Sony bloggie PM5 review:

Sony bloggie PM5

Overall, video quality is very good for its class. Colors look oversaturated, but video at the full 1080/30p resolution is nice and sharp. The 720/60p mode produces slightly softer clips; however, the increased frame rate makes movement much smoother. Like most pocket camcorders, there are visible blocky artifacts and trailing with moving subjects. Shooting indoors or in low-light conditions will result in quite a bit of noise, though that's typical of these little devices, too. Again, this HD video isn't what you'd capture with a full-fledged HD camcorder, but the 1080/30p setting will keep a good amount of detail and sharpness when played back on large screens.

Photo quality is on par with a good camera phone; it'll do if you just want a quick snapshot, but it won't replace a digital camera. The shutter lag feels fairly long, too, so don't plan on using it for moving subjects. Lastly, because of the placement of the shutter release high on the right side and how light the PM5 is, it can be difficult to get a blur-free photo shooting one-handed. To help, take advantage of the 2-second timer, which lets you hit the shutter release and then concentrate on keeping the PM5 stable.

With pocket video cameras, easily sharing the video is equally as important as shooting it; this is where the PM5 mostly falters. Sony unfortunately uses two versions of its Picture Motion Browser software for organizing and sharing: a Portable basic version embedded on the device (Windows and Mac) and a full-featured version that comes on an included CD (Windows only). The problem is that the Portable version lacks too much, like the capability to e-mail clips, trim video, and extract still frames, whereas the full version is sort of an unnecessarily bloated mess. Both versions do allow for one-touch uploads to YouTube, DailyMotion, Picasa, PhotoBucket, and Shutterfly, however, so long as you've stored your username and password for each service.

The software isn't compatible with Windows 7 Starter Edition, 64-bit Windows 7, or OS X, though as always you can drag and drop the files and edit using another package, like iMovie. But you'll likely get confused when you plug the camcorder into your system for file dragging. Because it's got internal memory (only 26MB, though) and virtually two card slots, it mounts three different drives onto your system, forcing you to click through each one looking for your files. Two of them have identical file structures--the SD card and Memory Stick--but if you, for example, recorded to SD the "drive," the Memory Stick will simply look like it's got empty directories. This isn't a deal-killer--once you've figured it out it's just an annoyance--but it's not terribly user-friendly.

As mentioned earlier, the PM5 bundle (MHS-PM5K) includes a small snap-on lens for shooting a 360-degree video. Pop it on and the Bloggie instantly enters a 360 mode that records at 1,280x720 pixels at 30p only; stills can be taken at 5 megapixels. The lens is basically a dome with a round mirror in it, but the only way to get it currently is in this bundle. The recorded result with the lens is a doughnut-shaped video that looks cool, but the quality isn't great. It's fun and suitable for Web sharing and that's really all that should be expected. (A quick YouTube search of "Bloggie 360" will return a lot of sample clips.) Using the full version of Sony's PMB software you can convert the 360-degree video into a panorama movie. However, since that version is only available for Windows computers, Mac users are out of luck.

Minicamcorders such as the Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5 are primarily designed with Web sharing in mind. If you're looking to record potentially precious memories to view on a large screen, it and actually the entire category are not for you. It's certainly capable of capturing at HD resolutions, but more goes into getting high-quality video than the sensor. The PM5 is at least competitive with pocket video cams from other manufacturers, but Sony still needs to straighten out its sharing software, and not having an HDMI output at this point is just silly.

The bundle with the 360-degree lens is truly only worth picking up if you have regular access to a Windows computer and aren't expecting high-quality video. It's basically a toy lens and if that doesn't appeal to you, go with the standalone version and spend the $20 difference on a memory card.

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