Overview of the Nikon ME-1 Camera Microphone

For decades Nikon has been one of the leading camera manufacturers on the planet, but, since the announcement of their new ME-1 Stereo Microphone, the question suddenly becomes: how good of an audio manufacturer is Nikon? Still images and audio fidelity are two very different arenas. I recently had the chance to crack open an ME-1 in preparation for my upcoming project entitled: The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2011. I figured I’d give you a little overview of this new, camera-friendly microphone.

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of this cool little mic, I wanted to remind you to check out last year’s mic shootout: The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2010. It was inspired by Zacuto’s big camera shootout video series. I’m looking forward to creating this year’s installment, but unlike Zacuto’s 2011 camera shootout, The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2011 will be made entirely with HDSLR cameras. Here’s a little teaser video about the ME-1 to get you all pumped up for this year’s shootout:

So, as you can tell from the video, I didn’t let you hear what the mic sounds like. Sorry! You’re just going to have to wait for The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2011 to be published to hear the ME-1 in action. I’m a jerk.

Sound quality aside, the basic attributes of this microphone seem quite nice. I love the fact that it operates off of Plug-In Power. This means that you’ll never have to feed it batteries, or worry about turning the mic on and off. The downside is that it won’t be universally compatible with all cameras. If the camera you’re using has a 3.5mm mic input, but the camera doesn’t supply Plug-In Power, then the ME-1 won’t work. Obviously all Nikon camera’s that have a 3.5mm mic input supply Plug-In Power. All Sony cameras also supply Plug-In Power. I know that some Panasonic MiniDV cameras have Plug-In Power, but I have to do some more investigating to find out if any Panasonic’s lack it. I know that the Canon 5D Mark II supplies Plug-In Power, but again, I’m going to have to investigate to find out about the rest of the Canon line.

What other stuff do I like about this microphone? I think the build quality is really solid. You can tell that Nikon didn’t cut corners and went out of their way to make a tough product. I also like that it has a totally original design. Camera microphones often seem like clones of one another, but the ME-1 is totally unique. I love the way that the cable drops down mid-way through the mic. It just makes it purpose-built, camera centric microphone.

There are some other neat things this microphone has going for it. The thread at the base of the mount is 1/4 20, so that means you can attach it to a tripod. I was able to attach the ME-1 to my Joby Gorillapod as well as my Manfrotto 501HDV head. The downside is that the ME-1 will not mount to a boompole (without a thread adapter). Boompoles have a larger, 3/8″ thread. It’s just another aspect that makes the ME-1 more of a “photographer’s microphone.”

Another nice little feature about the ME-1 that I didn’t touch upon in the video is that it has a little cable holder built into the back of its shockmount. It’s just a little notch that’s molded into the back of the mount that holds the cable in place. It’s just a nice little touch because it allows you to feed the cable behind the microphone, without the cable being loose and potentially bothersome.

One downside to this microphone is that there currently isn’t an additional softie windscreen made for it. A softie windscreen is a furry little sock that creates extra diffusion for stopping wind from distorting your audio. Softies are absolutely essential items for shooting video with sound outdoors. Perhaps a company like Rycote will design a softie accessory for the ME-1, but as of yet there is nothing.

So that’s all I’ve got for you for now. To hear the Nikon ME-1 in action, stay tuned for The Great On-Camera Mic Shootout 2011. It’s going to be a fantastic and wonderful thing!

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

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