This article looks at the external microphones and lavaliers I use with my camera (GH4) to record audio for my Youtube videos. Over the past six months, I've researched numerous microphones and finally settled for the wireless Sennheiser EW 100 G3 and the shotgun mic Sennheiser MKE 400.
The microphones I prefer are those that use rechargeable batteries that can be swapped out, e.g. AAA or AA batteries. These microphones must have a 3.5mm jack because that's the more common port for DSLR cameras, such as those from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic.
What do I use the microphones for? I make outdoor videos and occasionally interview people as well.
Good audio quality contributes significantly to the quality of your video. Microphones on the cameras and smartphones may work but in challenging conditions, such as outdoors or in crowds, it can be difficult to record good audio.
I settled with the Sennheiser MKE 400 because it's the smallest and lightest (60g without battery). The shotgun design with the windscreen is much smaller than Rode VideoMic Pro. I prefer a compact setup so Sennheiser is more suitable for me. Audio quality is great. It's can isolate the speaker's voice quite well even in a noisy environment. It uses one AAA battery with battery life rated at 300 hours. Even when the low-battery indicator light comes on, you still have 60 hours battery life left. I bring an extra AAA battery with me and there's no way you can run out of power.
Rode's shotgun microphones are also high quality microphones. With Rode, there are more options at different price brackets. The best one will be VideoMic Pro. If you need a mic that doesn't use batteries, that would be the Rode VideoMic Go.
After using the Sennheiser shotgun mic for more than a year, I decided to switch to a lavalier microphone, also know as a lavalier, clip mic or lapel mic. These are the microphones TV presenters use. More specifically, I wanted one that is wireless to avoid the hassle of handling cables.
It's important to read the specifications for lavalier microphones because sometimes they have special requirements. For example, lavaliers made smartphones may not be compatible with DSLR cameras. Second, some lavalier microphones may required a port to have enough power to power the mic.
The Sennheiser Sennheiser EW 100 G3's battery life is rated at 8 hours. Audio-Technica System 10 ATW-1701 is rated at 12 hours.
The advantage of Sennheiser is you can use rechargeable NiMH batteries. With NiMH batteries, I find that the actual battery life is shorter, but there's no possibility of running out of power when you can use spare batteries. The downside is the battery indicator has three bars and is not really accurate. Once it drops to one bar, it's time to change the batteries.
Audio Technica may have longer battery life but if you run out of power, you can't record audio until you charge it up again. This can be problematic when shooting outdoors for long periods of time.
After months of use with the wireless Sennheiser Sennheiser EW 100 G3, I realised that sometimes it might be more convenient to just use a wire lavalier. The advantage of having wireless is it allows you to be far away from the camera. e.g. if you have a helper recording with the camera. If you're the only user, for example when you're creating vlogs, it makes more sense to get a wired lavalier. A wired lavalier is much cheaper.
This is where I have to warn you that not all wired lavaliers can be powered by the port on the camera.
The wired lavalier I recommend is the Rode Lavalier Condenser Microphone. It's expensive but key advantage is it uses only 1V of power. In my case, I'm able to power through the port on my Panasonic GH4. With the Rode lavalier condenser mic, you need to buy a Rode MiCon-2 Connector to get the 3.5mm jack to work on DSLRs. Another reason why I like the Rode is because the cable is Kevlar reinforced.
Audio quality of the Rode lavalier is good. It has a nice warm tone. It picks up voice well and does a good enough job to block out ambient noise. However, in terms of quality, I think the Sennheiser EW 100 is still better for it's neutral pickup and it is just fantastic at blocking out ambient noise and you have the option to set the sensitivity of the mic depending on your situation.
For smartphone lavaliers, the good ones are Rode SmartLav+ and iRig Mic. The downside is these two mics cannot be used on DSLR because they require enough power to work. I have the iRig Mic and it has good audio quality.
Which mic you get depends on your workflow.
For beginners, I recommend a wired lavalier because they are more affordable. If you work alone, a wired lavalier mic is probably the better choice too. You can use it for vlogging or clip it on your interviewee when interviewing.
If you're getting wireless lavaliers, I recommend the ones that use replaceable rechargeable batteries. e.g. Sennheiser EW 100 G3. I love the quality of the audio and its ability to isolate voice.