So you want to step up the audio quality in your camera work, and you've found out that shotgun mics are the top solution. The extreme directionality of shotgun microphones make them an ideal choice for attaching to cameras. The shotgun mic, when positioned correctly, will effectively capture the sound coming from the direction the camera is pointing while rejecting much of the sounds coming from elsewhere.
If you're not entirely sure which microphone would be the best for your camera or you're looking for a type of buyer's guide, you've come to the right place. Though my camera experience is limited, I've gathered a few ideas about the mics that work best on-camera.
Without further ado, here are my top 4 recommended on-camera shotgun microphones:
- Rode VideoMic Pro+: The Rode VideoMic Pro+ (link to check the price on Amazon) is a common microphone choice for camcorder and DSLRs. It's simple in its function but high-quality in its results, allowing for clean, crisp audio capture at the source.
- Shure VP83F LensHopper: The Shure VP83F LensHopper (link to check the price on Amazon) is a nifty camera microphone with digital flash recording and playback. The LensHopper sounds great and performs well along with and without the camera it's attached to.
- Canon DM-E1: The Canon DM-E1 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a camera mic designed by a leading camera manufacturer. Canon's DM-E1 is compatible with any Canon cameras that have a mic input along with many other cameras on the market.
- Sennheiser MKE 600: The Sennheiser MKE 600 (link to check the price on Amazon) is perhaps the most “professional” mic on the list. It's designed for use with high-end shoulder cameras but will also sound amazing with camcorders and DSLRs.
Before jumping into a deeper look at each of the above mics, let's first understand what criteria I'm basing my recommendations on.
“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist's price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.
Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:
- Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
- Microphone technique/placement
- Number of microphones used
- Natural sound of the room
- Content (whether that's the song, discussion, or otherwise)
- Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)
With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”
What Makes A Great Shotgun Camera Microphone?
- Extreme directionality: A shotgun microphone, by definition, is extremely directional. Choosing a mic that is the most sensitive to sound in the direction the camera is pointing is ideal for capturing the best audio.
- Size: Shotgun microphones are built with long interference tubes in order to achieve their lobar polar patterns. Ensure you're choosing a shotgun mic that is short enough to not appear in the camera frame.
- Adaptable attaching: Selecting a versatile microphone is important when attaching the mic to different cameras (both mechanically and electrically).
- High sensitivity: Pick a microphone with good sensitivity. When recording audio from camera position, the sound source is rarely ever in close proximity. A sensitive mic will be better at capturing a distant sound source.
- Powering from camera: Choosing a mic that either doesn't require power or can easily acquire power straight from the camera is always a good bet. Of course, this depends on the camera being used and its powering option(s).
- Flat frequency response: Choosing a mic with a flat frequency response across the human range of hearing (20 Hz – 20,000 Hz) is ideal for capturing the biggest variety of sounds in the most natural way possible.
Now that we know what we're looking (and listening) for, let's take a better look at each of the top 4 recommendations.
The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The Rode VideoMic Pro+ is a true shotgun microphone designed for use with camcorders, DSLR cameras, and even high-end shoulder cameras. The VideoMic Pro+ is an excellent choice for fast-paced shooters and provides an amazing sonic capture right at the source.
Rode is featured in My New Microphone's Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.
Let's look into the specs that make the VideoMic Pro+ such an awesome camera-mounted shotgun mic.
Directionality Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The Rode VideoMic Pro+, like most shotgun microphones, has a supercardioid/lobar polar pattern. Here is the mic's polar pattern diagram:
As we see, the VideoMic Pro+ is very directional and becomes more directional at higher frequencies (this is true of practically all directional mics).
The front lobe provides a full capture of on-axis sounds. Caution should be taken to not make noise behind the camera due to the rear lob of sensitivity. Even though there is a great amount of attenuation to the rear of the mic, we must remember that we'll typically be much closer to the mic than our intended sound source in front of the camera and mic. The angle of maximum rejection or “cone of silence” is at 150° off-axis.
Overall, this is a great polar pattern and the VideoMic Pro+ will effectively reject much of the off-axis and extraneous noise during a camera shoot.
