Zoom Q3HD Camcorder Review
- Amazing audio quality for a camcorder
- Easy to use and records full HD video
- Build feels a bit cheap
- Doesn’t include rechargeable batteries
- Screen is unremarkable
With the proliferation of smartphone video cameras, most now reaching 720p HD quality, it’s anyone’s guess why one would invest in a stand alone pocket sized camcorder. Enter the Zoom Q3HD. It records full HD video, but what makes this gizmo a worthy look is its dual condenser microphones.
From a build standpoint, the Q3HD leaves something to be desired. The body is crafted of light weight plastic that isn’t cheap, but probably wouldn’t stand up to a short drop to the pavement; it’s a bit too light weight for my liking. The buttons are also made of plastic, and while they’re very responsive they do feel a bit hollow to the touch when pressed.
Much like Flip‘s camcorders and Sony’s Bloggie Touch, the Q3HD has a built-in USB plug for transferring footage to any computer. It mount as a USB storage device, meaning you can drag and drop files to your desktop as you see necessary. Other ports include a headphone jack, line in, 5V DC power port, TV out and SD card slot.
The Q3HD’s mono speaker is subpar and is very shrill
Despite the Q3HD’s ability to capture full HD video, the LCD screen is a bit low in resolution (320×240) as is the overall brightness, during playback. Though its size, 2.4-inches, suffices in most use cases. More on this later.
At first blush the UI of the Q3HD seemed to be years behind the competition. But what it lacks in flash is made up for in simplicity. Finding video settings, audio recording options and so forth is a snap and can immediately be administered without reaching for the manual.
The dual condenser microphones can record audio in two formats: PCM and AAC. AAC is limited to 48khz, while PCM allows for a variable bit rate ranging from 44.1khz to 96khz. To save space, AAC can be limited to 160kbps or increased to 320kbps, the latter akin to CD quality sound. PCM provides just two bit rate options, 16 and 24bit.
The dual condenser mics provide stereo sound that is folds above the competition
Optically the Q3HD wasn’t as tight as the Sony Bloggie Touch and struggled in a similar fashion when presented with darkly lit rooms. I mostly stuck to recording in 720p mode since that presents the best option in terms of bandwidth when uploading to video sharing sites. The Q3HD lacks an auto focus feature, which means a set focal length, requiring objects to be at least a few feet from the lens for a crisp image.
Clearly the bread and butter of the Q3HD is its ability to capture audio. It adds a level of depth not found in the Flip or Sony Bloggie Touch pocket camcorders. Though I didn’t take the Q3HD to a concert, where I’m sure it would reign supreme, the level of audio depth achieved during my testing was folds above the competition. Street noise, chirping birds, airplanes and those alike are now on par with the quality of the picture one expect from a full HD piece of kit. A switch, placed on the left side of the camcorder, allows the gain to be adjusted from low, to high to auto. Auto, which is probably the best choice for most scenarios, at times decreased the volume of the audio too much, leaving me to increase the audio output in post to compensate for the low volume. Unfortunately, the on board speaker was sub par, and produced distorted output despite the audio playing back perfectly on my computer.
The Q3HD has a fair amount of video output options, including HDMI and headphone
Included are two AA disposable batteries, so if you want a rechargeable experience you’ll need to seek those out on your own. Zoom says you should achieve about 2-4 hours of use per charge, which seemed to be on par with my experience.
Since the core focus of the Q3HD is audio quality, which in turn means that audio levels need to be displayed on the screen, a small portion, less than half of it, is used to show the image during recording. However, during playback the screen is used in full, but you’ll be required to turn it width wise. With that said, unlike the Bloggie Touch, the Q3HD lacks an accelerometer, so all footage has be recorded holding the camcorder in portrait mode, which makes sense given the placement of the microphones.
The Q3HD suffers from a few short coming in the optics department, but makes up for it with stellar audio recoding in a pocket sized format. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to bring your own memory card, the screen isn’t the best we’ve seen and the body of the device feels a bit cheap.
Amazon has the Zoom Q3HD for $299.