q3

Snack-sized, solid state HD video is cheap and affordable these days. Sure, a handheld video recorder like the Flip HD or Kodak Zi6 may not rival your real camcorder, but they’re dirt cheap, fit in your pocket, and with good lighting can put out really nice footage. There’s just one problem – the sound is often utterly dreadful. (I picked up a Zi6 this week because its audio is pretty reasonable, but it’s not stereo and I wouldn’t use it in an audio-critical situation.)

Hmmm… if only your favorite HD video handheld and something like the awesome Zoom H4n could combine…

It seems Samson/Zoom heard your wish. The Q3 has the stereo mic from the H4n – a really great-sounding mic for field recording, one that almost magically seems to make things sound good in tough situations. But it adds to that native MPEG-4 video recording. Pop in a 32GB SDHC card and the device promises up to 16 hours. (Or bring a few cards – they’re removable.) And you get high-quality stereo audio, something that even fairly pricey camcorders almost always lack. (Heck, even the supposed prosumer or even “pro” models are often downright awful in the sound department.)

Another unique feature: while most camcorders are limited to lossy audio, you can actually record full 44.1/48kHz PCM WAV. In fact, I could actually see carrying one of these to a gig alongside your pro camera; you can use the 640×480 picture as a reference and have an additional sound source.

There has to be a catch, right? Well, for starters this doesn’t give you HD video. Granted, the Zi6 and Flip HD are only 720p, and the sensors aren’t the best, but having that extra resolution can be forgiving and gives you a 16:9 aspect ratio to boot, plus lovely 60 fps. On the other hand, sensor quality and optics matter more than specs on paper; I’d settle for 640×480 picture if the video quality is good – and I can tell you right now, you’re unlikely to beat the Q3 on sound quality. (That said, a Q3 HD seems inevitable at some point.) Also, unlike an H4n, this doesn’t have a mic input jack, so you can’t easily switch over to a lavalier mic. Combined, that should mean if you’ve bought an H4n and a video camera, there’s no reason for buyers’ remorse. But this still has some use – and suggests some good stuff coming to us soon, too.

Availability: September (at least, so says @samsontech via Twitter – and in Q3, ironically enough). Pricing: Zoom says expect a US$250 street price.

Details from Samson:
Q3 – Handy Video Recorder

q3card

Via Darren Landrum.

  • http://noticiasaudio.com det

    i already told you this on twitter, but here i go again:

    lately, zoom seems to be doing everything right! kudos to them!!

  • http://friendfeed.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    I did some poking around, and the street price on this thing is aiming at somewhere around $250, so it's more likely the H2 with a camera attached. Still, for someone doing lone-wolf podcasting involving travel or locations, it might be very hard to beat. We'll have to see just how good it is once it hits the streets.

  • http://friendfeed.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    As far as resolution is concerned, well… How many people really care all that much about HD resolution on the web? It's one thing if you're a large commercial entity, but for independent producers, I think the kinds of people watching such video podcasts are happy with it being watchable. 640 x 480 is twice the number of lines of your basic analog TV signal, and will probably look just fine embedded on a blog.

    Besides, the research has shown that people actually care more about sound, anyway. People on the whole will put up with occasional video glitches as long as the sound remains intact. Glitch the sound, though, and even with perfect picture, they get annoyed.

  • http://friendfeed.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    Argh! I knew I was forgetting one more important point. Sorry, only one more post.

    The other things to keep in mind is editability. HD requires some reasonable resources to edit efficiently. VGA resolution, though, like this thing does, can be edited on a small netbook which is almost as portable as this camera is. So not only can that traveling podcaster in the field shoot his or her footage, they can edit it, too, with inexpensive and easily toted gear.

    Okay, I'm done with my what-should-have-been-a-blog-post now. :)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, right, but here's the deal — often shooting at HD winds up being more forgiving when you scale down, it means you have a 16:9 aspect ratio, and you have the option of cropping. That said, sensor quality is still everything, and you might not want to shoot at HD if you're also recording lossless audio. ;) So it does make some sense. Main thing really isn't that detail so much as finding out what the footage quality is like!

  • http://friendfeed.com/dmlandrum Darren Landrum

    Okay, point taken. Another thing to keep in mind is that the next-gen Netbooks are right around the corner, with decent graphics chips and hopefully higher-resolution screens.

    The other thing I wish this Zoom had were mics pointing back toward the person holding the camera. Then you could record interviews without swinging the camera around each time someone finishes speaking, hoping your getting the framing right. But hey, can't have everything, right? May as well ask for a zoom lens and manual white balance.

  • Vehical Driver

    I would buy this thing tomorrow if it did 720p, let alone 1080p. I know people might think HD isn't a big deal, but if you have a big TV low def looks really bad.

    But yeah, I agree… Zoom is on a roll with cool and cheap products nowadays.

  • http://torley.com Torley

    Fascinating — and hopefully this will be successful enough to lead to future generations with HD, which becomes increasingly consumerized. I had a Flip MinoHD before returning it. Despite the resolution, the audio recording was very thin (lacked bass and presence) and the resulting MP4 files had many visible artifacts and rolling shutter. So at as-is 1280×720, they were lacking. Only after color correction and downsampling did they appear crisp to my satisfaction.

    This also comes in handy for visually documenting location recording. Via Designing Sound, I watched a couple videos where Richard Devine narrates his and Josh Kay's work for The Electronic Manuscript, and something like this may have been handy — even if Devine uses M-Audio portable recorders.

  • In The Market

    Thank God this was announced. I was a day or two away from buying an ZoomH2, now I'll have to rethink my options. I Wonder how durable it in comparison…

  • http://AaronUrbanski.com urbster1

    If you didn't have a field recorder and picked this up because of the great audio quality, and say you're in the woods and don't particularly want to waste tons of space recording video but just want the audio of ambient nature sounds, does it do audio-only recording?

  • http://www.marcoraaphorst.com Marco Raaphorst

    don't forget the Creative Vado HD. I am using and love it.

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  • Esol Esek

    I returned a zoom H2 20 minutes after I received it for unbelievably cheap materials and a terrible interface. Hope this has got more heft to it, and a better interface as well. The H2 left a lot to be desired.

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