Zoom Q4 video recorder review: better heard and not seen

zoom-q4-size-video-recorder-size-02The Zoom Q4 video recorder is the easiest product review I’ve ever written because its strengths and weaknesses are so obvious, it doesn’t take long to form an opinion of it.

In short, the Zoom Q4 is a well-designed video recorder with excellent sound capturing capabilities, but sub par video quality. It is small, reasonably light-weight and comes with cleverly positioned controls, including well-placed power and recording buttons that glow green and red respectively when recording. There is also a standard tripod mount and action camera mount located at the bottom and rear of the device, making it easy to use existing tripods and accessories.

The Zoom Q4 has an action camera mount and a standard tripod mount.

The Zoom Q4 has an action camera mount and a standard tripod mount.

Its portability and excellent controls makes the Zoom Q4 an unassuming device that is easy to set-up and use. It can even accept 128GB SD cards and function as a webcam for both Macs and PCs.

zoom-q4-size

The Zoom Q4 is so small, it literally fits in the hand.

Zoom also includes an extremely useful wind filter in the box, which I used whenever I switched on the ceiling fan. The Q4 has almost everything except good video quality.

A wind-filter inspired by Don King. The tripod clip pictured is not included in the box.

A wind-filter inspired by Don King. The tripod clip pictured is not included in the box.

It uses a 1/3-inch 3-megapixels CMOS sensor with a fixed focus  F2.8 lens . It records video in MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 using the rather uncommon – for a video camera – .MOV container. Personally, I would have preferred if it if they used the MP4 container. Video can be captured at 1080p at 30fps or 720p and WVGA at 30fps or 60fps.

But while the  camera specs appears competitive on paper, the actual video quality tells a different story. It is decidedly sub par, and it performs poorly in low light conditions.

The Zoom Q4 can also be used as a webcam on PCs and Macs, but the videos have lots of artifacting, making them unusable.

What Zoom’s inexperience in video capture takes away, its experience in audio recording makes up for in spades. It produces clean, high-fidelity audio recordings that sounds like the real thing – a far cry from the dry and one-dimensional  recordings of many of its competitors in this price class. It is shockingly good for such a small camera at this price point.

Unedited, Out-of-Camera Video Samples

A Quick and Easy to Use Recorder with Better Sound than your smartphone
Who should buy the Zoom Q4? If you are a musician who takes videos of with your smartphone, but you want something with higher quality audio, then the Q4 is a noticeably step up in audio quality, but a likely downgrade in video quality.

It is available at City Music for S$382.50 or at Amazon for US299.

Dedrick Koh

About Dedrick Koh

Dedrick Koh is a Social Media and Communications Specialist at Nanyang Polytechnic. He has a Bachelors (Murdoch) and Diploma (Ngee Ann Polytechnic) in Mass Communication. Dedrick is a communications professional and a highly skilled classical guitarist. As a communications professional, he has worked on brands like Coca Cola, DHL, Nokia, Nestle, the Health Promotion Board, the Economic Development Board of Singapore and the President Challenge. He gave private classical guitar during his polytechnic and undergraduate studies to put himself through school. He has succesfully prepared students for ABRSM and Trinity exams and was previously an instructor cum assistant conductor at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Strings under Alex Abisheganaden .