Sunday, September 11, 2016

Zoom F4/F8 feature comparison

With the release announcement this week for the Zoom F4, we can be sure that Zoom is committed to the professional sector of the market. This unit is similar to the Zoom F8, so I thought I would provide a quick overview of the similarities and differences, plus any limitations to look out for.

The first thing is price. While the Zoom F8 retails for $1000, the Zoom F4 is coming in at a ridiculously low $650. This will translate to European and UK pricing in the usual way.

Units are expected in October, though I would say more realistically November. I can also predict that initial stocks will sell out immediately... this is going to be a hit!

What's the same
The Zoom F4 is the same size as its predecessor (178 x 141 x 54 mm) but actually a bit heavier (1030 g versus 960 g). It has the same operation, menu, and internals... so the same limiter, HPF, mid-side decoding, phase inversion, etc. You will be happy to know that it has the same excellent pre-amps and circuitry. And also time-code! In fact, the F4 is cheaper than many dedicated time-code units. So, you could look at it as getting the recorder part free!

Dual SD card recording is here. Dual-channel recording is here. Recording formats support BWF compatible WAV files up to 24-bit 192 kHz, or MP3. The power options are identical to the F8, with a AA battery sled built in.

What's new and cool
The front panel is more usable. There is a new Option button for shortcut keys. Also a new Output button for quick access to routing. Larger trim knobs are provided. Excellent!

The main stereo outs are now on full-size XLR, so there's no need for an adapter. There's a 3.5mm stereo input that can be used as a camera return (for monitoring only). This is going to please anyone looking for a companion to a DSLR or other inexpensive video solution.

Unlike the F8, the F4 comes with a DC to Hirose adapter. And, like the F8, a camera mount adapter, though this is a different unit, for some reason.

What is lost
The screen is monochrome rather than colour, a limitation I can't really understand.

There is no BlueTooth for connection to the iOS app. This means nothing to me as an Android user, and in any case I do not need to mix in the field. For others, this will be worth the price difference to get the F8.

There is no slate mic, although the slate tone feature is present.

Instead of 8 microphone inputs, there are only four. Instead of recording 10 channels (8 ISO plus mix) the F4 records 8 (6 ISO plus mix). You get the extra two input channels by using the stereo input 5/6 or, if you have one, a Zoom mic capsule adapter.

For many of us, this is a better option than the Zoom F8. Not only are the ergonomics and usability improved, but it's so much cheaper. There are only two reasons to get the F8. You need the iOS mix app. You need 8 inputs.

The Zoom F4 is now the recorder I will recommend to everyone else.

Here's the North American product page.



robin said...

There is plenty of confusion over what the F4 can record on channels 5 and 6. One part of the promotional material implies it is only the optional Zoom microphone capsule, but another part says it could include the camera return. We await the manual to be sure.

robin said...

Thanks to Andrew Jones, that issue is clarified. The F4 does indeed record the stereo input on 5/6. Or, if you have one, a Zoom mic adapter instead. So you can easily use this model as a 6 channel recorder.

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