I really liked the on-camera XLR audio connectors on my Sony EX1r, but when I switched to filming with my Nikon DSLRs, I had to go to a dual audio recording setup. Like so many others, I bought a Zoom field recorder and began instantly making mistakes – on one shoot I forgot to hit the “Record” button the second time and had no good audio as a result. I now have an obsession with checking my audio recorder to make sure it's actually recording audio.
The onboard camera microphone can sometimes surprise you with how well it captures sound, but most camera audio is of poor quality. I've gotten into the habit of attaching a high-quality mic in order to get a better quality audio from the camera – and in a pinch, I sometimes use it in the final edit. Check out this Hurlblog article from Shane Hurlbut DSLR Mic Test that will help you get that sometime-elusive top-quality audio. Just remember to turn the darn thing on.
Understanding microphone options for your DSLR
From the Hurlblog:
On Board Camera Microphone
In my opinion, these microphones are to be used as a last resort or only as a courtesy/reference when your footage does not consist of a lot of dialogue. Best uses are for ambience tracks that coincide with your B-Roll shots or possibly an on the fly interview in a noisy location. If you go this route, make sure that there is some type of wind protection on top of the pin holes that protect the diaphragm of the microphone inside the camera. Here is a quick demonstration on what you need and how to set up wind protection on your camera’s internal microphone.
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(cover photo credit: snap from Hurlbut Visuals)