February 5, 2018

Zoom Adopts Modular Functionality in Tiny New F1 Recorder

Zoom's pocket-sized recorder is for filmmakers in need of a compact design with robust features.

The F1 recorder is a new audio tool from Zoom that packs a fairly big punch in the feature department. Think of it as a souped-up H1 that can be used in different workflows because of its modular design. The unit is small and thin–roughly a 2.5" square–allowing interchangeable mic capsules to be attached to its proprietary 10-pin connector. Zoom has six options including a stereo and mono shotgun, two stereo X/Y capsules, a mid-side mic, and a dual XLR/TRS input capsule, which is nice if you're running multiple booms or wireless into the recorder. 

Zoom could have stopped there, but smartly, it didn't, including a stereo mic/line level input for a lavalier or a mic needing plug-in power (this is different from Phantom, typically under 5 volts of DC—aka cheaper condenser mics). The connector is a locking 3.5mm (1/8") which is what we'd find on the Sennheiser G3 series. There's an audio output for headphones or to send audio to camera/another device. It, too, is a  3.5mm (1/8") screw lock connector. 

The unit is a two channel recorder that supports up to 24bit/96 kHz audio in Broadcast Wave Format (BWF) and MP3 formats up to 320 kpbs. Audio is recorded on Class 4 or higher microSD/microSDHC cards with 32GB max storage. Convenient one-touch control buttons provide options for recording, playback, low cut filter, limiter, level, and format. A USB input allows for file drag and drop, a hold feature keeps settings locked during record mode and the monochrome LCD illustrates record time, levels and menu functions. 

Zoom F1
Zoom F1Credit: Zoom
Zoom added a tone generator for calibrating audio levels on a camera without the need for an attenuation cable. Other advanced features include a pre-record function and sound markers that output a quick tone for audio syncing in post. We do want to point out that the F1 is a standalone recorder and does not transmit any audio wirelessly.

It powers off two AAA batteries, and depending on the battery type, Zoom says it can run up to 10 hours on alkaline, 9 for NiMH and 16 for lithium. Powering via AC adapter is an option. 

For the $199 price tag Zoom includes the F1, a LMF-1 lav mic, a windscreen, a mic/belt clip and batteries. Out of the box, you're getting a lav setup, but it costs an additional $129 to add the SGH-6 mono shotgun capsule. So $330 gets you a recorder, boom and lav. Depending on the demand, it's a possibility Zoom will offer a boom/lav package in the future. Tascam has similar options in the DR-10 line, but you would need to buy separate lav (DR-10L) and shotgun (DR-10SG) recorders to get the same functionality as the Zoom F1. 

Available now at B&H.

Tech Specs

  • Two channel recorder
  • Connects to optional Zoom capsules
  • Mic/line level input
  • Audio out
  • Records BWF/MP3
  • microSD/microSDHC

In the Box

  •  F1 Field Recorder
  •  LMF-1 Lavalier microphone 
  • WSL-1 Windscreen
  • MCL-1 Mic clip
  • BCF-1 Belt clip
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Quick guide

Your Comment

11 Comments

this is so expensive considering the price of the MixPre-3 from Sound Devices. so a good-ish lav and a belt recorder are half the price of one of the best recorders on the market. I can do almost the same with a phone (everyone has one) and a rode mic or aputure lav. I dont get it.

February 5, 2018 at 12:51PM, Edited February 5, 12:51PM

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Sorin
DP / photographer / director
74

These serve an entirely different purpose than a MixPre-3.

I am predominantly a wedding videographer, and I use Tascam DR-10l (similar concept, small beltpack recorder with a lav) kits for micing officiants, grooms, and toasters. Small recorders like this offer a number of advantages over wireless kits for people like me. First, zero chance of dropouts or interference. I've used the Rodelink system and Sennheiser G3 kits, and have run into dropouts with both, especially in large churches. Second, with small, inexpensive recorders, I can spread the recorders around and mic up a ton of people. I use 3 for toasts, which I rotate out to different toasters at weddings where more than 2 toasts are given. I've mic'd the officiant, groom and 2 speakers all at once during ceremonies before. These type recorders make day-of logistics super simple. Third, I can get distinct audio files for different speakers (groom and officiant during the ceremony) super easily, which makes editing simpler and adds a layer of redundancy in case of data loss. Fourth, not having to transmit a signal means phenomenal battery life. Like 10 hours on a AAA in the case of my tascam dr-10l. It isn't an issue often, but my G3s chew through batteries.

