Pros: small, light weight, and almost completely eliminates autofocus noise, user friendly
Cons: should be included with rather than an optional purchase for cameras advertised as "continuous auto-focus"
Let me start out by saying that I am a hobbyist photographer. I enjoy taking pictures and shooting video for my own pleasure and to capture family events. I used to have a Pentax SLR camera in my youth and loved the pictures that I got from it. I quit taking pictures when I had kids because they moved too fast and I missed far too many shots. With the advent of digital photography I waited a long time for digital SLR cameras to come down in price to where I could afford them. I got my first digital SLR a Nikon D3000 two years ago and loved it. As time went on I wished I had bought one of the ones that does video and recently purchased the D5100 mainly because it advertised that it had full time auto-focus for video. I was sold.
The problem with the full time auto-focus on my D5100 was that after I finally figured out how to enable that function on the camera, there was so much auto-focus noise that it was ridiculous. All this clicking and boinging reminded me of the sound the old modems used to make when they were connecting. I nearly sent that camera back but did a little searching on the internet and found that Nikon makes a little external mic that you can attach right to the camera. The Nikon ME 1 is advertised to cut way down on the auto-focus noise. While I was still irritated that I had to spend another $130 to get the camera to do what it was advertised to do, I liked the camera well enough to give it a try. It still irks me that Nikon did not include this with the camera but I will save my outrage about that for another review.
When I read reviews about the Nikon ME-1 I found a few people who were still complaining about the auto-focus noise and nearly did not buy it, but I figured I would give it a try and if it did not work out that I would send the camera and the microphone back and wait for nikon to figure this problem out. A lot of people stated that they used manual focus to cut down on the noise but frankly, I do not know about the rest of you, but the AF lenses really do not manually focus that well. Plus to shoot video I would have to be using the little 3" monitor screen and who can really tell about the subtle focusing using that screen. So it was either the microphone or the whole thing was going back.
In the box: The microphone, a soft foam wind screen, a carrying case.
The Microphone: The Nikon ME-1 External Microphone is a small microphone that attaches to most any camera on the shoe where you would put an external flash. It includes an attached 13" cord that can be plugged in to the port on the side of the camera. The plug is a mini plug that also can be plugged in to any device that accepts that type of jack. My laptop accepts the microphone too so I am guessing it could be used for other applications besides just the camera.
The microphone is 3" tall and the microphone part from front to back is just under 3.5" The microphone itself is only 3/4" wide. With the wind foam windscreen attached it measures 1.5" wide. The whole thing weighs just over 3 oz.
When you view the microphone without the windscreen attached you can see openings on the left and right that are marked L and R plus another on the front. This is a Stereo Microphone although since the left and right are located on the same unit I am not sure how much true stereo you are going to get from using this.
Connections: The microphone will attach to your camera by sliding it into the shoe and has a dial that can be used to tighten it down if necessary. Also on the bottom is a tripod socket similar to the one on the bottom of the camera so if you prefer you can mount it on a tripod away from your camera. I do not own one but apparently there are extension cords that you can get to place the microphone closer to the source of what you are recording
Positioning adjustments: The microphone can be mounted forward or rear facing. It can also be tilted up to almost straight up but slightly forward or tilted to a slightly down position.
Settings: Besides the internal settings on your camera or device there is a switch on the back of the mic that states Flat or L-Cut. The Flat setting is designed for normal use and the L-Cut is designed to reduce wind noise and other low frequency Noise.
Wind Screen: Essentially this is just a foam piece that fits over the microphone. It cuts down on wind noise and the microphone can be used with or without the screen.
Carrying Case: The case that it comes with it just a drawstring fabric case that measures 5" x 5.5" The fabric is a thick plush on the outside and smooth on the inside. The color is Black.
Warranty: The Nikon ME-1 Microphone comes with a one year limited warranty. Basically it states that they will replace or repair the item if it breaks down within a year, so long as you do not cause it to break down. They will not cover any postage to send the item back and forth for repairs.
The Nikon ME-1 Microphone was easy to figure out and use. All I had to do was remove it from the box, slip the optional foam cover over the mic and plug it into a jack on the side of the camera. I did not need to read the directions to use the microphone. It was extremely user friendly.
The other thing I liked about the mic is that it that compared to the photo it seems a lot smaller. It is light weight and does not really get in the way of shooting a video.
I also found that I could adjust the direction and point the microphone nearly straight up. The microphone will also fit backward on the mount, which of course reverses the left and right but it does get it even further away from the lense noise if that is your biggest concern.
As far as the mic quality, I could not really even test the built in mic since it was so overwhelmed with the auto-focus noise. While the Nikon ME-1 does give you a stereo recording the biggest gain you get is the reduction of auto-focus and wind noise. I enclosed two videos with sound so you can judge for yourself the difference between the built in mic and the ME-1.
How well it cuts back on Auto-Focus Noise
I was extremely happy with how well it took care of the Auto-Focus Noise. I feel that it cuts it to 5-10% of the noise I was experiencing. To my ears I have to put the volume all the way up and really listen for the noise to barely hear it on occasion.
Again let me preface this by stating that I am a hobbyist and not a professional photographer. I seriously doubt however that a professional would be using a D5100 with Auto-Focus, or this microphone. For what it is and its designated use this Mic fully meets my expectations.
Sample Videos with and without external Mic
First let me point out that I uploaded these to photobucket and they severely cut down the quality of the video. The actual video is not jerky like it appears to me on photobucket. The audio comes through fine though to show the difference in using the cameras mic vs the Nikon ME-1 Mic.
you will have to cut and paste these links into your browser
The first is a video with the built in camera mic on my Nikon D5100, disregard the video quality as photobucket cuts down on the video quality. You will not have to strain to hear the autofocus noise.
the second is a video using the Nikon ME-1 Microphone attached to my Nikon D5100. Again the video is not as good because of photobucket but the sound lets you see the difference. You have to turn the volume way up and listen very closely to hear the auto focus at all.
Specifications (from Nikon)
Type Back-electret condenser microphone
Number of channels 2 (stereo)
Frequency response 70–16,000 Hz
Sensitivity -42 dB ± 3dB (0 dB=1V/Pa,1kHz)
Signal-to-noise ratio 60 dB or more
Output impedance 2.2k? or less
Power supply Supplied by camera
Plug Gold-plated, L-shaped stereo mini-pin plug (?3.5 mm)
Low-cut filter Controlled by low-cut filter switch (ON/OFF)
Supplied accessories Microphone body, Wind screen, Soft case
for more info go to www.nikonusa.com
Thanks for reading my review
If you have questions or comments about the Nikon ME-1 Mic I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.