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Old January 31st, 2015, 02:20 PM   #1
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Good, budget lav for camcorder

My wife is looking for a lav for making videos with a consumer camcorder. Yes, I could get her a killer XLR/Phantom lav, give her my juicedLink preamp, and she'd have excellent sound. However, in this case, she'd prefer the simplicity of plug-and-play, er, plug-and-record...

The camcorder is a Canon Vixia HF R400. Regarding external mics, the manual says, "you can use condenser microphones with their own power supply." The mic terminal is a 3.5mm stereo minijack. This implies that the camcorder accepts stereo and does not have even a 1V supply voltage for the mic.

This tells me that a mic like the Rode lavalier or pin mic with 3.5mm adapter is unlikely to work as there is no power for the condenser. (The cost of the Rode is a bit high. I'd like to stay under $150 for this application.)

Canon recommends WM-V1 wireless mic an an accessory. Unfortunately, it's bulky with an integrated mic and transmitter. Personally, I prefer a wire for best quality/price.

The ideal solution would be similar to a VideoMic Pro, but in lav form. It would include a lapel mic, a small preamp/battery module and 3.5mm plug. And it would be priced for the masses.

Any recommendations?
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Old January 31st, 2015, 02:35 PM   #2
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Jon,

The manual might mean that the camera does not supply +48 VDC phantom for professional condenser mics. It still might supply low-voltage "plug in power" for consumer mics. If you are not 100% certain that the camera does not supply voltage to the mic, you can verify it easily.

You need a solid state voltmeter / multimeter (Harbor Freight $3.99 or better), and very basic skill to use it.

Get an adapter cable with 3.5mm TRS on one end, and either a pair of RCA plugs or a single 3.5mm TRS plug on the other end.

Set the meter to some range around 10 VDC (or higher). Plug the cable into the camera. Hit "record." Connect the negative (black) meter lead to the shield of the RCA or the sleeve of the 3.5mm plug. Use the positive (red) meter lead to probe either the center of each RCA, or else the tip and ring of the 3.5mm plug. If you see some DC there, probably 1.5 V or more, then there's your "plug in power." If you see very close to zero volts, then indeed the camera does NOT supply any power.

The next question: what do you mean by "budget"? I have seen some extremely inexpensive lavs that had their own battery supply.

But before we talk about specific mics, do you want to verify the power issue?
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Old January 31st, 2015, 03:51 PM   #3
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

You will laugh at the price, you will probably sneer at the price, couldn't possibly be any good. Ha. Have one with my digital recorder, use it on my dslr, and think it's worth way more than it looks like:

Audio-Technica ATR-3350 | B&H Photo Video

Just don't install the battery backward, which is easy to do. It will work, badly, and people think it's broken when all that happens is the battery is in wrong. And don't plug it into phantom power accidentally (if you use a miniplug to xlr adapter at any time). Don't ask me how I know this.....
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Old January 31st, 2015, 08:03 PM   #4
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

The various Rode VideoMic's are great. I own the original VideoMic and also the VideoMic Pro. I actually like the original better although it is a bit bulkier. They do an amazing job. I used them in Wedding Videography for about five years. I also used a Rode NTG-2 but that is out of the price range you gave and would be rather large for a consumer camera.
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Old January 31st, 2015, 09:44 PM   #5
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Buddy of mine who works with high schoolers is buying these by the dozen for use with cameras like yours...

http://smile.amazon.com/Neewer-3-5mm...dp/B005DJOIHE/
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Old January 31st, 2015, 10:52 PM   #6
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

I don't see any integral battery pack for that mic. Description seems to indicate that it needs DC from the computer in order to operate the FET.

So unless the OP determines that his camera does provide "plug in power" after all, this won't work for him.
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Old February 1st, 2015, 12:22 AM   #7
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

I agree with Battle Vaughn. That inexpensive, self-powered Audio-Technica ATR-3350 will likely go a good job for your wife. Microphones don't have to cost 100s or 1000s of $€ŁĄ to do a decent job.
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Old February 1st, 2015, 01:42 PM   #8
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Jon - The ATR-3350 that Mike mentioned seems very interesting, and the fact that the high-school teacher bought a bunch of them may suggest he did his research before selecting it. I did a quick search myself and found this article that does a comparison test: http://www.streamingmedia.com/Producer/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/Wired-Lavaliere-Head-to-Head-Can-a-$20-Audio-Technica-ATR-3350-Compete-with-a-$200-Sony-ECM-44B-96497.aspx

The review is very positive about the audio quality. It comes with a 20-foot cable so that would be very nice for doing a two-person interview (except the cam only has one input - could a splitter be used for the second lav?).

The down-side is the clip design isn't as grippy as one would like (there was a suggestion to a fix for that) and the battery is a 1.5v button type so wouldn't last as long as an AA, but on the other hand there is an ON-OFF switch that the more expensive lav comparison didn't have.

