Review: Zoom Q4n HD Recorder

There’s no other product on the market more specifically designed to be an audio professional’s “pocket” video camera than Zoom’s mighty little Q4n.
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There’s no other product on the market more specifically designed to be an audio professional’s “pocket” video camera than Zoom’s mighty little Q4n. A very small (4.6 x 2 x 2.4-inch) HD camera/high-res audio recorder capable of 3M HD video quality and 24-bit/96 kHz audio, the Q4n actually provides a wide range of video and audio format options, serving purposes ranging from low-res podcasting to “audio prioritized” high-res/HD-ready A/V content. From its physical controls to its intuitive, digitally adjusted parameters via touchscreen GUI/video monitor, the Q4n is entirely operable upon first use, no manual necessary (though a subsequent read will better illustrate its audio-centric nature).

Even the Q4n’s menu-based options and terminology hint that this is an A/V capture tool for audio-leaning content creators. For example, video scene settings include presets such as “Concert-Low Lighting,” “Jazz Club,” and “Dance Club;” stereo audio capture is customizable thanks to adjustable stereo microphones, allowing dual capture techniques, X/Y (natural stereo depth/width via 90-degree crossed directional diaphragms) or A/B (gleaning wider stereo and greater reverb levels via spread directional diaphragms). In use, it’s clear these options were carefully chosen based on environments where audio is the focus yet video capture is a promotional or archival necessity; most any content-savvy musician, audio engineer or venue could benefit by having a Q4n in their bag of tricks.

Features abound in the Q4n—see the specifications list below—but highlights include SD-based recording media usage for wide-ranging compatibilities; HDMI output for HDTV monitoring/playback; external stereo mic input via mini-jack for more flexible transducer placement; and many mounting options via unique optional attachments (a guitar headstock mount, for example).

Most importantly, the Q4n captures beautiful video and impressively accurate, high-quality audio, ready for low-budget content production with a lot of promise. That is, used correctly and thoughtfully, no one would know that a municipal theater’s “an evening with” A/V content captured at front-of-house is courtesy of a $299 tool not much bigger than an average smartphone.

Specifications:
Recording Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards (Class 10 or higher, up to 128 GB, see enclosed SDHC/SDXC list for recommended make/models)
Image Sensor: 1/3-inch 3-megapixel CMOS sensor
Lens: Fixed focus F2.0, foca1 distance @ 16.6 mm (35 mm equivalent) 160-degree FOV
Video Format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (MOV)
Video Resolutions: 3M HD 30 fps, HD1080p 30 fps, HD720p 60 fps, HD720p 30 fps, WVGA 60 fps, WVGA 30 fps
Audio Formats: WAV (16/24-bit quantization, 44.1/48/96 kHz sampling frequency), AAC (64-320 kbps bit rate, 48 kHz sampling frequency)
Audio Functions: Lo Cut filter, Auto Gain
Image Functions: Digital zoom; scene selection (Automatic, Concert-Low Light, Dance Club, Jazz Club, Concert Hall, Rehearsal Studio, Garage, Outdoor, Sunset); Self-timer (Off, 3 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec)
Display: 2-inch full color touchscreen LCD
Audio (L/R) Inputs (Microphones): 120-degree AB/120 degree XY stereo formats
Maximum Input Level: 140 dB SPL
Input Gain: -30 to +44 dB
External Audio In: Stereo mini-jack, w/ +26 dB input gain; supports plug-in power
Outputs: Combined line/headphones stereo mini jack; HDMI micro Type D
Built-in Speaker: 400 mW 8-ohm mono
USB: Mini B type—Mass storage or audio interface operation, USB 2.0 high speed (44.1 kHz, 16-bit); Webcam operation, WVGA/720p video (48 kHz, 16-bit); iPad audio interface/mass storage operation is supported
Power Supply: Lithium-ion battery, DC 4.2V max. voltage, AC Adapter sold separately
Recharging Time: @ 3 hrs. (via USB); @ 2 hrs. (via optional ZOOM AD-17)
Battery Operation Time: @ 3 hrs. (@ 720p/30 fps video w/ LCD closed)
Dimensions (w/ mics stored): 4.6” x 2” x 2.4”
Included Accessories: LCD unit, Lithium-ion battery, 1.5m USB cable, foam/sponge windscreen, accessory mount adapter, lens cover, lens hood, strap.

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