Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2

There’s been a lot of interest in a recent post I made on Sescom cables, and how they help you get good audio inside a camera when working with a portable digital recorder. Well, it turns out that Sescom makes another variation of this cable which makes it possible to also monitor your audio on headphones as you record. A company called Markertek was kind enough to send me one of these cables to test out. As usual, I figured I’d share my findings with you.

The problem with using a regular Sescom cable is that it consumes the headphone output on your portable digital recorder, leaving you with no way to listen to the sound. That’s why they make special Sescom cables with a headphone tap. Instead of it just being a straight cable with a -25dB pad, it’s a Y-Cable with a female 3.5mm headphone jack. This enables you to feed the sound from your portable digital recorder directly into your camera’s mic input, while listening on headphones at the same time.

People often worry that if they split an audio signal, it will degrade the quality of the sound. This is a legitimate thing to worry about. If you’re going to split a signal, you’re much better off using a cable or a device that was custom designed for the task at hand, rather than Frankensteining together cheap Radio Shack adapter cables. These Sescom DSLR cables are perfect examples of high-quality, purpose built problem solving cables.

All in all, I found that I got a very good sound using this cable. However, I would have gotten an even better sound if I had the option to turn off the AGC (automatic gain control) in the camera I was using. Being able to listen to your audio is a very important thing. I really think if you’re considering buying a Sescom cable, getting one that has the headphone output is a must.

If you want to go ahead an outfit yourself with this cable, this is the one I used:

1) The Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON

If you’re using a Panasonic GH1 or GH2, then you want the special cable that Sescom makes with a 2.5mm male plug for the camera’s sub-mini mic input:

2) The Sescom LN2MIC-ZMGH-MON

These cables were designed with DLSR cameras in mind, but they work with other kinds of video cameras. I’m still saving up to buy a DSLR of my own (the DSLR’s I’ve used in my other videos were all borrowed), so I didn’t have one to use on this test. Instead I used my Panasonic PV-GS200 mini DV camera. I figured the HV20 crowd might be into using Sescom cables too, so I may as well go ahead and try it out.

Zoom H4n on a video camera

If you liked the sound that I got in the video when using the XLR inputs on my Zoom H4n, the mics that I used were a wired Tram TR50, and an Audio Technica 4053b. And of course if you have any questions about any of this stuff, I encourage you to leave it in a Comment below.

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

35 thoughts on “Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2”

  1. Nice informative video. It’s cool that you have used the cable with a mini DV camera because those cameras get overlooked but a lot of these products have applications for the millions of consumer camcorders out there. Glad you liked the cable.

  2. Very VERY informative video. Thank you for taking the time to a follow up. I do believe you helped me out with my up and coming class video project. With this cable I believe it will help me get the A+++ that I will need. My only question will be on how it will work with my Zoom H2. Do you think it will serve it similar as the H4?

    Thank you again!!

    Nicholas

  3. Thanks Nicholas! Glad to help. The Zoom H2 should behave very similarly to the Zoom H4n, so it should work fine. There is a 1/4 20 mount on the base of the H2 as well, so you’ll be able to mount it to a camera shoe with one of those Pearstone shoe adapters . There are cheaper versions of the Pearstone shoe adapter out there too.

    I recommend doing a thorough test with your recorder and camera before you start any actual work. It may take a little trial and error with the settings on the H2 (trying different volume levels on the H2’s headphone output, etc.), but you should be fine.

  4. Found it. Nevermind. You have a great site, devoted to a niche that needs all the information it can get. I just got a 7D today and your site has been a big help in making things clearer for me. I plan on using my Sony PCM-M10 audio recorder paired with the 7D. Who needs to buy another mic? Well eventually, but this thing will work great for now. Keep up the good, informational, sourced work.

    Gavin

  5. Hey Sam
    I just bought this cable and its on its way….I’m planning on using
    the cable with my canon 7d and h4n…now im not expecting great
    results just want audio that is good to sync in post to use with
    plural eyes…Now I wanted to know if i plug my Audio-Technica ATR3350
    powered Lav mic to the h4n will the cables still work…I’m plugging
    the lav mic directly to the h4n external mic input.

    thanks

    Manny

  6. Hi Manny,

    This should work fine, especially if you’re just syncing with PluralEyes.

    The 7D doesn’t have AGC disable, and one thing I noticed was that Sescom cables can sort of bring out AGC noise (on cameras that can’t disable it).

    Having a better quality lav mic would yield much better results, but your setup should work fine.