For more information on the lobar/shotgun microphone polar pattern, check out my article The Lobar/Shotgun Microphone Polar Pattern (With Mic Examples).
Size Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The Rode VideoMic Pro+ has the following dimensions and weight:
- 111 mm (4.37″) tall
- 66 mm (2.60″) wide
- 170 mm (6.69″) long (forward direction)
- 122 g (4.30 oz)
The above dimensions make the VideoMic Pro+ an excellent physical choice for a camera mounted microphone. It won't add an overly noticeable weight to the camera and certainly shouldn't poke out into the camera frame.
Attaching Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
Rode and Rycote have an excellent relationship, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the VideoMic Pro+ comes with its own Rycote Lyre shock mount. This shock mount not only provides the mic with mechanical isolation from noise, it also allows for easy attachment to most cameras.
The Rycote Lyre has a standard shoe-mount for on-camera fastening and also features a 3/8″ thread at its base for mounting on Magic Arms or cameras that have a threaded connector. This versatility is a big part of why the VideoMic Pro+ is such a great mic.
As for the electrical connection (sending the audio signal), the VideoMic Pro+ has a 1/8″ stereo mini-jack connector (outputting the mono signal to both left and right channels). In other words, the VideoMic Pro+ outputs an unbalanced dual mono signal with the safety channel being on the right. Luckily the stock 3.5 mm (1/8″) TRS cable that carries the signal is short enough to not cause any degradation to the mic signal.
Simply plug the 3.5 mm cable into the mic at one and the camera at the other and the VideoMic Pro+ is connected!
Sensitivity Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The sensitivity rating of the Rode VideoMic Pro+ is given as -33.6dB re 1V/Pascal (21.20mV @ 94dB SPL) ±2dB @ 1kHz. This is a perfectly fine rating for a condenser mic and the Rode VideoMic Pro+ will output healthy mic level audio signals when subjected to sound waves.
For more information on microphone sensitivity, check out my article What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description.
As mentioned, with its greatest sensitivity on-axis, this microphone excels at capturing the sound in the direction the camera points.
With a self-noise of just 14 dBA (a noise value that would only potentially ever cause issues in highly soundproofed spaces), the Rode VideoMic Pro+ is very capable to reproducing the tiniest nuances in close sounds within the camera's frame.
For more information on microphone self-noise, check out my article What Is Microphone Self-Noise? (Equivalent Noise Level).
Powering Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The Rode VideoMic Pro+ is an active microphone, meaning it needs power to run its internal circuitry. When it comes to powering the VideoMic Pro+, we have 3 options:
- RØDE LB-1 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable battery (~12mA current draw): This rechargeable battery comes with the purchase of any new VideoMic Pro+ and gives up to 100 hours on a full charge (new).
- 2 x AA batteries (~17mA current draw): An easy solution, though you'll have to worry about changing batteries every so often.
- Micro USB Port: An even easier way of drawing power directly from the camera if it has a micro USB port.
The VideoMic Pro+ is designed with a built-in battery door that stays attached and makes for easy battery switching. It also comes with an automatic power function which automatically turns the microphone off when it's unplugged from the camera, helping to save batteries.
For more information on powering microphones, check out my article Do Microphones Need Power To Function Properly?
Frequency Response Of The Rode VideoMic Pro+
The frequency response range of the Rode VideoMic Pro+ is given as 20Hz ~ 20kHz. The mic also comes with selectable high-pass filters at 75Hz and 150Hz as well as a high frequency boost.
Here is the frequency response graph of the Rode VideoMic Pro+
We see that the microphone has 4 different frequency response lines, though the mic really has 6 different options when it comes to frequency response:
- No HPF / no high-frequency boost
- HPF @ 75 Hz / no high-frequency boost
- HPF @ 150 Hz / no high-frequency boost
- No HPF / with high-frequency boost
- HPF @ 75 Hz / with high-frequency boost
- HPF @ 150 Hz / with high-frequency boost
All 6 of these options have their place in recording audio for your camera. I'll explain the applications here simply.
High-pass filters are useful for removing low-end rumble, mechanical noise, and electromagnetic interference from the mic signal. The 75 Hz HPF will typically cover all the above bases but sometimes the 150 Hz HPF may be needed.
