aNewDomain.net — Earlier this month some of my friends here at aNewDomain went to Las Vegas to cover ShowStoppers and CES 2014. By now you’ve read the majority of our coverage and seen the variety of awesome gadgets at this monstrosity of a show-and-tell convention. What you haven’t yet seen are some of the handy toys we used to cover the show. In this article I’m going to show you the tech our ShowStoppers team used to cover the floor at CES this year. Here’s a shot of the tech I packed for the trip.
Guess what? It’s all mobile devices for us!
I’m not going to lie — besides the huge, professional camera gear our mobile team was rocking to specifically capture the ShowStoppers footage, the rest of our time was spent wandering the halls like zombies from The Walking Dead using mobile devices. Mainly Ant Pruitt’s Galaxy Nexus and my Moto X. But, besides phones and tablets we used a couple of cool recording gadgets.
Ant wrote about the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder, a device we used for taking notes and recording audio on the go. I’m going to talk about the Zoom Q2HD Handy Video Recorder.
When we set out to find a decent, low-cost mobile recording solution, there were a ton of options for around $100. I’ve seen recording gear of this caliber in the $100 to $200 range — I definitely wouldn’t pay any more than that, though.
I’ll say it, unless you have the Q2HD on a tripod with really good lighting, your video is going to look worse than a cell phone video. I didn’t think my hand was shaking that bad, but the camera didn’t like it one bit. The audio, on the other hand, is a whole different story, as most reviews point out.
It’s all about the Mid-Side recording.
Mid-Side recording, originally offered by Zoom on the H2n Handy Recorder, is a technique that’s been used for many years in film and broadcast, where ambiance is crucial. Mid-Side recording combines a unidirectional Mid mic that captures sound directly in front of you and a bidirectional Side mic that captures sound from your left and right. By increasing or decreasing the level of the Side mic, you can control the width of the stereo field, which gives you incredible flexibility over your recordings. With its condenser microphones in 30° to 150° Mid-Side stereo configuration, the Q2HD gives you natural depth and accurate imaging.”
Sure, it might be a bunch of marketing spin, but the audio does sound a lot better than clips from a smartphone. After all, that is the bar. For the price, if you want an actual video camera that will record good audio, I would recommend something like the JVC Everio. But again, for the price, you probably won’t find this level of audio quality in anything else.
The audio recorded by the Zoom Q2HD Handy Video Recorder is 24-bit/96 kHz PCM, which you can change to AAC (m4a format) for a slightly smaller file size. I would honestly just use a larger card, though. If you have a mini-USB cable, you can plug the Q2 into your computer and use the supplied drivers to turn it into a webcam or mic for the computer. Also, note that the software is on the SD card it comes with, so you might want to keep the card around.
The Q2 spits out MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 .mov files, which didn’t seem to be a problem, even using a PC.
Battery life is another aspect to consider. In audio-only mode you can get three to four hours, but in video mode, you’re lucky if get more than two.
Unless, of course, you grab the handy accessory kit pictured above.
The Q2 also comes with a cool low-cut filter. The input settings allow you switch it on, which reduces background noise and rumble without hurting the audio too much. You can also enable auto-gain, but I found it’s best to use headphones to monitor the levels and adjust accordingly.
The Q2 also has a built-in speaker if headphones aren’t available, but the quality is nothing to write home about. It’s more of a “good enough” situation. Of course, the quieter the recording venue, the better the audio will be.
Look and Feel
The interface isn’t too clunky, and it takes about three seconds from the time you hold down the power button until it’s ready to record. The layout is basic — mess around with the menu a bit and it all becomes very natural.
I also found that when holding the Q2HD while recording video, the camera sits in an awkward position. My finger always wanted to move for a better grip. But, as I said earlier, your best bet for recording video on this is with a tripod. There is an accessory kit available on Amazon for roughly $35 — it comes with a tripod, windscreen and some other things you might find useful.
All in all the Zoom Q2HD Handy Video Recorder was nice to have around, in case the phones died, or if we wanted an extra device to capture audio with. I tried to capture some video with it, but most of it came out unfit for consumption. Par for the course with these devices in my experience.
Be sure to check out Ant Pruitt’s review of the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder here on AND.
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Mat Lee.
Based in Kalispell, Montana, Mat Lee is a senior editor and podcaster at aNewDomain.net. He is yet another teamBYTE vet on our aNewDomain.net edit team and he hosts the popular Yet Another Tech Show (YATS). He is an Android man. Email Mat at Mat@aNewDomain.net and follow him on Google+, where he is +Mat Lee.
Thank you for the review! Could you tell me, how’s the audio quality of the Q2 compared to the Zoom H1? Which one would you prefer for recording audio (band rehearsals and concerts mostly)? I used to have a H1 which I lost and want to replace and now they both cost the same amount – video would be nice to have, but I don’t want to sacrifice sound quality for that. Thank you!