasts, where the Paraceratherium calf notices the cameraman, chases him, and knocks him over. Some animals even crack the lens (the Australopithecus throw rocks at it, a Brontoscorpio breaks it with its stinger), the Tyrannosaurus covers it in spit, a Lystrosaurus bonks its head on it, and the Dimetrodon shake feces out an Edaphosaurus' gut which lands right on the lens.
Also used in its special Chased by Dinosaurs, usually when Nigel Marvin and the camera crew are quite literally abusing camera. In one scene, an unseen crew member is shown using the boom mic to encourage a Protoceratops to back off. In another, the cameraman is implied to have been eaten by a Deinosuchus.
In Space Odyssey Voyage To The Planets, the cameras on Venus quickly fail under the hellish conditions; one is shown, half-melted and smoking, from the astronaut's POV. On Io, the high level of radiation (from Jupiter) shows up as random bright spots in the picture.
In the Doctor Who Ninth Doctor story "The End of the World", one of the (CGI-animated) spiders "accidentally" collides with the camera. This may have been an intentional reference to a notorious blooper in the sixties story "The Web Planet", where an insectoid creature accidentally headbutted the camera, and it was left in to avoid the time and expense of a retake.
In the Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, Pee-Wee's yo-yo hits the camera lens, putting a very large crack (not unlike safety-glass) into it. His response: "Better add a 'new camera lens' to the Christmas list, Conky!" note If you're looking VERY carefully, you can discern the jump cut where the yo-yo "cracks" the lens!
The new Battlestar Galactica practices the "camera abuse without a camera" technique — in the miniseries pilot, debris from the destroyed Armistice Station hits the spacebound camera and sends it reeling. Then at the end of the second season, debris from a nuclear explosion hits the camera, breaks its lens, and sets it spinning out of control. These are both CGI sequences.
The X-Files episode, "War of the Coprophages", has Scully and Mulder dealing with mysterious cockroach-related deaths. At one point, a cockroach scuttles across the TV screen. Your TV screen. This was a real cockroach, unscripted; some of the little critters they were using had escaped from their cages and gotten everywhere. It wasn't noticed until after shooting had ended, so they decided to Throw It In. According to Kim Manners on the DVD commentary the bug was added in post, which is why it is unaffected by a cut.
In a December episode of The Late Show with David Letterman, the first third of the show was filmed in "nog cam": They held a flat glass in front of the camera and filled it with eggnog as the show progressed.
The Rutles uses a variation of this. In the beginning of the film, Eric Idle (playing the trenchcoated reporter) walks along the sidewalk, talking about the Rutles. Suddenly, the camera pulls back a little bit faster, causing Idle to quicken his pace. Rinse and repeat until he has to break into a full-on run in order to keep pace with the camera. The payoff, cut at the last minute, showed Idle running off the end of a pier, causing him to take a dive into the river Mersey.
Subverted in an episode of That's So Raven. Someone appears to break the camera, but it turns out it was just a shot from the perspective of a television screen.
In an episode of The Kenny Everett Television Show, Kenny tells the handheld camera operator to "c'mere". The operator obligingly rushes toward Kenny, and we see his face getting bigger and bigger - until it suddenly drops out of sight as the camera apparently hits it.
In Mythbusters, more than one experiment has taken out the high-speed cameras, resulting in footage of something actually smashing through the camera. One time they were testing a myth that a loud stereo can cause guns to go off. Nothing happened to the guns, but the camera was killed by all the vibration from the stereo. Played for laughs on some of the myth-intro animations, when falling items or explosions leave broken-glass patterns drawn onto the screen.
In several episodes the crew set up cameras in positions that they know are likely to end with the destruction of the camera, such as under trees that are about to be felled or next to explosives that are about to be set off, in the hopes of getting interesting footage. The show makes no effort to hide the crew or their equipment, allowing host Mike Rowe to purposefully draw audience attention to moments like these.
In the episode where Mike visits a salt mine, they rig a cave wall with explosives, leaving a camera within a few yards of the blast zone with a sheet of plexiglas over the lens. After the blast, they go back to check the damage to the camera. Here's the thing: the camera still worked, with the plexiglas taking the brunt of the blast. Mike and crew are dumbfounded at the fact that a six-dollar sheet of plexiglas kept a several-thousand-dollar camera from being destroyed.
