Although it really depends on which camera you have, most of the DSLR video cameras come with decent sound quality. It’s bearable, a lot better than smart device mics, and not too noticeable to the outside world if you’re merely making some YouTube videos and what not. However, the word decent may not cut it for you. If you want to take your audio quality game to the next level, there are numerous solutions out there for your DSLR video camera. Although the most popular among the DSLR world are shotgun mics that sit atop the camera itself, which type of microphone really depends on your exact needs and how you’ll be filming what’s in front of you. Some other factors include planned use, budget, and more. Let’s take a look at the top 10 best mics for DSLR video cameras and how to choose yours.
Benefits of an external mic for your camera
We’re sure you’re aware of the benefits you’ll receive when grabbing an external mic for your video camera, but to review, the reason is for improved audio quality. DSLR cameras really changed the game once they began allowing video to be implemented in the units, and now that they’re accessible to a wide variety of individuals who can shoot videos whenever or wherever they’d like, video quality isn’t much of a worry anymore. You can grab a $300 DSLR camera and produce videos with 1080p quality that rivals with most heavy hitters on the internet. But what about the audio quality?
The preamps built-in to DSLRs aren’t professional at all (since they were originally created strictly for photography and they ended up fitting video in later) and sometimes there are pre-determined settings for gain and other audio tweaks that don’t allow for a custom sound. We’ve heard of people even using their phone’s recording app to capture audio quality in certain environments due to the distance and pickup range of DSLR camera built-in microphones. This is actually more common than we’d assume. For example, for YouTube videos in a smaller room, our video marketer preferred her iPhone audio quality over a cheap lavalier or even the DSLR camera mic since it was about 10 ft. away from her and wasn’t as clear as she’d like. It all depends on your preferences, but in the end, grabbing an external mic for your video camera is never going to hurt. This guide to DSLR audio by B&H Photo is great if you want some more info on actually using your mic.
How to choose your DSLR camera microphone
- Your budget. These microphones aren’t too expensive, although there is a rather decent variety of price points with this pretty-specific need. Some range from $50 while others go up to $300 or more. How much cash do you have saved up? How much money will you want to set aside after reading our guide?
- Which type of microphone do you need?
- Shotgun: These are by far the most popular types of mics for DSLR cameras and for good reason. They’re effective for pretty much any use out there to be honest and that’s why they’re so popular. We include about half of our 10 as shotgun mics in this article for that reason. You can use them on top of your camera or with a boom pole.
- Lavalier: Called “lav mics” for shorts, these are cool for product video reviews, interviews, instructors, vlogging or broadcasting. It’s the mic you see clipped onto clothing near the individual’s mouth. They are better for environments that are controlled with little to no ambient noise (won’t be ideal if you’re planning on being outside, so be careful). Since they’re so close to the source, you don’t get as much room sound. They’re also discrete and are rarely noticed (all talk shows use lav mics). There are wired or wireless systems available, although the systems without wiring can add up in price (but if you need less hassle, well worth the money and investment). Check out our best lavalier microphones article for some more models focused on this category.
- Handheld: Some people prefer a real microphone in their hand depending on the use. Handheld mics are popular with journalists since they’re rugged and don’t need to be powered up. The frequency ranges aren’t necessarily as wide, but this can be a plus since many of us doing interviews or other broadcast work don’t necessarily need extra-sensitivity but merely what’s in front of us with no background noise. You’ll have to buy a few more accessories if this is the route you’ll want, which we expand upon further into this article.
- Headsets: These are the most preferred, at least in our opinion, for videographers going to trade shows or other environments that will be noisy with a lot of ambient sound. Headsets are great for interviewing people in loud conditions as it’ll isolate their voice and block out the rest. Otherwise, headsets aren’t recommended.
- Additional accessories you want. Do you need a wind screen? Pop filter? Even a stand or tripod? Some come with a few decent accessories in the box, while others just the mic itself, entailing you to shop a bit more for other pieces of gear to accompany the setup. Keep that in mind.
The top 10 best microphones for DSLR video cameras
The following is our list of researched microphones for DSLR video cameras. As stated previously, half of them are shotgun mics as they are preferred among the majority of videographers. We also gave you some other options later down the list. Let us know what you think in the comments or which model you ended up going with!
