The bloggie is extremely easy to use; opening up the LCD screen turns the camera on, and to record just hit one of two record buttons. There is also a dedicated still button for snapping photos. To play back footage, press the play button hidden underneath the LCD and use the control toggle to navigate clips.
The bloggie comes packaged with the Windows-only PMB (Picture Motion Browser) software (sorry, Mac users) that will automatically recognize and upload bloggie videos or stills when it's connected to a PC or laptop via the USB dongle. Users can choose to upload footage to their hard drive or directly to media-sharing websites like YouTube or Photobucket. Coded into the bloggie is PMB Portable, which works on most Mac and Windows OSes, offering limited viewing and uploading options. Users who want to forego installing new software can still connect the bloggie to their PC and drag and drop media from the pocket camcorder's file folders.
The PMB software is non-intuitive and clunky, but does a nice job overall of importing and organizing footage by date. Of all the proprietary video editing and organizing software bundled with cameras and camcorders I've used, PMB is definitely one of the "better" suites.
Sony promises up to 105 minutes of juice on a full charge. I managed to shoot off and on for a full day and the following morning before the bloggie's battery died, falling well short of 105 minutes. However, I was constantly turning the device on and off and shooting action continuously for long periods of time, two activities that can drain the battery. Luckily, the 3.6V lithium battery is removable, so users can pack an extra one for additional juice.
I was annoyed the bloggie shipped without an AC adapter. How mobile is a pocket-sized device that needs a larger laptop for power when a wall socket would do?
Sony finally caved in and embraced the SD standard with its current crop of cameras and camcorders, including the bloggie. As a bonus, if you have their old propriety Memory Stick cards lying around, the bloggie will accept them as well. Unfortunately, neither is included with the bloggie, which has a paltry 26MB of internal memory.
Sony claims an 8GB card will hold about 80 minutes of 1080/30p footage, 160 minutes of 720/60p, 240 minutes of 720/30p, and 480 minutes of VGA.
The Flip set a low standard for video performance, which other brand-name pocket camcorders have more or less met. While I would put the bloggie in the same class as the Flip, it's definitely at the head of it.
In perfect lighting, the bloggie's 1080/30p footage looks great, complete with crisp detail and sharp color. Even when streamed to a large HDTV over HDMI, the footage retains most of its detail. While it certainly doesn't stack up against more expensive HD camcorders, it's still impressive for a $200 device. Switching over to 720/60p also has its advantages, producing silky smooth movement ideal for outdoor sports or other fast-paced action while sacrificing a small amount of image resolution.
That said, there are some issues with video output. The bloggie has a tendency to drop frames, making the video appear jerky in places, and the autofocus is a bit slow, especially when using the optical zoom. The bloggie does have a recording delay quick control to mitigate focus holdup, but that doesn't help when zooming in the middle of a shot.
Also, Sony's electronic image stabilization feature, "SteadyShot," isn't available for 1080/30p or 720/60p, working only with 720/30p and VGA. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. While testing the image stabilization, I found it created warped and jumpy video, almost operating in direct contrast to its purpose.
To demonstrate, I held the bloggie in one hand as I biked along a path, once with the image stabilization on:
And again with it off:
It's pretty clear the video is smoother with the stabilization off.
In addition to a superb 5x optical zoom, there is also a 20x digital zoom available at 720/60p and below. But it's largely useless as digital zoom in general degrades image quality.
Low light brings out the bloggie's weaknesses. Image noise and dropped frames plague 1080 30/p footage, even in slightly dim locations, like the bowling alley in the footage below.
At 720/60p in the same location and with the same lighting, the video becomes much darker, although extra frames keep the footage smooth.
One feature that's mandatory on any video camera I buy is an external mic jack. I lament that people often underestimate what crisp audio brings to overall video quality. With the exception of the well-received Kodak Zi8, most pocket HD camcorders don't come with an external mic jack, and the bloggie is no exception. Still, the bloggie's onboard mic does a better-than-average job of picking up and distinguishing different voices in a crowded setting; for the intended purposes of the camera, that's more than enough.
Still Image Quality
The bloggie also takes 5 megapixel stills with the push of a button, so you don't need to switch to "still mode" or make further adjustments - just push a button and take a still. It's simple and it works, but the quality of the stills won't make you want to ditch your point-and-shoot. In informal shooting, the images came out blurry and the colors flat. Zooming in, the image detail was noticeably lacking.
Still, I can't fairly knock the bloggie for its still performance, which hovers somewhere above cell phone camera quality. Competing devices that can take stills (the Flip currently doesn't) don't produce better results, and with the exception of some Sanyo Xactis, none sport an optical zoom. The bloggie also gets points for offering five picture sizes.
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