A tough field test for the Shure VP83F LensHopper

A tough field test for the Shure VP83F LensHopper

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.

Dave Konavasio in Turkana Kenya with the Shure VP83F LensHopper.

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.

Shure-3-370x260

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.

 

Conclusion

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?

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7 Comments

  1. January 24, 2014, 6:40 am   /  Reply

    I’m doing a photo portrait/video interview project where I’m interviewing patrons in every grocery store in Detroit. I’ve been looking for a run-and-gun audio set-up. I was considering the Rode Videomic Pro, but your video has me leaning toward the more self-contained Shure. I like the idea of bypassing the audio innard of the 5D MKII altogether.

    Thanks so much, guys.

    • Dean Miles
      January 24, 2014, 9:47 am   /  Reply

      Excellent Noah, there’s a definite improvement in sound quality. A word of advice… don’t forget to hit record! It’s the one thing the camera op I field tested the VP83F with sometimes forgot to do.

      Dean

  2. sarah G
    February 18, 2014, 4:08 pm   /  Reply

    Oh come on man. You’re comparing the Shure with the camera little tiny onboard. Compare it with another comparable mic. How much did Shure pay you for this.

    • Dean Miles
      February 19, 2014, 8:42 am   /  Reply

      Hi Sarah, The comparison is the recorded sound on the VP83F and the sound from the VP83F onto the DSLR camera. At no time do I record the sound from the DSLR’s little mic. When the sound does get thin I’m checking the mics ability to reject sound from the side – and it does a great job.

      Sarah, I don’t get paid to review gear. I ask for pieces of equipment from companies (Shure, RØDE, Sennheiser) that I think would work in the documentary world I work in. If it seems like I’m reviewing quite a few Shure products, you’re right. They’ve recently put out some very impressive mics for field recording and I’ve started using their shotguns and wireless systems. The VP83F is one of the biggest steps forward to recording usable audio for the one-person camera crew, and when I’m on a shoot with a DSLR I use the VP83F as the camera mic for recording ambience.

      Dean

  3. Sebastian
    July 16, 2014, 1:45 pm   /  Reply

    Hi Dean, Nice review. I wonder if you can give me an advice. I’m trying to put together a one man band documentary kit around a Canon 5D Mark III.
    So far on the audio part I have a Audiotechnica ATR3350 lavalier, a Rode NT1A (cardioid condenser), a Zoom H1 and a Tascam DR 60D. I don’t have much experience, but I presume I can’t use the Rode for interviews, because it will pick to much room and ambient noise. I used the Audiotechnica lavalier with the Zoom H1 for some short interviews.

    So I come to the conclusion that I need to buy a shotgun mic, to use it either on the camera, or on a boom pole when necessary. From what I’ve read, within my budget, so far I’m considering either the Sennheiser MKE 600 or Shure VP83F (or VP83). What’s your opinion? Which would be a better investment and more versatile? Which is better in terms of sound quality?

    I want to shoot documentaries and maybe music videos.

    Thank you very much!

    • Dean Miles
      July 17, 2014, 11:52 am   /  Reply

      Hi Sebastian. You have a pretty good start with gear. The DR 60D is perfect for recording sit-down type interviews when the camera is on a tripod. I’m not familiar with your ATR3350 lav but if applied properly should work well hardwired into the recorder for sit down interviews. Your correct with the Rode NT1A it’s more of a studio mic, leave that at home.

      For b-roll shooting and handheld quick to-camera interviews the Shure VP83F would be my first choice. It’s light, already mounted in a very good shock mount (Rycote lyre system), records onto the mic itself bypassing the crappy audio recording on the DSLR – this mic was designed specifically for DSLR shooters. The Sennheiser MKE600 is a nice mic as well and could be used as a boom mic if you wanted to (the VP83F not really), but as a camera mounted mic you’d still have to record onto the DSLR camera – not the best. You wouldn’t want to shoot handheld with the DR60D connected to the camera.

      I like the sound of both mics and have had success with both. Documentary shooting is pretty run-and-gun and requires you to be mobile so you’re correct in thinking about the right pieces of equipment. To be honest, it’s going to be your ability and knowledge about location sound, not the equipment, that’s going to produce quality sound recordings.

      I hope this helps.

      If you want to learn more about recording sound as the one-man-band check out my online course. It’s specifically tailored to you.

      Here’s the link: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/cameraaudiosimplified

      Cheers,
      Dean

  4. October 6, 2014, 8:50 am   /  Reply

    […] “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…” Read the full review on The Location Crew […]

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