In this article, we’ll cover four of the best budget shotgun mics for filmmakers on a tight budget.
So you’ve pulled together the cash for a camera. Congrats. But what about a microphone? For scrappy video shooters with indie filmmaking or vlogging ambitions, shotgun mics tend to be the next big purchase. But with cameras hogging so much of the average gearhead’s attention, it can be tricky to know where to begin with the myriad of microphones out there. We can help, and aim to save you a buck while we’re at it.
While most of the recommendations in this list aren’t top brands like Rode, Shure, and Sennheiser, the following shotgun mics are only “budget” in price, not in functionality. I’ve found that the price of admission for industry giants like Rode is less often about superior specs and more often about the cost of brand recognition. Don’t get me wrong, they are top brands for a reason, and I don’t blame the consumer willing to pay an extra $50 to $100 for that confidence. But I also wouldn’t ignore mics from lesser known companies that get the job done just as, if not more, effectively.
If you are interested in learning more about what all those specs actually do for you, check out our technical breakdown at the end of the article, or this. But if you’re just chomping at the bit to get out there and record, then let’s get you rolling.
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Short on Time? Here’s Our Top 3
4 of the Best Budget Shotgun Mics for Film
Since 1962, Audio-Technica has been “always listening.” Though I question their choice of slogans in our modern world of ever-decreasing privacy, the Japanese company is a global leader in audio equipment. You’ll even find a little product placement for their mics in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
This entry-level offering from Audio-Technica is a perfect example of making a “budget” setup feel professional. Most importantly, the sound is full and clear and when set up properly, there’s no noise or hiss to speak of. That’s pretty much all you can ask of a mic at this price point and it delivers!
With it’s simple no-frills metal design, there isn’t much to break. The mic takes an XLR cable and requires phantom power so you’ll probably want to look into a good audio recorder, unless your camera happens to have an XLR input.
Though the mic would be most ideally fixed to a boom pole, the mic is small and light enough to be mounted on top of a camera (more about that later). Overall, the AT875R is a quality and super-affordable entry to the world of shotgun microphones, and definitely fits the bill for one of the best budget shotgun mics around.
Features & Specs
- Pickup pattern: line + gradient
- Frequency response: 90 – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: -30 dB
- Impedance: 200 Ohms
- Maximum SPL: 127 dB
- Dynamic range: 107 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL
- Power supply: 11-52 V DC, 2 mA typical (phantom)
- Output connector: 3-pin XLR
- Weight: 80 g (2.8 oz)
Deity V-Mic D3 Pro
Deity’s company unabashed attitude goes like this: “we just want to make really cool gear for people who get excited about creating content… We make microphones; damn-good microphones.” A relatively recent startup, Deity Microphones has broken in with over a dozen industry-disrupting products. Deity also has a notable social media presence on YouTube with a neat pop-culture approach to teaching their users professional audio technique.
Here is a perfect example of a less expensive product from a lesser known company that actually performs better than equivalent offerings from top brands. I’m talking specifically about the Rode VideoMic NTG, which seems to have copied the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro’s original innovation.
And innovate they have! With a stepless gain knob, changing the input levels is a breeze and offers more fine-tuned control than most other camera-mounted microphones’ fixed-setting buttons.
Another nice feature is the sliding cold shoe mount which can be easily moved forwards or backwards if you need to get your eye to the viewfinder or you’re trying to balance a gimbal setup. There’s also a nifty high pass filter for wind protection.
In my opinion, it’s probably the best budget camera-mounted shotgun mic out there… with, I suppose, the exception of the Rode copycat. But that’s business, right? The sad thing is, Rode’s VideoMic NTG is priced higher than the Deity and is probably selling better. If you’re leaning the direction of a camera-mounted shotgun mic, maybe do the little guys a favor to support their continued innovation.
Features & Specs
- Polar pattern: Super cardioid
- Max SPL: 130 dB SPL (@1 kHz, 1% THD into 1 KΩ)
- Frequency range: 50 Hz – 20 kHz
- Impedance: 200 Ohms
- Sensitivity: -24 dB to -44 dB re 1 V/Pa @ 1 kHz
- Low-cut filter cutoff: 75 Hz/150 Hz
- Signal/noise: max. 84 dB @- 24 dB sensitivity (re 1 V/Pa@1 kHz)
- Battery life: ＞50 Hrs
- Dimensions: Φ21 x 189 mm
- Weight: 143 g
Takstar fits in among a certain sect of gear companies that get a bad rap in the U.S. for being “one of those Chinese companies”. Yes, the products are priced at concerningly low prices and the website is riddled with awkwardly phrased translations. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to deny the efficacy of a business model that is more concerned with super-affordable and functional equipment into creators’ hands than branding or aesthetics.
This mic works! Hey, what more can you say for a shotgun mic under $50? The +10 dB pad switch is helpful for boosting the signal before the camera preamps, giving you more capability to reach reasonable volume levels. The Rode VideoMic, which is three times more expensive, doesn’t even have this switch. So good on Takstar!
