Snack-sized, solid state HD video is cheap and affordable these days. Sure, a handheld video recorder like the Flip HD or Kodak Zi6 may not rival your real camcorder, but they’re dirt cheap, fit in your pocket, and with good lighting can put out really nice footage. There’s just one problem – the sound is often utterly dreadful. (I picked up a Zi6 this week because its audio is pretty reasonable, but it’s not stereo and I wouldn’t use it in an audio-critical situation.)

Hmmm… if only your favorite HD video handheld and something like the awesome Zoom H4n could combine…

It seems Samson/Zoom heard your wish. The Q3 has the stereo mic from the H4n – a really great-sounding mic for field recording, one that almost magically seems to make things sound good in tough situations. But it adds to that native MPEG-4 video recording. Pop in a 32GB SDHC card and the device promises up to 16 hours. (Or bring a few cards – they’re removable.) And you get high-quality stereo audio, something that even fairly pricey camcorders almost always lack. (Heck, even the supposed prosumer or even “pro” models are often downright awful in the sound department.)

Another unique feature: while most camcorders are limited to lossy audio, you can actually record full 44.1/48kHz PCM WAV. In fact, I could actually see carrying one of these to a gig alongside your pro camera; you can use the 640×480 picture as a reference and have an additional sound source.

There has to be a catch, right? Well, for starters this doesn’t give you HD video. Granted, the Zi6 and Flip HD are only 720p, and the sensors aren’t the best, but having that extra resolution can be forgiving and gives you a 16:9 aspect ratio to boot, plus lovely 60 fps. On the other hand, sensor quality and optics matter more than specs on paper; I’d settle for 640×480 picture if the video quality is good – and I can tell you right now, you’re unlikely to beat the Q3 on sound quality. (That said, a Q3 HD seems inevitable at some point.) Also, unlike an H4n, this doesn’t have a mic input jack, so you can’t easily switch over to a lavalier mic. Combined, that should mean if you’ve bought an H4n and a video camera, there’s no reason for buyers’ remorse. But this still has some use – and suggests some good stuff coming to us soon, too.

Availability: September (at least, so says @samsontech via Twitter – and in Q3, ironically enough). Pricing: Zoom says expect a US$250 street price.

Details from Samson:
Q3 – Handy Video Recorder


Via Darren Landrum.