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The Sony Bloggie - the "Dynamic Duo" !
on May 27, 2011
The Sony Bloggie Duo is a compact camera which takes both still photos and video. It comes in several nice colors and has dual display screens.
What's in the Box?
* The Bloggie with self-contained memory and battery, and a one year warranty.
* Wrist strap
* USB cable
* Typical consumer electronics paperwork (warranty info, Sony ad, etc.)
The box does not include a hardcopy user manual. When you plug in the Bloggi for the first time, you will be prompted to install the Bloggie software. You will see that the user manual (called the Handbook) is stored on the device. It can be accessed as needed, printed, downloaded, etc. It is about 40 double-sided printed pages.
If you are giving this as a gift, once you remove the outer box, you will find that the inner Sony box is handsome and will look nice to the recipient. It is a black cardboard type box with the Sony logo on top. It hinges open to reveal the Bloggie in a velveteen type compartment.
The Bloggie is very compact, yet carries a lot of features in its small footprint. At 4 ¼" long, a little over 2 ¼" wide and about ½" thick it is about as small as you can get for an HD camera/video recorder. It weighs about 4.9 ounces. The Bloggie is `smart' and knows its orientation, so the display and soft menus will switch between landscape and portrait on the fly as you change how you hold the device.
The menu and keys are intuitive. The main control is a `joystick' type which houses the main `Enter' button and up/down/ left/right controls for various options. Above this are three buttons. From top to bottom, if holding the Bloggie landscape (or right to left if holding the device "portrait"), these buttons are: The menu button, followed by the middle button, which toggles the front display on/off, and last is the button to switch between recording/playback modes.
The 2.7" screen on the rear is the main screen. You would use the front screen (2") primarily for self-portraits, etc.; when on, it will mirror the main display. This is also nice if you want to watch something and share it with someone standing opposite you. Yes, you can use dual screen mode both during recording and playback! Both screens have excellent color and contrast, even in bright sunlight. The Bloggie also has an LED flash/backlight. These function well, especially considering the device's small size. On the top is the On/Off button and shutter button, as well as the speaker and microphone; you need to avoid covering the latter when recording audio. On the bottom is the min-HDMI port and USB connector. I did not call it a USB port, because it actually unfolds from within the Duo's body to form a built-in USB connector! All ports are completely hidden when not in use.
This brings me to the product's one design flaw. This is NOT a serious defect, but worth mentioning. The built-in USB connector is meant to plug directly into the port on a PC, etc. In many cases, you should be able to plug in the built-in USB connector. However, if you can't because, for example, you have a desktop PC with a recessed USB layout or ports without easy access, then you need to use the provided cable. The USB cable included by Sony is just 6 7/8" long from end to end. If you use a laptop, you should be fine either way, as the camera can sit on the table next to your laptop, etc. But if you need to use the cable and aren't at a table or you use a desktop PC/tower and can't use the built-in connector, then the cable is a headache. You would have to let the camera dangle (not good!) or place it on something to raise it to keep it supported. Again, this is NOT a serious defect, but could impact someone if they have limited flexibility in accessing their USB ports or moving their PC. In those cases the cable is just way too short. Sony sells a longer one as an accessory. You can probably find a USB extender cheaper.
As for the Bloggie's performance, you can select several photo options depending on what you want. It offers 0.4MP, 3MP, and 5MP still photos. 0.4MB would be for something where you want to save space, load files very quickly, but where quality is not a huge concern. 3MB is good for use on a PC or the internet, and the 5MB for prints. 0.4MP and 3MP use a 16:9 screen ratio, while the 5MP setting uses 4:3.
Storage-wise the Bloggie has 4GB of resident storage, which is not upgradeable. If storage is a concern, Sony also sells an 8GB Bloggie, but that model is not dual screen at this time. For the 4GB model reviewed here, it will hold slightly over 1,300 photos at 5MP. Like most cameras, the display will indicate the number of photos left.
For video, the settings are: 270 at 30fps, HD 720 at 30 fps, HD 720 at 60 fps (more suitable for sports and other fast action), and full HD 1080 at 30 fps. Files are recorded in MP4 format. Storage space for video recording will vary. For 480x270 (listed as `270' on the Bloggie), you can store up to 8 hours of video. At 720/30 fps this drops to 2 hours, at 720/60 fps 1 hour, or 40 minutes for 1080 mode. What it amounts to is you can record in the lowest HD mode for up to 2 hours. Also, the Bloggie will allow a half hour of continuous recording for any one movie file.
The Zoom is 4x digital. In 35mm camera terms the lens would equate to a 47mm focal length. The sensor is a ¼" CMOS. The Duo has built in image stabalization. Battery life is decent and the typical considerations apply. If you use the backlight, the battery drains faster. It will typically hold out for a couple of hours.
Playback quality on the camera itself is what you might expect. Very good video, somewhat muffled audio. Playback on a PC has excellent video and audio. Through HDMI, the video and sound are both awesome. Like most electronics, the Bloggie does not come with an HDMI cable and you will need to buy an HDMI to HDMI-mini cable. At the time I got my Bloggie, Amazon was offering a cable free with a Bloggie purchase.
The software on the Bloggie is nice. You can certainly use software included with your Windows or Mac OS to manage the recordings on your Bloggie, but the software is worth a look. It gives you an interface to push your photos and video to Facebook, Youtube, etc. and also walks you through the registration for a free Sony Personal Space account which can help you easily share photos and video with family and friends through groups, notifications, etc. Obviously there are many ways to do this, but this one is included with the Bloggie if you want to give it a spin.
So, what's the bottom line? I would not replace my higher end video recorder or digital camera with the Bloggie. For higher end recording, I need the features, flexibility, and zoom capability that a full size device provides. However, for a camera on the run, with plenty of features, the Bloggie Duo is fantastic. It is very small so you can stick it in a pocket or purse and carry it around all the time. Then you will be ready to video the kids, family, friends etc. on all those occasions where you always said "We should have brought the camcorder!" It really fits the bill for a conveniently sized, easy to use, reasonably priced camera/video recorder.