A nice feature is that the mic will let you know the battery is running low when the little LED light switches from green to red. I talk more about why in the technical breakdown, but just remember that these camera-mounted shotgun mics only work well when they are close to the subject. I hate to burst any social distancing guidelines, but if you’re more than 1-3 feet away, you might as well use a lav mic… or your camera’s in-built mic *gasp*. The video review below has a good demonstration of this. All in all, it’s one of the best budget shotgun mics available.
Features & Specs
- Pickup pattern: super cardioid
- Frequency response: 50 Hz – 16 kHz
- Sensitivity: -32 dB (0 dB = 1 V/Pa at 1 kHz)
- Pad switch: +10 dB
- Low-cut filter cutoff: 200 Hz
- Power supply: 1 x AA battery
- Battery life: 100 hrs
- Output connector: 3.5 mm TRS
Not to be confused with the now ubiquitously popular video-conferencing software company of the same name, Zoom Corporation is a Japanese audio company that specializes in recording equipment, audio interfaces, and drum machines. Founded in 1983, the company has developed a strong brand reputation for reliable video/music production solutions.
If you’re going to be getting an XLR shotgun mic that requires phantom power, you’re going to need an audio recorder as well. The Zoom F1-LP gives you both in one package! You pretty much get the best of every world with this combination.
You can use the shotgun/recorder on a boom pole which essentially makes it wireless, and it also comes with a camera-mount shoe adapter! With the audio being fed straight into the recorder, you don’t have to worry about bad camera preamps, an instant God-send. You can also use the audio recorder in conjunction with a range of Zoom’s other interchangeable mic capsules, a separate lavalier mic, or as its own audio interface!
Like I said, it’s the best of every possible world. But I suppose one limitation is that the shotgun mic capsule can only be used with the recorder. I’m not sure why you’d ever need to use it anywhere else, though.
The sound is great. As you can hear in the video review below, the recorder picks up room noise before you hear any self-generated noise. It’s a little bulky as far as camera-mounted setups go, but on the other hand, the Zoom F1 embraces its bulk with a durable construction. Honestly, it kinda asks to be dropped (not that I’m recommending it) but it is nice if you’re going to be living life on-the-go with this tough piece of gear.
Features & Specs
- Input: Zoom mic capsule or ⅛” (3.5 mm) TRS mic/line in
- Output: ⅛” (3.5 mm) TRS
- Storage: Up to 32 GB SD cards
- Display: 1.25” monochrome LCD
- Power requirements: 2 x AAA batteries, AC adapter
- Battery life: 9-16 hrs
- Included Accessories: LMF-1 lavalier microphone, windscreen, mic clip, belt clip, 2 x AAA batteries, quick guide
How to Pick the Best Budget Shotgun for Film
Microphones can be tricky to work with and purchasing the right one for you can also present a challenge, especially when shopping online. Let’s take a look at what factors you should consider when searching for the best budget shotgun mic for film production.
Boom-mounted vs. camera-mounted
So do you go with the boom-mounted or camera-mounted shotgun mic?
Well, the real first question is: What’s the nature of your shoot? Are you running-and-gunning or are you on set? Is it just you or do you have help? Unless you have a dedicated sound person recording audio, you’re probably not going to be able to carry and operate a microphone independently of the camera that you are busy pointing and shooting. For vlogging and other productions on the move, the best setup is a camera-mounted shotgun mic.
The trick is that audio quality is best when the mic is close to the subject. A good rule of thumb is one to two feet. That’s why you see boom mics hanging just over the talent’s head on a film set.
If you get too much further away from the shotgun microphone, the voice of the subject will drop off into the surrounding environmental noise, sounding less distinguished.
The bottom line is, if you’ll be holding the camera out in front of your face while vlogging, camera-mounted is the way to go. For on-set productions where the camera framing requires being further away, boom-mounted is ideal.
Mic pickup patterns
The second factor is the microphone pickup pattern, which is also known as polar pattern. Most camera-mounted shotgun mics use a super-cardioid pickup pattern, which means they pick up more sound from the front and sides of the direction it is pointed. A line + gradient pickup pattern, like the type used in the AT875R, picks up sound straight in front of it while rejecting sound from the side.
When other sounds are being mixed into the track independently of the dialogue, the sharp focus of a line + gradient mic is ideal. When you want to capture some environmental noise of the subject’s surroundings, super-cardioid is the way to go. Once again, this distinction is most readily understood in the contexts of vlogging and film sets.
Finally, keep in mind that camera-mounted shotgun mics almost exclusively use a 3.5 mm connection while line + gradient shotgun mics use the more professional XLR connection. Most consumer-grade cameras don’t have an XLR jack which, means that you’ll need an audio recorder.
There’s a big discussion to be had here about camera preamps versus recorder preamps, but for now, just trust me that you’ll typically get higher quality audio with a standard shotgun mic and audio recorder. But if you’re vlogging and not pulling off a whole hog indie film production, camera-mounted mics work for 90% of your favorite YouTubers.
So what are you waiting for? Well, it’s probably the Amazon 2-day shipping, right? But when the thumb twiddling is over you’ll have a brilliant new camera and a shiny shotgun mic to boot. In the words of Neil Gaiman, “the world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.”
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