Mike also has a habit of purposefully throwing some of the dirt, muck, or feces he's working with onto the nearest camera lens. He lampshades it in the episode in which he sorts baby chickens by sex, proclaiming that they've hit a new low when he squeezes excrement from a chick directly onto the camera lens.
An unintentional and non-catastrophic example occurred in the first season when Mike and crew visited an ostrich farm. One of the ostriches tried to take bites at a camera. They left the footage in as an example of the fact that ostriches have attitudes.
It's sometimes used on Deadliest Catch... with the problem being that nearly every camera is destroyed while filming (by the water, ice, salt or irate crew members), and it's often tricky to recover the footage. The sheer scale of camera destruction is displayed in the making-of episode. The filming starts with a ridiculous amount of gear—about five cameras for each main boat (four in total), plus cameras for the Coast Guard chopper and boat and a few others. All of them were unusable at the end of the season.
Ax Men: The camera crews have been known to place cameras near where trees and / or branches will fall. A few camera operators have run afoul of this trope as well. Especially in one episode involving Shelby Stanga's jet boat.
Both Firefly and Serenity occasionally used camera abuse in certain scenes. In one scene at the end of the movie, water droplets are even shown collecting on the CG camera during a rainstorm.
On It's Me Or The Dog, a Weimaraner with a history of snapping at houseguests lunged at the cameraman unexpectedly, nearly biting the lens.
The "players" on Animal Planet's annual Puppy Bowl have been known to slobber or teethe on the camera.
Ryan Stiles was really fond of doing things to the camera on the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Usually with his face.
Inverted in one "Weird Newscasters" segment where he was playing a matador in a bullfight. He gets into a bullfight with the camera, and the camera operator plays along and wins the bullfight.
Drew once knocked over one of the cameras when he did his usual "throw the Scenes from a Hat" hat near the camera. Also downplayed; a few times when he's thrown the hat, he's hit the camera lens (without knocking it over).
In the first episode of Season 13m, The Stig ("revealed" to be Michael Schumacher) accidentally drives off-course and smashes into one of the cameras.
In the series 12, episode 5 race, "Ferrari Daytona vs. Powerboat," the camera mounted above James May's head in said powerboat kept jostling about thanks to the choppy waters and the boat's bouncing on the waves. It wasn't long before it malfunctioned and kept a green tint through the rest of the race.
In the Polar Special, May was jostled by Clarkson's driving and fell against the in-vehicle camera in their modified Toyota Hilux.
In the "police cars" challenge, Clarkson smeared petroleum jelly on the lens of a camera to get a dramatic 'soft focus' (read: "hopelessly blurry") effect for his power lap.
In one episode a cobra spits venom at the camera and it visibly splats on the screen.
In another, a croc destroys the camera, and ruins the jib arm suspending it.
In CSI, the episode opens with a first-person view from a camera on a skydiver's helmet. We get to see him board the plane, jump off... his parachute malfunctioning and him crashing through a shed. The camera continued to record, even though the crash shattered the lens in half, until it was picked up by Nick for his Quip to Black.
The camera gets splattered by zombie blood in episode 5.12 of Supernatural.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys used stylized camera abuse. When Herc put the beat down on foes, they'd hit the ground and the camera would shake as if their falling caused it to do so.
An unintentional example; Craig Ferguson usually ends his opening monologue by playfully smacking the side of the camera. One time he slapped it a bit too playfully and actually broke the camera.
In The Wire, some gang members are seen from the point of view of a security camera, throwing rocks at it. They hit and break the camera and the resulting shot (presumably because it took all day to get) appears in the opening credits of every episode.
The Stargate Atlantis episode Phantoms had the team find a camcorder dropped by a missing SG team and review the last few moments of footage. In the commentary, Peter DeLuise says that the set's cameramen couldn't stop keeping the camera steady, so the footage was unrealistically smooth for something that was supposedly taped by an amateur fleeing in terror. DeLuise ended up having to be the cameraman for that shot.
Deliberately incorporated into a fake news broadcast which the Leverage crew staged as part of their scheme to discredit a corrupt African official. "Reporting" in front of a green screen, Eliot ducked on cue as Hardison shook the camera, and a thrown bottle that struck the "lens" a glancing blow was later inserted into the shot.
