By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
About a month ago, I bought a used Canon 5D MK. II to record my son’s marching band season. It’s his last year in band, and I needed a workhorse rig that could shoot in HD with the budget I had. So I picked up a nice and affordable MK. II. But the downside is, as an older DSLR that can shoot 1080p (or better if you use Magic Lantern), it doesn’t have any way to monitor its audio. But thankfully, there are ways around that.
These tips come from DSLR Video Shooter Caleb Pike, who created a YouTube video outlining five great ways to add a headphone jack on a camera that doesn’t have one. The first option that Pike offers is to use your HDMI field monitor or monitor recorder. Connecting via HDMI, the monitor will have a 3.5mm audio jack which will give you the ability to monitor the audio. Pike says you don’t have to spend a lot either, as Pike uses the Viltrox DC-50 portable 5-inch LCD monitor for about $105 on Amazon That’s not too bad. And if you have a bluetooth dongle connected to it, you could even use wireless headphones so you’re not chained to your rig to hear it.
The next option are HDMI to VGA adapters, which, usually have a small 3.5mm audio jack on the side. So ignore the VGA connector and just plug in the headphone to it. And the best part is, they’re usually under $20, though some models are MicroHDMI and you’ll need an MHDMI to HDMI to make them work. But for under $30, you’re ready to rock the audio. One problem though, is that when shooting 4K, some cameras won’t pick up the audio jack unless you select a dual record option. Then it records to both 4K and 1080p at the same time. Not ideal, and it could kill your battery faster, but it works.
Third on the hit parade, Pike offers a preamp audio adapter. Beachtek is known really well for their audio adapters. I like the Beachtek DXA-SLR Pocket (a replacement for the DXA-SLR Mini). For under $100, you’ve got the option of not only recording and adjusting the sound through the preamp first (cause we all know DSLR amps are bad), but you get that headphone option as well. I ended up getting its big brother, the DXA-SLR ULTRA. A little more expensive and a little larger, but it gives me a few more options, including plugging in XLR microphones, and it attaches to the bottom of my cage of camera. And so far, I’ve been really happy with what it does.
Fourth is using an audio recorder like the Zoom H4N or even the Zoom H1. You plug in your audio to the recorder, and there’s a headphone check in it. You can also adjust the sound and select WAV or MP3 audio recording. I got my Zoom H1 on clearance at Target for under $40, but they’re generally around $100 on Amazon.
Lastly, you can also use a sound recorder as a dual system sound set up by using a sound splitter. Plug your mic into the recorder, then plug the splitter into the headphone jack. Split it off to headphones and your camera and you have a secondary audio track. Then if you need to replace the audio in your camera, you can use a program like Plural Eyes to sync it with the new audio track. Brilliant.
All five are really good options, but I like the last one best because it gives me a backup audio track. The only downside is, I have to make sure I hit two record buttons rather than just one! But it’s still worth it, and I can connect the Zoom H1 to my DSLR and slide it on the hot shoe to keep it completely compact. I think I’ll try this at the next band performance!