Japanese company Zoom is know for its outstanding audio recorders. I've known dozens of journalists and documentary filmmakers who won't use anything else. Zoom just released the Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder (retail $399), which aims to combine its world-class audio expertise with a video camera.
The Q8 is bigger than a GoPro but not much bigger than one of Zoom's audio recorders (see the DVD in the image above for scale).
The LCD touchscreen opens out and features easy-to-understand settings software, much better than the controls on Zoom's audio recorders. The microphone unit folds up and there's an easy-to-access levels control on the top of the unit. There are dual XLR connectors on the back if you want to bring your own microphones and the device even provides phantom power if you need it.
The whole unit folds for storage and transport.
The included X/Y condensers microphone is detachable.
The Q8 can use the other mics that are available for Zoom audio recorders.
The battery is removable in case you want to swap out multiple batteries, but there's also a micro USB charging cable for charging the unit from your computer or a USB wall charger. Zoom offers the BT-03 rechargeable battery if you want a backup and the ZOOM LBC-1 charger for external charging.
The Q8 records up to 24-Bit / 96 kHz Audio and up to four tracks. The audio quality is outstanding and it would be an excellent buy at $400 if it was only an audio recorder. The video may create some issues for most people. You can shoot HD video but you've got a 160° wide angle lens that's rated 3MP. That's less than what you've got on your phone, but no way is your phone going to give you this quality of audio. It also puts GoPro audio to shame, although the camera is obviously bulkier than a GoPro.
So who is this for? It's a great option for quick-and-dirty filming at times when you care about the sound. I tried it out filming a loud rock band in a tiny rehearsal space and the condenser mic handled the sound flawlessly. I also filmed a set in a club and got a great audio document. The video images didn't match the audio, though. The Q8 doesn't perform as well in low-light situations.
So, great if you want a relatively low-cost way to document your band. Excellent if you want to conduct interviews in a crowded room, like a convention or reunion or at a trade show. Zoom recommends it as a video camera for podcasters and I think it would be a great choice for that as well if you didn't want to invest in an elaborate production setup. I'd definitely like one of these as my backup camera if I was filming interviews for a documentary.
The $400 price is pretty solid at this point. The audio quality far surpasses anything you'd have a right to expect at this price and, paired with a high-end smartphone video camera, you could do some interesting work with great audio and a couple of different camera angles.