I used to use my phone and a smartlav, but that was problematic. First off, I only have one phone, and like to mic multiple peopel. Second, I use my phone to communicate silently with my assistant during the ceremony. Third, I had more than one groom who was weirded out by me putting my phone in their pocket during their ceremony.

I still use the Sennheiser kit for interviews and situations where monitoring the audio is practical, and I still keep my smartlav in my bag for emergencies, but doesn't mean this kind of a small recorder doesn't have a ton of uses.

February 5, 2018 at 9:52PM

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being able to use their capsules to open up the usability is a big plus, having 1, small and portable device that can be used as an on belt lav, on camera shotgun or XLR inputs for external devices, all for under £300 is sounds pretty good to me. If you can offer an alternative that gives me all of that (my personal requirements) then I am all ears. thanks

February 6, 2018 at 4:58AM

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rehan
79

At the price point you're not far from a nice sennheiser belt pack. I really like the setup, would fit for someone without any gear starting today but the smarter buy would be a DSLR style breakout mixer like a beachtek and a wireless transmitter going straight into the camera for the cheaper kits.

February 5, 2018 at 1:18PM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
870

$199 not a bad entry level, though

February 5, 2018 at 4:48PM

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I don't understand the problem with the price. It is matched pretty evenly with similar products (like the Tascam DR10L). A phone doesn't record 96khz wav files either, the pre-amp in a phone is not great compared to something like a Zoom H1 (which is what I've been pairing with a Rode SmartLav+ for the weddings I shoot.) Not to mention this recorder has a locking 3.5mm jack as opposed to a typical 3.5mm jack meaning it won't get unplugged (had problems with the Zoom H1 before).

This is a great price for what is offered, especially when you consider for another $100 you can get the XLR attachment and then it is a portable Tascam DR10L and a Zoom H4n all in one for $300. Not bad if you ask me.

February 5, 2018 at 10:44PM

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Matthias Claflin
Videographer
623

I'm pretty sure every wedding videographer sees the usefulness of this. It's definitely a product catered towards us. I probably would be ordering a few if I didn't already have DR-10s. This is a fair bit bigger than the DR-10 (10 cubic inches vs 4.4 cubic inches), but also seems more full featured.

February 6, 2018 at 11:19AM

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Can someone please explain this section in more detail :

"Zoom added a tone generator for calibrating audio levels on a camera without the need for an attenuation cable. "

being relatively new to audio, I'd like to understand what the attenuation cable actually and how the tone generator is used in its place.

thanks

February 6, 2018 at 4:54AM

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rehan
79

With some portable audio recorders, the output jack is only capable of feeding a line-level signal. Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a 3.5m mic input, and plugging a headphone level signal into them is too strong (even when the volume is low). When this is the case, you use an attenuation cable, like a Sescom.

Field mixers typically have a built-in tone generator. The volume level of the tone is equal to the output level of the mixer. If you turn the output level of the mixer up, the tone gets louder, etc.

The idea is that you attach the field recorder to a camera, turn on the tone generator, and then adjust the input level of the camera so that it's getting an optimal audio signal level from the field mixer. Most cameras have a little "hashmark" on their audio level meters that is a visual aid as to where this sweet spot is. The hashmark is usually a little line next to the meter, about two thirds of the way up. (You get bonus points if you take a short break right now and turn on your camera and look for your hashmark).

The new F1 has a tone generator for carrying out this task when you connect to a camera. The sentence that confused you was saying "Hey, you can use a tone generator to get a clean signal from the F1, and you won't need a Sescom cable to do it."

This is a nice feature to have, however, I am curious how clean this output is. The Tascam DR-70D has a dedicated "camera" audio output, and the idea was that it would supply an audio signal that was the right level to connect to a DSLR or mirrorless camera's mic input. The problem was that when you turned that output on the DR-70D low enough to connect to a camera, it got noisy. The sound quality was bad. The solution was to turn that output back up to a louder headphone level, and then to connect an attenuator cable to connect to a camera.

I'm hoping that the F1 will sound good at this lower, camera mic-input level.

February 6, 2018 at 1:35PM

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February 7, 2018 at 12:06AM

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The Zoom H4N and I believe most of that family of handy recorders won't accept professional line level, only the lower consumer line level. I would certainly check this one before contemplating it. Carrying extra attenuators, etc when taking sound from a desk is a pain!

February 12, 2018 at 9:20PM

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Jeff Nugent
Rank Amatuer
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