How do I prevent autofocus and handling noise on the Nikon D800/D800E?
(Question submitted by Larry Lief)
The clicking noise from handling the camera and the auto focus servo motor is picked up by the microphone through the air and conducted through the camera body. The built in microphone is not only very close to the source of the noise but also omnidirectional, which means it picks up sound from all directions.
In you have nothing else other than the internal microphone to work with, there is no other option than to use auto focus only in between shots. With some practice you can learn to use manual focus, but if you're limited to the rather small display on the back of the camera this will be very hard. Some of the more expensive external monitors offer a sort of focus assist, highlighting the focused areas. On the D800, auto focus during movie recording isn't very fluid anyway and tends to hunt back and forth, so using manual focus might improve the image quality of your videos!
Using manual focus, the internal microphone will still pick up everything else around it and not only your subject. You are better off using an external, preferably directional, microphone. Your options to record the sound in camera are either to use a corded microphone (like the Nikon ME-1 or one made by Rode) or a wireless system (like the Senheisser ME-100).
If you don't mind some post-production, using an external sound recorder (like the Zoom, a dictaphone, a laptop or even your smartphone) is also an option. It requires synchronizing the video and separately recorded audio track back together. There is software to help you with this. Doing it all by manually can be time consuming.
Some external microphones have a clip that you can place on the hot shoe of the camera. This may seem practical, but the hard plastic of the clip conducts the noise from the camera to the microphone, bringing you back to the original problem. It is best to move the microphone away from the camera so the microphone is not in physically touching the camera or its tripod. If you need to have the microphone mounted on the camera for practical reasons, try to sound isolate it from the camera body.
What you need to buy or make in that case is a so-called shock mount. It basically hangs the microphone suspended by soft sound insulating foam or rubber bands to form an acoustic barrier between microphone and camera. These shock mounts can be bought ready made but are easy to make yourself for a few bucks (see these external links with DIY project #1 and DIY project #2).
If you're using an external microphone plugged into the D800 you may experience amp noise, please read the my article on that issue.