The Sony Bloggie Duo is a simple shoot-and-share mini camcorder that, thanks to a secondary 2-inch LCD next to the lens, makes being in your own movie clips and taking self-portraits easier. It allows you to be part of the action instead of stuck behind the camera. Sure, you don't need a second LCD to do this, but it certainly helps frame your shots and know you're looking your best.
Otherwise, the Duo is a pretty basic mini camcorder with few extras. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't exactly give you a lot for the money. Video quality, while not outstanding, is on the mark for its intended purpose: sharing on YouTube and Facebook. And its photo quality ain't half bad, either.
The video quality from the Bloggie Duo can be very good as long as you and your subject aren't moving much. Of course, pocket video cameras such as this can't compete with a full-fledged HD camcorder that costs hundreds of dollars more. There are other factors that go into creating great video beyond high resolution, so if you're considering this for its "full HD" setting, you might want to think twice. When shooting at 1080p, video is reasonably sharp and detailed without looking crunchy. Colour 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. (Clip lengths, by the way, are limited to 2GB or 29 minutes, which is typical, too.)
The Bloggie Duo 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 the video is severely lacking in detail, looking more like a painting. Again, it's fine at small sizes, but not good on a large HDTV. Lastly, the low-light video is noisy and grainy with readily visible artefacts. We've seen much worse, though, so all in all the Bloggie Duo does all right indoors and in darker conditions. There is an LED lamp above 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. The Duo does have autofocus, which allows you to go from shooting something like a whole garden right down to a single flower 4 inches away. The AF isn't all that fast, though, and it's even slower in low-light conditions.
Aside from the secondary display, autofocus and the LED lamp, the Duo is light on features. There are no colour effects or really any other shooting options beyond changing resolution. The built-in mic is mono, and there are no jacks for connecting headphones or an external mic. It does have a flip-out USB arm for quickly connecting to a computer and Sony includes a small extension cable. The Duo can be used as a VGA webcam when connected to a computer, too. Lastly, there's a mini-HDMI jack, but you'll need to get your own cable for that one.
The editing and sharing software on the Bloggie Duo is light on features, though it does look nice.
(Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET)
Embedded on the Duo is Sony's Bloggie Software for organising and sharing your photos and movie clips. It's attractive and simple, but you can't do much with it other than organise, share and trim video clips. It does those things well enough, but in comparison to what you get on Kodak or Samsung mini camcorders, the offering is weak. It is, however, available for Windows and Mac computers.
The overall design of the Bloggie Duo is nice, the highlight, again, being the dual displays for self-portraits. Operation is as simple as turning it on and pressing the big record button. There are three buttons down the right side of the screen; the middle one turns on the front LCD, the top accesses menu options, and the bottom is for playback. A circular directional pad around the record button controls the 4x digital zoom, self-timer and the LED lamp. One nice touch: you'll get an on-screen countdown when using the self-timer and the front display.
There are a couple design things to be aware of that might turn you off, though. The battery is built in, so you can't easily swap it out when it dies; a full charge takes more than three hours via USB. When shooting horizontally, which is how you'll likely shoot a majority of the time, the tripod receptacle is poorly placed on the right side of the video camera. Also, the shutter release and power button are flush with the body and are only separated by a tiny strip of plastic. If you're not looking or paying attention, you could accidentally power off the Duo instead of take a picture. It's not a big problem if you're shooting photos, but it's a bit of an issue if you try to capture a still while recording video.
For people who like to be in front of the camera and not just behind it, the Sony Bloggie Duo is a good choice. It doesn't offer much beyond that feature, though, and its video and photo quality is best suited for online sharing. Which, to be fair, is what it's designed for.