Sound presents unique challenges to both photographers and videographers alike, especially when working with the limited capabilities of a DSLR’s built-in microphone system. On-camera mics are generally a low-cost, single-channel system that are lacking in professional features like balanced XLR inputs, multiple mic support and manual control over sensitivity and audio levels. Built-in mics are designed to capture the ambient noise of the surrounding environment, and this often includes not only the sound produced by the inner workings of the camera and lens, but also the omnidirectional noise of the surrounding environment. Ironically, the front-positioning of mics on a DSLR even can block incoming audio thanks to camera handling.
The solution is that many video-capable DSLRs offer a 1?8-inch input (also known as a 3.5mm or TRS mini-jack) for capturing audio through an external microphone. This will let you add direct capture of audio to video files through much more capable microphones that are available in a variety of configurations for best meeting the needs of your project. Omnidirectional mics like those in your camera will capture ambient sound from all surrounding areas, while directional mics are designed to capture audio from a specific area. To learn about the basic types of microphones, see our guide online at dpmag.com/mics.
Canon has been busy since last fall, introducing three new prime lenses, a superzoom and an update to one of its most popular pro-series "L" lenses for DSLRs. And don’t forget the EF-M-mount lenses introduced for the new EOS M mirrorless compact camera. The three primes—the EF 24mm, EF 28mm and EF 40mm—are all moderately fast ƒ/2.8 maximum apertures, the wider pair actually offering image stabilization and ultrasonic motors for fast autofocusing.
The low-profile and very affordable PRO 24-CM stereo mini-shotgun mic from Audio-Technica includes a pair of cardioid mics (a forward-facing, heart-shaped pick-up pattern) in an X/Y configuration for rejecting side noise and eliminating any latency between the pickup of each mic. The 4.6-inch mic anchors to a hot-shoe and is lightweight at less than four ounces. Estimated Street Price: $69.
With a length of just less than seven inches and a weight of less than two ounces, Azden’s stereo SMX-10 shotgun mic includes an internal lo-cut filter for reducing ambient noise created by wind and hum. It also includes a windscreen and hot-shoe mount. It powers from a single AAA battery with up to 400 hours of average runtime. Estimated Street Price: $85.
The Q Mini Shotgun PRO includes three levels of gain for setting the best audio "exposure" level between 0, +10 and +20 dB. The Q Mini Shotgun PRO is also available in the Q DSLR-Video PRO Microphone Kit, which includes everything you’ll need for anchoring the mic to a DSLR alongside wind-dampening tools and a custom case. The Q Sniper PRO Microphone Kit comes with these accessories, as well as a mini-boompole for holding the mic off-screen. Uniquely, Que Audio’s Compact Connection System offers a variety of connectors (3.5mm, balanced XLR and wireless transmitter adapters) for using the Q Mini Shotgun PRO with more than just your DSLR. Estimated Street Price: $249 (Que Audio DSLR-Video PRO Microphone Kit); $499 (Que Audio Sniper PRO Microphone Kit).
Sennheiser’s MKE 400 shotgun is a compact mic that includes settable sensitivities for long or short distances. A foam windshield and shock-mount is included for reducing noise, and the microphone powers for more than 300 hours on a single AAA battery. Estimated Street Price: $199.
The RØDE VideoMic Pro is compact and efficient, powering for up to 70 hours from a single 9V battery and weighing less than a fifth of a pound. It includes three steps of sensitivity and an 80 Hz high-pass filter for minimizing low levels of ambient noise like camera motors. The Stereo VideoMic Pro is offered as a similar solution, but with a wider angle of pickup thanks to an array of two cardioid mics. The Stereo VideoMic Pro will pick up more background audio than the VideoMic Pro, making it an ideal solution for live concerts or events. Estimated Street Price: $229 (VideoMic Pro); $299 (Stereo VideoMic Pro).
Similar to a film production, dedicated external audio recorders give you uncompressed audio for far more leverage during the editing process, especially when recording dual soundtracks, one as a backup to the camera and one to a dedicated audio recorder. Audio recorders and XLR adapters (XLR-to-mini-jack for DSLRs) let you use XLR connections, which are professionally balanced against signal loss and interference from other electronics for 100 feet or more. They also give you access to pro-level mics, which often have to power from dedicated camcorder systems and are therefore incompatible with DSLRs. (When using dual sound recording, you have to sync audio with video files during the editing process; for best results, you need a clapper or on-camera hand clap. However, syncing is generally a simple extra step that even can be automated with programs like Singular Software’s PluralEyes.)
The Beachtek DXA-SLR PRO audio adapter enables direct capture of audio to DSLR video files. It includes two XLR inputs with 12- or 48-volt phantom power for using professional-level microphones. There are also built-in VU meters, limiters and transformer-balanced inputs for controlling and monitoring audio levels. List Price: $449.
juicedLink’s Riggy Micro is an XLR adapter and preamp that’s small enough to mount to the top or bottom of a camera. An optional accessory bracket also makes it useful as a camera rig
for adding mics, wireless receivers and other accessories. There are three XLR inputs, wireless capabilities for lavaliers and a 3.5mm stereo output with a balanced preamp that
lets you capture audio directly to your video without the need for an audio recorder or dual sound. List Price: $399.
The Roland R-26 includes two separate internal microphone designs that can be mixed together for achieving the best sound. There are two hybrid XLR/TRS (mini-jack) inputs, and the unit offers 48V phantom power, enough for feeding a stereo micro-phone. The unit captures audio in up to six independent channels and three stereo channels. Estimated Street Price: $499.
The Tascam DR-40 includes adjustable microphone arrays and Neutrik Combo jacks for using an XLR or 1/4-inch microphone. There are several modes for controlling dis
tortion, hum and audio peaking, including a Dual Recording mode that captures an automatic backup at a lower level (-12 dB) for a redundant copy of audio that can be used when the main track is distorted. Estimated Street Price: $199.
The Zoom H4n has been a go-to audio-recorder solution for DSLR videomaking for a couple of years now. The built-in stereo mics offer an angle pickup of 90º or 120º with an X/Y configuration for natural depth without time lag between the mics. The H4n will capture four channels of sound sim-ultaneously for mixing and matching the onboard mics with external microphones. Estimated Street Price: $249.