There is a lot of competition in the pocket camcorder market. Sony's Bloggie Touch stands out for its design and build quality, which is centred around a 3-inch touchscreen.
Past Sony models were lacking in the look and feel departments, as well as in usability. The Bloggie Touch corrects that by aiming for simplicity and hitting its target.
Autofocus (AF) is one of the big selling points of the Bloggie Touch, since it's something many devices in this category don't have. This allows you to go from shooting a whole garden right down to a single flower 10cm away. The AF isn't all that fast, though, and it's even slower in low-light conditions. And if your subject is moving or you're moving the camera, your video will pulse in and out of focus.
Though we don't have a problem with this, some will find it too distracting to be useful. Also, if you're shooting in complete silence, you will hear a faint ticking sound picked up by the mono microphone while it's trying to focus. We know this all sounds bad, but since most pocket camcorders can't focus on anything closer than a metre from the lens, it's actually a plus to have this feature if you understand the limitations.
Australia-bound Bloggie Touches come in just one specification, with 8GB of built-in storage. At the lowest recording resolution (720p at 25fps) that gives you enough space for about four hours of recording. However, the maximum continuous recording time for a clip is 29 minutes, which is typical amongst pocket camcorders.
The Bloggie Touch looks quite nice, although that's mostly because competing models tend to look and feel cheap. The casing is brushed metal and there's nothing on the front except for the lens. On the back are the 3-inch touchscreen LCD and a record button. The device is held horizontally for shooting widescreen video, so you can use the whole screen for framing your shots.
That's a nice touch; other touchscreen models we've tested let you use the full screen only for playback. The Bloggie Touch does have an auto-rotation sensor, though, which means if you turn the device vertically, so does your video. Basically, you'll get a long, thin portrait video instead of a widescreen video.
Holding the pocket camcorder horizontally puts a power button and shutter release for photos under your right index finger. You can capture photos at up to 12 megapixels when not shooting movies. 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.
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 poorly placed for a device that has to be positioned horizontally to capture widescreen video. It should really be on the bottom/left side along with the Mini-HDMI port.
The Mini-HDMI port and USB connector are the only inputs/outputs, by the way, so if you're hoping to connect an external mic or headphones, it won't happen. Some might be disappointed by the battery, too, since it's not removable or replaceable by the user. Also, the only cable that comes with the Bloggie Touch is a USB extension cable; you'll have to supply your own Mini-HDMI cable.
Probably the best part about the Bloggie Touch is that it's easy to use: turn it on and press record. The screen is responsive and really the only reasons to regularly touch it are to change video/photo resolution and to enter playback. There is a slider for the 4x digital zoom, but the resulting video is so bad you won't want to use it. You can activate a self-timer, too, for either a two- or 10-second delay. There's an icon for entering the main menu system, but after the initial set-up there's little need to go back into it.
In playback, you get controls for play/pause, fast forward and rewind, volume, deleting photos and videos, and tagging them for sharing on Facebook, Flickr or YouTube, or with groups of people you've set up using Sony's Personal Space online storage — Sony gives you a whole 1GB storage for free! But other than the ability to protect stuff from being deleted off the device, there are no extras like the option to trim clips or add effects.
The video quality from the Bloggie Touch is very good under the right circumstances. Of course, pocket camcorders such as this can't compete with a fully-fledged HD camcorder that costs many 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.
While colour and exposure are good, the video isn't very sharp and on a large TV it looks a bit soft and painterly. It's not bad per se, but if you're expecting razor-sharp clarity because it's 1080p, you'll likely be disappointed. Also, it doesn't handle movement — of the subject or of the device — very well at 1080p, with a lot of judder evident. That's unfortunately typical of this type of video camera.
The upside to the Bloggie Touch is that Sony gives you a 720/50p setting, which smooths things out somewhat if you're shooting action or doing a lot of panning left and right. Lastly, low-light video is noisy and grainy with readily visible artefacts. We've seen much worse, though, so all in all the Bloggie Touch does quite well indoors and in darker conditions.
Sony Bloggie Software
The editing and sharing software on the Bloggie Touch is light on features, though it does look nice.
For the Bloggie Touch, Sony revamped its Picture Motion Browser software that was previously embedded on its pocket camcorders and cameras. The new application, simply called Bloggie Software, is attractive and simple. 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 Flip Video or Kodak pocket camcorders, the offering is weak. It is, however, available for both Windows and Mac.
If you're looking for a simple shoot-and-share pocket camcorder, the Bloggie Touch is a good option. That is, as long as you understand its limitations.