The Sony Bloggie Live HD seems like a last-ditch effort to keep the minicamcorder category relevant as smartphones and point-and-shoots and other small video devices squeeze them out of the market.
The Live's big hook: built-in Wi-Fi that let's you live stream video to Qik.com for others to watch while simultaneously recording in full HD to the device. The Wi-Fi can also be used to directly connect to your smartphone so you can view, transfer, and upload clips and photos using your phone's data service. You can also use it to upload to sites like Facebook and YouTube as well as Sony's newest cloud service, PlayMemories Online.
The wireless capabilities are definitely cool (though not without issues), so if all that sounds good and you're after better than "good enough" video results from a shoot-and-share video camera, you'll want to keep reading.
|Key specs||Sony Bloggie Live HD|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.5 x 2.3 x 0.6 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.8 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||8GB internal flash memory|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||12.8 megapixel, 1/2.5-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch touch-screen LCD, 230K dots|
|Lens||Fixed focal length, f2.8 37mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (video, audio)||H.264 video, stereo AAC audio (.MP4)|
|Resolution (highest)||1,920x1,080 pixels at 30fps (15Mbps; progressive)|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Built-in lithium ion rechargeable, 80 minutes|
|Software||PlayMemories Home (Windows); PlayMemories Uploader (Mac)|
The video quality from the Bloggie Live can be very good as long as you and your subject aren't moving much. When shooting at 1080p, video is reasonably sharp and detailed without looking crunchy. Color and exposure are good as well. However, that's when viewed at smaller sizes on a computer screen. Blown up on a larger HDTV, the video is less impressive. Also, it doesn't handle movement--of the subject or of the device--very well at 1080p, creating a lot of judder. That's unfortunately typical of this type of video camera, though. Maximum recording time in full HD is 75 minutes, by the way, with clip lengths limited to 2GB or 29 minutes (which is typical, too).
The Bloggie Live does have a 720/60p setting, which smooths things out some if you're shooting action or doing a lot of panning left and right, but it's at the cost of sharpness and fine detail. Again, it's fine at small sizes, but not good on a large HDTV. The low-light video is noisy and grainy with readily visible artifacts. I've seen much worse, though, so all in all the Bloggie Live does OK indoors and in darker conditions. There is an LED lamp next to the lens that will brighten close subjects some, but don't expect it to light a full scene.
Photo quality is pretty good as long as you have plenty of light. Shooting is completely automatic; just press the shutter release on top and you're done. If you press the release while recording video, it will capture a photo at whatever resolution you're recording at, roughly 2 megapixels at 1080p or 0.9 megapixel at 720p. (Note: You can't capture photos while live streaming.)
The Live does have autofocus and an auto macro mode for both video and photos, but it's a blessing and a curse. You can shoot something as close as 4 inches from the lens out to infinity. But depending on your movement or your subject's, your video might pulse in and out of focus. The AF isn't all that fast, either, and it's even slower in low-light conditions. Also, if you're shooting in complete silence, you will hear a faint ticking sound picked up by the stereo microphone while it's trying to focus.
I know this sounds like a lot more bad than good, but even with all these issues, the video is still better than you'll get from your average--or even above average--smartphone. At least right now.
|Features||Sony Bloggie Live|
|Focus||Auto (4 inches to infinity)|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||None|
As for the Wi-Fi functionality, it's cool, but it largely depends on where and how you plan to use it. The live streaming requires a strong and reliable wireless connection, and, at least in the case of my review camera, as few other wireless signals as possible.
I tried several times to connect and stream using three public hot spots in New York City (there's a built-in minibrowser for agreeing to terms of service) and almost as soon as I would connect, it would drop the signal. And then pick it up again. And then drop it. This also happened in CNET's New York office where there are more than a dozen networks I can connect to from my desk. I would connect to a network and I could be standing right next to the router and the connection would drop out. However, in my home, where there's just one wireless network, it locked on and stayed connected.
Once you start live streaming, there's a slight delay of a few seconds and, again, as long as you have a solid connection, the video plays smoothly. People viewing at Qik.com can leave comments that appear in real time on the Live's screen. The video is streamed and stored on Qik, but the Live simultaneously captures HD video to the device.
The wireless can also be used to create an ad hoc network between the Live and an Android or iOS device. Once connected, you can see all of the photos and videos on the Live and transfer them off to your smartphone or tablet. Video is sent at 480x270-pixel resolution, again making for quick transfers and easy uploading.
You also get the option to tag movies and photos for uploading to Facebook, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr, and DailyMotion, as well as Sony's newest cloud service, PlayMemories Online.
So again, the Wi-Fi is the main attraction with this model, so if you don't want that, there are really no other reasons to buy the Live. The video is good, but in this case you're paying a premium for wireless functions, and the rest of this Bloggie's features are pretty standard on minicamcorders.
Sony's changed the name of its organizing and sharing software that comes with the Live to PlayMemories to go along with the launch of its cloud service. It's attractive and simple, but you can't do much with it other than organize, share, and trim video clips. It does those things well enough, but in comparison to what you get on Kodak or Samsung minicamcorders, the offering is weak. The software is Windows only (the device's file formats are supported by iPhoto), but a Mac uploader for Sony's PlayMemories Online service will be available in spring 2012, when the service is available.
As for design, the Bloggie Live looks quite nice, but functionally could be better. The casing is brushed metal and there's nothing on the front except for the lens and an LED lamp. On the back are the 3-inch touch-screen LCD and a record button. The device is held horizontally for shooting wide-screen video, so you can use the whole screen for framing your shots. The Bloggie Live does have an autorotation sensor, though, which means if you turn the device vertically so goes your video. Basically you'll get a long, thin portrait video instead of a wide-screen video. That is, if you turn it before you start recording. Turn it once you've pressed record and you end up with video on its side, as if you tilted your head.
Holding the minicamcorder horizontally puts a power button and shutter release for photos under your right index finger. The buttons are flush with the body, so if you're not looking or paying attention, you could accidentally power off the Live instead of taking a picture. Not a big problem if you're shooting photos, but a bit of an issue if you try to capture a still while recording video.
At the bottom or right side of the video camera is a pop-out USB connector for transferring files to and from a computer as well as charging the battery. Next to it is a threaded tripod receptacle, which is poor placement because the device has to be positioned horizontally to capture wide-screen video. It should really be on the bottom/left side with the Mini-HDMI port, but that would ruin the design.
One last thing: the battery is built in, so you can't easily swap it out when it dies, and a full charge takes more than 3 hours via USB to a computer; using a wall adapter cuts that in half. Using the Wi-Fi will understandably eat into battery life, which is something to keep in mind if you're considering this for streaming long events.
Considering the way the minicamcorder market is going, this quite possibly could be the first and last Bloggie Live. It's not a bad product; it does what it's designed to do and does it pretty well, especially for $250. Then again, for that price you have to really want to be able to record HD video while simultaneously live streaming a low-res version. Everything else that it does can be done with a pocket camera for the same or less money, and you can get better features like a zoom lens, optical image stabilization, and faster performance.
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