I’ve been looking forward to trying out the Shure VP83F LensHopper camera mounted recording mic since it was released at NAB this year. It’s designed for the DSLR camera being small, battery powered, and using an 1/8-inch mini cable to connect to the camera.
But Shure has taken it one step further by adding a built in recorder on the mic. Now this makes a lot of sense since the ability to record quality audio on a DSLR is pretty much impossible due to the camera’s subpar audio circuitry.
Here’s what I found;
First off the mic is really well built. Not sure of the casting but it’s some type of metal, you can tell by the weight – it’s definitely heavier than all other DSLR targeted mics by Sennheiser, Rode, and others. It has a headphone jack and meters built into the mic to properly set and monitor the sound which is a huge benefit. Easily accessible functions to set up and operate, as well as a Rycote designed shock mount that’s very similar to the Lyre type shock mount I use when booming.
The VP83F LensHopper is super easy to figure out and operate. I didn’t even look in the manual and I had the mic recording within minutes – operator friendly menus and layout. If you can navigate a digital stills camera or video camera you’ll have no problem.
I recorded a few tests in my studio and in-and-around the house, then dumped them into my computer. Again, simple as pie, it’s like transferring photos from your iPhone. There was no hiss on the recordings, a major issue when recording sound onto a DSLR. The Rycote designed shock mount performed perfectly, isolating the mic from handling noise, and the mic’s range of about 5-feet to record dialogue straight out the front was very good in a quiet location.
Now for the field test. I brought the VP83F LensHopper to Turkana Kenya to see how it would perform in a hot dry climate on a real documentary shoot. I set the mic up like I would for any gig but the super windy conditions reeked havoc on a lot of the recordings, including my field test.
Here’s the resulting demonstration.
If you could hear past the wind noise, there’s a noticeable amount of hiss on the sound found on the DSLR recording compared to the recording on the Shure VP83F. An issue no matter which mic I use when shooting with DSLR’s – this is a big upgrade! I thought the sound of my voice was good, but for me, the mic was reaching a bit too far, picking up a lot of ambience of the location.
As you could hear in the demonstration, wind was a problem. Even with a wind jammer and the low cut filter switched “ON”, the wind won. I used a full Rycote windjammer system on my boom mic and still had a couple hits – the wind was blowing hard the entire shoot.
If you can listen past the wind, the tonal quality of the dialogue recording by the VP83F is quite good. So for you DSLR shooters this is a mic you’ll want to consider if you’re wanting to use a camera mounted mic to record dialogue.
I did have a little difficulty with the controls being on the mic that’s in a suspension, I had to put the camera down and hold onto the mic to accurately toggle through the menu – I double clutched a few times because of the suspension. By no means is this a deal beaker, just an operating observation.
One thing Shure could add to make this a slam dunk DSLR mounter mic would be to somehow, don’t even know if it’s possible, have the mic go into record when the camera’s record button is pushed. The camera op, and I expected it, didn’t always remember to hit record – I totally get this. When I started using a recorder after being plugged into a camera for years, I’d also forget to hit record.
The Shure VP83F’s price of $350.00 is an inexpensive upgrade in sound quality when shooting with a DSLR. There’s a noticeable difference between the recording on the mic and the recording on the DSLR. The mic sounds good and is very well thought out and built. I’m not sure why I keep being surprised by the quality of the Shure products I’ve been testing and now using, they do make the best stage vocal mic ever and have been since I can remember.
The Shure VP83F LensHopper is in a class by itself mainly because of the built in recorder. This is the first real DSLR designed mic able to produce high quality recordings when shooting with DSLR’s. A VP83F LensHopper will definitely be a part of my location audio kit.
Who knows what other applications this recording mic could be used for?