Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder
Image courtesy: Zoom

ZOOM has a notable reputation for releasing quality, professional audio recorders. So, when Zoom combined its audio expertise with video functions with the original Zoom Q8, it seems like a winning pair. However, some felt that while the Q8 worked great as an audio recorder, its video features were a bit of a letdown — low video quality being a major blemish. Though the Q8 didn’t deliver the video quality everyone wanted from it, Zoom rekindled their hopes with the new Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder.

In this review, we will analyze how the Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder fares as a video camera. We’ll discuss its specs, see what Zoom has improved since the Zoom Q8 and determine whether the camera’s worth your hard-earned dollar. For clarity, we’re analyzing this camera from a video producer’s point of view. So, our final verdict will lean heavily on its video performance. We will also compare the Q8n-4K with other affordable, portable video cameras currently out on the market to help you see what’s out there and if this is the right option for you and your budget.

So, without further ado, let’s put the Q8n-4K to the test.

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Under the lens: the Zoom Q8n-4K

Pros

  • Stellar audio recording
  • 4K video capture
  • Four-track audio recording

Cons

  • No 60 fps capture
  • Noticeable video noise
  • No comprehensive zoom capabilities
  • Fish-eye effect

Image quality

One of the most notable and important changes since the Q8 is the Q8n-4K’s ability to shoot video in 4K. Originally, the Q8 maxed out at 1080p Full HD at 30 frames per second (fps). While not bad, it left a lot to be desired. With 4K video capture becoming more widely available in both professional and consumer cameras, it felt like a missed opportunity. Thankfully, the Q8n-4K steps up its resolution, supporting video capture up to 4K at 24, 25 or 30 fps. The extra resolution is a welcome upgrade, though it would be nice to have the option to shoot in 60 fps for slow-motion shots. However, you can shoot at 60 fps in 1080p.

The Zoom Q8n-4K also houses a new sensor with a much higher pixel count than the Q8, jumping from a 3-megapixel 1/3-inch-type CMOS sensor to a 16-megapixel 1/2.3-inch-type CMOS sensor. With a slightly larger sensor — increasing the pixel count fivefold — there is a noticeable difference in the image quality between the two models. The extra pixels let you capture more detail and dynamic range, leading to a clearer, higher-quality image.

Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder side view
Image courtesy: Zoom

However, the camera still struggles to capture details in shadows and low-light conditions. We shot late in the afternoon during our test, so we had plenty of light and shadows to go around. In broad daylight, the camera captures a reasonable amount of detail for its price point. However, there’s only so much detail its 16-megapixel sensor can capture. To compare, its image quality is about on par with a standard smartphone, which also averages around 12 to 16 megapixels.

While the Q8n-4K’s image isn’t groundbreaking, it’s a noticeable improvement over the previous model. 16 megapixels should suffice for most use cases for video enthusiasts and hobbyists. As for pro filmmakers and content creators, they will likely find the quality of the pixel count and sensor product too limited.

Performance in low light

We took the Zoom Q8n-4K out to a nearby park. With the camera set to 4K at 30 fps, we experience some noticeable grain in our image’s dark to somewhat dark areas. Even in a well-lit environment, there was grain. It was clear that the camera wouldn’t fare too well in low-lit situations. The camera’s lighting filters also do little to help its low-light image quality. When recording, we swapped between the settings and found that the camera’s image was either too dark to capture details in the shadows or too bright to capture elements like the sky or bright areas. If shooting with this camera outside, we would recommend using the auto setting. This ensures that, if there’s a change in the lighting as the day progresses, the camera can try its best to correct it.

Though the Q8n-4K boasts a notable boost in image quality over the Q8, its performance in low light situations still struggles. There was noticeable grain when we tested the Q8n-4K in low light, even in its night mode. It’s a huge qualm, considering it’s marketed as a camera intended for capturing live concerts. For indoor concerts or night concerts, there will be noticeable grain, especially considering there’s no ISO control. While the camera does feature two lighting modes for low light and in-door settings, they do little to reduce the grain.

Stabilization

Since the Q8n-4K has no onboard image stabilization, the footage we recorded at our local park came out looking quite shaky. It was hard to keep the camera steady while walking around. This isn’t really surprising since this camera isn’t designed to be a vlogging camera, so we’re not going to hold it against the Q8n-4K too hard. Rather, we want to make it clear that this camera, even with its lightweight build, flip-out LCD screen and portable design, isn’t a great vlogging camera without external stabilization.

