Panasonic GH4 Special Microphone Needs Special Extension Cable

David Salahi Gear 3 Comments

I wanted to use my Panasonic GH4 microphone, the DMW-MS2, as a boom mike so I did a little test recently, attaching it to a boom on a light stand. This mike is designed to be mounted on the GH4 hot shoe and I’ve used it that way numerous times. But I had a situation calling for a boom mike so I thought I’d try it out that way.

The microphone itself has a cable that’s only 8” long and the cable terminates in a 1/8" plug. Obviously, I would need an extension cable for the boom situation so I got one out and plugged it in. I was surprised to find that the microphone didn’t work properly. The reason is that the microphone has a non-standard plug which communicates some additional information between the mike and the camera. This allows you to configure the mike dynamically to any one of four modes: shotgun, super shotgun, stereo, or lens angle tracking. Those are nice features but they come with a cost. I wrote about a related problem previously. In that post I explained that you can’t connect the DMW-MS2 to an analog preamp.

So, I was aware of the special nature of the microphone but in this case I figured it would work because I wasn’t connecting to a preamp. Instead, I’d be connecting (almost) directly to the GH4. There would just be an extension cable in between. Wrong.

Normal microphone with regular 1/8" stereo plug

Normal microphone with regular 1/8″ stereo plug

Panasonc microphone with special 1/8" stereo plug; note the extra ring

Panasonc microphone with special 1/8″ stereo plug; note the extra ring

As you can see in the photo above, the DMW-MS2 has an additional ring beyond the two that are normally found on a 1/8" stereo plug. That additional ring communicates additional digital info between the mike and the camera. Since my extension cable was a normal two-ring (three-conductor) type it was missing the additional info that would allow the GH4 to recognize it as a “special microphone.”

Without that info, the mike works only in one channel and not as a shotgun mike. As a result, the audio quality was poor, much worse than the no-name backup mike I purchased for less than $100.

Eventually, I remembered that the GH4 came with an extension cable so I dug it out and tried it. With three rings, it enabled the microphone to work as intended. The only problem was that the cable is only 6‘ long, only about half as long as I needed.

I checked on the Panasonic website to see if they offer another extension cable that would support the DMW-MS2. I couldn’t find anything at all so I opened a chat session but the person didn’t know of any either. I even tried a second chat session. They couldn’t tell me anything either. So, if you’re considering this microphone be forewarned of the limitations.

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