Caution: This is for your wife, eh? Ummm.... be careful here. Avoid letting her feel she isn't worth much and you're getting this inexpensive (read: cheap) thing for her while you get all the good stuff. In the words of Battle Vaughn: "Don't ask me how I know this."

Tell her it's going to take some more research but this is a very good stop-gap lav and "let's see how it goes." Hopefully, you can up her game in the AV gear department. The AT sounds really good (bang-for-the-buck) but it'll be important how you play it so be careful.

Last edited by John Nantz; February 1st, 2015 at 01:45 PM. Reason: sp: bout > bought
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Old February 1st, 2015, 06:00 PM   #9
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
I don't see any integral battery pack for that mic. Description seems to indicate that it needs DC from the computer in order to operate the FET.

So unless the OP determines that his camera does provide "plug in power" after all, this won't work for him.
I have seen mics of this style (~$10 no-power condenser lav mic) work with cameras of this style (~$300 Canon VidCam) without issue. For a $4 solution, I'd give this a try before anything else. My $0.02.
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 01:44 PM   #10
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Thanks all for your suggestions.

Greg, I need to get my hands on the camcorder and get the time to do the test. I've got the meter, spare plug on hand. I appreciate the detail you provided as DVInfo readers can benefit.

On one hand, I could go with a powered solution regardless, since the price is reasonable and it would work with most anything. On the other hand, if the camcorder has power, that's one less battery to manage and one less power switch to forget about. I need to do the measurement...

I'm also interested in "common practice" for camcorders with audio mini jacks. After the test, we'll have one data point.

Regarding price, my wife will appreciate a budget solution. Yeah $4 might raise an eyebrow, but if anything, she's more afraid of me spending too much on a solution that's too complicated.

As always, know the requirements of your project - and know your client. :)
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Old February 2nd, 2015, 02:38 PM   #11
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
I have seen mics of this style (~$10 no-power condenser lav mic) work with cameras of this style (~$300 Canon VidCam) without issue. For a $4 solution, I'd give this a try before anything else. My $0.02.
Yes, certainly. Even the cheapest $1 electret microphone will work with most consumer camcoders with 3.5mm mic input jacks. AS LONG AS THE CAMERA PROVIDES PLUG-IN POWER.
If the camera does NOT provide power then those microphones will be deaf as a post.
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Old February 5th, 2015, 10:36 AM   #12
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Battle Vaughan View Post
You will laugh at the price, you will probably sneer at the price, couldn't possibly be any good. Ha. Have one with my digital recorder, use it on my dslr, and think it's worth way more than it looks like:

Audio-Technica ATR-3350 | B&H Photo Video

Just don't install the battery backward, which is easy to do. It will work, badly, and people think it's broken when all that happens is the battery is in wrong. And don't plug it into phantom power accidentally (if you use a miniplug to xlr adapter at any time). Don't ask me how I know this.....
I will back up this comment, along with the other comment made about this lav. I've used it many times to record outdoor interviews and it did an excellent job. It filters out the wind and crowd / background noise nicely, giving you a nice clear end result.

I'm about to receive my second one this weekend only bec that first one was misplaced.
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Old February 5th, 2015, 11:20 AM   #13
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

I have a couple of Radio Shack units, which do have a small inline battery with on/off switch, they work great with any camcorder with the mini-jack input. $27 Model: 33-3013

I also got an extension cable to allow me to back the camera up a bit from talent without stretching cable.

Thanks

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Old February 5th, 2015, 12:32 PM   #14
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Pulera View Post
I have a couple of Radio Shack units, which do have a small inline battery with on/off switch, they work great with any camcorder with the mini-jack input. $27 Model: 33-3013
Better hurry! Radio Shack is going out of business and will disappear in a month or two.
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Old February 5th, 2015, 01:41 PM   #15
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Re: Good, budget lav for camcorder

I didn't get a chance to test the camcorder, so I had my wife order the Audio-Technica and a pack of batteries. The camcorder might have 1V power, but with a powered mic, it can work with most anything. It should arrive later today. BTW, she was very happy with the price. It was cheap enough to feel within budget but no so cheap that she felt undervalued. :)

Funny story... she realized that the lav will work great for podcast types of videos, but not for filming groups of people. She wanted to know how to solve that. My answer: use the mic on the camcorder. I've read enough threads on DVInfo of people wanting to have good audio for larger groups, and the expense/manpower needed to do it right. If it were people seated at a conference table, I could recommend a boundary mic, but she envisions it being with multiple kids standing, talking and running around. I don't think she wants a boom operator chasing kids around and being a couple seconds late to each new talker. In fact, she doesn't want a boom operator at all. :)

Sometimes the simplest answer is the most practical, even if the sound is so-so. I'll test the VideoMic Pro and see how that compares to the onboard mic. That's about as far as it needs to go...
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