Before I owned one of these I spent two long days using one to record sound for a short film. When I was playing back the first scene I had just recorded I panicked because I thought that the actors were re-doing the scene and that I'd missed my cue... it wasn't until I looked at their mouths that I realised it was simply the stunning quality of the recording.
At one point during the session I was using the recorder in 4-track mode to capture the noise of some action that was happening in the background on the built-in crossed-pair microphones (with the unit mounted on a camera tripod) whilst simultaneously capturing clean stereo dialogue with two mics attached to the boom pole. The result was very powerful and of course it opens up the possibility of using the built-in mics to capture true surround channel detail on location if you want to make a surround production.
I found the built-in mics to be extremely sensitive, picking up the most minute and distant sound details which sounded quite cacophonous in my headphones, but the stereo imaging during action shots is absolutely stunning.
I should also confess that I dropped this thing onto a hard stone floor on no less than 4 occasions (so many cables to trip over) and it didn't affect the performance one bit. And because the device records to solid-state flash memory there is zero machine noise.
There are a wealth of built-in portastudio functions and effects, options for dynamic compression, automatic limiting and automatic record level for those unconcerned with dynamic range, and the option of recording to mp3 for those not fussed about getting razor-sharp uncompressed sound but want to get more on the flash cards.
The only thing I found slightly irksome was the fact that this sucks batteries dry very quickly especially when you are using the built-in phantom power for the external microphones and recording at anything other than 44.1k/16-bit. It does have a "stamina mode" however for those who are content with CD-quality recording which will probably be most people.
I bought one within days of using the rented model. I am using it to record location sound for a 75-minute HD drama and various backgrounds for different scenes on a short film. This little recorder is worth its weight in gold. As well as the stunning quality of the stereo sound when recording in 96/24 I like the ability to automatically name tracks by the date they were recorded (plus numbered suffix) and the straightforward filing system that separates the four-track recordings from the stereo recordings. The four-track recordings are stored as an almost identically-named pair of stereo recordings differentiated only by the suffixes "m" and "l" to let you know which input created the files.
In addition to the film work I have been doing with this it came in very useful at a south London squat party when I was roped in as sound engineer at very short notice for a band who also wanted me to record the gig. I piped the desk output to the XLR inputs and used the inbuilt mics to get up close to the drummer and the violinist who were not going through the desk. The very loud volume did not overload the mics, but I did have to reduce the input level to something like 0.2%.
Upgrading the firmware is not very straightforward and I messed it up the first time round. It involves downloading a file from the net and transferring it to the device then going through some sort of strange restart procedure.
The 16gb card in this package is an absolute must. The supplied 1gb card gets full up very quickly.
I haven't had to use the tripod yet and it seems to be a little redundant, but it's small enough to carry around anyway and there may yet be a use for it.
This little machine ought to be an industry standard workhorse. The only way Zoom could improve on this model is by making a belt-clip or some sort of wrist-strap or pole attachment to make it easier for boom-opping.