Zoom has been coming on strongly for the last few years and their pace only seems to be picking up.
I'm a fan of their Zoom F8 recorder which they released in late 2015. The quality of the recorder is top notch both in terms of build and in terms of the audio quality it records. The preamplifiers are powerful and clean with a nice neutral sound. The screen is great. The main encoder/dial is great and the menus are good. Overall ergonomics are good though the overall unit is quite small which makes for very small channel potentiometers/knobs. Since the knobs serve double duty as gain trim and faders and as mentioned, are quite small, mixing can be tricky. There's a bluetooth iOS app which allows you to enter metadata and mix, but the mixing capabilities are still a little rough because the on-screen fader is a little too jumpy. But for the price, the F8 is a GREAT recorder. This is accessible to some enthusiast filmmakers and with it, they can produce sound every bit as good as professional productions.
Once Zoom begins shipping the F4, there will be an even lower cost recorder ($650 vs the F8 at $999) which makes this audio quality even more accessible.
Several have asked and yes, I plan to review this as soon as I am able to get my hands on one. I'm very excited about the F4.
From the specs, it looks like the F4 has the same great preamplifiers as the F8. That's a very good start. Also, the F4 looks to have the same form-factor and solid metal build. Same battery configuration and hirose input for external batteries. Dual SD cards which allow backup or recording to different formats simultaneously.
But there are some changes, some look very good and some which are sacrifices which come with a lower priced unit:
- Gain/Fader knobs (potentiometers) are larger on the F4 simply because there's more room for them. This is good!
- The screen looks to be similar to the lower resolution screen on the H4n Pro or perhaps the H5. This is not nearly as nice as the F8, but still potentially workable. It should be viewable in direct sunlight.
- Main outputs are full size XLR. This is an improvement over the F8's TA3 connectors which will generally need to be adapted for monitors, outs to camera, or wireless hops to camera or director.
- Bluetooth: F4 does not appear to be Bluetooth enabled so there's no iOS app for metadata entry or mixing
- SD Card slots have moved from the left side to the battery compartment on the back.
Overall, this looks like it may be a great choice for those who want very good quality audio at a price well under $1000. Should have an initial impressions piece up in October and a final review in November if the units ship on schedule in October.