The best, and probably the only way, to use the Q8n-4K as a vlogging camera is to mount it on a tripod or gimbal — unless you have a desk to place it on. If you want to shoot with this camera handheld, you will need a gimbal. Thankfully, it’s simple to attach the Q8n-4K to a gimbal mount via its 1/4-inch-20 thread. However, it does drive up the overall price if you don’t already own a gimbal. Most gimbals run between $100 and $150, creeping up the total cost into territories comparable to handheld, 4K cameras with built-in stabilization. While this might be a deal-breaker for some, most of the Q8n-4 K’s intended uses, such as livestreaming and concert recording, won’t require shooting handheld.

Camera lens

The Zoom Q8n-4K features a f/2.8, 150-degree wide-angle lens. Compared to the Q8’s f/2.0, 160-degree lens, the Q8n-4 K’s lens has a higher F-stop and a lower field of view. Overall, the image looks slightly darker than the Q8, which is great in our opinion. When shooting in outdoor settings, the Q8n-4K captures enough light to create a pleasing-looking balance of light with fewer blowouts.

There are five field of view (FOV) modes you can switch between. Options include a telephoto mode, a wide-angle mode and three modes in between those two extremes. The camera punches in for a tighter frame as you run down the list of modes, but none of the modes offer a substantial zoom function. In fact, one of the major flaws of the camera is its lack of a comprehensive zoom function. This is a glaring issue with the camera, especially if you’re looking to use this camera to shoot at concerts. At the same time, the “zoomed” framing options zoom digitally, so there’s a noticeable drop in quality the closer you get to the telephoto mode.

Additionally, there’s an unflattering fisheye effect that’s especially noticeable when using the wide-angle mode. This isn’t unique to the Q8n-4K; the Q8 also had a fisheye look. It would be nice if we could choose whether or not to use the fisheye effect, but the other FOV settings offer a more standard frame, so at least we have other options to fall back onto.

Image settings

When it comes to in-camera image adjustments and presets on the Q8n-4K, there are a few. The camera features just a few brightness adjustments: bright, normal and dark. These lighting presents are accessible through the camera’s BRIGHT button placed on the right side of the LCD screen. Essentially, these modes digitally brighten or darken the image. You can’t customize these modes, so they’re only useful in specific situations. Sometimes, they will work, and sometimes they won’t — you can’t customize the boost in brightness levels to your particular shooting situation.

In total, there are five scene presets — two more than the Q8. The lineup of presets includes Indoor, Outdoor, Nighttime, Concert and Auto. Each preset intends to adjust the camera’s lighting settings based on your shooting environment. So, for instance, if you’re recording a concert, you would enable its Concert preset in its SCENE menu These presents are nice in some instances, but since they’re not adjustable, they at times feel limited.

Storage

Storage-wise, the Q8n-4K has a single card slot. This slot accepts microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC cards up to 512 GB. The slot is located at the bottom of the back of the camera. It’s easy to access, but you do have to open the LCD screen to access the media card. This isn’t really an issue, but it might add extra steps if you have the LCD screen closed and the retractable mic arm down.

LCD screen

Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder back
Image courtesy: Zoom

The Zoom Q8n-4K 2-inch LCD screen comes with some good and some bad. Starting with the good, we like that the screen can flip out. This feature makes the camera very friendly for livestreamers. Also, the screen’s quality is good enough to help when framing the shot. Unfortunately, the screen’s resolution is just 320 x 240. You don’t have to get too close to the screen to start seeing its pixels. We would have liked to see a screen with at least 1280 x 720 pixels (720p HD).

Also, the Q8n-4 K’s screen is less flexible than the original Q8’s screen. You could adjust the original’s screen either left to right or upwards, whereas, with the Q8n-4K, you can only extend the screen left to right. While not a deal-breaker, you now have to bend down to check the screen if it isn’t exactly level with your eyeline.

Menus

Navigating through the Q8n-4K is quite simple and we love that. On the side of the LCD screen is an arrangement of buttons assigned with specific functions depending on what mode you’re in. Nevertheless, the buttons are placed next to the function’s name displayed on the screen. So, for example, the camera’s FOV button is next to the FOV text and menu on the screen. You navigate through the menus by pressing the same button. It follows the same setup in the settings menu: the buttons align with their function on the LCD screen.

