If you’re a musician, you very well understand the importance of good audio, and the video to support the audio. However, there aren’t a lot of good cameras that can record great video with high-quality audio, without putting a hole in your pocket.
Zoom’s Q2n filled this gap in the market, and now there is an updated version with better video capability. As the name suggests, the Zoom Q2n-4k is capable of shooting 4k video, while recording high-quality audio. More on that in the review that follows…
So, is this is the best video recorder for musicians, then? Let’s find out!
Zoom Q2n-4k: How does it look?
Zoom has managed to keep the Q2n-4k really small – at 83.0mm high, 68.5mm wide, and 58.7mm thick. It weighs 124g. This makes it barely larger than a regular action camera, and not much heavier. However, the two AA batteries you’ll need to keep it running will add a little to its weight.
The Q2n-4k (Check current price) is so small, it will fit in the palm of your hand – or in a pant pocket. However, notice that the height is more than the width, because of the microphones that are mounted on top of the camera itself, so it looks and feels more vertical instead of horizontal, like other action cameras.
Zoom Q2n-4k Video Specifications
The Zoom Q2n and Q2n 4k have small differences in audio specs, but the big change is in video recording. As the name suggests, the Q2n-4k can record in 4k and uses a 1/2.3” 16M-flexible CMOS sensor. The lens is capable of f2.8 and has a 150-degree field of view. This is a wide-angle lens that should make sure you’re in the shot even if you point the Q2n-4k approximately in the right direction. A lens hood is packaged along with the camera, which is nice.
The Q2n video recording topped out at 1080p/30fps, but the Q2n-4k can do much more. It can record in the following resolutions and frame rates: 720p/24fps, 720p/30fps, 1080p/24fps, 1080p/25fps, 1080p/30fps, 1080p/50fps, 1080p/60fps, 4k/24fps, 4k/25fps, and 4k/30fps.
The Q2n-4k will record in either MPEG-4 AVC or H.264 (MOV) formats. We’re not sure if anyone would want to record in 720p these days, but the different frame rates in 1080p and more importantly 4k will allow you to make some really appealing slow-motion shots.
In addition, the wide lens can be set to one of five fields of view, from the full 150 degrees wide to a ‘tele scene’ setting. That’s right, this is a Zoom with zoom, albeit of the digital kind.
It also has 12 ‘scene’ settings, which assist video recording in different situations. Some of them like ‘outdoor’, ‘concert light’, and ‘jazz club’ will no doubt be used quite a bit by owners, but we’re not sure that ‘sepia’ or ‘monochrome’ will be used much, given the power of post-processing for video today.
The Zoom Q2n-4k records video files as a single file, and it can take up to 256GB cards. It requires at least a Class 10 micro SDHC or micro SDXC card to operate effectively. Most cameras break up a long video take into separate 4GB files on the memory card, which can be very time consuming if you have multiple takes.
Zoom Q2n-4k Audio Specifications
A lot of effort has gone in here – the Q2n-4k has a very impressive array of audio recording capabilities. It can record audio in the uncompressed .wav format, at the following bitrates: 96kHz/24bit, 48kHz/24bit, and 44.1kHz/16bit. It can also function as a standalone audio recorder, and record only audio, without video.
The XY mics are set at a fixed 120 degrees. They can take up to 120dB SPL, which is really very impressive. You can set the gain manually by looking at the live meters on the screen, or you can simply leave it on ‘auto’ and the Q2n-4k will make sure your audio doesn’t clip. It offers four gain modes – Off, Concert, Solo, and Meeting, to help you set up quickly.
Zoom has also thoughtfully put a thumbwheel on the side that controls the input gain, for those who want easy access.
It also offers a low cut that should help cut wind noise. The low cut is adjustable and can be set at 80Hz, 120Hz, or 160Hz.
You can also set a slight delay for the audio when you’re using the Q2n-4k as a webcam, and you can monitor the input directly while it is being used as a USB mic.
The Q2n-4k also has a line in input, in case you’d prefer to use another audio source for recording. There is a headphone out as well as an onboard speaker for you to monitor the audio that you’ve recorded.
What does the Zoom Q2n-4k do best?
As expected, the Zoom Q2n-4k is one of the best portable cameras for recording audio and video at the same time. That max rating of 120dB SPL is an incredible figure – look up a sound chart, and you’ll find out that that’s how loud a jet aircraft is at takeoff. Most rock concerts run-up to 110dB SPL, so there’s more than enough headroom for the Q2n-4k to be the audio/video recorder that will record your band’s concert without distortion.
The stereo micing setup means that even setting up at home for a video of you playing an instrument solo will give you audio with depth, thanks to the XY micing setup.
Few Other Aspects of the Zoom Q2n-4k
The Zoom Q2n-4k can hook up to a computer and be used as a webcam as well, with 720p WVGA video and 48kHz/16 bit audio. Again, if you’re a musician and the audio quality that you put out on your webcast matters to you, the Q2n-4k is a simple solution that helps you avoid configuring multiple devices like a webcam and a separate audio interface to work in harmony with your webcasting app. In this sense, it just might be the best video recorder to stream live music, given its audio capability and ease of setting up.
The Zoom can be powered by an external portable battery like a power bank via the micro USB port, which is a plus. It will first draw on the external power and then switch to the internal power once the external power is depleted.
There is also an HDMI out provided, meaning an external monitor can be attached – but that will take away from the value proposition that the Q2n-4k provides.
We wouldn’t purchase it for this purpose, but the Q2n-4k can also be used as a card reader.
Limitations of the Zoom Q2n-4k?
- It doesn’t have anti-shake, but that’s alright – the Q2n-4k was never intended to be an action camera. It was intended for use mounted, to record the musician who values audio over everything else, although it does manage to hold its own as a vlogging tool.
- The requirement of AA battery power can be a bit outdated, but it certainly helps keep both costs and that weight figure down. Recording at 4k will quickly drain the power, so you’ll need to invest in a good set of rechargeable cells.
Zoom knows of this problem, so they’ve also offered an extended battery pack attachment that fits the bottom of the camera. This extended pack contains four AA batteries and needs to be connected to the camera with a micro USB cable.
- The small 1.77” LCD screen at the back might not be big enough for you, with its 160x128px resolution – and there’s no wifi/NFC capability, so if you’re a single person setting up a shot, you’ll have to set your frame up with an approximate idea of where you’ll be in the shot – or you’ll actually have to do a take, and then verify the placement of your video elements on playback.
This isn’t a big problem because of the 150-degree wide lens, but the ability to see the shot as it happens would have made life so much easier. What IS really simple are the physical buttons at the back of the Q2n-4k that allow you to access all its functions extremely simply.
Who will benefit the most from the Zoom Q2n-4k?
Musicians who want great audio on the go will have the most use for the Q2n-4k. Those who are not comfortable with tech will find the little Zoom a great midpoint between the ability to record great audio and decent video. Even the concert attendee who wants to record the moment for posterity but without the distortion from high volumes will find it dead useful.
Zoom Q2n-4k Summary
The one thing we realized during this Zoom Q2n-4k review is that around the $300 price point, the Q2n-4k becomes the default choice for those who want video but are not willing to compromise on audio quality. You can try pairing a 4k video camera with a dedicated mic to get better audio, but the price quickly spirals way beyond the Q2n-4k’s sticker price. No other product at this price point has this combination of great audio and decent video recording, making it one of the best video recorders for musicians on a budget. Very aptly, Zoom markets it as the 4k camera for musicians.