  7. Sam,

    Yes I’m sure its going to bring out the noise…I just don’t want to mess up anything on my canon 7d by plugging that lav mic to the h4n mic input…
    thanks again

  8. Sam, How does the H2 or H4n mount to the hot shoe adapter? We shoot event
    work which requires long run times and run and gun handheld or non-tripod work.
    Also, mounting a quality shotgun through the H4 xlr’s is a good idea for better audio
    but it all gets bulky and harder to shoot. Strapping the audio recorder to your belt
    like an old battery pack could work also and then you either have to deal with the
    cable length or use a wireless system. There would still be a mounting issue. You also need to be aware of turning on/off the audio recorder as well as the camera recorder. I suppose you could leave it on the whole time so as not to worry about that while shooting and just deal with the audio gaps in post.

  9. Hi Sam,
    thanks for your helpful vids!
    I have a doubt. If i want to attach a Tascam DR-07mkII to a Canon 60D, What’s the proper cable, the -25db or the -35db?
    LN2MIC-ZOOMH4N or LN2MIC-TASDR100
    Thanks again!

  10. Hi Sam,

    On the Canon T2i or really any DSLR do you need to go into the options and turn off the Internal Mic? Or does pluggin in the Zoom with the Sescom automatically override the camera internal mic?

    Thanks for your help.

    Adam

  11. do you need to go into the options and turn off the Internal Mic?

    Hi Adam. You don’t need to go into the menu to turn off the internal mic. It shuts off when you plug something into the mic input. You have to be careful though. I’ve heard of people having trouble because the mic plug gets bumped and loses its connection with the camera, and they end up with the internal mic shut off – and the external mic cut off as well. That’s one reason why it’s handy to have on-screen audio meters.

  12. So if I’m understanding correctly, the whole point of this cable is to record your audio in-camera, synchronously, and via the higher quality Zoom H4N mic and avoid having to sync your audio later using PluralEyes or sync manually relying on a clapperboard?

    I’m shooting with a Canon 60D and Zoom H4N. I’m on Final Cut Pro 7 and/or Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5, both of which don’t yet have the built-in auto syncing of externally-recorded audio with video (as in Premiere Pro CS 5.5’s “merge clips” feature or Final Cut X’s equivalent feature).

    But is the audio run through the Zoom mic and into the camera of equal quality as recording it externally? And by using your method, don’t you essentially get two copies of the audio? (one on your camera’s memory card and another on your Zoom’s SD card?). Thanks!

  13. Sam,

    After watching your great video I purchase an H4N and Sescom cable with the headphone port. I attached the H4N to my Nikon D7000 mic port and the other end to the H4N as you directed. I can hear the audio through my headphones but when I playback on the D7000 there is no sound. There is also no sound when I download the video clip to Final Cut Pro X. I am obviously not setting something properly on the camera or the H4N. Any help you can give me may keep me from pulling out what little hair I have left. Many thanks! Jim

  14. Thank you for this information.

    But I have to ask, why not just tone down the recording level on the zoom and tone down the mic sensitivity on the dslr? I have the Nikon d7000 which allows me to control mic sens but I’m in the midst of travelling right now and don’t really have any way to run tests unfortunately.

  15. You need to use a cable with an attenuator. Even with the input level on the camera level all the way down, and the headphone output of the recorder all the way down, the recording will still be overdriven and distorted in the camera. I tested this once with a regular stereo 3.5 male to stereo 3.5mm male cable, and the result was a distorted recording. Those mini-to-mini cables are easy to come by. I suggest trying it out yourself. If you’re able to get a clean recording without a Sescom cable, let us know what camera and recorder you used, and what settings worked.

  16. Hi! B&H is also selling the Sescom LN2MIC-ZOOMH4N without the monitor cable. Since my video camcorder Canon Vixia G10 has a headphone output, does it mean that I do not need the Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON with monitor and I can just use the Sescom LN2MIC-ZOOMH4N? If so, are the sounds coming from the Sescom cable monitor and the camcorder the same?

    Another question: will the Zoom H1 and Zoom H4n make a big difference if the sound I will be using is recorded in the camera?

    Many thanks.

  17. Hi Sam,

    I am using the Canon Vixia HFG10 camcoder and want to have a set up of two microphones – 1 wireless and 1 wired.

    Should I buy the Zoom H4N or the Beachtek DXA-2T in order to input sound from the mics into my Vixia G10?

    What are the pros and cons of going with the Beachtek vs going with the Zoom H4N?!

  18. Hi Sam, I recently purchased an H4N, and I already own a Canon Vixia HF M31. Would I still need this cable? I have a straight mini-to-mini cable now that Best Buy sold me, but I don’t know if it will damage my video recorder when I connect up.