In every episode of Drop the Dead Donkey, Damien's outside broadcast footage would end with sudden lurches in focus and positon, as something horrible happened to Jerry the cameraman. Usually while Damien berated him for ruining the shot.
In an unscripted Truth in Television example shown on Untamed And Uncut, a zoo elephant with a grudge against a news reporter started tossing rocks at him and his cameraman, when he attempted to go back a year after their first (unfriendly) encounter and make peace with her. No one had taught the elephant, a mature female named Kenya, how to throw rocks, yet she managed to score a glancing hit on the camera.
Super Sentai, and by extension Power Rangers, began using this in the 2000's. Older seasons would just do quick cuts where it's obvious the hero or mecha twitched or slightly moved between when the monster fell down, ran off-camera, and a subsequent explosion was set off to simulate the monster's death. Now, however, enemy explosions just cause the battlefield camera to shake violently for a second, hiding such cuts.
The second opening for Kamen Rider Blade had the titular character inexplicably punch a camera, shattering the lens. This is shown from the viewpoint of the camera.
In The Walking Dead, blood and/or brains are often splattered onto the camera, usually resulting from a gunshot, blunt object, or axe to the head.
In New Zealand in 1985, TVNZ reporter Rod Vaughan attempted to interview property tycoon and then-New Zealand Party leader Bob Jones about putting the party in hiatus, while he was out fishing in the central North Island. Jones, who also happened to be a trained boxer, felt his privacy was being infringed, and responded with a knuckle sandwich on Vaughan and his cameraman. In the subsequent court case, Jones was fined NZ$1,000 for assault, to which Jones asked, "if I pay $2,000, can I hit him again?"
This happened during a fight scene on Na'Toth's first appearance. This was because Na'Toth's actress accidentally kicked the camera during the shoot of the take they kept.
A few times, especially during the battle scene in "And Now for a Word", they would show camera footage from outside the station cue a Snowy Screen of Death as the camera or robot involved gets destroyed.
A case where the camera was the one doing the abusing, the episode "The Illusion of Truth", in which a flying camera was repeatedly butting Lennier's headridge while he was in an elevator with an ISN crew. When the crew exited the elevator, he gave the camera a good butt back, then left it in the elevator as the door closed.
In one episode of Farscape, a Hyper Raged D'Argo is looking for Crichton so he can smash him to smithereens. Failing that, he looks for anything to destroy to vent his rage. We then see the view from a Repair Drone as D'Argo decides to take out his rage on it. See a rage-fueled punch fly towards the camera, followed by Snowy Screen of Death. The same footage is shown on a monitor in the following scene, repeated over and over.
In Canada's Worst Driver, it's not unheard of for a camera to be sent flying. You can bet footage from that camera will be shown. In an FAQ show just before the eighth season, Andrew said that 51 cameras had been destroyed.
On a show as active as Double Dare it is not surprising that the camera is occasionally hit or splattered during physic challenges and the obstacle course. One notable example happened in 2000 when a large dollop of slime landed on the main camera on the first obstacle. It remained there for the rest of the run slowly dropping down to the bottom while the family ran the course.
Happens fairly often on America's Funniest Home Videos and similar shows, although the abuse is more often of the camera operator than the camera itself.
On the BBC show Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, you can almost guarantee that any venomous animal Dom runs across (particularly snakes) will be shown trying to bite or otherwise attack the camera. Frank the cameraman suffers his fair share of Cameraman Abuse as well, usually as the butt of Dom's jokes, but there was that one time he almost got trampled by a wounded elephant...
On Dogfights, the "camera" occasionally shakes when an aircraft passes or an explosion happens close by. CGI, of course, but a nice touch.
In Fred Astaire's live TV special An Evening with Fred Astaire, one number features Astaire sending up his love of dancing with props. After destroying multiple invisible "props," including a piano and a drum set, Astaire starts hitting invisible golf balls. The last one cracks the camera.
In "br4ve.trave1er" (1x06), blood splatters the lens when DJ shoots Isaac.
In "wh1ter0se" (1x08), Elliot has just found out that Darlene, whose existence he had forgotten, is actually his sister. He accuses his "imaginary friend" (the viewer) of knowing all along and shoves the camera, knocking it over.