One of the main reasons I opted to get the Canon T3i when I was purchasing a DSLR last spring was the ability to use the camera for video. I love the camera and am quite happy with my decision. Still, the video aspect of it has been a bit hit and miss. You see, while the image quality when shooting video is excellent, the audio is far from it. And, as I have discovered over the past few months, this is a common issue. You see, while the T3i is a powerful camera the microphone amplifier built into it is rather poor.
The camera’s auto gain control system (AGC) is supposed to help improve sound but, unfortunately it actually makes the sound worse. Sure, you can hear audio, but most of the time there is a distinct buzz that comes through, compliments of the AGC. I tried purchasing a shotgun microphone that had received good recommendations on Amazon. It did a better job with the audio (compared with having no mic), but the buzz was still there. In addition, the microphone had a shock absorbing system that, while probably quite good for isolating the microphone from the camera, was rather delicate. This wasn’t a huge issue in and of itself except, for the fact that the microphone didn’t come with any sort of case. That means, when placed into a camera bag, there was a good likelihood the expensive accessory would be damaged over time. I sent it back.
Next I tried the excellent Zoom H2N microphone. (Read the review.) It’s fantastic, and I am enjoying using it. But, and this is a huge but, the best way to use this microphone with the T3i is to shoot the video and record the audio separately and then, in post production, put the two together. This, of course, is how the professionals do it.
Over the summer I became fairly good at this process, but it was time-consuming and, to be honest, it was hit and miss. And each time it was a “miss” I wasted valuable time. That’s why I was interested in trying out this Marshall Electronics MXL FR-310 Hot Shoe Shotgun Microphone. It was a bit smaller than the one I had tried, and, because of the design, it looked to be sturdier. When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised on a number of levels. Let’s take a look.
The MXL FR-310 video mic delivers sound that’s as focused as the video. Mount it onto your camcorder or DSLR camera, and you’ll cut to tighter, cleaner sound recordings. The FR-310 shuts out sound from the sides and back, with a pickup pattern that targets sound in front of the camera. Three gain settings pull in the right amount of sound in close-up or long shot situations, while a bass roll-off switch leaves low-frequency noise on the cutting-room floor. The integrated windscreen helps block wind noise, which aids in keeping your sound in the picture.
Three-position gain switch
Bass roll-off (high-pass filter)
Standard hot shoe mount
Up to 500 hours per AAA battery
Integrated foam windscreen
The microphone comes with an excellent carrying case. That might sound like a small thing, but since this is all about me being able to shoot video when I am somewhere like CES, it makes sense to have an easy way to safely move it from place to place; this does the trick.
The microphone sits inside the case and, once there, is completely protected. There is even a slot for an extra AAA battery.
In addition, the microphone is easy to use. It has just two controls. As an amateur I appreciated the fact that I could simply and easily test out the limited number of combinations and find the approach that worked best for me.
Best of all… the MXL-FR-310 sounds quite good and, without question, is a huge step up from using the built-in microphone in the Canon T3i. Now this didn’t happen immediately. I did have to download and install Magic Lantern, a free ROM hack that undoes the damage Canon did with their AGC (auto-gain control). (And it does a lot more than that.)
Once that was done, I found that recording audio using the camera and this shotgun microphone became a breeze. Yes, I finally found the right combination of camera, microphone and software hack to get the video I want with ease.
I love the small size and relative simplicity of the MXL FR-310. I appreciate the fact that it allows me to have the camera and microphone together as a single unit and, thank’s to the ease-of setup, quickly go from still shooting to decent video recording. Along the way I discovered something else about this microphone. It really does a great job of capturing audio coming from the front while reducing sound from the side. If you check out this video you will see what I mean.
When the audio is louder, it is because I am in front of the mic and, when softer, it is simply because I moved to the side.
In fact, if you check any of the last few videos I done for the site, you will hear audio recorded with the mic.
No, if you are a professional this may not be the microphone for you. But for someone like me, someone who has good camera equipment and is doing an increasing amount of video for the website, it is pretty close to ideal. It is a key component of my Gear Diary gear bag now. You can find details here, on the Marshall Electronics website .
MSRP: $299.95 BUT it is just $134.95 here, in our Amazon Affiliate Store.
What I Like: Solid; Easy to use; Comes with a protective case; Greatly improves audio quality when I am shooting video with the T3i
What Needs Improvement: Would love a way to monitor the audio in real-time