There’s a dizzying world of on-camera microphones right now. And since we at Cinema Sound discourage the use of such microphones generally, we spend few resources talking about them. But Saramonic is about to release three on-camera mics which deserve your look-see. This review is for the Saramonic CamMic, which along with it’s two cousins we believe will be on every camera within 2 years or less.
Like every on-camera mic, unless you’re doing reality, ENG or having to generally run-and-gun, we at Cinema
Sound discourage the use of them. Why? Well, check out this article on sound delay for one, and for another it’s nearly impossible to get good audio when a microphone is remote to the subject and subject to the noises of the camera and operator. In the Cinema Sound Education we demonstrate the difference between lavaliers and a Saramonic TM-7 shotgun microphone on-camera, and even with the TM-7’s world-class narrow polar pattern, the difference in quality and presence is obvious.
But given those who only have the built-in camera microphones, nearly any on-camera microphone solution is going to be far, far better. And, of course, if you have to run around with a camera and don’t have time for audio setups – and the subject is within 10 feet of the camera – having a great on-camera microphone is critical.
What do we want in an on-camera microphone?
- Cold/Hot shoe mountable
- Small and rugged body and mounts to the camera on a shock mount.
- Condenser Microphone
- Hypercardioid polar pattern or a cardioid pattern with a strongly even and bright frequency response pattern
- Included and functional windscreen for reasonable interior and exterior wind
- Self powered or have the ability to receive power from camera/recorder
- Frequency response ideal for the human voice – with a low noise floor
- Sexy looking – enhancing the “produceable” look of the operator’s rig for clients
- Selectable high-pass filter(s)
- Included cables
- Portable durable Case
- High Dollar Value
And while many of these points are akin to having a normal dialog-use microphone anyway, 1, 2, 6, 8, 10 & 12 are
specific to the on-camera microphone variety.
The Old Guard
Many of our members own a form of Røde on camera microphone, since that’s more-or-less what brought the company
to prestige during the advent of the Canon 5D. Røde microphones are good, and we own several. However, when we apply the above dozen requirements of a worthy on-camera microphone, as we compare them to, say a Video Mic Pro+ which is far more money than the CamMic, things begin to break down:
- #5 The included windscreen not only is difficult to remove, but darkens the sound and bring mediocre wind support.
- #7 although the frequency plot is great for the human voice, the mic is quite noisy.
- #8 The look of the Røde is no longer something that enhances a camera operator’s produceable appearance as it borrows from the same kind of design that many manufacturers are copying.
- #10 You’d think that since Røde requires it’s own, crazy, proprietary cables to use it’s microphones that it would include them. In many cases (no pun intended) they are not – especially when having to break out into XLR.
- #11 No case-capable box included
- #12 Although Røde studio microphones are still an amazing value, Røde on-camera mics are now toward the top of the pricing chart compared with others like Saramonic.
The New Breed
(both currently available as of 12/18) and the Vmic Mini and CamMic+ (coming out early 2019), we’ve been able to make some strong findings and opinions about the CamMic.
Saramonic is about to release a series of on-camera mics which will take the independent media creator space by storm. Not only are they highly functional and have unique sonic characteristics, but the look of them has them stand out immediately as something sexy, new and cool. Let’s break them down from the same 12 concepts:
- The CamMic is cold shoe mountable.
- It’s far simpler a design than similar Røde products and as such has a lot fewer things to break. Further, it uses the new Saramonic shock mount which is actually superior in reducing “bump” noise than the Rycote reverse-engineered version most on-camera mic manufacturers employ. It’s also simpler – and WAY cooler looking.
- It’s a Condenser which means it needs power.
- It has a fine narrow supercardioid polar pattern for rejecting noise from off-axis position.
- Saramonic windscreens are some of the best in the business: very strong wind shredding with very little high frequency loss. Look no further than the Cinema Sound Record volume where we test them with fan and blow drier wind – and they stood up nearly as well as a dead cat with little high frequency loss. The issue with the CamMic windscreen, however, is that it’s INCREDIBLY difficult to get back on once you take it off. Plan on a good 20-30 seconds of fiddling before you can use it again. The good news is that you won’t lose it mid-take thrashing your camera around.
- The CamMic gets 3-5 volt “plugin” power through its 3.5mm jack which is typically supplied by consumer cameras and phones. There are no batteries or charging capabilities for the mic.
- The frequency response of the mic is akin to a the Røde Video Mic Pro+ with a bit more 2 kHz. It also seems to have a slight 750 Hz bump with a bit of a breakdown in flat response below 80 Hz. For general purpose recoding, however, it’s fine, and it has clearly been tweaked to pick up dialog over other noisy sounds.
- It should be noted that the noise floor of the mic is quite high, but compared to the Video Mic Pro+ its reasonably comparable.
- There’s not going to be a sexier microphone than the CamMic released any time soon. Period. You’re going to have
people stop you just to ask what you have on top of your camera.
- There is a single high pass selection on the back of the mic which sounds like a 48dB/octave cut at 150 Hz.Saramonic high pass filters are typically quite draconian, and this mic is no exception.
- Cables for both camera and 3.5mm smart phone are included.
- One of the great things about nearly every Saramonic product is the box they come in. We’ve taken some Saramonic products in their factory boxes in checked luggage they’re made so well. Really well crafted and rugged. And with the included gel-pack are excellent for long term storage as well.
- As with just about everything Saramonic, the price point is going to wipe out the market.
Super high-value on-camera mic with a tight polar pattern for doing single sound source recording, easy to use, rugged, and sexy with a great shock mount and windscreen. It’s also going to do a great job at picking up dialog. A price that you’re not going to believe.
The frequency response is definitely biased towards dialog-only recording, and it is probably not the right choice for
music, sound effects or general recording. Windscreen is difficult to put back on the mic.
Is the CamMic the best microphone on-camera solution every made? Nope. What about comparing the CamMic with the Vmic Mini? Well, they’re sort of apples-and-oranges except whereas they both sit atop a camera. The Vmic Mini has a cardioid polar pattern with a strong hi-frequency bias, where the CamMic has a super cardioid pattern with a mid-to-high bias. They really have different missions – even though their feature set is nearly identical.
Is the CamMic the best bang-for-your-buck? It’s more like a rocket launcher-for-your-buck. And given that it’s completely breaking the visual mould of what on-camera mics should look like, all we’d really wish for is a high frequency shelf boost feature to make up for the somewhat dark frequency response. As a result, the CamMic gets a couple of demerits for a sonic signature which seems a bit pedestrian for the rigorous requirements of on-camera mic dialog recording. The CamMic receives a 108 CS rating. Given its dialog frequency bias and ease of use, it’s an inexpensive eye-catching piece of kit which trumps any other manufacturer’s on-camera microphone at or near its price range.