Flip's gone. Kodak is filing for bankruptcy. What's a pocket camcorder maker to do? If you're Sony, make a device more like a smartphone, but better. The company's new pocket camcorder, the Bloggie Live, utilizes a Wi-Fi connection to instantly upload your videos and livestream them via Qik. It provides near-instant sharing, but is that enough to justify its $249 price tag? Read on to find out.
The Bloggie Live follows the same design cues as the Sony Bloggie Touch, with a 3-inch capacitive touch screen and a large single button for starting and stopping recording on the back. The 4.5 x 2.1 x 0.6-inch camcorder houses an f2.8 to f5.3 Sony lens on its brushed-metal front with a bright LED light that can be turned on or off from the touch screen. The front of the device is curved with rounded edges, making it comfortable to hold while you're watching videos on its display.
The power button and camera shutter button reside on the top edge. The shutter button is larger than it should be-- we mistook it for zoom control at first and kept hitting it accidentally while filming (the zoom control is actually on the touch screen). A mini HDMI port lies on the bottom edge.
The half moon-shaped side of the Bloggie Live holds a pop-out USB and an ill-placed tripod mount. If you want to actually use this diminutive camera with a tripod, you'll want one that articulates 90 degrees; otherwise, all of your videos will be narrow and vertical.
The stand-out feature of the Bloggie Live is its Wi-Fi connectivity. Sony has Qik built into the camcorder so that you can live-stream directly using this service when connected to a Wi-Fi Network. Also, any videos or photos taken with the device can be almost instantly uploaded to DailyMotion, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, and Sony's PlayMemories Online service.
The Bloggie Live has a Sony Exmor CMOS sensor capable of full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second, "HD Sport" (720p video at 60 fps), and 720p video at 30 fps. It also features a 12.8-megapixel still camera sensor, a 4x digital zoom, and Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization.
The camera has 8GB of built-in memory, which translates to about 3 hours of 720p HD video. However, there's no memory card slot.
Connecting the Bloggie Live to a Wi-Fi hotspot is as easy as setting up a smartphone to do the same. Press Menu on the touch screen, scroll down to Main Settings, and select Wi-Fi Settings. The camera searches for available networks, and a keyboard pops up for you to enter the password. Typing on the screen was comparable to typing on an iPhone in landscape mode, though the keys were a little smaller.
One minor annoyance: The menus and login screens for YouTube, Qik, etc. were all portrait-oriented, but the keyboard is landscape only. When entering our info we had to keep shifting the camera. Thankfully, since your login info is able to be saved, we only had to do this once.
To enable live-streaming, we had to sign up for an account with Qik.com at http://qik.com/basic/users/new, then log into that account on the camera. When you want to start a livestream, select Live Streaming from the menu. Friends will then be able to watch your stream from a user-specific URL.
The livestream via Qik worked impressively well. There was a delay of less than 10 seconds when we first started streaming, but the lag seemed to diminish the longer we streamed. Images were crisp and clear, though not technically in full HD. The Bloggie Live sends a slightly lower-quality compressed version of the video to Qik, while still recording a full HD copy to the camera. One downside: Though you can take still photos in regular recording mode, you can't while live-streaming. In fact, the camera delivered the terse message ! Invalid Operation, froze, and had to be restarted when we tried to take a still.
A co-worker in New York watched our Qik livestream and said that the video stayed smooth and in sync, even though he was switching between regular and full-screen views. He also said that the Bloggie Live picked up our voice well, but there was a fair amount of ambient air noise, even though the room we were filming in was quiet.
The Bloggie Live also made it easy to send videos to our social networks. After logging into our YouTube account, we were able to upload a 1-minute video in about 10 seconds.
Offline, the Bloggie Live produced good video, though the device was occasionally a little slow to autofocus. When we tossed a Furby around, the camera didn't have any problems with the motion, but when we held the plush toy in our hand during the same shot, the camera took an extra second to focus. Likewise, picking up items and holding them close to the camera, then putting them back down gave the autofocus trouble.
Compared to the iPhone 4S's video camera, the Sony produced cooler-toned images. However, the Bloggie Live handled ambient light much better. When filming ornaments on a Christmas tree situated in a bay window, the Bloggie Live muted the outside light and picked up what we were trying to capture. By contrast, the iPhone barely muted the outside light and gave the impression that the tree was glowing-- blurring out the ornaments.
One important consideration: Decide which orientation you want before hitting record. Though the Bloggie Live will record horizontally or vertically, and the touch screen changes orientation appropriately, the recording will be oriented to whichever way you were holding the device when you started recording. If you start recording with the camera in the vertical position, but then decide to hold it horizontally, your video will be sideways. As a general rule, don't take vertical videos--you'll end up with huge black bars to the left and right of your video.
Still images taken with the Bloggie Live were crisp, but cool-toned. Shots taken in dim light were a bit grainy when we viewed them on our screen.
For casual shooting, the Bloggie Live's battery held up well. We started a session with lots of recording, live-streaming, and playback with three battery bars left; at the end of the day, we still had one bar left. If you plan on filming a family party intermittently for a few hours, the Bloggie Live should hold up just fine.
The $249 Bloggie Live is an innovative camcorder that delivers on its promises. Though we would like the autofocus to work a little faster and the price to be lower, its responsive touch screen and easy uploading and streaming capabilities are worth it for people who want to share moments as they happen.