More Thoughts on Using Stereo Mics on Camcorders and Video-Enabled DSLR’s

I’m going to use this post to go a little deeper into the subject of using a stereo microphone on video cameras, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras.

The first thing to keep in mind is that when I suggest using a stereo mic on a camera, I’m not saying that it’s a better than shooting with an external audio recorder. Using a stereo mic on your camera is just another way to work; another arrow in your quiver.

If you get overwhelmed when operating an external audio recorder and a camera, there are many situations where shooting with good audio can be simplified. That’s what this practice is all about.

For years I used a Sony ECM-MS908 external stereo microphone on my camcorder. It’s an awesome little mic, that seems to be somewhat extinct today. B&H no longer sells it, and I didn’t find any other reputable dealers online that had them in stock. If you can get you hands on this mic somehow, grab it! It sounds great, and it has two pick-up patterns. One pattern is more of a wide stereo spread, and the other is a more direction pattern for dialog.

Sony ECM-MS908
The Sony ECM-MS908 on a small camcorder

Here’s the horrible thing that still keeps me awake at night… I LOST MY ECM-MS908!!! Ouch. It always burns when you lose equipment, but when they discontinue the piece after you lose it, it hurts a lot more. The Sony ECM-MS907 is still around, which is pretty much the exact same mic. But the 907 has a much longer cable, and it doesn’t come with the camera shoe mount. Bummer.

The nice thing about the ECM-MS908 and 907 is that they run on standard AA batteries. Which brings up an important workflow point:

When you use an external microphone, chances are that it runs on batteries, so you must remember to turn the microphone on before you begin shooting.

That’s a big thing to remember here. If you have an external microphone plugged into the 1/8″ mic input on your camera, and you forget to turn it on, you won’t be recording any sound at all. Plugging a microphone into you mic input automatically defeats the internal microphones on your camera. Avoid this at all costs. Get into the habit of turning your mic on every time you power up your camera.

Canon 5D Mark II with Pro-24CM mic

The same rule applies to the Audio-Technica Pro-24CM. It too runs on a battery, and you must remember to turn it on when you work. Equally important is getting into the habit of turning the microphone off when you’re finished. Otherwise it will remain active and burn through its battery when its waiting around in your camera bag. An important factor to keep in mind is that the Pro-24Cm runs on a watch battery (an A76 LR44 to be exact). If you plan on getting this mic, I suggest stocking up on a few of these batteries and keeping them in your bag. It’s a more difficult battery to find in a store, in the event that it dies on you in the field.

Don’t let the odd battery type of the Pro-24CM scare you off. I’ve never owned one, but if I were to buy a video-enabled DSLR today, I would also purchase this microphone with the WindTech MM1 Windshield. Audio-Technica is a name that I trust. There are lots of positive customer reviews of the Pro-24Cm. Without a doubt, this combination was the real star of my article. Many people were under the impression that the Rode Stereo VideoMic was the only way to go for external microphones for a DSLR. To me, the Rode Stereo VideoMic sounds great, but it’s far too bulky. As an old school user of the ultra-compact Sony ECM-MS908, I knew there was a better way.

If you have any further questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!