Though navigating through the menu is simple, it can be sometimes tedious. For instance, when navigating through a long list of settings, like in the audio menu, if you pass the setting you want or you want to go back to a previous setting, you have to click multiple times to get back to the setting. A D-pad or touchscreen support could have fixed this. We wish either one of these solutions would have been included; it would have made the navigation even better. Since there aren’t a ton of functions and settings to switch between, its simple yet cumbersome navigation is manageable.

Audio recording

Now let’s talk about the camera’s audio recording capabilities. What the Zoom Q8n-4K lacks in video features, it makes up for in audio features. The camera comes with two unidirectional condenser elements in a 120° X/Y configuration. The mic mounts onto the camera’s retractable arm and is detachable. From our experiences with the mic, we found that it works great. It captured a clear recording, even when it was across the room we were recording in. Plus, the camera supports real-time monitoring via a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Two XLR Inputs

Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder in use
Image courtesy: Zoom

One of the highlight features is the Q8n-4 K’s dual XLR inputs. With two XLR mic/line inputs, phantom power and a switchable -20 dB pad, you can plug your dynamic or condenser mic directly into the camera. You can also control each input individually with its accompanying volume dial next to the input plug. It’s also straightforward to mute and unmute inputs. There are three buttons controlling the inputs’ power on the camera’s back. The three inputs include one for the top mic, channel 1 and channel 2. When the input is on, the button will glow red.

You can also plug an instrument into the mic input, allowing for multi-layered recording. It can also handle the main outputs from a mixing console. All-in-all, it’s a unique feature that you would be hard-pressed to find on a camera at a competitive price point.

Audio settings

While there might not be many settings you can change in terms of video on the Zoom Q8n-4K, there are plenty of audio options to play around with. In the camera’s mixer mode, you can change things like panning and level, plus you can apply audio effects, such as compression, limiter, leveler, de-essing or a noise gate. Additionally, the camera can adjust the low cut filter’s frequencies, with options including 80 Hz, 120 Hz, 160 Hz, 200 Hz and 240 Hz. All of these settings are adjustable for all three inputs.

Microphone

Sitting on top — or on the back, depending on if you have it clicked down — the Q8n-4 K’s XYQ-8n capsule utilizes two matched unidirectional condenser elements. It’s designed with a 120-degree X/Y configuration. Alternatively, you can swap out this mic for ZOOM’s other mic capsules. You will have to purchase this separately, though. We were quite impressed with how well the microphone works. It captures clear audio, which you can monitor using any standard pair of headphones. It comes with a windscreen, which does some work in improving the audio quality. However, one minor qualm we have: You have to detach the microphone every time you want to put the windscreen on. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it can be a minor nuisance.

We do like that you can monitor the audio with its built-in headphone jack. It makes it simple to ensure the audio you’re capturing is quality.

Zoom Q8n-4K Handy Video Recorder mic down
Image courtesy: Zoom

Livestreaming/webcam functionality

One of the best aspects of the Q8n-4K is its simplicity. It’s easy to pick up and use right out of the box. Its easy-to-use nature was most prevalent during our livestream/webcam test during our testing. All we had to do was plug it into one of our office computers, select it as our primary camera and it was ready to go. We streamed on Twitch using the Q8n-4K and had no issues regarding connectivity. Everything worked as it should.

As for the image quality of the stream, we weren’t as impressed. While not horrible, there was some noticeable grain and lost details in shadows. There are definitely other webcams on the market that would provide a better image than the Q8n-4K. However, there aren’t as many webcams at the same price point that would offer a similar audio experience, especially for streaming musicians.

Power

With the Q8n-4K, you receive a rechargeable Li-ion battery. In total, the camera lasts about two and a half hours on a single charge. Not a crazy-long battery life, but not too shabby either. You want to shoot for at least two to three hours of battery life, which should suffice for most situations.

You can also power the camera via USB or an AC adapter. We recommend this option if you want to use the camera for livestreaming or as a webcam — depending on how long your calls typically are. Streams and calls can easily go over the 2.5-hour battery life.

