DSLR Mic Shootout: The Rode NTG-3 vs. VideoMic Pro

I finally had the chance to test out some new microphones with my Panasonic GH2 camera. I tested the Rode NTG-3 against the Rode VideoMic Pro. I also included my Audio Technica 4073a in the test, for a little non-Rode competition. Check it out:

I personally felt that the Rode NTG-3 was the best sounding of the three microphones. However, all three sounded good. If you’re not very familiar with professional location sound equipment like the Sound Devices 302 mixer used in this video, I don’t mean for you to come away from this video thinking that a $230 mini-plug microphone is nearly equal to a $700 microphone plugging into a $1300 field mixer. In actuality, comparing these microphones like like comparing apples and bananas. Here’s why…

At the end of the day, mini-plug microphones like the Rode VideoMic Pro and the Sennheiser MKE 400 are consumer-level products. They’re awesome for what they are, but they aren’t nearly as dependable as professional microphones. Sure, I can make a shootout video like this in a controlled environment and the inexpensive microphones will be able to compete head to head with the good quality mics, but that doesn’t mean that they’re equals.

Rode NTG-3 Shotgun Microphone

A professional shotgun microphone is made out of metal, and it’s designed to preform in demanding environments. It has an XLR output and can connect seamlessly with professional field mixers, along side professional wireless systems and recorders. They can be fitted into blimp windshield systems to be used in fierce winds.

Little mini-plug microphones provide a nice, inexpensive bump up in sound quality, but they should not be used as a primary sound capturing tool in a production that is strives to deliver a high-quality finished product. They’re great little problem-solvers, especially if you’re shooting a quick little video where the sound just needs to be better than the built-in mics in a camera.

Stay tuned for my upcoming video where I test out the Rode NTG-3 in extreme conditions. Also stay tuned for my indoor & outdoor shootout between the Rode VideoMic Pro and the Sennheiser MKE 400.

Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

10 thoughts on “DSLR Mic Shootout: The Rode NTG-3 vs. VideoMic Pro”

  1. Thanks Sam for doing this. What was your distance from the microphones? What’s the sweet spot for the VideoMic Pro with normal gain? Also, any strengths/weaknesses between the mics when it comes to the environment you record in?

  2. Hi Joshua. Both of the microphones were about 12 to 18 inches away from my mouth. You can see them on a stand in the foreground of the video.

    The sweet spot for the VideoMic Pro and pretty much any shotgun mic is as close as you can get it. The closer it is, the better it will sound. That’s why I positioned the mics on a stand pretty much right in front of me. Ideally you’ll be able to get the VideoMic Pro (or any mic for that matter) as close as you can to the person who’s speaking. Often this requires having a sound person hoisting the mic over the head of the person who’s speaking on a boompole. When you have the mic as close as possible to the frame of the shot, it’s still often about 12 to 18 inches away from their mouth. That’s why I put the mics where they were.

    One weakness of the VideoMic Pro is how it handles wind. If you’re shooting on a windy day and you have the VideoMic Pro in the DEADCAT VMP windshield, you’re going to pick up wind noise if it’s really blowing. An NTG-3 inside the Rode Blimp would handle the wind much better.

  3. Hi Sam, Great Video, heaps of useful information for a newbie like myself. Don’t suppose you have an ETA on shootout between the Rode VideoMic Pro and the Sennheiser MKE 400. I am looking to upgrade the sound on my 7D, & these are the two mic’s I’m looking at. Thanks.

  4. Hi Daniel. I’m at the NAB show in Las Vegas this week, so that post won’t be up for another week or so. Here’s a little preview of my findings: the Rode VideoMic Pro sounded a little better, but the MKE 400 was smaller and has a stronger build quality. Even with fuzzy windshields, they were both pretty bad in the wind.

  5. Nice test. Thanks for the explanation at the end about the internet compression, because I did not hear any difference whatsoever between the NTG-3 and 4073a. I’m in the market for a shotgun mic and considering a new NTG-3 or Sanken CS-1, or used Sennheiser MKH416 or CS-2 (‘probably won’t find a used CS-2).

    In fact, I saw a stellar Vimeo video documentary shot with the CS-1 and I commented that it sounded excellent. The soundman’s reply was that the CS-1 is somewhat bright and conducive to sibilance and lip-smacking. I didn’t hear any of that. It sounded warm but not muddy, with ample hi-mid spike. Apparently, he did something in audio post.

    If you have any insights about the NTG-3 vs the 416 or either of the CS, I’m all ears. I shoot mostly narrative docs and run-n-gun in crappy outdoor conditions which I have no control over, into a MixPre, and I have all that upscale wind-protecting apparatus. For my own stuff the signal goes into a Panny GH2, for anybody else it’s whatever they have (HVX, EX, 5D, etc). Thanks.

  6. Howdy Raqcoon,

    The NTG-3, MKH416 and CS-1 are all good mics, but I think the CS-1 suits you best. In addition to being great sounding, it’s the shortest of the three, which will suit your running and gunning. Plus, if you use all of those cameras, the CS-1 makes for a sweet on-camera mic.

    I’m not sure exactly what kind of “upscale wind-protecting apparatti” that you’ve got, but you need to make sure it fits the mic perfectly. I’d just grab the CS-1 and see if you can make it work with what you’ve got.

  7. Hi Sam, please excuse my beginner English.
    Great video, that really helped! The NTG-3 showed more focus and presence.
    But I had a question regarding the SD 302: It’s possible to connect the TA3 tape output straight into a DSLR?
    Generally I send the 302 > Sony pcm-d50 (via XLR outputs/line level). But it’s good to have audio into both devices (DSLR+PcmD50).
    Thanks a lot and cheers from Brazil!

  8. Hi Sam,
    Thanks so much for your extremely helpful info. I just heard back from you regarding using the Tascam iXZ to use a Rode NTG-3 Shotgun mic with an iphone/ipad for a filming project I’m working on. I have a few other questions regarding this setup:

    1. In researching the Tascam iXZ, I found that it seems to record in mono and not stereo. I’m wondering if this will be a huge downer for the audio of my film and whether I should get another adapter to allow it to record in stereo vs. mono. I’m pretty new at all of this so I don’t know if films take audio from a mono source or stereo. If so, could you recommend some adapters to use between the Tascam iXZ and the iPhone.

    2. Secondly, in regards to the above-question: I’m wondering if it would just be better to record the audio for my film separate from the iphone altogether. The bit of research I’ve been able to gather seems to point towards using an audio field mixer to do this. I guess my question is: If you were going to film a web series on an iPhone or iPad, how would you handle recording the audio so you could get the best possible sound? What would your audio set up be?

    Any thoughts on this would be extremely appreciated!

    Thanks!

  9. 1) Don’t worry about mono & stereo in this case. The NTG-3 is a mono mic (mono is preferable for recording dialog for film and video). The iXZ will likely print the mono audio signal to both the left and right channels on your iPhone. It’s not an issue, no adapters needed (adapters are worth avoiding).

    2) That’s a tricky question. The only reason I would use an iPhone or an iPad to shoot a web series is if I was trying to make a point of it. You know, use it as a bragging right to be able to tell people: HEY this production was shot on an iPhone. If that’s the case, it seems more fitting to record the audio to the phone too, to stay true to the mission. If the mission isn’t to make a point by using an iPhone, it just seems like a shame, because there are so many affordable cameras out there that blow the iPhone away.

    But, if you’re set on using iPhones and you want to record sound separately, you could use a Tascam DR-40, the NTG-3, a boompole and shockmount, a pair of headphones and a clapper slate (like an ikan PS01).

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