Intro: Zoom Q8 Modification
I was in desperate need for a new audio recording device as my Blue Yeti USB Mic had suffered some handling damage from its last storage location. While I fully intended to repair Blue, (cue Will Ferrell) You're my Boy Blue, I needed something to get me going for a quick job.
I did my research and decided on a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Well before I pulled the trigger I got sidetracked onto other hot issues and came back a couple of days later. I didn't bother looking in my cache for the name, it was easy "Zoom Handy Something or other" That's when I found the Zoom Q8 Handy Video Recorder. It had the 4 Channel Audio, with interchangeable mic options, was mobile and had the added benefit of having HD video (2304x1296 an enlarged HD image and 30fps) I figured it'd be perfect for some Behind the Scenes and B-roll filler.
I found a used (read returned/open box) discounted item and placed my order. Once I got it charged up, I saw why it might have been returned. The video was horrendous. I realize that action cams are all the rage right now, but I cannot stand to look at another fish eyed view of anything these days. The audio on the other hand was just splendid. All my XLR and TRS and 3.5mm to TRS mics sounded excellent.
So I was left with 2 options: 1) return the Zoom as its original owner had or 2) make it work the way I wanted it to work...
Step 1: Getting Past the Gates
I wanted to see what I'd be able to do with this things internals so needed to take it apart.
3 Screws, easy enough
Once I got the screws out I needed to figure out how the plastic shell was put together, thankfully no glue as I had originally suspected.
The lens cover plate just needs a little coaxing which hides the fixing plate and more screws.
(The last 3 photos were taken after the fact, but half heartedly reproduced for step by step ease)
Step 2: Getting to the Guts
At this point I could have just swapped out the lens itself with another S mount lens, but where's the fun in that?
Pinch the top plate and lift up, being careful of the record button line to the main board.
Remove the top plate and have a look around.
The lens board is simply push fit connected to the main board. With the screws out, I had enough room to finagle the sensor board away from the main board.
While the shipped lens is screw on, it had a fixative that led me to believe that I'd be better off getting at it when I had more grasp of things, so it remained in place until I removed the sensor board from the main board and camera housing.
Step 3: Lens Removal and Mount Swap
With the sensor board out, I had ample leverage and space to unscrew the lens and dry fit my new CS Mount to the sensor board.
You'll need to remove the plastic lens surround and its screw on the back side of the sensor board, as well as the S Mount (2) screws. The S mount is hot glued to the sensor board but came off without much of a hassle.
*** once the lens it out and you're monkeying around be very careful to not touch the sensor!
One false move and it wouldn't matter what you do from here, as you would never get any kind of usable image from a damaged sensor.
The original S mount was plastic and my CS mount was metal, so I put a little electrical tape around the bottom of the mount where it contacts the sensor board.
CS Mounts can be found all over the web, Amazon and Ebay, and readily accepr CS and C-Mount lenses. There are also adapters which will go from a C mount to an EF Lens as well as many others.
With my CS Mount attached to my sensor board I was ready to finagle the sensor board back in to the camera housing...
Step 4: Making Room
The camera's original housing does a good job of holding the original lens in place. With my new, and much larger CS mount I needed some more room to fit everything it. Fortunately a little hot knife action allowed me to make enough space for the CS Mounted sensor board to go back in quite nicely.
I mixed up some two part epoxy to secure the CS Mounted sensor board to the left and right sides of the camera housing. I didn't put the top plate on until after a half hour of setup and made some modifications to the epoxy so that the top plate mated up with the other two sides nicely.
After a full 24 hours of cure time I was ready to reset the 3 camera housing screws and screw on a couple of the C- mount lenses I'd secured as a part of my R&D for this project.
Step 5: And Action
So my new and Improved Zoom Q8 is a C-Mount camera waiting to go!
Things to know:
1) This sensor is 1/3" so for focal lengths, basically multiply the marked ratings by 7.2 . A good Focal length calculator can be found here http://www.digified.net/focallength/
2) The original lens has an IR filter built into the bottom of it, where others do not. You'll need an IR Block filter to block IR light to be able to get crisp and clear images
3) You'll definitely want to use the recommended SD cards Class 10 yadda yadda, and be viewing your files on a computer whose graphics card has greater than 1GB of video memory. Else be prepared for choppy seas and video display.
4) Depending on what size lens you use (recall focal length calculator) you'll need something to secure the lens to the underweighted camera. The video above is just under 100 yds away and on a crappy plastic base and crappy tripod, so things can become unbalanced and unsteady.
I have 3 lenses right now:
17-102mm Canon TV Zoom
Once I get my rig setup, I'll post some links to good video here. The one here shows depth of field pretty nicely though.