The Olympus SEMA-1 Arrives.

If you've read this blog for a while you know I've been an Olympus camera fan for a while but I've been critical of Olympus for shipping a really nice crossover video camera (the EP2) without shipping the one attachment that every video user needs/wants/craves.  That would be an attachment that would allow us to use external microphones while recording video.  Today I came home to find a Fed Ex package by my door and I was so happy to find that it contained the SEMA-1.

It's not a big thing but every video maker worth their salt wants to be able to use the right microphone for the job.  On my last video we made good use of a Sennheiser shotgun microphone to get decent sound without showing the microphone. The SEMA-1 consists of two parts.  The important one is the EMA-1 adapter which has the same plug interface as the EVF finder.  It replaces the EVF finder and provides you with a mini plug that accepts stereo microphones.

Some will wail about the tragic loss of the beautiful EVF finder and while I will mourn the loss while making videos I knew that was the deal when I purchased the camera.  With one of the Hoodman 3.0 Loupe wedged up against the back LCD it's not really that big of an imposition.

The other part of the package is a nifty little stereo microphone with an extension cable and a tie clip for attaching the microphone to people's clothing.  Nice touch.  I used the microphone to record some audio in the the studio with the mic clipped to my shirt.  And while there is some hiss this comes totally from the ALC (auto level control) on the camera side.  Canon's 5D was also ALC when first launched but yesterday they announced a firmware upgrade that brings up the camera to professional standards by adding manual level controls.  I don't expect that Olympus will do that on a consumer level product but we can always ask.......

In my mind it will be enough for countless crossover video/photographers to consider using the EP2 as a professional video tool.  In my mind I'll be able to use the  EMA-1 and my choice of microphones for most of my interview jobs.  If something is really "sound critical" I'll record it on a separate digital audio recorder, just to be safe.

The cable supplied is only six feet long but it's a standard termination on both ends and you can always pick up a longer and better shielded cable at you closest Radio Shack or from Amazon.com's endless resource of vendors.

Below is how the SEMA-1 looks all packaged together.  My take?  I think it is a simple and elegant solution that let's me get back to work.  If you are at all interested in recording good sound with your EP2 or EPL you'll want the EMA-1.  I'm almost certain that it will only come packaged with the microphone but that seems to be the way marketing committees work.  I may come to like their little microphone.  Time will tell.
When you've got everything on a fluid head tripod it works pretty well even without the best EVF finder around.  Tools are just tools, after all.  Here's my brief review of the microphone sound after my brief test, described above:  It's not bad.  It picks up a lot of room resonance and echo and is a little weak in the bottom registers but the overall effect is clean and crisp.

Now I'll get to work and put the camera and a shotgun mic through the torture test and report back.  For now we have achieved a state of happiness.  Of sorts.


Raianerastha said...

I am very interested in your opinion regarding video using the EP-2 vs the Canon SX20, which you have praised for its video capability. I have a potential opportunity to become involved in doing photography and video on a professional level. The end product will be mostly web-based with some display done on laptops. The videos would focus on short interviews and documenting projects.

In your experience do you think the SX20 would suffice for this or would the EP2 offer better results. My budget is limited.

kirk tuck said...

The EP2 will offer better results in lower light and gives you the chance to record sound thru and external microphone for better sound. That said, the Canon will do a good job is the budget is bare bones and you can shoot in an area with a lot of light and very little background noise.

Anonymous said...

Make video. Not war!

Raianerastha said...

Thanks Kirk. Considering the expectations of what I will be doing and my existing Olympus kit I'd rather fit the E-P2 into my budget.

Anonymous said...

How is the mic for use outside? Sensitive to wind? Need for wind mufflers?

Anonymous said...

Say Kirk. Just found the site, and it's been a great help and insight. Was thinking of buying the Olympus micro e-PL1 and really like the video concept.

I'm working on recording my experiences at festivals and art crawls. A big part of that is live music. What's your take based on some of your testing so far?

kirk tuck said...

Hey anonymous, It's still going to be ALC so you won't have complete control over the sound. With a good microphone you can get some really good stuff. But for production I'd go with a separate audio recorder.

Fraser Young said...

Kirk, I purchased an E-PL1 last week for a travel camera and have been mighty impressed thus far. The video is easy peasy and very nice. I am looking at purchasing the above mentioned adaptor and plugging in my 3.5mm extension cable and lapel mic for interviews etc.

Can you recommend another external mic that would balance well with the EPL1 or would the included Olympus stereo mic do the job for on the road interviews?

I do also have an Olympus LC-10 recorder but I have no idea how to sync the audio with the video.

Anonymous said...

Small mic foam covers can be found a Radio Shack and they would help to cut some of the high end and noise.

Mali Korsten said...

Hi there,

Thanks for an interesting and informative post. I have a coupld of questions.

You said that, "If something is really "sound critical" I'll record it on a separate digital audio recorder, just to be safe.". I am a musician looking to create live video of acoustic songs - just vocals and guitar. It doesn't have to be perfect audio but preferably no distortion and a decent balance between voice and guitar. What sort of set-up can you recommend for that?

Thanks for your time and help.
Mali Korsten