Zoom solves the issue of bad audio in your videos by building a camera into a microphone

Nov 10, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Zoom solves the issue of bad audio in your videos by building a camera into a microphone

Nov 10, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Bad audio is something that’s plagued action cameras since their inception. Some of them don’t do too terrible, and a few even let you plug in external mics. But action camera sound does generally tend to feel like an afterthought. Zoom have come up with a novel way of solving this issue. Instead of trying to cram better quality microphones into cameras, they’ve put the camera into the microphone.

That’s basically what the new Zoom Q2n is. A microphone with a camera & LCD shoved into it. It’s actually a pair of stereo microphones in an XY configuration recording at up to 96Khz 24Bit Far beyond anything available in other action cameras (or even DSLRs, for that matter). It shoots 1080p at 24 or 30fps.

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The Q2n is powered by a pair of AA batteries and records its data to microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity. It has a 1.7″ 160×128 pixel LCD, which I’m guessing probably not touchscreen. Despite having what is probably a pretty capable pair of microphones built in, it does allow you to insert an external microphone through a 3.5mm jack. It also has HDMI output, a 3.5mm stereo headphones jack, and a USB2.0 socket. It also has what looks like a standard 1/4-20″ tripod socket.

When you look at the specs, especially when you compare to things like the GoPro Hero5 Black and Nikon Keymission 170, it doesn’t seem like anything special. There’s no 4K, no image stabilisation, no underwater housing, no slew of accessories. But, when you consider the price, and the audio quality one expects from a Zoom device, it is a very attractive little unit if you can live within its limitations.

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It does look quite brutal from the front, I grant you. It has a mostly symmetrical design, save for the microphone capsule housing. It’s a very different form factor from most of the action cameras we currently use.

There’s no mention of an underwater housing, so it’s not likely aimed directly at the extreme action market. I can see it being a very handy tool for vloggers, though, who feel a little frustrated with the sound quality of the alternatives. With a 160° wide field of view, I would imagine it’s fairly easy to ensure you’re in the shot, even if you can’t see the LCD.

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A pretty cool feature of this camera that’s definitely geared towards sound is that it can record the audio and video tracks separately. This makes it a lot easier for processing in post, getting rid of background noise, hums, etc. It can also be dedicated solely to the job of recording audio, without enabling the camera at all in Audio-Only mode.

When you’re not using it as a portable recording device, it can also serve as a webcam. Use it for Skype or live streaming over YouTube, Facebook and other platforms.

It’s a very interesting take on a type of camera that many of us already feel quite comfortable with. I’m not sure if this style of camera could oust the action cameras on a larger scale, but I can definitely see a purpose for such a camera. Zoom seem to be gearing it mostly towards musicians, judging by the sample videos already on YouTube.

I think it has a little further reach than that, though. The quality doesn’t look bad at all, and you can certainly hear the quality in the sound. I think this one might have to go on my list.

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video

The Zoom Q2n Handy Video Recorder is available to pre-order now for $159.99. Deliveries are expected to start shipping out on November 14th.

What do you think? Can you see the Zoom Q2n fitting into your workflow? Replacing any current devices? Does it offer you options you don’t easily have right now? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “Zoom solves the issue of bad audio in your videos by building a camera into a microphone”

  1. Cédric Hauteville Avatar
    Cédric Hauteville

    I don’t understand why you keep comparing it to action cameras, this is a different product entirely.

  2. Marcin Dąbrowski Avatar
    Marcin Dąbrowski

    theyve already done this a few years ago, but it was more camcorder style, not this small form factor “action cam” type

  3. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Interesting device… the targetting also seems to be perfect, albeit niche.
    I’m not sure if there is any other solution aimed squarely at musicians in this small of a package, so this is a very interesting bet from Zoom.

    And since it’s more or less priced like a regular hand recorder, it’d make sense to get it as a sound recorder with B-roll video anyways.

    For YouTubers and video casters though I’m not so sure… these folks usually need directional audio (USB mic right in front of them, or lavalier), and the Logitech C920 line is more or less the industry standard at less than half the price. Looks interesting for b-roll and video casters/YouTubers that don’t live stream though. Quick and dirty way to setup a group interview, could be.

    As action cam, it makes even less sense. No casing, no water resistance, and I’m not sure if the major part of the device (the XY microphone) would be useful in action camera situations (lots of wind, movement and outdoors situations).

    Well, it kinda depends on how the image quality compares to other cameras. It looks good from promo videos, but you know, promo videos. If it can do well enough out of the box without editing, close equal to or better than other 1080p cameras, could be worth sacrifices for different scenarios.

  4. Daniel R. Chang Acat Avatar
    Daniel R. Chang Acat

    Rebeca Venegas Gonzales

  5. Micah Eberman Avatar
    Micah Eberman

    We’ve heard of someone else making action cameras. “Go-something”. ;)

    Anyway, different tool for different things. The Q2n is the camera for musicians, with high-resolution audio paired with HD video and a multitude of lighting settings—from low-lit club to bright daylight to sunset…something you need at gigs that you can’t get from action cameras. Thanks for the write-up, and conversation!

    XOXO from Micah at Zoom

  6. Juraj Krajčík Avatar
    Juraj Krajčík

    I am owning one. But i cant find nowhere set-up to use camera only as a webcam and recording from my mixer. i use as a dj two pioneers cd/usb-players, pioneer djm 750 mixer, camera atached with 3,5 jack trough record (red input) to mixer rec-out. and would like use cam while streaming only as webcam but a i seem not able to disable microhpone so there is perfectly heard when i move crossfaders and so on. A atached camera to mixer but how should i disabe its sound. To example trough OBS. Can anybody help , give adviece or experienced this.