Pay special attention to how the mic signal sounds though, as HPFs may unnecessary thinning of the mic signal (at both 75 and 150 Hz). Use your best judgement.
For more info on high-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• What Is A Microphone High-Pass Filter And Why Use One?
• Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
As for the high-frequency boost, this switch will benefit the VideoMic Pro+ when a windscreen is used over top. Windscreens have the tendency to muffle the high-frequencies of a mic, so it's a proactive move by Rode to include a high-end boost in their VideoMic Pro+.
Other than that, we see a relatively flat curve in the mid-frequencies with a solid boost in the presence range and a high-end roll-off.
The natural sensitivity in the presence range and the extra boost in presence with the high-frequency boost switch engaged make this mic very sensitive to the human voice. Much of our speech intelligibility is it the presence range, and so extra sensitivity in this range helps to better capture the human voice.
The high-end roll-off removes some of the brilliance and high-pitched room noise from the mic signal. This is not a huge deal, especially since the presence range has such a boost.
For more information on microphone frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).
Shure VP83F LensHopper
The Shure VP83F is an incredible electret condenser mic for video cameras, camcorders, and DSLRs. Its supercardioid/lobar shotgun pattern makes it very directional and its digital flash recording and playback make it an excellent choice apart from and integrated with the camera it's connected to.
Shure is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top Best Headphone Brands In The World
• Top Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World
The digital flash audio recording capabilities of the VP83F are an often overlooked asset of the microphone. It's always best to have a solid backup of the audio in case of a camera audio issue. The VP83F offers .wav file capture at 24-bit / 48 kHz sampling rate on a standard MicroSDHC (up to 32 GB).
It's always worth recording a backup when possible (the digital information can always be wiped from the card after the shoot).
With that aside, let's look at the specs that make the Shure VP83F LensHopper such a stellar on-camera mic.
Directionality Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
The Shure VP83F LensHopper is a highly directional supercardioid/lobar microphone with a surprisingly short interference tube for its polar pattern.
Here is the polar pattern graph of the Shure VP83F LensHopper:
We see here than the VP83F does an amazing job at attenuating off-axis sounds across its entire frequency range. That is exactly what we want in a camera-mounted microphone since the mic will effectively pick up what's in the camera frame while rejecting much of the sound coming from out-of-frame.
Size Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
The Shure VP83F LensHopper has the following dimensions and weight:
- 10″ (254 mm) long
- 4.2″ (107 mm) wide
- 5.2″ (132 mm) tall
- 7.6 oz (215 g)
When attached correctly to a camera or camcorder, there shouldn't be an issue with the weight of the VP83F. The 10″ length also likely won't be an issue though it could potentially show up in the top of the frame. If that happens, try adjusting the mic positioning or the camera frame.
Attaching Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
Like the aforementioned Rode mic, Shure teamed up with Rycote with their VP83F model. The VP83F comes with an integrated Rycote Lyre shock mounting systems that mechanically isolated the mic and provides a physical attachment point between the mic/mount and the camera.
The shock mount has a standard size shoe mount with a ¼” threaded base, allowing for two methods of mounting it to a camera.
Also like the previously mentioned Rode mic, the VP83F outputs its mic signal via a 3.5 mm (1/8”) dual mono, unbalanced cable. Many cameras have a 3.5 mm (1/8″) mic input and so the VP83F LensHopper is compatible with most video cameras.
As mentioned the VP83F LensHopper has an internal flash recording device, so if you're in a situation where your camera has no audio inputs, simply record audio to the VP83F's micro SDHC card and sync it to picture in your editing software.
Sensitivity Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
The VP83F's internal preamps allow for a range of sensitivity values. They range from:
- 0 dB Gain: -35.8 dBV/Pa (16.2 mV)
- +30 dB Gain: -5.8 dBV/Pa (512.9 mV)
At +30 dB gain, we're at line level. This offers some flexibility but also some confusion if you're sending audio from the VP83F to a camera. Ensure the camera is expecting the level that the VP83F is sending to it (mic or line).
As an additional note, the VP83F has fully adjustable user gain (up to 60 dB in 1 dB increments).
