Zoom F1-SP Field Recorder and Shotgun Microphone Review

We review the new package by Zoom, the F1-SP

Today we’ve finished our Zoom F1-SP field recorder and shotgun microphone review, and having a chance to learn about as well use it at NAMM was a privilege. As we’re huge fans of portable audio recorders, especially Zoom products, we wanted to see what their solution was to giving us a package for high-quality audio attached to our DSLR cameras. If you’re like us and into filming video on your DSLR and think the audio quality just doesn’t cut it, this may be the perfect solution for you. Let’s check out what the Zoom F1-SP has to offer.

Features of the Zoom F1-SP

  • Suitable for run and gun videographers, but any type of filming as well
  • Mic: Hyper-directional sound
  • Mic: Aluminum body
  • Recorder: Recording up to 24 bit / 96 kHz
  • Recorder: Display allows customization of settings
  • Recorder: One touch controls
  • Recorder: Powered by AAA batteries (two of them) or additional AD-17 adapter (doesn’t come with this)
  • Recorder: Includes tone generator for help in setting proper levels
  • Included shock mount is attachable to DSLRs
  • 3.5mm cable included
  • Ability to record to microSD cards (up to 32 GB)
  • Connects via USB (micro USB port) to computers to transfer sounds

An F1-SP attached to a DSLR

Zoom F1-SP sound and recorder quality

Before we talk sound clarity, we’ll highlight the actual use of the shock mount. A lot of DSLR audio solutions don’t have this. This SMF-1 in particular made by Zoom does nothing but help us and give a “just in case” protection. It will eliminate unwanted thumping or vibrations we sometimes capture in our audio, especially when filming on the move (hence the “run and gun” label). Combine this with the wind screen that comes in the box and you’re protected from a lot of pesky ambiance and unwanted noise in your recordings.

The shotgun microphone in this Zoom F1-SP package is actually the same mic as included in their beloved H5 and H6 recorders. The sound quality won’t be a problem here. The 24 bit / 96 kHz is standard resolution here for small to medium-sized projects that demand for at least decent audio quality for recordings. It isn’t “professional” by all means, but that would only pertain to pro movie studios and what not. This is quite fine for filmography, interviews, vlogging, documentaries and of course as advertised, run and gun videos — skating, sports, etc.

The F1 records in WAV or MP3, although we never, ever recommend recording in MP3 since WAV just flat-out beats it in terms of clarity and less junk — you can always edit the sound in post-production. What’s also great is they’re automatically time-stamped (BWF compliant) so you can easily sync your videos with audio later on. Combine these with the sound marker function to output quick tone for easy syncing, it won’t be a problem while shooting or post-prod.

The Zoom F1 recorder up close

Source: Zoom.co.jp

Using the Zoom F1-SP recorder and microphone

We found the one-touch controls on the Zoom F1-SP‘s recorder to be especially convenient (as with most Zoom recorders, especially this F1) — you can adjust recording levels, limiter settings (built-in limiter here with auto-level control to get rid of clipping) and volume output on the fly. The monitor (1.25″ — not too big but gets the job done) helps us view levels, battery life, as well as lo-cut settings. It isn’t limited by sunlight either, so you’re fine with reading it at any time of day or in any environment since it’s monochromatic.
The Rec Hold function in particular was helpful in avoiding accidental button operation, and there’s also a pre-record function in case you roll that way.

You get about 10 hours of operation with alkaline batteries, so in terms of having a full day’s worth of shooting, you should be fine. You can always bring an extra pair or buy their power adapter separately, or just buy some rechargeable (yes, compatible with NiMH batteries) to charge before you start filming.

A back view of the F1-SP recorder and shotgun mic

Other standouts of the Zoom F1-SP

What’s also a huge standout of the F1-SP is that you’re not necessarily limited to the SGH-6 shotgun microphone this bundle comes with. Zoom’s recorders have a “10 pin connector” for the mic connection, so we have a lot of flexibility if you feel like changing out the microphone capsule (of course, only compatible with other Zoom products, although we won’t complain).

Here’s the list of other capsules this particular recorder is compatible with:

  • SSH-6 (Stereo shotgun mic)
  • XYH-6 (Stereo X/Y adjustable capsules
  • MSH-6 (Stereo mid-side adjustable capsule)
  • XYH-5 (Stereo X/Y mic with shock-mounted mics)
  • EXH-6 (Dual combo input capsule)
  • SGH-6 (The one already included)

If you're in the mood to change out the shotgun mic, you have options

What’s in the Zoom F1-SP box?

  • Field Recorder (F1)
  • Shotgun microphone (SGH-6)
  • Windscreen (WSS-6)
  • Stereo mini cable for DSLR (SMC-1)
  • Shock mount (SMF-1)
  • Two AAA batteries (note the power adapter is not included)
  • Quick guide

Here's what you'll be getting in the F1-SP box

Final word on the Zoom F1-SP recorder and microphone

As we walked around the convention last week, there were a lot of people filming (we’ll start videos next year), so we were able to scan what many were using for external audio. A majority of people had recorders attached to their DSLRs with some type of shotgun mic, while others just used a shotgun mic straight into their camera as opposed to a recorder and shock mount as seen in this product, mostly with the ever-popular Rode DSLR mics that we’ve all seen around (you can read our best DSLR microphones for some more options).

Ultimately, we love this package for super high-quality audio when filming videos. We do know many who could care less about audio when it comes to filming since they do a lot of post-production editing, but it’ll all depend on your actual use as well as “level” of filming (are you using it for fun? For a company?). For those who indeed see themselves as ‘run and gun’ videos, this is a perfect solution. If not, you may however be interested in the second newest bundle they’ve released this year right next to this, which is the Zoom F1-LP (same package but included a lavalier instead).

Regardless, the Zoom F1-SP recorder and microphone is a great little package for semi-professionals to up their game when it comes to the quality of their audio in their videos, despite what ‘type’ of video or environment you’ll find yourself in.