When Flip launched itsrange of mini-camcorders down under last year, it was a sign for other manufacturers to jump on the bandwagon. And the latest company on board is Sony with its Bloggie MHS-PM5K.
Despite its cringe-worthy name, the Bloggie — unlike— doesn't resort to dressing itself up in chrome and glitter to make itself standout. Instead it features a lens head that can swivel through 270 degrees, allowing you to easily record the ceiling, yourself or someone else.
On the back the Bloggie features a 2.4-inch, 230k-pixel LCD screen. Though large by mini-camcorder standards, the screen is in a portrait orientation, meaning that about half of the available real estate is given over to camera info rather than what's currently streaming into the image sensor. In some situations, like harsh sunlight or poorly lit rooms with bright external light, the glossy screen is prone to distracting reflections. More often, though, you'll be cursing the screen's extremely shallow viewing angle; if your eyes stray more than 10 or 15 degrees off-centre, objects will begin turning into ghoulish visions and recording becomes a game of chance.
Most of the available screen space is given over to camera info.
Unlike the screens used in the Handycam line, the Bloggie's isn't a touch sensitive. Instead, underneath is a five-way controller flanked by Menu and Play buttons. As manual settings are strictly verboten, these buttons do what little they need to do quite well. In an odd twist, literally, the detailed settings, as well as the photo and video grid view, are shown in landscape orientation.
The photo shutter and video recording buttons, as well as the zoom rocker, are located to the right of the screen, but were a bit of a stretch for our dainty hands. Photos can be shot at any time; a half press will resize the screen to fit the photo's framing, while a full press will snap it.
Should something interesting happen as you're mucking around with the settings or playing back footage, shooting or filming will always take priority. Although, strangely, you have to press shoot or record once to get out of the menu system and then once more to get it to do its thing.
A slide and flip door on the Bloggie's left-hand side hides a replaceable battery (unique for this type of camera) and a card slot that accepts either Sony's proprietary Memory Stick or the more common SD/SDHC format. A 4GB Memory Stick card is supplied and should be sufficient for 40 minutes of video or 1600 photos at full size. The battery takes about 300 minutes to achieve a full charge and should last between 60 and 135 minutes, according to Sony, depending on usage.
The base features a tripod mount that's not aligned with the centre of the lens, as well as a slider that allows the USB connector to appear from the bottom right corner. It's neither as funky nor as lethal as Flip's switchblade-style arrangement, but then again it works perfectly with most laptop USB ports. It will still dangle precariously from desktop computers and monitor hubs though, while the supplied extension cable makes a mockery of half its name.