If you have invested in a good digital SLR or more modern mirrorless camera for video purposes, the built-in microphone is likely to leave you disappointed. Internal microphones are often tinny, too quiet, and offer little in the way of level adjustment.
To capture proper directional audio you’ll want to invest in a shotgun microphone. These are normally mounted in the hot shoe connector on top of your camera body, and can be angled or held off-camera to pick up optimal audio.
It can be tough to decide just which shotgun microphone you should buy, so here are a few recommendations.
Stereo or Shotgun Mic?
The two most common on-camera audio capture devices are stereo microphones, and shotgun microphones. Before we proceed with the list, it’s worth taking a second to familiarize yourself with the jargon commonly used by microphone manufacturers.
Shotgun microphones, like their namesake, are usually barrel-like in their design. They are great for picking up specific audio sources by pointing the microphone at whatever you want to capture. Other audio in the room (like stage directions and ambiance) is minimized.
Stereo microphones are designed to pick up multi-directional audio. These are perfect for group interviews in quiet rooms, or live performances in large venues. Some microphones include toggles for wide multi-directional modes and shotgun usage, but most do not.
You don’t have to stick to on-camera microphones though. For capturing interviews or recording audio from a single person, lavalier microphones are highly effective. Check out our top lavalier microphones for under $50.
RØDE VideoMic Range
RØDE is a household name when it comes to microphones. The company produces a whole range at various price points, with various uses in mind. Even though they offer higher end “Pro” models, they are often on the right side of affordable for most consumer budgets.
It can be confusing working through the range though, particularly when RØDE produces a range of stereo microphones that also use the VideoMic name. We’ll start by looking at the company’s current range of shotgun VideoMic offerings.
The VideoMic Pro+ is RØDE’s flagship broadcast-quality mirrorless or DSLR mountable microphone. Powered by the included LB-1 lithium ion rechargeable battery or two AA batteries, the microphone has a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz making it particularly sensitive to lower frequencies.
It includes a two-stage high pass filter to better remove low frequencies like traffic noise and a high-frequency boost for improved clarity. You can adjust the gain in three stages: -10dB, 0dB, and +20dB, with a safety channel that records at a lower gain setting in case of clipping.
Other nifty features include auto power on/off, a detachable cable, and up to 10 years warranty when you register your microphone with RØDE. Like most of the other VideoMic models, the VideoMic Pro+ comes with a Rycote Lyre shock mount.
The VideoMic Pro is one step down from the Plus model, above. It’s not as sensitive capturing a frequency range from 40Hz-20kHz, though it features the same two-stage high pass filter and three-stage gain control at -10dB, 0dB, and +20dB.
This shotgun microphone is powered by a single 9V battery, which will give you 70 hours of recording when using a disposable alkaline battery. You can supply your own rechargeable 9V, but you won’t get anywhere near 70 hours from it.
The VideoMic Pro is a broadcast quality microphone. You’ll get the usual shock mount for eliminating noise caused by sudden movements, and a ten-year warranty for registering your microphone too.
If you’re looking for a solid budget option, you can do a lot worse than the bog standard VideoMic. This is a studio-quality microphone that captures the same 40Hz-20kHz frequency range as the more expensive option above, with slightly reduced sensitivity.
It is powered by a 9V battery, with a two-stage high pass filter for reducing low background noises. Level adjustment is possible to 0dB, -10dB and -20dB, and you’ll get a windshield and the Rycote Lyre shock mount in the box.
The VideoMic GO is the lightest on-camera shotgun mic in the range. Weighing only 73g (2.5oz), this microphone requires no battery since it draws power from the camera it is connected to. As a result, the VideoMic GO won’t work with all cameras, so make sure you check RØDE’s product description to ensure compatibility before you buy.
Like the other RØDE microphones on this list, the GO comes with a windjammer and Rycote Lyre shock mount. It connects using a 3.5mm mini jack, and includes up to two years warranty when you register your product.
Other Shotgun Mics to Consider
Looking for something cheap and cheerful? TAKSTAR’s SGC-598 is one of the best-selling affordable shotgun microphones on the market. You can pick it up for way less than even the cheapest RØDE, and it comes with a windscreen and shock-resistant mount in the box.
The 568 offers a frequency response between 50Hz and 16kHz, with a 10dB gain boost. It’s powered by a single AA battery, so it should work with most cameras. It might not offer the best sound quality, but it’s hard to complain considering the cost.
6. Zoom F1-SP
You can’t beat an external recorder for absolute peace of mind when it comes to sound capture. The Zoom F1-SP is a bundle that features a field recorder, shotgun microphone, windscreen, shock-mount, and a 32GB micro SDHC memory card.
The included SGH-6 microphone offers hyper-directional audio capture via the included Zoom F1 field recorder. The F1 can capture up to 24-bit/96kHz audio in WAV format, and you can switch out the microphone attachment with aftermarket Zoom microphones to get even more life out of your audio setup.
7. Canon DM-E1
Despite being pricey, Canon’s DM-E1 is worth mentioning for good reason: it’s not just a shotgun microphone. There are actually three modes to choose from: shotgun, 90º, and 120º of audio capture.
With the flick of a switch, you can go from traditionally narrow shotgun capture to much wider stereo modes for capturing larger groups.
With a frequency response of 50Hz to 16kHz, the DM-E1 lacks the wide range seen on the VideoMic Pro+ above. It includes its own windscreen and shock-proof mount and uses a single button lithium cell battery for power (so it should work with any camera).
Connect it to your camera with the standard 3.5mm mini jack.
A Shotgun Mic for Any Budget
Audio capture is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Make sure you also follow our simple tips to shoot better video to further improve your film-making skills.
These microphones offer a compelling option for capturing sound at any budget. A good microphone will take your production quality up a notch, since it’s very hard to improve sound quality in post-production.
Looking for a simple desktop microphone for podcasting or narrating? Check out our pocket-friendly podcast microphone recommendations.