I’ve been fine tuning our photography and video gear for our next leg of adventure. During the last few weeks, I’ve made a switch to the Olympus PEN system of cameras for stills and video (my D700 is still safely tucked away though). The PEN system, while not the best camera for every application, is excellent for travel. I’m planning to write up a longer review later after a few weeks of road testing the cameras. So far I’m pretty pleased. Just like how we’ve pushed the Brompton perhaps a little beyond its intended use, we are doing the same with the PENs. While they shoot video, they aren’t quite optimized for video. However, with a little creativity and understanding the limits of the system they seem to work pretty well. Of course, an important component of video is sound. In this video review, I try out the three mics I’ll be taking with us.

The first is the small stereo microphone that comes included with the SEMA-1. The SEMA-1 is necessary to use external mics. It plugs into the hotshoe and adds an external mic socket. I’m not particularly thrilled with the stock mic, but it is small and could come in handy in those situations where I can’t wire someone or couldn’t rig the shotgun in time.

The second mic I try out in the video is an Audio Technica wired lavalier. It’s not very fancy, but it does a great job. It is a mono mic, so I added a mono-stereo adaptor on the end so it duplicates the channels. In controlled situations, this is my “go to” mic because I can expect constant audio levels without watching the subject distance.

The third and final mic is the Sennheiser MKE 400, a mini shotgun mic that is popular with many DSLR video shooters. It makes the perfect compliment with the PEN system. It is small and the mic cord is coiled so it won’t fall in front of the lens. The build quality is impressive with the metal body. It feels like a quality piece of gear.

I’m not trained in video, but have been slowly teaching myself how to shoot and edit. It is quite a different beast from stills with the added dimensions of time and sound. We did more video on the last trip and I really want to take it up a level in New Zealand! So far, this kit seems like it will work. It’s hard to tell. Some things work great at home but not so well on the road. Stay tuned.

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