As for the reactiveness of the VP83F, the small diaphragm condenser is very accurate at reproducing the sound waves on-axis as a mic signal.
Powering Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
The Shure VP83F LensHopper is a battery powered active microphone. It takes 2 AA batteries (Alkaline, NiMH, Rechargeable Li-Ion). 2 AA alkaline batteries will power the VP83F for 10 hours in record mode.
Batteries are the only stock method of powering the VP83F.
Frequency Response Of The Shure VP83F LensHopper
The frequency response range of the Shure VP83F LensHopper is from 50 Hz – 20,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:
We see that the frequency response of the VP83F is fairly coloured, though flat enough to sound natural. It has a presence boost which helps with improved speech intelligibility, which is often a benefit since a lot of camera work focuses on dialogue.
The high-end roll-off of the LensHopper is quite steep, which causes the VP83F to sound similar to a dynamic mic. This isn't a huge deal, but if you're trying to capture a crisp high-end, the VP83F may not be the ideal microphone for your camera. Again, this is not critical as the high-end frequencies are not overly pronounced in sound waves.
Notice also that there is a high-pass filter option on the VP83F. This HPF starts at roughly 250 Hz and drops at 12 dB/octave. Engaging this filter will help reduce low-end noise and interference in the signal at the risk of thinning out the mic signal. Use your ears to decide whether or not to engage this filter.
A microphone for cameras built by a camera company seems promising. Canon delivers a great product with the DM-E1 shotgun microphone. The DM-E1 is compatible with any Canon camera that has a microphone jack and many other non-Canon cameras as well.
Directionality Of The Canon DM-E1
The Canon DM-E1 has 3 distinct directional patterns with mono and stereo options:
- Sharp directivity (mono shotgun/lobar)
- Single directivity A (90° stereo)
- Single directivity B (120° stereo)
The sharp directivity option is ideal for capturing sound directly in front of the camera while rejecting extraneous sounds and noise from around the camera.
The single directivity options provide a wide stereo image that is better suited to ambience heavy or nature shoots. They capture sounds from a wide angle (90 or 120 degrees) in front of the camera.
Unfortunately there are no diagrams for the Canon DM-E1 polar pickup patterns.
For more information on mono and stereo microphones, check out my article Do Microphones Output Mono Or Stereo Signals?
Size Of The Canon DM-E1
The Canon DM-E1 has the following dimensions and weight:
- 1.6″ (130 mm) wide mount – although the diameter of the interference tube is slightly smaller
- 3.3″ (84 mm) height
- 5.1″ (130 mm) long
- 3.9 oz (110 g)
The Canon DM-E1 should not pose any issues when attached to a camera. Its lightweight and short length are not likely to negatively affect the camera.
Attaching Of The Canon DM-E1
The Canon DM-E1 mic sits in its integrated shock mount. The shock mount attaches to cameras via a hot shoe/cold shoe connection.
The DM-E1 outputs audio via a 3.5 mm mini plug. Most DSLRs and camcorders that accept and record audio have a 3.5 mm mini jack.
Sensitivity Of The Canon DM-E1
The sensitivity rating of the Canon DM-E1 microphone is given as -42 dBV/Pa. This means the mic will output a fairly strong mic signal when subjected to sound waves.
The back electret stereo condenser diaphragms are also quite reactive and reproduce sound accurately.
Powering Of The Canon DM-E1
The DM-E1 is powered with a single, easily replaceable CR2032 button-type battery for long-lasting use. This battery comes with the purchase of a new DM-E1.
The microphone is designed with a power check lamp, allowing for quick and easy checking of battery life during shooting.
As an additional bonus for using the DM-E1 with a Canon camera, the camera’s on/off switch also conveniently turns the microphone on and off. This simplifies the setup, saving the battery from draining when the camera is not in use.
Frequency Response Of The Canon DM-E1
The Canon DM-E1 has a frequency response range from 50 Hz – 16,000 Hz. Of all the microphones on the list, this is the most restricted frequency response.
With that being said, the response still sounds pretty good, whether recording speech, music, or ambience.
Sennheiser MKE 600
Of all the microphones on this list, Sennheiser's MKE 600 is likely the best choice for high-end video cameras, but also works wonders with camcorders and DSLRs.