Rode VideoMic Pro
Here’s one of the most popular microphones for DSLR cameras in the market. The Rode VideoMic Pro really isn’t lacking anything, but is more of a question of if it’s within your price range. The VideoMic Pro offers a high quality shotgun condenser microphone, is ultra compact (150mm long) so it won’t be wobbly on your camera, lightweight at 85 grams, battery-powered (you get about 70 hours of use with a 9 volt), includes integrated shock mounting and a built-in foam windscreen. It is hooked up via 3.5mm stereo mini-jack and offers some level and filter controls on the back of the mic. In terms of sound quality, you’re basically getting a pro condenser mic paired up with a pro-quality (hopefully for your model) DSLR video camera. We recommend this model if you’re recording dialogue or directional applications, otherwise for other uses such as live music, scroll down to their other model we speak about. If you can afford it, it’s our pick for the best microphone for your video camera. It’s an upgraded version of their original VideoMic. Although, Rode is basically everywhere when it comes to making mics and for good reason.
Sennheiser MKE 400
Grabbing the Sennheiser MKE 400 won’t be a bad decision, as it comes super close to our previous pick in terms of being one of the best mics out there for DSLR video cameras. They’re around the same price point (depending on which website you check), although this model is slightly longer so if you’re looking at recording a more precise source of sound, this one may be better. However, we’d still go with the Rode as we’re bigger fans of their build. To take this model into consideration, it has all-metal housing, side noise rejection (as all shotgun mics do), a wind noise filter, 300 hours of operating time (a lot more than the Rode and takes a AAA battery), and a built-in shock mount. Another plus of this that the Rode doesn’t have is switchable sensitivity for short\long distances, so that could steer you towards this model instead. We’ve known Sennheiser typically for their headphones, but this particular shotgun mic is the rival to the VideoMic Pro.
Grab the Azden SMX-10 if you want a budget-friendly, decent quality mic for your DSLR. The name Azden may not ring a bell for a lot of people, but this particular model was highly rated around the market so we had to include it 3rd. It’s nearly half the price of the previous two models listed (depending on the site you check), so if you’re looking to save some cash this may be the route to go. The SMX-10 offers a wide frequency response with pretty clear audio quality, a low-cut frequency filter, 1000 hours of battery life (AAA battery) which is plenty especially if you’re traveling, and comes with a shock mount and windscreen like the others. A pretty “standard” microphone for a DSLR video camera, with “standard” meaning compared to mics that are a lot better than the built-in mechanisms in the video cams.
Rode Stereo VideoMic
The Rode Stereo VideoMic is superb if you’re looking to use it for the recommended applications and the best DSLR microphone for you is in the higher price-point. This thing is awesome, and although slightly more expensive than their previous model listed, may be worth the cash if you have it. This is particularly for recording environmental\ambient sounds and live music, otherwise if you’re looking to record dialogue or applications that rely on direction, go with our original VideoMic Pro recommendation. It includes two high-res 1/2″ capsules (condenser) in the unit with an X/Y make for a natural sound. It’s going to give you rear-noise rejection so keep that in mind. As like the others, you get a built-in shock system but also a high-pass filter at 80 Hz if you want (it’ll cut out low-end stuff like traffic, etc). The build quality is great and it sits atop your camera perfectly with no fuss at all. It’s been said to have a great capture field and outside noise rejection. Its one of the best — Rode isn’t messing around with their microphones.
Read the reviews yourself, and although pretty cheap, the Audio-Technica ATR3350 is worth it if it’s what you need. Now we start to get into the lavalier mics. This Audio-Technica model is one of the most highly rated out there, albeit for its price point. It’s very affordable, so if you need a budget-friendly lavalier microphone solution this is it. It’s omnidirectional and has a low-profile design for decreased visibility. Although recommended for instructors to project their voices aloud, it can be useful for interviews and other applications which you need a mic to be close to the sound source. Has a frequency range of 50 – 18,000 Hz and weight only 6 grams — a very non-intrusive solution for the best microphone for DSLR cameras. We know many who buy more than one since they’re so useful and cheap.
