However, all subsequent M4/3 cameras have been video capable, and video has been a very important feature in this market segment. And with video, the sound recording is also important.
The M4/3 cameras have onboard microphones, which are usually seen as a pair of small holes in the body, with the text "L" and "R" (left/right), "mic", or something similar. The problem with these in-camera microphones is that they are not directional, i.e., they pick up sound from all around the camera. That can be a problem in some cases.
One product which aims to provide better audio quality for system camera users is the Røde VideoMicro:
It comes with a small shotgun style directional microphone unit, a connector cable (3.5mm jack). There is also a shock absorbing mount for placing the microphone in the camera's flash shoe, as well as a furry wind shield:
When connected to the Lumix GH4, you'll see that the microphone is rather small:
The microphone itself has a body which is made from a ceramics coated metal material, which does seem very solid and well made. It has a high quality feel to it. The microphone unit is 80mm long (3.5 inches).
Generally, you'll need the wind shield when using the camera outdoors. Otherwise, wind noise will be a huge problem. Note that wind can still be a problem even when you do use the wind shield, if there is strong enough wind.
Many M4/3 cameras do have a microphone input socket which can be used. But not smaller cameras like the Lumix GM1/GM5, and not the Lumix GF7. Also, the Lumix GX7 did not have a microphone input socket.
You can also use the microphone on many Olympus cameras. A problem with a camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, though, is that a microphone jack will limit the articulation of the LCD display. As using an articulated LCD display is very useful for video recording, this is a strange and unfortunate design choice. Panasonic Lumix cameras are generally better designed for video use.
I have compared the video quality of the in-camera microphones on the Lumix GX7 with the Røde VideoMicro mounted on a Lumix GH4 in the video below.
For simplicity, here are direct links to where specific sections of the video start:
- Camera microphone
- Røde VideoMicro microphone
- Camera microphone in heavy wind
- Røde VideoMicro microphone in heavy wind
- Side by side comparison: Røde VideoMicro in the left channel, and GX7 in the right channel. Use earphones to compare.
When using the Røde VideoMicro, the background noise becomes less of a problem, but is not completely removed. But this is as expected, since this was not a studio test, but rather busy city scenes.
I think the sound from the camera microphone is more "boxy": With the external microphone, you better hear the sound you want to pick up, and not so much the background noise.
The Røde VideoMicro is a small and relatively inexpensive microphone. What do you get if you buy a larger and more expensive microphone? Here is a quick comparison:
|Røde VideoMicro||Røde VideoMic Pro|
So a more "serious" microphone will require a battery inside the unit, while the Røde VideoMicro gets the little power it needs from the camera.
Also, note that the VideoMicro is a mono microphone: It will output a stereo signal, but with the same sound in the left and right channel. A more serious microphone of course gives a real stereo output.
On the positive side, the VideoMicro is small and easy to use for "run and gun" video style, and it does not scream "professional videographer", which can be useful.
The Røde VideoMicro is very quick and easy to use. It does improve upon the sound recording, especially when you have ambient noise that you want to avoid.