The Zoom Q3 is a digital video camera that emphasizes audio quality above all else. Marketed primarily at musicians, the Q3 offers a relatively cheap ($249) way to quickly create music videos with good sound and decent video.
Right out of the box, Zoom sets up your expectations for the Q3 with text that reads "A little bit of video...A whole lot of audio." A glass-half-full type may see this as a refreshing emphasis on sound quality. But as many have pointed out, it's also an admission that the 640x480-pixel resolution is far from dazzling.
The Q3 is made of plastic, but it feels relatively solid in the hand. If you're familiar with Zoom's popular line of audio recorders, you'll recognize that the Q3's construction quality bears more in common with the plastic-feeling Zoom H2 than the professional-feeling Zoom H4n. The built-in screen measures 2.4 inches diagonally.
The Q3 can record at audio resolutions up to 24-bit/48kHz WAV (or 320Kbps MP3) using a selectable X/Y microphone pattern that can focus on individual instruments or capture the sound of the whole room.
Compared with the fifth-generation iPod Nano (which now includes a video camera), the Zoom Q3 doesn't have a whole lot going for it. The Q3 is more than twice as large, costs $100 more, and captures video at identical resolution. The only things working in the Q3's favor are the built-in USB cable and, of course, the vastly superior sound quality. Put another way, if sound quality doesn't matter all that much to you, there are better, less expensive camcorders than the Zoom Q3.
For this test we used each device's digital 2x zooming capabilities to try and capture the S.F. Golden Gate bridge in the distance. Not only is the Flip Ultra HD's image (bottom) much smoother at full zoom, but the outline of the bridge is visible.