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Roundup: Compact Mics for Compact Cameras (Updated with Video)

Compact, prosumer 4K cameras like the Canon XA40 and XA45 pack enough professional features that they're well worth considering for pro producers who need to travel light or with a compact kit. Choosing such a camera also means accessorizing it with properly proportioned compact audio gear--like the options we'll explore here.

Movo HM-M2 Handheld ENG interview Microphone (MSRP $49.95)

Movo is a relatively new company in this space that makes all sorts of gear and accessories for video production—nearly everything except the cameras themselves. The HM-M2, a dynamic omnidirectional handheld mic, is the first Movo product I’ve tried. It comes with only a pouch. A mic-stand clip would be helpful, as it is narrower than most other mics, but this is definitely not a deal-breaker. The mic itself has a standard XLR connector so you can either hard-wire it to a camera or plug it into a wireless transmitter.

Until now, my handheld interview mic of choice has been a Shure SM58, which has been serving the sound and video industry for more than 50 years. You can even see Lady Gaga sing into one in A Star Is Born. They’re everywhere.

Upon receiving the HM-M2, the first thing I noticed was that it was longer and slenderer than the SM58, as shown in Figure 3 (below). The HM-M2 is 10.5" long, and the SM58 is 6.5" long. At first, I thought that was odd. Then I discussed it with a friend who shoots news for FOX LA. He said the longer, skinnier interview mics are made that way so it’s easier for the reporter to hold it in an interviewee’s face without having to move too close to him or her. That made a lot of sense.

Figure 3. The 10.5" Movo HM-M2 (top) and the 6.5" Shure SM-58 (bottom)

In use, it worked out well. I was assigned to interview people at a local Hanukkah festival. This event is normally held outdoors and attracts 500–700 attendees, but this time, due to rain in the forecast, the organizers erected a large tent and packed 200–300 people inside. Because of the tangle of people, I paired the HM-M2 with my 18-year-old Sennheiser G2 wireless system and connected it to the XLR plug-on transmitter. I was very impressed with how clearly I could hear the interviewees, with significant background noise suppressed.

The HM-M2 also keeps handling noise to a minimum. I found it will pick up more handling noise through an XLR cable rubbing something. When using a plug-on transmitter, you don’t have this issue.

Overall, the HM-M2 is a very good ENG interview mic at a great price.

Movo WMX-1 Digital Wireless Lav Microphone System (MSRP $149.95)

Movo’s WMX-1 wireless system (Figure 4, below) comes in a handy black container that holds the transmitter, receiver, lav microphone, and the 3.5mm cables. It also comes with a cold shoe mount for the receiver.

Figure 4. The Movo WMX-1

It has a completely different look from the Azden Pro-XR, which is the thinnest wireless system of its kind I have seen (Figure 5, below). The WMX-1 units are about the size of two MiniDV tapes stacked on top of each other, with a nice spring-loaded clip on it.

Figure 5. The Movo WMX-1 transmitter and receiver (left) and the Azden Pro-XR transmitter and receiver (right)

One thing in particular that I like about the WMX-1, which I haven’t seen in other digital systems recently, is that it doesn’t rely on internal rechargeable batteries. The transmitter and receiver run on common AAA batteries. I powered the test unit with rechargeable AAAs that I got from Harbor Freight Tools. The included lav mic is relatively big. It is three-to-four times larger than my Sennheiser lav and somewhat bigger than the lav mic included with the Azden PRO-XR system (Figure 6, below). It is not exactly going to go unnoticed on your talent.

Figure 6. Lav size comparison (left to right): Movo, Azden, Sennheiser

Both Movo components are the simplest to operate that I have seen in a while. The transmitter has only a power switch and a Pair button. Beyond that, it has a 3.5mm mic input as well as a 3.5mm line input, which would be handy for recording off of a soundboard or such. Unlike the Azden PRO-XR, there is no option for using both. The receiver has a line out and headphones out. There is a combination of Pair and Output Level up and down buttons. Once the transmitter and receiver are paired, you can adjust the output level with the two buttons that form the Pair button. Pairing the transmitter and receiver is as simple as turning them on and hitting Pair on each unit.

Plugging the WMX-1 transmitter into the camera is simple if you want only a single mic recorded, as the included cable will put the signal on both the left and right channels. If you’re planning to use it on a professional camera that has XLR inputs, you will need a 3.5mm-to-XLR cable. Since Movo didn’t offer one, I tried the dual-output cable from Azden, and it worked. I also tried one from Hosa, which worked as well. Unfortunately, with both, for some reason, I got interference on the other channel that had the Azden 250CX short shotgun plugged into it. As I moved the receiver away from the mic, it got better. Plugged directly into my Canon XC10’s 3.5mm jack, it worked without any interference. I didn’t have this issue with the digital Azden PRO-XR ($250), digital Audio-Technica System 10 ($499), or analog Sennheiser G2 wireless system ($499 in 2002).

To test the system, I used the XC10 in UHD 30p mode on a wide shot to shoot myself discussing the XA40. As a result, I couldn’t monitor the audio being recorded. I set the XC10 to manual audio level and turned the input level down to a point where I couldn’t hear room noise.

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The XA40 is a feature-packed compact professional camcorder that can get you into shooting 4K 30p for around $1,500. It's small enough to fit in a lunchbox, yet it has enough features that professional camera people coming from a traditional ENG camcorder won't find themselves wanting for much.