Reviews : Microphone
BLUE's flagship solid-state microphone combines their trademark distinctive styling with exceptional sonics.
Photos: Mark Ewing
I have in recent years reviewed a couple of BLUE mics in the pages of SOS, both towards the bottom of the range the Baby Bottle and the Dragonfly. However, the BLUE Kiwi that is subject of this review is at the opposite end of the product line, being the top-of-the-range solid-state model. It is also a multi-pattern mic, one of only two in the range, and the only one which is phantom powered.
Construction & Styling
The microphone has a fairly traditional appearance not that dissimilar to the BLUE Bottle mic, with an enormous cylindrical body finished in an appropriate shade of Kiwi green and measuring 60mm in diameter by about 220 in length. The BLUE logo identifies the front of the microphone. Perched on the top of the bottle is a substantial capsule enclosure 60mm in diameter, extending the overall length of the mic to a huge 285mm. The front of the capsule grille is highly polished, while the rear has a dull finish. Despite the large size of the microphone, it is not as heavy as it looks, although still needing a strong stand to accommodate its 880g without drooping.
The spec sheet is very respectable, as you would expect. The sensitivity is slightly lower than the norm at 19mV/Pa, but the signal-to-noise ratio and self noise are fine at 87dBA and 8dBA respectively (both measured to the DIN/IEC 651 standard). The maximum SPL for 0.5 percent distortion is 133dB.
The capsule design is derived from the B6 capsule used in the Bottle mic. Instead of using a single dual-diaphragm capsule, the Kiwi employs a matched pair of single diaphragm devices mounted back-to-back which explains the very deep capsule housing. Like the other models in the BLUE range, the microphone is shipped with three brass screws to secure the capsule and prevent it bouncing in its internal vibration mount. The microphone will not work until these screws are removed, and the handbook recommends replacing them if the mic has to be transported.
The impedance converter electronics are solid state, all discrete and Class A, with a transformerless output stage. Other than the polar pattern switch, there are no other facilities no pads or high-pass filters to disturb the high-quality minimalist signal path. Since there is no rumble-filter facility and this is a pressure-gradient microphone, proximity effect and LF vibrations could both cause problems. The latter is ameliorated by the included shockmount an impressive elasticated cradle with two inner padded clamping rings to support the mic. A chunky 'paddle' enables the knuckle joint in the stand adaptor to be secured firmly.
The polar pattern of the Kiwi is controlled by a rotary switch on the rear of the microphone. Positions are marked for omni at the anticlockwise end, figure of eight at the clockwise end, and cardioid in the middle. There are also three intermediate positions between the cardioid and each end, so there is a high degree of precision and variation available here, with three subcardioid and three hypercardioid patterns in addition to the primary trio.
I'd call it the best camera for that price. I'd go for it.
FYI, Downsides are:
* Limited lens compatibility (no autofocus motor, so many Nikon lenses won't work)
* Autofocus is slow enough to be completely useless in live view mode (try it in a store)
* Video mode isn't up to par with Canon and friends. You get limited resolution, awkward frame rate, horrible audio (11kHz with low quality built-in microphone, and no microphone input, and the kit lens will give you lots of image stabilizer noise).
Stepping up, Canon 550D is an amazing camera (albeit without the pivot LCD)