Coming out of leftfield, Zoom’s Q3 recorder is completely unlike other pocket camcorders: for a change high-quality sound is the primary objective. Zoom’s heritage is in audio, and it’s well known for guitar effects pedals, but the Q3 adds a healthy dose of video to the mix.
The VGA-resolution video (640x480) is a long way from the HD capabilities of the latest crop of handy-size cams but the colours are mainly accurate and you get smooth movement rather than jerky pixels. The inclusion of a 2.4in LCD is a bonus, and the clear display helps accurate framing.
Movies and audio are recorded to SDHC/SD card, and a 2MB card is supplied. Careful capturing is the order of the day, though, as the chunky and far from pocket-friendly Q3 uses AA batteries. You’ll get two hours of movies or four hours’ audio recording from a fresh set of copper tops.
The audio recording options are immense, and the Zoom Q3 is certain to interest musicians and bands (who can use it to record soundchecks and demos), as well as anyone who wants to create podcasts or blogs. Zoom even supplies a microphone windshield to help you record crisper dialogue.
There are enough audio settings to keep you tweaking for hours: audio meters allow you to monitor recording levels, while Low and High gain options make it possible to capture decent sound in loud or quiet environments.
There are two condenser microphones on the Q3, so you’re actually making stereo recordings, with the best-possible quality setting of 96kHz/24-bit resolution delivering better-than-CD quality. A range of MP3 options – from 48kbps up to 320kbps – means you can choose to keep file sizes smaller, which is better when it comes to emailing files or hosting them on a website.
The Q3’s built-in USB cable makes for a quick connection to a computer, and the recorder’s software is compatible with both PC and Mac.
The audio quality from the Q3 is superb and its menu options give you great flexibility in tailoring sound to meet your needs: whether that’s files you can email easily or just the crispest, most-detailed recording.
Although it’s on the large side for a pocket camcorder the Q3 is never anything other than very easy to use. Our only qualm is just how much better it’d be with hi-def video – there’s no news on a successor yet, but it’s surely in the pipeline. Until then, the Q3 will do nicely.