Saturday, November 8, 2014

Zoom Q4: 1080p with LCD viewer and 24/96 kHz audio

For $299, I am amazed by this little "toy." I have locked my wallet and credit card in the trunk of my car for the last year to keep the "impulse buy" demons at bay from this sort of technology. The GoPros are also very hard to resist. When I had the chance to get one here to play with, without nicking my credit card, I did. After looking at both GoPro and Zoom, I chose the Zoom for a test ride because of the audio and because of the detachable LCD screen.

This review will be an editorial departure for me in that I'm letting the video do most of the talking. This first "show and tell" video is a tour of the Zoom Q4 features. Blogger doesn't seem to allow text beside videos, so there's more white space than usual.

I shot the video below here in my studio. In it you can hear the difference between a Schoeps cmc641 and a Sound Devices MixPre-D fed to the Zoom Q4 and the Zoom Q4 mini stereo mics.

Back to the video side. Below is a short section I shot leaving the house and headed for the great outdoors to demonstrate the auto exposure features of the Zoom Q4. Notice the blow out as I exit the house and how well the auto circuitry corrects after I get outside. Also notice the critical focusing distance, about four inches, as I push in to a plant on the porch and the brick wall.

I noticed some white balance differences and realized that the Zoom Q4 seems to balanced only for daylight. Below is a tour of my studio with four different light sources. Notice how that compares to the daylight shot samples.

Below is a simple shot of two of my good and very talented friends Don Armstrong and Kirby Storms (Jazzmatazz) playing flute and guitar in my green room. The mic Don's playing flute into is the new Neumann TLM 107. Kirby is playing my D28S Martin. The Martin has a K&K Mini passive, piezo pickup system.  Both the Neumann and the Martin were fed to my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp. I took a mono feed from the back of the SA220 with reverb and fed it to a Sound Devices 664 mixer/recorder so I could control the level going into the Zoom Q4 properly. The audio was recorded at 24-bit 48 kHz, but has been squished down a bit by YouTube. Still, it sounds very good. What you're hearing is the Zoom Q4 audio.

Notice the lighting. I have large opaque, white, accordion pull down/pull up shades in this room. They do a nice job of softening the daylight and, again, the color balance is very good.

On a warm, humid rainy Labor Day. I took the Zoom Q4 with me to document a tremendously fun backyard music festival held every year for the past 30+ years here in Baltimore by Kurt and Cathy Milam. Next year may be the last year of this Labor Of Love. Again, daylight, so no color temperature issues. The only mics I used were the stereo pair on the Zoom Q4 with the "dead squirrel" wind protector. This is Amy Hopkins and Dave Dilworth doing a Jeffrey Foucault tune. I got their permission to publish this.

Apart from the color temperature white balance issue, I'm still pretty amazed by what the Zoom Q4 delivers. Nice Job!

Here's a thought. Got a DSLR with bad audio capture? Bring the Zoom Q4 along and use it for stereo audio.  Oh, and yeah, maybe another angle of video.

PS: This is the most video intensive post I've made so far. I thought it was the best way to tell the story. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Nice piece of work Ty. There have been previous versions of a Zoom video recorder like this, but I have never had a need for one. It's an odd bird, not the best video recorder, nor do you need it for audio recording, but if you are on a remote I imagine it could be used as a memory aid about that session. You can try to find some sort of Hoodman accessory to view your LCD screen outdoors, but it won't be 100% successful. I use one just to get framing somewhere in the ballpark, and then depend on the camera to get good white balance and focus and exposure.
    Gary Eickmeier

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