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Sony Gun Zoom Microphone ECM-HGZ1

The Sony Gun Zoom Microphone ECM-HGZ1 is a directional mono microphone designed specifically for Sony Handycam's with the Active Interface Shoe (AIS). Through the use of Sony's proprietary AIS, more powerful integrated accessories can be created. In the case of the ECM-HGZ1, Sony created a directional microphone that is integrated with the Handycam so that the sensitivity is tied to the zoom setting. Unfortunately, because AIS is not backward compatible with standard hot shoe, the ECM-HGZ1 cannot be used on camcorders without the AIS feature.

The ECM-HGZ1 came in a standard yellow and blue Sony blister package. After cutting off the plastic wrapping, I found the package contains the microphone, instruction manual, and a velvet pouch. The instruction came in Japanese, English, French, and Spanish. The carrying pouch seems generic and not made specifically to carry the ECM-HGZ1. It's just a rectangular drawstring pouch, where the microphone feels loose inside. The pouch is also oversized, so it seems to be capable of carrying other items as well.

Attaching the ECM-HGZ1 to an AIS Handycam is fairly easy and straightforward--simply push the Gun Zoom mic onto the AIS and then push if forward until it locks into place. For added security, the ECM-HGZ1 has a rotating locking ring that is similar to the locking ring on traditional hot shoe accessories. The difference between the AIS lock ring and the traditional hot shoe lock ring is that the AIS lock ring click to a stop. Its locking capability is provided by a set of plastic friction pad, so that if forced, the Gun Zoom mic will snap off the AIS without damage. In a way, this means that the locking ring is somewhat ineffective.

The ECM-HGZ1 can be rotated 270 degrees on the AIS mount to be aimed at an audio source in any direction. It has two stop notches that click the microphone into place in the forward and in the backward direction. Unfortunately, Sony does not produce a remote AIS cord. Without the remote AIS cord, if you tilt the Handycam slightly, then you won't be able to aim the Gun Zoom mic at the audio source if they are to either side of the camcorder.

The Gun Zoom Microphone ECM-HGZ1 has three modes of operation: 1) Zoom; 2) Off; and 3) Gun. In zoom mode, the microphone's sensitivity is based on the zoom setting of the Handycam. In the off mode, the Gun Zoom Mic is not picking up any sound, instead, the internal stereo microphones on the Handycam are used. In the gun mode, the Gun Zoom Mic is most sensitive, able to pick up sound from the longest distance regardless of the zoom setting on the video camera.

I found the gun setting to be quite useful. At a recent interview session in LAX terminal with two of my favorite ladies, I found that I couldn't move more than a three feet from them before their voice is drown out by ambient sound. At an outdoor BBQ party after getting the Gun Zoom Microphone ECM-HGZ1, I found that I can interview a friend about 10 feet away in the backyard and still pick up his voice loud and clear. Therefore, I found that the Gun Zoom Microphone ECM-HGZ1 is an essential accessory for any Handycam with the AIS.

In the Gun Zoom Mic instruction manual, Sony instructed, "Do not lift the video camera by the microphone." It's such a pity that the microphone isn't designed to be a handle as its secondary purpose. It really should be designed as such, because it really is shaped like a handle. There are numerous times with I picked the Handycam up by the microphone unknowingly. Subconsciously, my mind just thinks that it's a handle. So far, the microphone hasn't broken due to my misuse. And I hope I can stop grabbing it by the "handle". Perhaps a good camera hack would be to reinforce the ECM-HGZ1 microphone so that it could be used as a handle.

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Copyright © 2005 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.