Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Definite Guide on External Video Microphone Selection for Supported DSLRs (Brand Regardless)

In the course of finding the best suitable external stereo microphone for my K-5 for video recording, I have considered the following products and I think it would be good for me to summarise what I have researched, tabulated as follows:-

Make/Model
Stereo
Output Impedance

(Ohms)

[See Note 1]
Power Source

[See Note 2]
Directivity

(Pattern, Degrees)



High Pass / Low Cut Filter

(Steps)
Specified Output SNR

(dB)
Shock
Mount Bundled

[See Note 5]
Weight

(grams)
B&H Current Price

(US$)
Audio-Technica Pro-24CM
Yes
600
2 x LR44 1.5V / Plug-in Power90 (X-Y Stereo)
No
57
No
111
$59
Azden SMX-10
Yes
1.5k
1 x AAA 1.5V
Super-cardioid, 120
No
60
Yes
52
$65
Azden SMX-20Yes
1.5k
1 x LR44 1.5V / Plug-in Power
Super-cardioid, 120
No
60
Yes
72
$100
Rode VideoMic
No
(Dual Mono)
200
1 x 9VSuper-cardioid, Unspecified Angle2
74
Yes
176
$185
Rode VideoMic Pro Compact
No (Dual Mono)
200
1 x 9V
Super-cardioid, Unspecified Angle
2
74
Yes
86
$229
Rode Stereo VideoMic
Yes
200
1 x 9V
Super-cardioid, Unspecified Angle1
79
Yes
330
$249
Rode Stereo VideMic Pro
Yes
200
1 x 9V
Super-cardioid, Unspecified AngleNo
73
Yes
117
$299
Sennheiser MKE 400
Yes
Not Specified
1 x AAA 1.5V
Super-cardioid, Unspecified AngleNo
Not SpecifiedYes
60
$200
Nikon ME-1
Yes
2.2k
Plug-in Power (Only)
Uni-directional, Unspecified Angle
1
60
No
Not Specified
$129
Panasonic DMW-MS1

[See Note 3]
Yes
Not Specified
1 x AAA 1.5V
Not Specified
1
Not Specified
No
Not Specified
$95
Sony ECM-ALST1

[See Note 4]
Yes
Not Specified
Unknown Battery
90 / 120
No
Not Specified
No
52
$114
Chinese OEM Shotgun Model 108
Yes
200
1 x CR2 3V
90 / 120
No
76
No
Not Specified
$25
(Chinese Taobao Price)

Notes:-

1. Proper matching the Input Impedance (requirement) of our cameras is utmost important! The Pentax DSLRs are specified in the user manuals that the user should find a 2.2k output impedance microphone for best performance. If the impedance of the microphone deviates too much from what the device is designed, sound level and quality will be degraded much as the impedances are not properly matched, resulting in audio power loss and distortion!

2. If your camera supports plug-in power, do find a microphone that can draw the plug-in power from the camera as far as possible. This is very convenient as you don't have to worry about the battery level of the battery in the mic and you don't have to turn on and off the microphone each time. Read the user manual of your camera, the plug-in power is provided via the input phone jack, e.g., Pentax K-5 can provide up to 2V for the plug-in power, which should be adequate for most of the microphones that typically work at 1.5V.

Do note that not all DSLRs provide the plug-in power, earlier Canon and Nikon models that support the video function do not. So, do check before buy! In particular, for example, the Nikon ME-1 does NOT work on the Nikon D90 (but can on the K-5 instead!), as the D90 just does not have the plug-in power.

3. The Pana mic uses a smaller 2.5mm stereo phone jack instead of a 3.5mm one which is used for all other mics as listed above. If you just want to use it on Other Cams with a standard sized 3.5mm input jack, use/buy a radio shack adaptor.

4. The Sony mic has a special hot shoe type which only suits Sony DSLRs/SLTs but not others.

5. The Shock Mount is a structure that is built with rubber or other soft material that is put in between the mic and the hot shoe mount so as to minimise any noise that is transmitted mechanically from the camera body.

6. All models are bundled and supplied with a wind screen, which is made of higher density foam so as to stop wind from causing loud noise to the mic as recorded.


Well, after all, I chose and purchased the Azden SMX-20 locally, which seems to be the best compromise for the feature set and the price/performance. It is yet not too large and heavy, I think. I have carried out some preliminary tests for the mic, obvious it produces better sound than the built-in mono mic of my K-5. The sensitivity is good, sound level is appropriate (a little bit larger than that of the K-5), noise floor is low, stereo sound image and formation is good. Actually, I like it very much for the first day of use. Will see later if it is used for recording musical performance is good enough or not and will see if the wind screen will cut the wind sound efficiently at outdoor and on windy days. Finally, with that external mic with the built-in shock mount, I can now turn the Movie sensor-shifted SR of my K-5 to On for video recording without recording the SR motors' (continuous) movement sound! Really NICE! :-D

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