I recently acquired a Zoom Q8 video camera. It’s quite an unusual gadget – hard to know whether to describe it as an HD video camera with a great microphone, or a great microphone with an added HD video camera. I think of it more as the latter, because sound quality seems to be the priority here over video quality… which is why I got it. Oh, and it is also a 4 track audio recorder.
It’s definitely something you should work out in advance what you want to use it for. I wanted something that would enable me to record my son’s drumming and my playing simultaneously onto separate channels, so I was thinking of getting a Zoom H4 or H6, but when I discovered the Q8, the camera was an unexpected bonus.
The way the four track recording works is that the built in mic (which is interchangeable with other Zoom mic modules) uses two of the channels, and you can plug in two mono sources, or one stereo source. So in this example, the built-in mic recorded Tom’s drumming, my electric bouzouki is on the third track, and we used the fourth for a guide track (which was then discarded).
The Q8 can either record a single video file containing a mixed version of the audio, or (as in this case) separate audio tracks for each channel. I imported the video and audio into Logic Pro X, adjusted EQ, overdubbed the other instruments, and generally messed around with it.
The camera has a wide angle lens, which means the edges of the video curve it (as you can see above). One of the advantages of this though is that you can have the camera (and mic) very close to where you’re playing and still get a good view with the camera. There’s another example of this in the next video, recorded in garden with a much quieter instrument. Somewhat ironically (considering the name of the manufacturer), there is no optical zoom on the camera, but it does record very high resolution (above 1080p, but below 4K), so you have plenty of scope for cropping the video and still leaving a good image.
Outside, the mic does suffer a bit of wind noise – a foam windshield is included, which I used in this video but you still notice it (e.g. around 1min 05sec). There’s a lo-cut filter to reduce the impact of this, which was turned off during this recording.
The Q8 can also be used as a USB mic for an iPad or Mac/PC. This is the one feature I’m a bit disappointed with. Yes, it works, but the latency is so bad, it’s pretty much unusable. If all you want to do is record the audio onto the iPad, I suppose it’s OK, but even with direct monitoring, it’s impossible to keep multiple tracks in sync. I was particularly disappointed with Zoom Support’s unhelpfulness when I asked them about this – they tried to tell me that such latency was inevitable, which is clearly nonsense, because I can use a Zoom H2n with my Mac with no noticeable latency (doesn’t work with the iPad though). Anyway, although this is disappointing, it wasn’t the main reason I bought the Q8, and hopefully it will get fixed with a software update in the future.
Apart from that, overall I’m delighted with the Q8. It does what I wanted it to do very well indeed. But it is a very specific device for a very specific purpose so probably won’t suit everyone.