I’ve been fooling around with audio enough this last year and half to have finally put together a kit that meets my criteria: good sound, versatility and small size. Audio
geeks philes will tell you that there are better choices in every one of these categories, (although the Olympus is highly respected even by them), but these are all plenty high-quality for what we photogs need to do, while retaining the all important portability factor.
The lynchpin of the setup is the Olympus LS 10 recorder….tiny and full featured with good sound. It has great built-in mics and they have foam windscreens, but adding a crazy-looking “dead cat” windscreen over the top is the best for windy conditions
The Koss Portapro Stereo Headphones are great because they sound good, block out a lot of the external noise, but fold into the themselves for a tiny package. Not as tiny as earbuds, mind you, but better able to block out external sound. Using headphones whenever possible will really help you hear stuff like humming fridges and vibrating airconditioners, and all that subtle ambient sound that can really screw up your audio.
An external mic is good, and you might as well get one that does something your built-ins won’t do, and that is focus its throw out a bit so you can record at a distance. A shot gun is great for this, but most of these are a foot or longer. Enter the tiny Sennheiser MKE 400.
It’s a few inches long, weighs ounces, runs on one AAA and offers as an accessory its own dead cat (not shown) and does an outstanding job. You’ll need to buy a headphone extension cord (same thing you use on your iPod) to connect the mic to the recorder, because this mic is designed to ride on top of a mini-camcorder and has a short built in cord (this is my only critique of this fine mic…that little cord should be modular and user-replaceable).
And finally, the original Gorillapod works well either screwed into the recorder and used as a stand (and one that you can wrap around the back of a chair or something so you can place that recorder really close to your interview subject), or as a handle for the shotgun (you never want to handle your mic and/or recorder directly, because it’ll record that sound.)
Total weight: about a pound or so.
Total cost: Under $700 (it kills me, but those dead cats make up 1/7th of that price! At $50 a piece, the price/value ratio is totally out of whack considering their, um, low-techness, but absolutely commensurate with their value in the wind!)
Total size: Fits in a camera bag pocket or small waistpouch.