As DSLR cameras continue to be a popular choice for capturing video, we have seen their feature set and value expand. However, one area where DSLRs consistently come up short is their built-in microphones. Commonly, many built-in mics will pick up mechanical noise from the camera that will prevent you from obtaining truly professional audio quality by just using them. Fortunately, you can increase your audio quality easily by integrating a mountable shotgun microphone into your rig.
Shure has just announced two new camera-mountable microphones that can really improve your sound-capture quality while catering to the way you like to handle your audio. I was recently able to test the VP83 and the microSD recording-enabled VP83F LensHopper shotgun mics, and they handled themselves quite admirably.
The VP83 LensHopper is geared toward users who want to record audio directly to their DSLR or digital audio recorder. It has a straightforward but sturdy design, featuring an all-metal body that is seated in an integrated Rycote Lyre shockmount. Rycote’s reputation proves to be very well earned; once I had the VP83 seated on my DSLR (via its standard shoe mount), I had to shake the mic before it picked up any vibration noise.
As far as the VP83’s connections go, you can hook it up to your DSLR or recorder through its 3.5mm coiled audio output cable. The coiled cable stretches far enough to reach the audio input jack on most cameras, but if you’re using an external recorder that isn’t camera mounted, you’ll definitely need an extension cable. The control section is basic and located right on the back of the mic, allowing you quick access to its parameters. The VP83 is definitely geared toward those who want a “set-it-and-forget-it” device. Input gain is managed by a three-way switch of 0 dB, +20 dB, or -10 dB. A second three-way switch turns the mic on, off, or engages the low-cut filter.
To say the sound quality is an improvement over anything you’d get with a built-in mic is an understatement. Its 10 dB cut does produce a noticeable decrease in volume, while the 20 dB boost will prove to be an audio lifesaver for capturing a quiet subject. While monitoring, the low-cut filter seemed almost too subtle, but playback after the fact showed it did make a noticeable difference with the air-conditioner noise in the room. The mic features an impressive battery life of up to 125 hours on a single AA. One thing that should be noted, the VP83 does not have a separate headphone output, so you’ll need to use the headphone out on either your camera or digital recorder to monitor audio during filming.
The VP83F shares a basic feature set with the VP83, but is very much its own microphone. Like its little brother, the VP83F has all-metal construction that is seated in a Rycotte Lyre shockmount system. A 3.5mm audio output allows you to send audio to your DSLR’s audio input. Unlike the VP83, though, the VP83F has a built-in microSDHC slot, to which it can record audio in up to 24-bit/48kHz quality while simultaneously sending audio to your camera. The VP83F is the first mic in this class to have an integrated flash recorder, potentially allowing you to eliminate an external recording device. Any new feature that helps you reduce rig clutter is an impressive feat, and one that many professionals will likely be eager to adopt. With the 3.5mm headphone output, you can monitor your audio directly from the VP83F as well.
The VP83F has some slightly more sophisticated controls, too. A backlit LCD screen displays a readout of your levels, track name and time, microphone gain level, low-cut filter status, headphone volume, and battery life. These parameters are navigated by a simple 5-position joystick. A quick press to the left or right allows you to navigate between mic gain (adjustable up to 60 dB in 1-dB increments), headphone volume, and the low-cut filter. Pressing up or down allows you to adjust those parameters. Press right three times, and you’ll get access to the main menu, which shows the file list on the installed microSD card as well as controls for the backlight time and display contrast, among others. You can even engage a pad for the 3.5mm camera output.
Recording to the VP83F is incredibly easy. One press of the Record button starts tracking, and a second press will pause the recording. You can hit Record again to keep recording to the same track, or simply hold down the Record button for two seconds to create a new track on your microSD card. While it does not have the VP83’s impressive battery life, the VP83F provides up to 10 hours of operation on two AA batteries.
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The two LensHopper series shotgun mics both provide the quality of microphone you would expect from a company like Shure. The VP83 is, without a doubt, geared toward users who want a quality microphone without extra features they might not use. The VP83F caters to those looking for a shotgun mic that easily provides track redundancy with some in-depth features.