Awesome New Zoom F8 Field Recorder – are you sitting down? This will rock you!

by Bret Hoy5 Comments

As modern day independent filmmakers, we’re forced to wear multiple hats. One can’t shoot pro video without at least considering the audio.

One of the pitfalls that claim many indie’s is their inability to capture decent audio. This detracts from whatever is going on in your film.

As a response to this, Zoom has released the Zoom F8 (Buy NOW on B&H) Multi-Track field recorder and it’s packed with features catering directly to the mid range independent filmmaker.

Before I delve into the impressive specs this product boasts, I’d like to point to one, fairly unimportant aspect of the recorder.

It’s just pretty. The design is not only functional—it’s aesthetically pleasing. This is an unexpected, but welcome change to any product line. While this may not directly affect the usability of the Zoom F8, it certainly makes the process of dealing with it more pleasant.

The Zoom F8 sits in a weird corner of the market, directly between professional and amateur. This is a great thing too. It holds the potential to grab high quality audio in professional and safe formats. Up to 24bit/192khz. But really, this is what is expected from a modern recorder such as this.

What isn’t expected? The incredible software and features list that takes this Zoom F8 a step above the competition (Looking at you Tascam).

First of all, the Zoom F8 has 8 channels instead of the conventional 4 (Tascam DR-70D). The good sides of this? It’s obvious. More channels! With more channels you get more options, and so on. The down sides? You can expect battery life to be abysmal when recording 8 channels. Especially if you’re using Phantom Power.

The battery life will be even worse if you’re illuminating the very easy to read and beautiful backlit screen. This is where you make a trade-off between usability and battery life. The screen is just gorgeous and will only make capturing audio easier. Luckily, in environments where the light is unnecessary, you can dim it, to increase battery life.

Zoom F8 featured image

What else is exciting about this recorder? The Bluetooth capabilities of course. In case you’re shooting in direct sunlight and want to avoid cranking up the backlight on the F8 itself, you can control all of the recording settings via an iOS app. This gives you an unprecedented level of control and flexibility over your capture.

To round out this powerful recorder is the ability to create incredibly accurate timecode. Features like this have yet to be included in lower end recorders and will help independent shooters immensely in post.

With all of the options and features included on this recorder, one has to wonder what the menu system on this monster will be like. I personally am interested in delving in and figuring that out as it seems like the extra effort expended would be worth it.

The Zoom F8 certainly feels like a culmination of all that has come before. A fully featured, no holds barred field recorder for virtually whatever you’d need. It’s not often that you see a product that has truly taken the best parts of what has come before and combined them into a single product.

Audiophiles out there, you have a lot to be excited about.

The Zoom F8 – For Filmmaking and Sound Design

Via Zoom:

Advances in video have made filmmaking accessible to creators everywhere. But the accessibility of professional audio devices has not kept pace. Field recorders, with essential features such as time code, have been unobtainable for most. Until now.

The F8 is made for serious filmmakers and sound designers.
With 8-input/10-track recording, super low-noise preamps, and support for 24-bit/192kHz audio, the F8 captures the highest-quality audio.

Mic pre's
Outfitted with our finest mic preamps to date, the F8 features an extremely low noise floor (−127 dBu EIN) and high gain (up to 75 dB), with +4 dB line inputs.

Zoom F8 image 1

 

High-resolution audio and advanced limiters
The F8 can record at 24-bit/192 kHz resolution and is equipped with onboard limiters designed to provide overload protection. Limiting can be applied to all 8 channels simultaneously at full resolution, with 10 dB of headroom and controls for setting threshold, attack, and release.

Time code with pinpoint accuracy
The F8’s time code is state-of-the-art. It utilizes a precision oscillator that generates time code at 0.2 ppm accuracy, enabling rock-solid syncing of audio and video.

The F8 supports all standard dropframe and non-drop formats, and can jam sync to time code being provided by external devices. An input and output are provided on standard BNC connectors, enabling easy integration into any rig.

ZOOM F8 image 2

The Features

The F8 provides every option you need to create professional field recordings:

* Phantom power (+24V/+48V) can be turned on and off for each preamp individually.
* Plug in any Zoom mic capsule.
* 10 tracks—8 input channels, plus a stereo mix track*—allow you to simultaneously record stereo and surround sound.
* An onboard mixer with flexible routing of all inputs and outputs (pre- and post-fader). Each channel has controls for pan, input/output delay, filtering, and limiting.
* The F8 can be mounted to a tripod and attached to your camera using the included mounting bracket.
* Stereo mix track not recorded when 192 kHz sampling rate is selected

Learn more about the Zoom F8 Here (purchase here).

(cover photo credit: snap from Zoom)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy

Comments

  1. But what about sound quality? TEAC/TASCAM’s analog products were notorious for dry, grainy sound. Their Hi8 DAT recorder was “blah” sounding. (I never should have bought it.)
    Audiophiles have nothing to be excited about, unless the Zoom F8 is a truly high-fidelity product.

  2. This all appears great in theory. A lot depends on the quality of the preamps, the noise floor and the durability / reliability of the product. Hence the cost of units like sound devices that have much less in the way of “features”. Ultimately sound quality and robustness in the field is everything. If this lives up to the hype…could be a game-changer.

  3. I’ve been using the F8 for about 4 weeks on corporate video pieces and am overall quite happy with it. I don’t believe this is a Sound Devices killer, however. The preamps are quite impressive. To me, they sound very much like the preamps on the Sound Devices 744T. The dynamic range spec of the A/D converters is 120dB and subjectively, they do seem to have much more dynamic range than you get from any of the other sub $1000 Zoom or Tascam recorders.
    Where it does not compete with Sound Devices is on things like the input limiters (they are in the digital stage, so distortion can occur before the audio signal ever gets to the limiter). This alone is a show stopper for many pros. Outputs are rather limited (consumer level line out) so the F8 is probably not a great fit for larger productions where feeds to a camera or physical mixer are required.
    Overall build quality is quite good and robust. I love that they included a DC lemo input so that I can power it for 25 hours with an Anton Bauer battery. The potentiometers (aka “knobs” for non sound engineers”) are only for adjusting gain and aren’t suitable for mixing. However, the iOS app that you can use for mixing is clever, though again, many pros may not be inclined to use a virtual mixer for critical jobs. I’ve found the latency to be quite good with the app, though there are still definitely benefits to having physical faders in a proper physical mixer.
    My opinion is that Zoom has filled an intermediate niche quite nicely, but I would not say that they are poised to take Sound Devices out of business with the F8. The niche the F8 serves is enthusiast low and no-budget filmmakers. And for them (me included), I think this is a great device.

  4. planetMitch curtisjudd That’s a great review indeed, been looking up online on real world feedback. Thanks!

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