Andy Westlake Saramonic PMic1
Tries out an affordable external microphone for video use
IT’S NOT so long ago that digital cameras only really shot stills, with just a poor excuse for video. However, with DSLRs, compacts and mirrorless cameras becoming ever more proficient in video capture, it’s now easier to produce high- quality results without having to buy a specialist video camera.
If you start to get serious about movie work, though, you might soon become frustrated by the quality of the audio your camera records. Most cameras have perfectly functional built-in stereo microphones, but their small size inevitably compromises sound quality. They often also pick up unwanted sounds from either side of, or behind, the camera that are unrelated to the footage being recorded. This is where external microphones can give better sound quality and directionality.
Chinese manufacturer Saramonic produces a range of mics designed for everything from amateur to professional use. The one we’re looking at here is the most affordable model in its PMic range for video. Designed to fit onto your camera’s hotshoe and plug into its 3.5mm stereo socket, it’s a shotgun-style directional microphone that’s biased towards picking up sounds from in front of the camera, while giving dual- channel mono output (in other words, with exactly the same signal fed to the camera’s left and right recording channels). This can be useful when you’re interested in recording a single sound source, such as a person speaking in front of the camera.
With a somewhat bulky but lightweight plastic body, this microphone doesn’t come across as especially solidly built, but equally it doesn’t feel like it would fall apart at the slightest provocation, either. It’s powered directly from the camera, so there’s no need for a battery. A switchable filter promises to remove low-frequency humming noises such as traffic or air- conditioning from your soundtrack to make speech more intelligible, while the foam windshield should come in handy when recording outdoors. The cable connects to the top of the microphone, so it won’t poke into your forehead if you prefer to record video using your camera’s electronic viewfinder.
While the Saramonic PMic1 ticks a lot of the right boxes in principle, I wasn’t all that impressed where it matters most – the sound quality. Tested with a couple of different cameras, I found it gave an unbalanced frequency response, with suppressed treble and slightly emphasised bass. As a result, the Saramonic imparts a strange-sounding hollow timbre to voices. For around the same price, I’d recommend spending your money on something like the Rode VideoMicro instead.
Shock mount A rubber joint isolates the mic, preventing it from picking up the camera’s operational sounds. 3.5mm connector The microphone connects to the camera using a removable cable with standard 3.5mm connectors. Dual mount The mic is designed to fit onto a camera’s hotshoe but also has a standard 1/4in tripod thread.
External mics like PMic1 exploit new cameras’ improved video recording capabilities Windshield A basic foam windshield is included in the package.