As I mentioned at the start of this review, despite the Wi-Fi twist that the Bloggie Live sports, it's still ultimately a simplistic pocket camcorder that's easy to use by pointing and shooting. You've got a 4x digital zoom to work with, so it isn't much but it looks a little better to me than some of the awful digital zooms that I've seen on other pocket camcorders (which really don't serve to do much more than pixelate the image). And in terms of shooting settings, you've got 1080/30p full HD, 720/60p HD, and 720/30p to choose from for video, and 12, 8, or 2 megapixels for images.
The battery life on the Bloggie Live is one of the best that I've seen in a pocket camcorder. Granted, part of that could be due to the fact that it's a larger model and can therefore house a larger battery, but I'm okay with that if it means that I can use the camera for a little under two hours (a combination of shooting photos, regular video, and streaming video, and navigating menus) and lose only one of four bars on the battery meter. I was at least expecting the battery to take a bigger hit when doing live streaming video because of the use of Wi-Fi, but it held up. The fact that I never had to charge the Bloggie Live during my time with it for this review should give you a good idea of how good the battery life is.
The Bloggie Live comes with 8 GB of built-in storage, but unfortunately, it does not have expandable memory. The 8 GB of storage is good for an hour and 15 minutes worth of full- HD video or 1298 photos at a resolution of 12.8 megapixels. I suppose that's not bad for a pocket camcorder with which you probably won't be doing too much serious shooting, but I still would have liked to see an expandability option, seeing as so many pocket camcorders (even ones of much lower quality than the Bloggie Live) have that these days.
And a quick side note: I was especially annoyed about this non-expandable memory when I realized that shooting live streaming video still caused said video to be stored on the camcorder after I was finished recording. I know that may seem like an obvious function, but if you think about it, whenever you're doing live streaming video, chances are good that you're going to be doing so for a good chunk of time. I would guess not too many people do live streaming video for only a matter of seconds, so my concern is twofold: not only are the streamed videos going to take up tons of room on your camera, but if you don't have much storage left, your Bloggie isn't going to be able to stream video for very long since it won't have anywhere to put it. Those are just another couple of reasons why the Bloggie Live should have expandable memory.
The Bloggie Live's autofocus is generally pretty intuitive and quick to adjust when shooting video and stills, and I appreciate the fact that the photo button is a two-stage press so you can trigger the autofocus. Every now and then the autofocus gets stuck and takes a while to catch up and actually focus properly, but for the most part it works quite well, even when zooming in. You can also use the touchscreen to tap your desire subject and then autofocus will take over from there, a welcome type of functionality that you only occasionally see on pocket camcorders.
Probably the biggest issue with the Bloggie Live's shooting performance is its problems with white balance, though. Videos are often plagued by a reddish tinge, especially when taken indoors (or with any red or orange tones in the shot). Color tones in general aren't too bad in terms of saturation, but the camcorder's tendency to be drawn to the redder colors tends to disrupt some of the shots.
So how does the main attraction of live streaming video work? Exceptionally well. I was surprised at how easy it was to set it all up and get a live video stream going. All I had to do was sign up for a free Qik account, punch in my network settings and Qik account information on the Bloggie Live (using the surprisingly good on-screen keyboard), and I was ready to go live. From there, once I hit the record button on the camcorder, a link came up on my personalized Qik page for my live feed and I was able to click on it and watch almost instantly.
Obviously the quality of the video is extremely rough (I think Sony reps at the press briefing I attended about this said it was half-VGA quality), but that's not the point of streaming video. Rather, all I was hoping for was a consistent stream that didn't cut out with clear sound and little delay. I got all of this, with the video feed never giving out and only about a second (maybe even less) behind in terms of delay. Sound was crystal clear and, in my time with testing the live streaming, never came out garbled.
I was especially impressed with how well that chatting function on Qik worked, too; for those that are not familiar with the service, users watching the live video stream can type messages to the person shooting the video. I tested this out and the messages appeared instantly on the screen of the Bloggie Live. This turned out to be an especially entertaining feature when, at the press briefing, the rep who was on the street shooting live streaming video was instructed to talk to random people, but was also warned to "not get punched."