Sennheiser EW 100 ENG G3-A
Check the Sennheiser EW 100 ENG out if you want a wireless lav mic — this solution (or should we say, system?) is awesome. It’s one of the best wireless solutions for DSLR video cameras. In order for this to work, you need a “kit”, and although it gets costly, can be worth it if you have the cash and absolutely need wireless. The plug-on transmitter makes any XLR connected mic wireless by plugging in the unit. The transmitters stay with the individual who is doing the audio and the other with the camera. In terms of the quality of the device itself it’s relatively interference-free, an illuminated graphics display to see what you’re doing, nice little menu inside of it, great audio quality, and battery indication. Since it’s a transmitter\receiver, you’ll need to figure out the frequency you’ll need to use which will take some testing to make sure you don’t interfere with some radio stations out there.
Here’s a cool twist to adding some external audio to your video camera. The Tascam TM-2X microphone is a highly attractive option for those who are interested. This particular model is actually pretty affordable and offers an X-Y stereo pattern that’s used in their beloved Tascam DR-series of recorders. This particular mic make is recommended for a wide area of recording but make sure you keep the sound source in front of you. The benefits of two mics helps create a stereo image to add to your audio quality depth.What’s also neat is that it draws power from your video camera, so you won’t need any additional batteries or power supplies. You can also adjust each mic capsule if you want to mess around with the direction of them. They’re on a shock mount so that helps with unwanted noise if you move around to make this yet another one of the best microphones for DSLR cameras.
With the Shure VP64A, we kick off the few handheld mics recommended for those into journalism and other uses that pertain low-sensitivity and range uses. We’re huge fans of Shure mics as we’re all aware of their reputation in the game. The VP64A is great since it’s relatively budget-friendly. It’s more attuned for speech, being that it has a better frequency for the upper mid-range that’s perfect for adding clarity and preciseness to the human voice. A few other standout features include a water-proof mesh grille, a supplied windscreen, and an overall rugged build for those who travel. The Shure VP64A is perfect for reporters and those who want speech-tailored frequency ranges.
To use this or other handheld microphones with your camera, it gets somewhat tricky. You’ll need an adapter or adapter cable to allow the XLR connectivity to work with your DSLR. For cables, we recommend the Sescom SES-TR-153, but just know that it doesn’t supply phantom power for condenser mics, but will work with this handheld and the next model for allowing you to plug it into via 3.5mm jack of your DSLR camera. The BeachTek DXA-2T on the other hand is an adapter that can supply power, some monitoring and XLR conversion if you’d rather not rely on your camera’s gain and built-in preamps.
Here’s the other most popular handheld mic for video cameras. Not much different to be honest, so again, check the price of the Audio-Technica AT8004 and if it’s cheaper than the Shure at the present moment, we’d say grab it instead. As we’ve stated before, we’re huge fans of Audio-Technica products (we’re even wearing their ATH-M50x headphones at the moment as we write this). The AT8004 is around the same price point as the Shure previously spoken about, so we’d check to see which is cheaper at the moment and grab either one. This particular model has internal shock mounting, a steel grille, and is omnidirectional like the other Shure model we just explained. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with the mic stand shown in the photo. Just know you’ll need to buy either that cable or interface we were speaking about.
Check out the Zoom SSH-6 mic for our last pick as the best microphone for DSLR cameras. Although this is another shotgun microphone, we put it here because it’s a bit tricky. First and foremost, you’ll need a Zoom recorder (H6, H5 or Q8) to make it work with your DSLR properly; however, if you do have one, the audio quality is extremely crystal clear! If you do have some cash and are looking to buy a recorder at the same time, this could also be something worth looking at and we think this is the best audio quality you can find since it isn’t recording audio straight into a DSLR (which also helps with processing the sound quality in a Zoom as opposed to the DSLRs cheaper engine).
It features both the traditional focused center section of a shotgun microphone as well as two capsules on the sides to provide a great overall recording range. The built-in preamp (5 volts of power) is a lot better than the built-in DSLR amps and it provides us with some advanced digital signal processing (Zoom is famous for their niche in the audio and video recording market, if you weren’t aware). It also comes with a nice hairy windscreen that never hurts. It’s great for outdoor environments with a lot of ambient noise, but would work inside as well. Also keep in mind that you’ll have the recorder as a separate device recording the audio, so you’ll have to sync it in post-production (isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just an extra step). You can also read our Zoom SSH-6 shotgun microphone review for some more information if it is peaking your curiosity.