Sony's Bloggie (MHS-PM5) is a high definition pocket camcorder that retails for $170. It's geared for those looking for a low cost, light weight camcorder that's easy to use and ideal for shooting Web-friendly video.Full specifications for the Bloggie PM5 can be found here. Video samples recorded with the PM5 here.
The Bloggie MHS-PM5 at a Glance
The Good: Solid video quality, easy to use.
The Bad: Cumbersome design, no HDMI output.
- Records 1920 x 1080 resolution video at 30fps in the H.264 format
- Records to SDHC and Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards
- 5-megapixel still capture
- A 4x digital zoom lens
- A 2.4-inch LCD screen
- Flip-out USB plug
- Choice of colors: purple, blue, pink and white
Sony's Bloggie joins the growing ranks of pocket camcorders offering a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Paired with a 5-megapixel 1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor, the Bloggie delivers excellent video quality for a pocket camcorder. You also have the choice to bump the resolution down to 1280 x 720 at either 30 or 60 frames per second, or down to 640 x 480 resolution.
Color reproduction looked accurate on the Bloggie and while there is some digital noise (or graininess) in dim light, the Bloggie held up about as well as its main rivals: Kodak's Zi8 and Pure Digital's Flip UltraHD. Unfortunately, for all this great HD video, Sony didn't include an HDMI output on the Bloggie. You're left with lower quality A/V outputs for viewing your vids on an HDTV.
The still camera functionality on the Bloggie is not as impressive: the camera is not terribly responsive and in low light the camera had trouble focusing. Keep in mind that these are typical limitations from models in this class. On the plus side, the camcorder features a dedicated button for shooting stills so that if you did get the urge, it's easier to access than it is on, say, the Zi8.
Unique Swivel Lens: Not For Everybody
What sets the Bloggie apart from its pocket camcorder competition is a lens that can rotate a full 270 degrees. Depending on your needs, the Bloggie's swivel lens is either a really big bonus (for helping frame harder-to-reach shots or self-portraits) or a needless distraction, because you'll have to correctly position the lens every time you turn on the camcorder. You can leave the lens in position and just power down the Bloggie, but if you slip it into your pocket, it's going to move the lens anyway.
Personally, I like the swivel lens concept as it provides for more shooting flexibility, but it does detract somewhat from the "point and shoot" simplicity that distinguishes a pocket camcorder from more traditional models. If the concept of the swivel lens intrigues you, Sony sells a $190 version of the PM5 which includes an accessory attachment that enables the camcorder to record in a full 360 degrees.
As for the optics themselves, there is just a 4x digital zoom, which is common to pocket camcorders but isn't terribly useful (and not available when filming at 1920 x 1080 resolution). There is also digital stabilization which, like the digital zoom, is not as effective as its optical counterpart and didn't appear to noticeably reduce camera shake.
Design: Needs Improvement
If there's a downside to the Bloggie PM5, it's the design, specifically the placement of the record and camera shutter buttons. They are flush with the unit in the upper right hand corner, and I found it somewhat difficult to turn recording on and off when shooting single-handedly and wound up dragging my thumb across the LCD (and smudging it).
Below the LCD, the controls are better executed, with a playback button, four-way joystick control and a menu button for accessing the Bloggie's settings. Locating the record and shutter buttons below the LCD screen would have made the PM5 easier to shoot with for those, like me, who are plagued with sausage-link fingers.
The Bloggie offers a built-in USB plug, which is nice. But when you extend it, its cover just kind of dangles in the way.
On the plus side, the Bloggie is nice and compact. At 4.5 ounces and under an inch thick, you'll find it easily slips into your pocket.
The Bloggie PM5 offers a bare-bones feature set. There isn't much in the menu to get lost in: you'll find settings for adjusting video and still photo resolution, turning face detection on or off and making other basic adjustments. Even novices won't have much trouble getting up to speed on the PM5 quite quickly.
Dual Memory Cards
For years, Sony has only used its own Memory Stick memory card format in its products. This year, in its camcorders, it is incorporating a dual card slot for use with both SDHC cards and Memory Stick Pro Duo cards. You can only use one card at a time, however.
The Bloggie PM5's built-in software suite is a version of Sony's Picture Motion Browser (PMB), which loads automatically when you connect the Bloggie to a computer via USB. It's simple enough to use for loading videos onto your PC or uploading them from the camcorder to YouTube and other Web hosting sites. It's not as functional as the software included with either Kodak or Pure Digital's pocket camcorders, but it's serviceable. Sony also includes a more robust version of PMB in the box.
One nice touch on the Bloggie is the ability to playback your videos while holding the unit horizontally (and thus taking advantage of the entire 2.4-inch LCD screen). Typically with pocket camcorders, the top half of the LCD is used for previewing or reviewing your videos, with the bottom portion dedicated to displaying the camcorder's status. The result is that most of the LCD's real estate is not taken up by the video. You'll still only use the top half of the LCD when filming, as you have to hold the unit vertically to record.
The Bottom Line: Something Different
With so many "me too" pocket camcorders flooding the market, Sony's Bloggie MHS-PM5 stands out with decent HD video recording and a unique lens. This swivel lens makes the Bloggie a bit more complicated than a purely "point and shoot" model like the Flip, so users looking for that kind of simplicity may need to go elsewhere. The lack of an HDMI cable and slightly cumbersome design can be a drag, but the Bloggie performs well in the video department and comes in at a list price $20 below its rivals.