HD Video With The Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder

What combines crisp 24-bit/96kHz audio with great image quality, in full HD video (1080p/30fps), and looks kind of like a squirrel? Why, the Zoom Q4 of course. Simple, innovative and packed with Zoom quality, the Q4 might take your audio/visual versatility to a new level. 

What is it?

The Q4 is capable of recording in both standard (at either 30 or 60 frames per second) and HD video (1080p or 720p at 30fps) to an SD, SDHC or SDXC card, up to 128GB in capacity. Both the media card and the battery are inserted into slots found behind an underside sliding panel. The rear panel contains a Micro HDMI port for output to an appropriate television. It also has a USB port for connection to a computer for use as a webcam, USB microphone, and to recharge the battery. Below and behind the mic are a pair of stereo mini jacks that provide an interface for an external microphone, optional AC power source and headphones. Independent headphone volume control is found along the right side.

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The Q4 has a couple of very distinctive features. First, the Q4's display has good image quality and is detachable for portability and getting into tight places. Removing the 2-inch LCD unit helps extend battery life. Tabs on its mounting surface slide into slots on the camera body. With the slots lined up, push the LCD unit onto the body until it locks into place. Pressing the unlock button behind the LCD panel and pushing it away from the body removes it once again. The articulating display flips out and rotates 270 degrees. It features four buttons under the screen for navigating a very basic menu system.

The other distinctive feature is the microphone. Unlike the typical built-in mic, the Q4 features a high quality, wide-angle X/Y stereo microphone that folds into the upper rear body for protection when not in use. 

X/Y mics
X/Y mics
When rotated into position, the microphone sits above the camera and uses two matched unidirectional elements to pick up sounds primarily from the front. The included windscreen slips over the microphone and attaches securely at the bottom. When in place, the hairy windscreen standing straight up at the rear gives the Q4 somewhat the appearance of a squirrel. As we said … distinctive.

Controls along the side panel of the Q4 include a three-position mic gain switch, as well as auto gain control and peak LED to help keep a handle on input levels. A low cut filter switch, combined with the windscreen, helps to reduce low frequency noise, often found outdoors.

A few things the Q4 does not have much of are manual controls. The f/2.8 lens records very nice image quality but no zoom and no ND filtering. There are no exposure controls or assists, although it does offer three lighting presets (auto/concert lighting/night). 

Performance

The Q4 is small enough for your hands and can be attached to a standard tripod, or three prong action camera mounts for maximum mounting versatility and angles. We had doubts if such a small camera with few manual controls was capable of producing decent image quality. We were pleasantly surprised to find our image quality to be decent. Colors are reproduced beautifully and true. The dynamic range is good. Care must be taken however to frame shots properly to avoid overexposure since there are no controls for this. The Q4 handles texture, contrast and detail very well, rendering objects and differences in luminance crisply and distinctly.

The audio is typical Zoom quality, of course. The X/Y configuration of the microphone captures excellent stereo sound, giving dominance to signals coming from the front with significant rejection of those entering from the rear and sides. While the three-position gain switch doesn’t offer complete control over the input volume, it does provide enough to keep peaking at bay. The mic is very sensitive, so be careful to avoid handling the unit while recording. 

Conclusion

If you already have a great camera but need an excellent secondary audio source, the Q4 can provide very good audio quality, with reference video to boot, and make syncing in post easier. If you want an affordable camera with great image quality, that captures excellent audio, and you can live with the lack of manual control, then the Zoom Q4 Handy Video Recorder may be just the squirrel you need. 

Zoom Corporation
www.zoom-na.com
$300

Tech Specs

Imaging Device: 1/3” 3MP CMOS sensor
Optics Lens: f/2.8, Fixed focal point (550mm to infinity)
Recording Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC card (up to 128GB)
Video Format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (MOV)
Video Resolution: 1920x1080p 30fps, 1280x720p 30fps, 848×480 60fps, 848×480 30fps
Audio Format: WAV (16/24-bit sampling: 44.1/48/96kHz); AAC (bitrate: 64-320kbps, sampling: 48kHz)
Audio Functions: Low cut filter, auto gain (concert/solo/meeting)
Image Functions: Angle of view adjustment, scene selection (auto/concert lighting/night)
Display: 2" detachable LCD
Built-in Mic: X/Y stereo format (120°); max. sound pressure input: 130dB SPL; Input gain: +7db to +47dB
Input Connector: Combined line/mic stereo mini jack (can supply plug-in power); Input gain: +0dB to +26dB
Output Connector: Combined line/headphones stereo mini jack; Type D micro HDMI
USB: Mini-B type (USB 2.0)
Power: Lithium-ion battery (1050mAh); AC adapter (ZOOM AD-17 sold separately; USB bus power)
Battery Life: 3 hours (when recording 720p/30fps video with LCD unit detached)
Weight: Recorder 5.9oz. (167g); LCD unit 1.8oz. (51g)
Dimensions (WxHxD): recorder (with X/Y mic stored): 4.2" x 2.3" x 1.20" (10.6cm x 5.8cm x 3.0cm) ; LCD unit: 1.6" x 1.9" x 2.9" (4.0cm x 4.9cm x 7.37cm)
Included Accessories: Removable LCD unit, USB cable, rechargeable lithium ion battery, hairy windscreen, windscreen attachment screw, user guide

Strengths

  • Great HD image quality
  • Up to 24-bit/96kHz high quality PCM audio
  • Manual gain
  • Lo-cut filter

Weaknesses

  • Few manual controls

Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

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