Now, while all of the features of the live streaming video worked extremely well and made for an experience that was not in the least bit frustrating, it is important to note that I was on my home network, and this brings me to my fundamental issue with the Bloggie Live. Yes, this device is a great idea on paper and works well with a reliable Wi-Fi connection, but that's exactly the issue: Wi-Fi isn't everywhere, and reliable Wi-Fi is in even fewer places. With something like the Bloggie Live, it's not like you can just be walking down the street and think, "Oh, I see something neat, I'm going to shoot a live stream of this." You can't, because you have no network to which you can connect.
So this idea of immediacy and being able to shoot live streaming video from anywhere is kind of undermined by the fact that you usually won't have a network available. One of the key selling points behind pocket camcorders is that of spontaneity, and you won't be able to enjoy that benefit at least not when it comes to live video due to the fact that Wi-Fi is not everywhere. It's a great idea in theory, but in reality there aren't many places you'll be able to use it beyond, say, your home or office where you know the network information and it's reliable enough to not give out.
Some would argue that personal hotspots are the solution to this, and, aside from the fact that that's just another expenditure (and not a very cheap one), I can tell you that this doesn't work all that well, either. Case in point: at the press briefing, when the rep did the demo of the live streaming down on the street while we watched from inside the Sony Club, he experienced some serious connectivity issues. It took him a good 10 minutes just to get the stream up and running, and even when he did, the video would sometimes get scrambled or lag, the audio would occasionally get garbled, and eventually it just cut out altogether.
Sony blamed the technical issues on the hotspot that the rep was using, and I believed them because I have the exact same hotspot that I use for work and it cuts out on me all the time. It's completely hit or miss. So the lesson here is that for the Bloggie Live to work well, it requires a consistently strong, reliable connection, and you're only going to find that in a couple of places, like your home. And at that point, it begs the question: why wouldn't you just use the webcam that's hooked up to your PC? Or the one that's built into your notebook? Or even ones that are built into your tablet? Once that element of "shoot live streaming video from anywhere" portability is eliminated, the Bloggie Live becomes a rather unnecessary, pointless device in practice.
Video, Stills, And Audio Performance
The video quality of the Bloggie Live definitely outshines that of any other pocket camcorder I've ever reviewed, but at the end of the day, it's still a pocket camcorder. Aside from the aforementioned issues with white balance and that reddish tinge, the picture always seems to have a bit of a haze around it, as if I were shooting in a fog.
And as sharp as the video quality is in comparison to other pocket camcorders, it's still a little blurry and grainy in the grand scheme of things; it doesn't look very pretty when you use an HDMI cable to hook it up to your TV (or even when you're watching the videos on a smaller screen, like your computer). You really can't watch the videos at much more than the size it would be on the Bloggie's 3-inch screen without starting to notice the grain. Credit where credit is due, however; one of the Bloggie's more impressive qualities is that it handles low-light situations very well and adjusts easily when shifting quickly from low-light to normal-light shots.
Stills taken with the Bloggie look pretty good in general once again, thanks to the Exmor CMOS and the fact that its resolution can go as high as 12.8 megapixels but what I was really impressed with was its auto-macro mode. Most of the pocket camcorders I come by don't even bother with a macro mode, but the Bloggie Live not only has one, it takes exceptional close-up shots (see one of the sample pictures). Like the video, though, the only real flaw is that shots that have any red in them sometimes get messed up with that noticeable reddish tinge.
The audio quality of the Bloggie Live's videos is very good; voices are picked up especially well. There can be a bit of excess ambient noise, but never to the point that it's really disruptive or drowns out peoples' voices. All in all, its sound is very crisp for a pocket camcorder, and I'm impressed with the power and sensitivity of the Bloggie Live's microphone.
Operation and Extras
The Bloggie Live comes in a rather fancy hard box lined with felt, but there isn't actually much inside. Aside from the camcorder itself, you get a wrist strap, the aforementioned male/female USB cable, a "user guide" which is basically a folded piece of paper only containing information about setting up live streaming, and two ads for hotspots. Not much going on here.
I was a little surprised to see that the Bloggie Live did not include any sort of editing software, be it in the packaging or preloaded on the device, but I didn't really mind. The packaged software with pocket camcorders is generally unimpressive and lacking in features; it's usually there just as a means for pulling the video off the device. But since the Bloggie Live can act as USB mass storage when plugged in and since it shoots video in .MP4 format and therefore requires no sort of conversion there really isn't any need to bother with any cursory attempt at photo/video editing software.
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