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Old May 8th, 2013, 11:41 AM   #1
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When is a mic too good for a camera?

Does anyone have any idea at what price point a shotgun mic might be too good for the audio circuitry in my Canon XF100? Is this even a concern? And if it is, what would be a good upgrade path to improve the audio beyond that point?
I'd also like to ask if there is a good way to predict how good the sound equipment in a camera might be? e.g would the sound quality in a Canon XF300 be assumed to be better than in the XF100? There's always lots of chat about sensors, lenses, zoom, but little about audio quality.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 12:07 PM   #2
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

In general, a good quality external recorder or mixer will always have better pramps than a camera. If you are worried about it, get a Sound Devices 702 recorder, or even a MixPre and feed a line level signal into your XF100.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 02:12 PM   #3
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Hiddelston View Post
Does anyone have any idea at what price point a shotgun mic might be too good for the audio circuitry in my Canon XF100?
For nearly every camera maker out there, audio is an after thought. Analog stages in cameras are nearly always pretty poor, which means that just about every microphone you can find will sound better recorded second system. I'm not telling you anything you can't verify in a couple of minutes of searching with Google.

The new
Tascam DR-60D
will mop the floor with the audio from the XF100, for example, using any mic you can find.

That said, if you are planning to attach that mic to your camera, you aren't going to get audio worth much anyway, so the built in camera audio will be more than sufficient. There's just about no worse place for a microphone to be than on a camera. Just sayin'. And again, you can easily verify that with a couple of minutes of Google work.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 09:54 AM   #4
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

"That said, if you are planning to attach that mic to your camera, you aren't going to get audio worth much anyway, so the built in camera audio will be more than sufficient. There's just about no worse place for a microphone to be than on a camera. Just sayin'. And again, you can easily verify that with a couple of minutes of Google work."

+1

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Ty Ford
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Old May 9th, 2013, 10:56 AM   #5
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Hiddelston View Post
Does anyone have any idea at what price point a shotgun mic might be too good for the audio circuitry in my Canon XF100?
Define "too good for"? Do you mean a microphone with better quality than what the camcorder will record? As Carlson, Watson, and Ford have said, the audio performance of virtually ALL camcorders is not stellar. You would need to buy a pretty low-end microphone to equal the performance of the typical camcorder. Most decent microphones output better signals than most camcorders will record. It would not be advisable to buy a microphone only as good as your current camcorder (whatever it happens to be at the moment). The problem with targets that are too low is that you will hit them and have a false sense of accomplishment.

Do you mean a microphone that will have a useful life longer than the XF100? It is expected that if you have a halfway decent quality microphone, it will outlive the useful life of SEVERAL generations of camera equipment. Video standards change all the time, and technological progress renders camera equipment obsolete at a regular pace. But that is NOT the case for audio equipment. Some people have good microphones still in use that were made practically before the era of video.

Quote:
Is this even a concern?
The question seems odd. Why are you asking it?

Quote:
And if it is, what would be a good upgrade path to improve the audio beyond that point?
Beyond what point?

Quote:
I'd also like to ask if there is a good way to predict how good the sound equipment in a camera might be? e.g would the sound quality in a Canon XF300 be assumed to be better than in the XF100? There's always lots of chat about sensors, lenses, zoom, but little about audio quality.
The selection of microphone and the proper positioning of that microphone will have an effect ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE greater than the difference between different (decent, XLR-input) camcorders. If we were talking about DSLRs or little consumer handy-cams, this would be a different discussion.

A microphone should be selected to be appropriate for the application(s) required without regard to what is at the other end of the cable.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 12:16 PM   #6
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Plugging the mic into the camera isn't an excuse to get a poor mic. Yes, the signal to noise and fidelity might not be ideal, but S/N is only one aspect of a mic's performance.

If your mic has a poor pickup pattern, you will get hollow echo, comb filtering effects, pick up too much background sound, or pick up too little source sound when your aim isn't spot on. Even with a cheap recorder, the pickup pattern matters.

Handling noise also matters. If you get thumps in your signal they will sound bad no matter the recorder.

Ruggedness matters. If it's wet out and your mic fails, you will be bummed whether you are recording into the camera or not.

Size matters. If you want to hide a lav or hold a boom for long takes, you don't want a bulky, heavy mic. Getting good sound from a small light package isn't typically free.

Okay, frequency response only matters so much. I feel that too many people listen to a mic right out of the box and judge it to be good or bad for certain voices. What? Can't they use EQ? At least spend a minute balancing the fundamental tones (2-300 Hz) before deciding which mic meets your needs. And, yes, the frequency response of the camera won't be perfect. Big deal. EQ applies here as well. That said, if Mic/Recorder #1 has a fantastic nasal edge around 2-3kHz, you're unlikely to re-create that magic with Mic/Recorder #2 and some EQ, unless you're a much, much better mixer than I am. So, searching for the perfect frequency response and recording in to the camera is one place where you can overspend on a mic - especially if the mic's magic is in the high frequency range and the camera blankets the highs with hiss.

Signal to noise is the other are where the recorder can swamp out the advantage of the superior mic.

But keep in mind that a good mic can last a lifetime. Just because you lack a great recorder today doesn't mean that will always be the case. In any case, shop for pattern, handling noise, ruggedness, and size/weight. These matter - even if you are recording to wax cylinders.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 09:50 PM   #7
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Thanks to everyone who replied.The posts were most informative and have given me a great start to researching and choosing equipment.
Richard; My question was basically; is there a point where no matter how much I spend on a mic the XLR audio circuitry in my camera is going to be limiting factor, and I was wondering what the price point for my XF100 might be in that regard. Example: Moving up from my present 875r to a ME66 might show a lot of improvement, but going up to a 416 might show no more improvement than the ME66 since the XLR audio equipment in the camera could not produce the quality to match that of the 416. And the reason I asked if it was even a concern was that in my naiveté I considered that once the signal got to the camera the processing was done and the question of audio quality inside the camera did not exist. Thanks to this thread I understand the situation now. Thanks to all.
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Old May 9th, 2013, 11:13 PM   #8
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Scott - that was a good thread you started because it was an interesting read. Having been around here for awhile I had a pretty good idea what you might be in for and all I can say is "suspicions confirmed." Partly because of "been there, done that".

The audio people on this board, like those that replied, are a really great resource as you can see.

As another suggestion, for a step up from the camera mic but below that of a boom operator, and for just family video or something akin to that, one mic I'm using that works well for general purpose is the Rode Stereo Video Mic. It mounts on the hot shoe, runs off it's 9V battery, and has a pigtail with a mini stereo plug. The mic has a suspension so it is somewhat isolated from the camera and does well for non-professional recording. Sennheiser also makes a similar type mic.

The ME-66 is a good old standard and I've got that too, plus the '64 omni, a wireless and a wired lavalier. All stuff I've been accumulating as I go along. Everything has it's place and I don't consider this the end of my audio mic kit by any means. One web site I go to (I'm also looking for a vocal mic and an instrument mic) is primarily for acoustic guitar players and they really talk about the nuances of how a mic sounds and this was touched on above.

The more one gets into audio the more one finds there is to learn. And if you've got a "golden ear" it can get a lot worse!
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Old May 9th, 2013, 11:52 PM   #9
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

Thank you John. I will have a look.
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Old May 10th, 2013, 03:32 AM   #10
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Re: When is a mic too good for a camera?

There's no price point at which a mic is too expensive, or too high quality - but the law of diminishing returns applies. You could put mega expensive tyres on your car, but common sense works here too. If you happened to have a very expensive, esoteric mic hanging around - then it's ok to use it. Buying one would be foolish.
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