Filmmaking Gear: Using the Zoom H4N in the Field

Filmmaking Gear: Using the Zoom H4N in the Field

Have you ever been using the Zoom H4N getting great audio when suddenly you realize that your battery levels are dangerously low. You’re in a situation where you can’t stop recording and you’re running low on AA batteries, what do you do? We have a solution!

We use the H4N in the field all the time, it’s a great recorder for a great price, it’s compact, lightweight and easy to use, however, it’s also battery hungry. On a recent interview we used over 12 AA batteries in a matter of about two hours. We we’re changing the batteries in the Zoom H4N about every 15 minutes. We could have used the AC adapter and just plugged in, if we had brought it, but what if it’s just not possible to plug-in the H4N? Are you just supposed to load up on expensive AA batteries? We went looking for a solution and we’ve found it, simply put USB lithium-ion batteries.

It’s an easy fix for sure, but honestly how good can a simple USB portable battery be? Wouldn’t it drain fast just like the AA batteries? We put the system to-the-test and to say we were surprised by the results would be an understatement, but more on that a little later. First, let’s discuss the setup we put together. Using an Anker PowerCore 20100, portable USB battery and a, USB to DC4.0 mm/1.7mm 5 Volt DC Barrel Jack Power Cable, we were able to connect the H4N to an exceptional power source. We use the Anker PowerCore 20100 batteries constantly in the field and they are one of the best tools in our filmmaking tool belts, but just how “good” are these batteries? We decided to test it out and see.

We didn’t expect these results.

We took the Zoom H4N powered with the Anker PowerCore 20100 battery fully charged and plugged in a RODE NTG2 shotgun mic using 48v phantom power from the H4N. This is the same setup that with two AA batteries was lasting around 15 minutes. We would have been estatic to get the Zoom H4N to power for an hour, so we started the test hopeful for good results. Plugging in a GoPro Hero4 Black into an Atomos Ninja Flame ready to film for what could be 11 straight hours on the 480gb hard-drive. After everything was setup, we hit record on the H4N and let the test run.

h4n Anket Battery Test Through The Atomos Ninja Flame ScreenThe next morning we entered the office and saw that the Atomos had stopped recording, it had reached it’s 11 hour record limit, but what about the Zoom H4N? To our surprise the H4N was still recording! It had only two hours left on the 32gb SD card which allows for 14 hours of total recording. We were stoked, but what about the Anker PowerCore 20100? The portable USB battery pack had only drained one of the four bars, just over 1/4 of the battery was drained after recording for 12 straight hours!

This test was a complete and total success and needless to say we will be using this setup in the field from now on. This test has proven that a single $40 portable USB battery can power the Zoom H4N for possibly days in the field.

Links to all the items on Amazon are listed below, we highly suggest this as an affordable high quality audio setup for field recording.

Anker PowerCore 20100 – Ultra High Capacity Power Bank with 4.8A Output, PowerIQ Technology for iPhone, iPad and Samsung Galaxy and More (Black)

CableDeconn USB to DC4.0 mm/1.7mm 5 Volt DC Barrel Jack Power Cable

Zoom H4N Digital Multitrack Recorder

Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder – 2016 Version

Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone

One thought on “Filmmaking Gear: Using the Zoom H4N in the Field

  1. Hi,
    thanks you for that article. I have more or less the same setup and I’m happy with it. I use a NTG4+ with batterie and a per amp xlr, so I need phantom power as well.
    The Anker plus the batterie of the ntg4+ allowes me to record days without charging..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *