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Why we need external mic inputs on high end digital compact cameras

Panasonic ZS3 1There’s a gaping hole in the digital camera market somewhere between point ‘n shoots and DSLRs, and it’s not in image quality.

High end compact cameras like the FujiFilm F200EXR and Panasonic LX3 are now good enough to make their output hardly distinguishable from DSLRs in many cases.

But while the best compacts can take pro quality shots, they’re still playing catch up against DSLRs when it comes to video capture or more specifically audio capture. Most compacts top out at 720p when the DSLR standard is now 1080p and crucially they pretty much all lack an external mic input. This means it’s difficult to shoot video seriously on a compact without a separate audio recorder.

Panasonic ZS3 2

The Panasonic ZS3 shoots excellent quality HD video at 720p but has to make do with its built-in stereo microphone for capturing audio

While I’m sure that 2011 will usher in 1080p video on high end compacts, I’m also depressingly sure that external mic inputs will not appear any time soon. This is not for a lack of real estate because cheap video cameras like Kodak’s tiny Zi8 manage to accommodate an external mic input. More likely there is a perception that most owners would just never use it.

While this assertion is probably true on a $150 HD capable digital camera, I’d propose that someone laying down three Benjamins on a high end compact might be more interested in creative flexibility. After all even at 720p today’s best compact cameras produce amazingly good video quality, but are crippled by their generally poor built-in microphone.

So how’s about it camera makers, can we get a external mic input on your next compact?

Neil Berman

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Mar 27, 2010 - Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Rants | , , , ,

12 Comments »

  1. You are so right about this! Until now I have been making my videos with a Canon Ixus and while the video quality is more than adequate for YouTube, the sound is not very good.

    Unfortunately a DSLR is beyond my budget, so I have been looking for a good alternative and all I have found is the Kodak Zi8.

    Even a superzoom with external mic input would be great but I guess you are right and this will probably not happen any time soon so I guess the Zi8 will have to do it. (or an entry-level hd camcorder)

    Comment by Port | Apr 17, 2010 | Reply

  2. […] Why we need external mic inputs on high end digital compact … […]

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  3. This is exactly what I am looking for! Audio is crucial, and I need a mic jack. An audio in could work as well, but then I need my mixing board on site. So, a mic jack is preferred. For blogging with video, this is crucial. Any recmmondations?

    Comment by Brent Hathaway | Jun 9, 2010 | Reply

    • +1

      Comment by david black | Aug 31, 2010 | Reply

  4. Oh!!!your blog is great ,I have new information about hd camcorder,I will share It with my friend

    Comment by best hd camcorder | Jun 14, 2010 | Reply

  5. I, too, am looking for exactly the same thing. I get great video from my pocket digital camera, but what good is it if the audio is muffled and mostly obliterated by ambient noise? C’mon camera manufacturers! Get with it on high end digital compacts.

    Comment by artie | Dec 13, 2010 | Reply

  6. Totally agree. I thought I was the only one wishing for something like this! My current solution is to use a muxing software to remove the camera-recorded audio and mux in the audio from the dedicated audio recorder. But it’s very time consuming to align the video and audio perfectly.

    Comment by LeoG | Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

  7. i agree. i want compact with internal mic input too

    Comment by shan | Mar 2, 2011 | Reply

  8. I’ve been looking for a similar solution for a while but haven’t found anything yet.

    Do you know of any suitable cameras, since you wrote this article?

    Comment by Jon | Mar 5, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Jon,

      There are some more options now…

      I spoke with Panasonic about this at CES and they don’t have anything in their lineup right now, unless you go up to the prosumer cams that are a little larger than regular compacts. Seems to be the same story from other manufacturers. But, now that mini camcorders are getting better, you could consider one of those since some have an external mic input. The quality of stills might leave something to be desired and it might mean carrying two devices though.

      Another option is the current (4th) generation iPod Touch, which is something I’ve been considering for this purpose since it’s ultralight and the video quality is decent. There are external mic options available for it, plus iMovie works on it too for editing.

      Good luck! Neil

      Comment by theONbutton | Mar 8, 2011 | Reply

  9. Any luck finding the right camera yet? I just started my search and came across your blog. You’d think, with all the bloggers out there, there would be several on the market rigt now. But alas, that is clearly not the case (smh). However in my search I did find one. It’s the Nikon PS7000, but it’s kinda of pricey ($500)

    here’s the link: http://www.nikonusa.com/Nikon-Products/Product/Compact-Digital-Cameras/26233/COOLPIX-P7000.html

    Please let me know if you you have come across any others.

    Great blog by the way!
    Thanks,

    Cher

    Comment by Cher | Jun 4, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Cher,

      The P7000 is a great camera, unfortunately though it’s also just a little bigger than a true compact. Apart from the size, and price being higher than most compacts, it’s definitely a serious contender!

      Comment by theONbutton | Jun 9, 2011 | Reply


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