Sennheiser is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top Best Headphone Brands In The World
• Top Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World
The MKE 600 has a professional balanced XLR output connector and runs on phantom power. Adapters are available to plug the MKE 600 into smaller camera mic inputs and the microphone can also be powered by batteries if the camera does not supply phantom power (most DSLRs and camcorders do not).
The MKE 600 has superb isolation from mechanical noise and gets extra points for coming with its own shock mount and windscreen.
Directionality Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
The Sennheiser MKE 600 is a shotgun microphone with a supercardioid capsule and long interference tube that results in a lobar polar pattern. Here is the MKE 600 polar pattern graph:
We see in the above graph that the MKE 600 is quite directional and that it gets more directional at higher frequencies.
Just like the other microphones on this recommendation list, the MKE 600 does a superb job at attenuating off-axis sounds. The mic essentially focuses in on the sound source in the direction it points.
Again, this is excellent for capturing the audio that happens within the camera frame.
Size Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
The Sennheiser MKE 600 is a relatively long shotgun mic with the following dimensions and weight:
- 20 mm (0.79″) diameter
- 256 mm (10.08″) length
- 128 g (4.52 oz) weight without battery
The great length of the MKE 600's interference tube gives it its highly directional lobar polar pattern.
The potential issue with mounting the MKE 600 on a camera is its length. Care must be taken to not have the microphone in a position that shows up in the camera frame.
Other than this concern, the MKE 600 must be held in a pencil mic clip (that must be able to attach to a camera). The weight of the MKE should not bean issue.
Attaching Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
As mentioned, the MKE fits in most pencil mic clips and shotgun shock mounts. Just ensure you choose a mount that attaches to your camera.
As previously mentioned, the MKE 600 has a balanced XLR output. This makes it compatible with most high-end should cameras. For DSLRs and camcorders, try the Sennheiser KA 600i adapter to adapt from the XLR-3 plug to a four-pole right-angled 3.5 mm mini jack.
Sensitivity Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
The sensitivity rating of the Sennheiser MKE 600 depends on the method taken to power it. Here are the two ratings:
- with P48 powering: 21 mV/Pa
- with battery powering: 19 mV/Pa
This difference is minor. Either method yields a strong microphone signal when the MKE 600 is subjected to sound.
The MKE 600's condenser capsule is highly reactive with a great transient response. In this sense, the MKE 600 is very sensitive.
It's also worth noting that the capsule of the MKE 600 is surrounded by rugged all-metal housing and mounting that offers suppression of structure-borne noise. This is excellent for camera mounting especially when using a camera that produces any mechanical noise.
Powering Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
As mentioned in the section on sensitivity, the Sennheiser MKE 600 has two powering methods:
- Phantom Power: 48 V ± 4 V (P48, IEC 61938) via XLR-3
- Battery/rechargeable battery: AA size (1.5 V/1.2 V)
Phantom Power is often available from high-end should cameras. As for DSLRs and camcorders, AA batteries are likely the more practical method.
Frequency Response Of The Sennheiser MKE 600
The frequency response of the Sennheiser MKE 600 ranges from 40 Hz – 20,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:
Of all the mics on this list, the Sennheiser MKE 600 has the widest and flattest response. This microphone sounds incredibly natural on-axis, making it an outstanding on-camera microphone.
The low-cut (high-pass) filter often helps to clean up low-end rumble and electromagnetic hum if these unwanted noises are present in the mic signal. Listen carefully when engaging this filter to ensure that the mic signal does not sound overly thin.
So whether you're filming with a camcorder, DSLR, shoulder cam, or any other camera, the above microphones are great choices for capturing audio along with video. Again, these recommended on-camera microphones are:
- Rode VideoMic Pro+: The top recommended shotgun on-camera mic in terms of size and value.
- Shure VP83F LensHopper: Top recommended shotgun microphone/digital audio recorder combo for on-camera usage.
- Canon DM-E1: The top microphone made specifically for Canon mics. This microphone also works well with many other camcorders and DSLRs.
- Sennheiser MKE 600: Top recommended professional XLR condenser shotgun microphone for cameras (especially higher-end shoulder cameras that provide Phantom Power).
For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.