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BY KEITH PATANKAR
Each one of you are a story teller, showing the world what you experience through your eyes behind the camera and lens. And we have now entered into a digital era of multimedia where still and motion picture are no longer separate media, with communicators often using both to tell their story. So, in this product review, we’re looking beyond the usual essentials already found in your bag of equipment — your camera, the right lenses for the job, flashes, and anything else you use to steady or modify your camera for the type photography you do. The next essential piece of the equipment puzzle is audio.
Whether you use a digital still camera or video camera, quality audio is now equally as important as the picture you show. Enter in the Zoom H4N, a digital audio recorder capable of capturing high quality audio on 4 channels. This tool is a valuable piece to do interviews, enhance the sound quality of your video, or record separate tracks to input into a slideshow.
The Zoom H4N is more than a standard voice recorder (there are a million of them on the market today), it has features that work in tandem with today’s photographer/videographer, Starting with the most important thing: sound quality. The Zoom H4N produces crisp, high-quality sound. It will record in stereo 96 kHz/24-bit audio. You have control over the modes you want to record and can adjust it as needed. The audio is recorded in a WAV file format or you can lower it to record in a standard MP3 format. One amazing thing is the ability to record on four channels. With four-channel recording, your audio will sound more professional. For example, you can capture music and get all the layers of each instrument, far and near, to sound equally crisp.
Even though Zoom originally designed this mic recorder for the music recording business, you can quickly notice all the features are designed around today’s videographer. The Zoom H4N was completely redesigned and thought out for today’s DLR shooter or video camcorder. It has XLR connections for the higher-end camcorders or mixers. It also has a mini mic jack that will plug into most digital SLRs. You can record two separate tracks and sync them up in software later. The top of the x/y microphones will rotate from a 120-degree angle to a 90-degree angle. This is useful if you want to change from doing an interview where you want to concentrate the sound on the person talking, to picking up all the surrounding audio.
The Zoom H4N is a solid design that can stand up to the rigors of today’s photographer on the go, though, its size is a little bulky and you can not just throw it into your pocket. But on the plus side, the menu system is intuitive with a side scroll wheel that lets you quickly navigate the many features. It illuminates, making it easy to read the options. However, if you are new to this type of equipment, there are plenty of options that can get overwhelming, so do not let this deter you novices out there.
It runs off of AA batteries and has a battery life of 6-11 hours with the stamina mode enabled. Other connections include a headphone jack and USB out to download to your computer. The Zoom H4N records to a SD/SDHC memory card. This is very convenient since most of us have this type of card with our digital cameras.
Overall, the Zoom H4N is an excellent handheld microphone that can be put to good use for today’s photographer. It is great for interviews, documenting events and recording excellent audio to supplement DSLR videos. The Zoom h4H is a tool in today’s multimedia world that can add another dimension to everyone’s storytelling. ♦
—Keith Patankar works in outside sales, marketing and specialty market at Hunts Photo & Video in Melrose, Mass. Please feel free to contact Patankar directly at 781-462-2340 with any related question.