  19. Very helpful video, Sam. I’ve been using the Zoom H4N to record a podcast and recently decided to extend my show to video. I’ve just ordered a Canon Vixia HDF50 and was trying to figure out how best to do external audio capture with multiple guests (without needing to purchase an expensive boom mic at this time). Woke up this morning thinking: Use my Zoom H4N, but how to connect so as to need minimal audio/video syncing and editing.

    I think your video has given me the solution, at least short-term. I have one XLR dynamic mic and a lavalier condenser mic, as well as the Zoom built-in mics. I may ultimately need another mic in the mix, such as a lavalier with XLR connector, but the setup shouldn’t be as expensive as what I was initially thinking. Many thanks.

  20. Sam —

    Great vid. Most informative and helpful.

    Silly question from rank beginner. To record ‘distance’ audio, why not position recorder off-camera, close to audio source (using recorder like a lavalier or shotgun), and run longer cable to cam? Not possible because of audio distortion over longer cable — or extension cable?

  21. Hi Pat. That should work. You could plug an extension cable, like the Rode VC1, into the headphone output of the recorder, and plug the female end of the VC1 into the Sescom cable. Be sure to monitor on headphones as you work, because by adding an extension cable, you’re adding in two more cable connection points that could potentially lose their connection. Through the headphones you’ll be able to hear if everything sounds okay.

  22. Hello Sam,

    This is I’m trying to do with my camera Sony FX1 and Zoom H4n. I want to connect Zoom H4n with XLR male connector to my Sony FX1 camera (minijack male connector) to record the audio. Do you think is it possible?.

    Thanks for your time.

    Jonatan

  23. Hi Sam, I recently got a good deal on a used “mint” H4N to record audio with my Sony HDR-CX560v for documentary work. I was wanting to ask you which you thought would be the better deal to get as far as cables go? There is the Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON($40 avg)…or I noticed there is an accessory pack for the H4N(APH-4N; $79.99)that includes a windscreen, a hot shoe mount, a remote control for h4n, an attenuator cable for connecting the h4n line output to camera mic and a splitter cable to allow for simultaneous headphone monitoring! I just thought I would ask here because I am interested in getting the kit if the cable setup would be as good as the Sescom one, “and” to make sure it(either) will work good with my Sony HDR-CX560v handycam that has a 3.5mm mic input? Thank you very much & any comment would be greatly appreciated!!!

  24. Interesting. I hadn’t noticed that kit before. Obviously, I haven’t laid a finger on that Zoom kit, but I would bet a box of doughnuts that the Sescom cable will be a much better build quality. The attenuation cable in the APH-4N kit look waaaay too long, and the fact that to get headphone monitoring you need to use a y-cable is a little wonky. Still, it’s an interesting little kit. The remote control will definitely be useful. When the Zoom is mounted up on top of your camera, and the camera is up on a tripod, it’s a real pain to hit the Record button on the H4n. And fluffy windscreens are always a good idea. So yeah, thanks for sharing this find.

  25. Thanks for the reply Sam!!! I kinda thought the same thing about the cable included in the APH-4N kit, which is why I wanted to ask you. Anyway, for the price (after I added the items up separately) I ordered the kit from Samsontech just to have the fluffy w.s., remote, & mount & then ordered the Sescom one too just to be sure. I’ll let ua know how the other cable works when I receive it though!!! Thanks-Robby

  26. Sam…thanks for the informative and great videos. Two years after you shot it and you’re still helping people. Quick question for you….I’m going to buy an H4n for use with my T3i. I really want to shoot external sound primarily (don’t really want to run the sound through the camera)……indoors only at first. If going this route, I just need to buy the H4n, headphones, and a microphone to plug into the H4n? Is that correct? I want to put that mic on a boom…..any recommendations for boom mics? Thanks again!

  27. Is there a cheaper alternative to this Sescom LN2MIC-ZMH4-MON ? Something in the $10-$15 range.

  28. Dumb question I’m sure. If I’m using the sescom cable with zoom h4n & a lav mic, does the zoom/lav audio record directly onto the cf card? If so do I then have the internal mic audio AND the zoom audio on the card or just the zoom audio?

  29. No worries. All questions are welcome. If you have this all hooked up, yes, it will record the audio from the Zoom to the cf card of your 5D. However, when you plug something into the mic input of a DSLR, it cuts off the built-in mic on the camera, so you won’t be recording any audio from the built-in mic on the camera.

  30. Hi Sam.
    Congrats for your work. It is really useful.
    Ihave a basic question.
    Why do I must connect the zoom to my Canon t4i, with the attenuator cable?.
    I mean, I was reading that I have to join video and audio on post production.
    Thanks

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