When I started testing the Logitech Bemo there were a lot of "what is that?" type questions from the people around me.
The Bemo is recognizable as a camera only because its lens is very visible -- front and center at the top of its bright blue, capsule-shaped, 3.6-inch-long body (it's available in black and red versions, too). But beyond that, you wouldn't know exactly what type of camera it is by looking at it.
It is, in fact, a video camera. But, like many small video cameras these days, it's designed for a specific purpose, a specific type of video. The body is split in two: the top has the lens and mono microphone, and the bottom half is one big record button.
Press and hold the button and the camera starts recording; a set of five white LEDs on the left side light up one at a time as each second is captured. Release the button and it stops.
There is no lock on the button or any other continuous record option, and the maximum record time for a single clip is one minute. It's made to capture the moments that matter, the stuff needed to tell your story, and not the 10, 20, 30 minutes of nonessential material that you'd have to scrub through and edit out.
Basically, what Logitech has done with the Bemo is take the idea of capturing video a few seconds at a time, similar to what you'd do with apps like Vine and Instagram, and built a device around it. The videos are even square: 720 x 720 pixels.
Now, I realize I may have just lost a lot of you because, after all, I just said it's something your smartphone can already do, so why pay $130 for a separate device? Well, for starters, depending on how often you shoot little video clips, it's nice to have a discrete device for doing it.
Again, the Bemo is only 3.6 inches long and measures 1.2 inches wide by 0.7-inch thick, and it weighs 2.1 ounces. While testing it, I kept it clipped in my front pants pocket and barely knew it was there.
A switch on the right side powers it up in a couple of seconds and it's ready to record. Capture what you want, like your kid blowing out candles on a birthday cake, and you're done; the video saved to the 4GB microSD card that comes with the camera. Then capture more short clips of the party, the people, the decorations, or whatever else is important for your movie. Once you're done, it's time to open the app.
The Bemo app, currently only available for iOS, allows you to view and edit your clips. To get your clips onto your device and into the app, you connect the Bemo to your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth. Below the camera's power switch is a small, flimsy door (it's sort of a pain to open, and you'll be opening it a lot) that covers the microSD card slot, a micro-USB port for charging, and a positively minuscule button for turning on its Bluetooth.
Then just fire up the Bluetooth on your iOS device, connect, and launch the Bemo app. Once it's open, the videos will automatically transfer from the camera to your device, populating your clip library. The included 4GB microSD card will store up to three hours of video, but as soon as you transfer them to your device, they're off the card.
From there you can view clips and trim them before sharing to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or sending them via email or Message. You can also build a movie from multiple clips simply by dragging and dropping the ones you want to use to a clipboard/filmstrip icon at the bottom of the screen.
Once you've grabbed all the clips you want to use, you can head to another screen to trim up the individual scenes and/or reorder them. Unfortunately, trimming is permanent and there's currently no way to make a duplicate of a clip, so whatever you cut out is gone for good. Also, there is no option to simply split a clip, which you may want to do should you go crazy and record a whole minute of something.
With your clips assembled in the order you want them, you can apply one of several available filters as well as lay over a generic music track (a variety of styles are available), and you can slap an opening title on in your choice of font. What you can't do is drop the audio out entirely from your video, or pop in music from your personal library, though Logitech says the latter is a planned feature.
Bottom line: for a first effort, the app makes it very easy to view and share clips and edit them into a more complete movie. Workflow overall is good, but it could definitely use some feature help -- especially since you're locked into using the app for editing.
With the app, you can also get a live view of what the camera is seeing so you can set up your shots. You can also use it to remotely trigger a recording and, unlike with the camera, you don't have to hold the onscreen button down to keep recording, though it will still stop after one minute.
A time-lapse video mode is also available from within the app with a handful of selectable shot-frequency times. Oddly, there's no tripod mount or built-in kickstand or any way for the Bemo to stand on its own since the bottom is rounded. You'll have to get creative with the metal clip on its back or the included lanyard.
Despite being 720p resolution, its video quality, while not terrible, isn't anything to get excited about. It's fine for the intended purpose: sharing on social networks and viewing on mobile devices at small sizes.
Besides, between the blown-out highlights and all the lens flare, you're less likely to see the compression artefacts, especially once you cover them up with a color effect. The sample above will give you a basic idea of what it's capable of. Also, the camera does have digital image stabilization that seems to work pretty well, so points for that.
Whether you're looking to create short movie masterpieces or just want to quickly capture little moments to share online, the Logitech Bemo is a fine mini camcorder. It's not for everyone, but between its ease of use and a durable, water-resistant body, it's a camera everyone can use.