Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Microphone Set Review

by Alan Haynes / PhotoCitizen on November 23, 2010

Audio for video is a tricky business. The Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Microphone gives us a fighting chance to capture quality, usable sound when recording hi-def video on an Olympus PEN E-P2 or E-PL1 camera – and other devices too.

Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Microphone Adapter Set Review: Mounted on E-P2

External Microphone Advantages

The built-in microphones on the E-P2 and E-PL1 record high-quality stereo sound. So, why why buy an external mic? What does the SEMA-1 Microphone kit offer that the camera’s internal microphones don’t?

The SEMA-1 External Mic Kit offers these advantages vs. the built-in mics:

1) Less noise. With the built-in microphones, every camera noise is recorded. Zoom the lens and you’ll hear it in your video. Press a button or even just lightly run your finger over the camera and the sound becomes part of your movie. These kinds of noises can render the recorded audio track useless. With an external microphone connected off-camera, these noises are not recorded.

2) Flexibility. With the included 40-inch cable, the microphone can be located closer to the subject. For interviews, the included clip makes it easy to attach the mic to the subject’s clothing. Since the microphone uses a standard stereo mini-plug, you could buy a longer audio cable so you can position the camera even further from the subject while still recording audio at close range.

The Olympus SEMA-1 Microphone Adapter Set

The Olympus SEMA-1 Microphone Adapter Set sells for around $65 and is available from  Amazon and Adorama.

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What’s Included in the SEMA-1 Kit?

The SEMA-1 adapter set includes four main components:

Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo External Microphone Review: components

The SEMA-1 Set

  1. The Olympus EMA-1 External Mic Adapter which slides into the camera’s hot shoe and has a stereo mini-jack to accept the microphone cable. Like other Olympus hot-shoe mounted accessories, the adapter is held firmly in place by friction. A few good bumps could knock it off the camera, so be careful with it.
  2. A 3.3-foot long stereo microphone cable with a mini-plug at one end to connect to the EMA-1 adapter and a mini-jack at the other end to connect to the microphone.
  3. The Olympus ME51S stereo microphone with a male stereo mini-plug. This can connect either to the microphone cable or directly to the EMA-1 without a cable. The orientation of the microphone is clearly marked: a black L for left and a red R for right. Each mic has a wire mesh cover at its end.
  4. A separate alligator-style tie clip that allows the microphone to be clipped to clothing or other small objects.

Using the Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Mic Kit

There are a few different ways to set up and use the microphone:

Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Microphone Adapter Set: Used without the cord

"Cordless" mount

    • For the most compact setup, plug the microphone directly into the EMA-1 adapter seated in the camera’s hot-shoe. In this configuration, camera handling noise will still be recorded. So, use it this way only when you won’t be zooming the lens. Make sure the focus mode is not set to continuous: the noise of the camera constantly hunting for focus will ruin your audio track.
    • For better sound quality attach the mic to the included cable and position the mic up to 3-feet closer to your subject. Or buy a longer extension cable – such as this 25-foot mini extension cable for under $10. It gives you a lot more flexibility in camera positioning and allows you to zoom at will.
Olympus SEMA1 External Mic Review: attached to clothing

The tie clip

  • Attach the mic to a person’s clothing or to a stable object up to about 1/4-inch thick with the included clip.
  • Since the microphone uses a standard 3.5mm stereo mini-plug, you can use it with any equipment that accepts a microphone with this kind of plug. Or buy cheap adapters to plug it into a 1/4-inch phone input or stereo RCA-style jacks.

Since the EMA-1 adapter occupies the camera hot-shoe, you won’t be able to use an external viewfinder while using this mic. The LCD makes a better video monitor anyway, so you likely won’t miss it.

Audio Quality

The sound quality of the SEMA-1 external microphone is very good. Stereo separation is excellent: a sound coming from the left side of the camera will be played back out of the left speaker.This wide stereo sound field will add a lot to your videos and help you immerse your viewers in the scene.

Please note that if the wind is blowing, the MS51S microphone will record just as much wind noise as the internal mics do. As far as I can tell, there is no custom windscreen available, but the inexpensive Tascam WS-DR08 windscreens look to be about the right size to fit the 1/2-inch diameter mics of the Olympus ME-51S unit.

Recording Audio for Video

Olympus SEMA-1 Microphone kit: EMA1 with EM-51S microphone

Two main parts

Recording quality video and audio requires a set of skills unfamiliar to most of us still photographers. To learn more about creating movies and audio for video, there are a few books available:

My favorite is From Still to Motion: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Video With Your DSLR. Although not the best written book I’ve read, it is aimed at newbie videographers and includes plenty of color photos and illustrations.

Two other books on the subject of HDSLR (aka fusion) video are:
DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Video and Photo Fusion: A Wedding Photographers Guide to Mixing Digital Photography and Video.

ME51S Microphone Specifications

  • Type: Stereo electret condenser microphone
  • Plug: 3.5mm stereo
  • Frequency Response: 100 – 15,000 Hz
  • Directivity: Uni-directional x 2
  • Mike Sensitivity: -40db at 1 kHz
  • Output Impedance: 2.2kOhms
  • Microphone dimensions: 38mm x 14mm x 40mm
  • Weight: 7 grams main unit, 18 grams including extension cable and tiepin clip


If you’re serious about video recording with your Olympus PEN E-P2 or E-PL1, you need an external mic for better audio. The Olympus SEMA-1 Stereo Microphone Kit gives you high quality audio to match your camera’s hi-def video.

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