by Mark Shapiro
The standard microphones found embedded inside of most camcorders do a fair to poor job of capturing audio. It is not that the mike is made of inferior materials (but it may be) but that it is impossible to capture good quality sound from any kind of mike that is locked inside a camcorder.
Not only can it not be properly aimed or focused, an embedded microphone is also subject to picking up the rumbles and grinding of the camcorder's various gears and electronics, as well as the possibility of picking up the sound of fingers rubbing and touching the various camcorder controls. This is especially likely if the camcorder operator is reaching around to twist the lens to follow focus or make other adjustments to the lens.
A much better solution is to use a mike that connects to the camcorder via an audio in jack. On consumer and prosumer camcorders, this can be a simple 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) mono or stereo miniplug or it can be via contacts on the camcorder's hot shoe. More expensive - (i.e. more professional camcorders) use professional XLR jacks and offer phantom power of various voltages that can power a microphone if needed.
This is not a pro audio solution and is instead targeted to the consumer and prosumer user. It is also appropriate for most business and web video applications.
However, before you shop for this mike, make sure your camcorder has an audio connection. Many of the entry level and pocket camcorders do not offer that feature. You also need a standard shoe mount connector to mount it on the camcorder.
By the way, anytime you are using an external mike, always check to make sure it is working! Do a test recording. Batteries don't last very long under continual use. Always carry to two or three extra batteries with you.
According to the MKE 400 specs, you get up to 300 hours of operation with jus tone AAA battery. That's pretty darn good. Just remember to turn off the mike when you are not using it!
If possible, monitor the audio recording while you are shooting by plugging an earphone or headphone into the audio out jack on the camcorder. That is the best way to know if you have a loose connection, if the location is too windy or noisy, or if your batteries are dying.