The simplicity of a pocket camcorder is one of its most well-known and attractive attributes, but the Bloggie Live tries to add some spice to the simplicity by making the device easy to use while introducing one new key feature: built-in Wi-Fi. The Bloggie Live from Sony is one of two new models added the Sony's famed line of pocket camcorders (the other being the Bloggie Sport, to be released next month) and sports the unique ability to shoot live streaming video over a Wi-Fi network via the online video service, Qik. At $250, it's much more expensive than most of the pocket camcorders out there, so it's obvious that you're paying a premium for this one standout feature. The question is, is there really any need for it?
The Bloggie Live is on the slightly larger side compared to other pocket camcorders, but it's nothing unmanageable. Though it's a little heavier at 4.8 ounces, it can still fit as comfortably in your pocket as a smartphone, with measurements of 2.25" x 4.5" x .625".
The whole unit looks pretty slick too, with little on the front save for the lens (and the built-in flash), Sony's branding, and a nice silver paintjob. Unfortunately, the Bloggie Live is also literally quite slick, with no sort of textured or grippy surfaces for users to grasp firmly. Sony isn't clueless, though; one side of the camcorder is actually flared out subtly so when holding it sideways with your right hand, you have a slightly thicker, curved end to hold on to. But ultimately, I still never feel 100% confident that the camera isn't going to slip out of my grip, especially when holding it with one hand. I personally would have just preferred a textured surface, but I can still appreciate what Sony tried to do by gradually making one end thicker and curved on the front.
The rest of the Bloggie Live's design is very minimalist, with only a mini HDMI port and wrist strap loop on the left side, the 3-inch touchscreen, speaker, and video record button on the back, and nothing on the top. The right side of the device probably has the most going on, as it has the on/off switch, the microphone, an indicator light, and a nice big button for snapping photos.
The bottom of the device is host to a quarter-inch tripod mount and a spring-loaded, snap-out USB plug. At first, I really appreciated this design choice and enjoyed how well- built it was; the plug itself is very securely attached to the device and barely wiggles around it all. It snaps in and out of the unit seamlessly, tucking neatly back into the device with a click when pushed back in.
But then my editor made an excellent point: when dealing with a design like this, where it's just the plug and no cable, it isn't very practical for actually plugging into USB ports. Once plugged in, you'll just have an entire camera sticking out of your computer, precariously attached by an inflexible plug that's just waiting to get snapped off. And even if it doesn't get broken off, having the weight of the camcorder being supported only by a USB plug is going to put strain on whatever connects it to the internals of the device, so it's probably not very good in the long run, either.
The good news, though, is that Sony threw in a short male/female USB extension cable to help address that issue. So no harm, no foul, but the compact nature of the snappy hidden USB plug is kind of canceled out by the fact that you're better off attaching the included cable.
Ergonomics and Controls
Though there are only a few, the buttons on the Bloggie Live are very well placed and make it easy to control the camcorder, even when performing the precarious act of wielding it one-handed. The video recording button on the back is nice and big and perfect for pressing with your thumb, while the photo snapping button on the outside edge (which has a two-stage press for focusing) is also very prominent and easy to press with your other fingers.
The on-screen controls (though there aren't many of these, either) are equally simplistic and easy to use. You can adjust the zoom on-screen with a slider or by tapping the "W" or "T" buttons for more precise control, and there are also buttons for playback mode, the main menu, and turning on the LED light that's located on the front of the camera.
The menus are relatively easy to navigate, though it did take me a second or two to figure out that the video record button doubles as a "back" button, essentially. And the set up for live streaming is a little cumbersome the first time you launch it, as you have to not only set up all of your network information, but also your Qik account info, since the live streaming is handled exclusively through that particular online video service.
Making things even more complicated is that these two processes are handled in two different menus, and you can only access the Qik login menu after attempting to connect to Wi-Fi. In other words, rather than having all of these options available from the main menu, it's set up in a one- way, clunky fashion in which you can only access them under certain conditions after first selecting "Live Streaming" from the main menu. But once you have everything set up and all of your settings saved, you're able to switch from regular to streaming video pretty seamlessly via the main menu.
Aside from that one particular gripe, the rest of the on- screen interface is pretty user-friendly. Whenever you take a picture or stop shooting video, for example, a still is held on the screen for a couple of seconds with a button that you can tap to mark it for automatic sharing via the social network of your choice the next time you plug in the camera or thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi the next time it has internet access. In playback mode, you can play, pause, rewind, fast forward, and adjust the volume while viewing videos, and there is also a button present here for tagging the media for sharing in the event that you forgot to do so immediately after shooting. And, in this day and age where everything has a touchscreen, it felt very natural and intuitive to be able to use the touch controls to swipe through my photo/video gallery.
The Bloggie Live doesn't have a ton of different shooting modes or options, but the menu breakdown, which is a little unconventional, is as follows:
-Post and Share
-Facebook, Youtube, Picasa, Flickr, Dailymotion
-Save to PlayMemories Online (Sony's cloud service)
-View on smartphone (allows you to view your photos and video on smartphones or tablets that have the Sony PlayMemories Mobile application)
-Photo Size (12 megapixel 4:3, 8 megapixel 16.9, 2 megapixel 16:9)
-Movie Size (Full 1080 30p HD, 720 60p HD, 720 30p HD)
- Flicker Reduction (On/Off)
- Self-Timer (Off/10 seconds)
-HDMI Output (60 Hz/50 Hz)
-LUN Settings (USB) (Multi/Single)
-Date and Time setting
The primary benefit of the Bloggie Live's relatively large size is the extremely roomy 3-inch touchscreen on the back. The (mostly) simple menu setup is even easier to navigate thanks to how big the screen is; buttons are plenty large and I never accidentally pressed the wrong button during my time with the camcorder (this can also be attributed to the fact that the sensitivity of the touchscreen is also excellent).
The benefit of a large display is also great for looking at your pictures and videos and actually getting an accurate idea of how they turned out. Usually with pocket camcorders, the display is so small and cramped that you have trouble making out minor, or even major, details. Oftentimes it's used to frame the subject of a shot and that's about it. But with the Bloggie Live, between the size and the quality of the display (at a resolution of 720 x 400, it was quite sharp and the colors were vibrant) you get a very accurate idea of what your pictures and video will look like once you transfer them elsewhere. I do wish you could adjust its brightness if anything, just to save battery life when running low but the fixed setting is definitely bright enough to view comfortably and doesn't seem to be too hard on the battery.
I also enjoy the information that is displayed on screen for a second or two after turning on the camera or tapping the screen. The screen isn't completely cluttered with info, but you're giving all the important stuff like what resolution video and photo you're shooting at, how much battery life you have remaining, and how many more pictures/minutes of video you can take with your remaining memory.
The one thing I absolutely despise about the display, however, is that when you change orientation (when you flip the camera from portrait to landscape mode or vice versa) the screen blacks out before reappearing in the new orientation. I can understand having the HUD with all the buttons and information flicking off and on to reorient itself (in fact, that's how pocket camcorders usually handle the shift in orientation, if at all), but it seems unnecessary to switch the entire display off and on.
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