Marketplace

For $50 dollars less than the Zoom Q8n-4K, the $349 GoPro HERO10 Black features a 23.6 MP sensor capable of capturing 5.3K video at 60 frames per second. It’s true the HERO10 Black isn’t a camcorder, but it is a great option for those looking for quality video capture on the go. The video quality outmatches the Q8n-4K in many regards; however, the camera doesn’t offer as much flexibility for audio capture. The HERO10 Black features three microphones with built-in noise reduction but doesn’t offer multi-track recording. The GoPro also supports livestreaming in Full HD and utilizes HyperSmooth 4.0 stabilization. While it doesn’t offer as many audio functions, it offers higher quality video capture and can be used as a vlogging camera more efficiently.

For twice as much, the $800 Panasonic HC-VX1 4K HD camcorder can shoot 4K video at 30 fps with its back-illuminated 1/2.5-inch MOS sensor and works effectively in low light. It also utilizes an f/1.8 to f/4 24x Leica Dicomar zoom and lets you record up to three camera angles at once using its wireless Multicamera feature. Though, you would need additional cameras or two smartphones to use that feature. It’s a more expensive option, but this camera offers more framing options and is more capable in low light.

Last, we have the $950 Sony FDR-AX43. This is a compact camcorder that features a Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens, capable of shooting 4K video and using a 20x optical zoom. It also supports dual-video recording in XAVC S or AVCHD formats.

Summing it all up

We’re not going to beat around the bush here. The Zoom Q8n-4K isn’t a spectacular camera based on its video capabilities alone. What really sets it apart from other comparable cameras is its audio features. Its capability of recording with four-tracks beats out the rest of the competition. It’s a good camera for musicians looking to record their jam sessions with clean, crisp audio and some type of video to accompany it. It also does a decent job at being a webcam, but there’s likely a better option if you’re getting this camera specifically for non-music streaming. Beyond those use cases, anyone looking to record video in a professional setting, such as filmmaking, will likely be let down.

In many ways, the Zoom Q8n-4K feels like a great, affordable audio recorder with bonus video features. So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly camera that prioritizes audio and has some type of video recording capabilities, the Zoom Q8n-4K may be your camera. Anything above that, we recommend considering other, higher-end options.

Zoom Q8n-4K

$399

Recommended uses:

  • Online Video Production
  • Casual Video Production

Specs

Sensor type1/2.3-inch-type CMOS sensor
Sensor resolutionEffective: 16 megapixels
Maximum aperturef/2.8
Fixed focusYes
Angle of view150°
ZoomNone
Built-in ND filtersNone
SystemNTSC/PAL
Media/memory card slotSingle slot: microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC [512 GB Maximum]
Video format3840 x 2160 at 24/25/30 fps (H.264/AVC, MPEG-4)
1920 x 1080 at 24/25/30/50/60 fps (MOV via H.264/AVC, MPEG-4)
1280 x 720 at 24/25/30/50/60 fps (MOV via H.264/AVC, MPEG-4)
Microphone recording angle120°
Channels4.0-channel
Audio formatWAV
Sampling frequencyWAV: 96.0 kHz
WAV: 48.0 kHz
WAV: 44.1 kHz
Display typeNon-articulating flip-out LCD
Display size2-inch
Display resolution320 x 240
Self-timer3, 5, 10 sec
Remote controlOptional
Scene modesPreset: Yes
Built-in micYes
Built-in speakerYes
Built-in light/flashLight – No
Flash – No
Accessory shoeNone
Tripod mounting thread1/4-inch-20 Female
Video I/O1 x micro-HDMI output
Audio I/O2 x 3-pin XLR mic/line (+48 V Phantom Power) input
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS stereo headphone/line output
Power I/O1 x USB Type-C Input
Other I/O1 x USB Type-C data/video output (shared with power input)
1 x USB Type-A control input
WirelessBluetooth control (adapter required)
BatteryRechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, 3.7-4.2 VDC, 1600 mAh
Max runtime: 2.5 hours per charge
Charging methodAC adapter
USB
Charging time4.5 hours
Power adapter5 VDC
Dimensions (W x H x D)Mic Arm Lowered: 2.7 x 2.6 x 6.3-inch / 68.0 x 65.0 x 159.0 mm
Mic Arm Raised: 2.7 x 5.3 x 5.3-inch / 68.0 x 135.0 x 134.0 mm