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With manufacturers splitting their camcorders between ones sporting optical zoom lenses, memory card slots and removable batteries, and pocket models with digital zoom, internal memory and embedded batteries, Sony has expanded its choices in the latter category with the introduction of four Bloggie Touch cameras.
Despite placing most of the controls on the 3-inch LCD touch screen, Sony has wisely retained two buttons: one for capturing video and the other for taking photos.
The Bloggie Touch quartet comprises 4- and 8-Gigabyte models available in silver or black. Each camera's Exmor CMOS sensor can effectively capture approximately 12.8 Megapixels. Sony has used the "Bloggie" brand on some previous pocket cameras, but the new design is as thin and sleek as we've seen, and the touch controls are new. The brushed aluminum pre-release model we obtained is only 5/8 of an inch thick and weighs just 4.4 ounces. It's 2 1/8 inches wide and 4 1/4 inches tall and stands erect when placed on a table. Sony has dispensed with the foldout screen or rotating lens seen on earlier Bloggies. The USB connector pops out from the bottom of the camera and a 5-inch cable adapter is included so that when you attach the camera to your computer, adjacent USB ports aren't rendered useless. The only other connection is a mini HDMI port (cable not included). There's a hole for a supplied wrist strap, but there is no earphone jack. A built-in speaker provides the in-camera audio playback. The camera is attractively packaged in a black cardboard case with velvet lining.
It's refreshing that the Bloggie Touch models enable you to shoot still images in camera and in three user-selectable sizes (4:3, 12 Megapixel; 16:9, 8Mp; and 16:9, 2Mp). Competing camcorders from Flip Video, the company largely responsible for teaching traditional camcorder manufacturers that consumers will buy products with fewer features as long as they're simple to use and make uploading videos to the Internet easy, makes users seeking stills grab them from the video only after footage is transferred to a computer. There's even a self-timer, letting you jump into the picture two or 10 seconds after you press the shutter. And there's a tripod socket for holding the camera.
The dedicated button with a red dot starts and stops your video recording, a real advantage over cameras with touch screen-only controls in situations where you can't make out what's on the screen in bright sunshine. You can choose three bit rates for recording video: 12 Megabits per second, 6Mbps or 4Mbps. The former enables full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels at 29.97 frames per second, progressive). The middle bit rate provides 1280 x 720 at 59.94 fps, progressive. The latter affords 1280 x 720 at 29.97 fps, progressive. The file format is MP4; the video compression is MPEG-4 AVC / H.264. This means that you'll be able to burn the AVCHD format to DVD-R media in your computer that will be playable in high-def on most Blu-ray Disc players.
You'll also be able to upload video to popular video sharing sites including YouTube and Facebook. Sony lets you link a video clip to one or more specific sites in the camera itself, so that when you connect to a computer, clips are readily routed to where you want them to go. The "Share It Later" menu lets you touch check boxes for YouTube, Facebook and Flickr as well as e-mail address you create under such headings as My Best Friend, My Team, Mom and Dad or My Loved Ones.
|Still image shutter button is located just below power button.||Fixed lens on front of camera. (Images are enlarged.)||
Mini HDMI port is located behind cover. Wrist strap attaches below.
By touching the play button, the camera changes to a photo and video player. Fifteen video or photo icons (left) fit on the screen at a time, Video icons are bordered by film-like sprockets. With 96,000 pixels (288,000 dots counting subpixels) composing the display, images are crisp. You can speed up a video by touching the >> control or tugging the crawler. Though you can skip to the next full-screen image (including the opening frame of a video) by swiping your finger across the screen, the capacitive touch screen is not the multi-sensor type. You can't enlarge an image by separating two fingers. However, double tapping the screen with one finger will enlarge the image. You can do this four times, zooming in as you go, before the image reverts to its original size. You can't adjust screen brightness.
Though the picture automatically reorients as you rotate the player, be careful not to shoot video while holding the camera upright. When I watched such a scene on a big-screen HDTV through my HDMI cable, the moving picture appeared in a narrow slit between wide black borders. Rotating the player/camera turned the image full screen but sideways. Twisted heads quickly tire watching TV that way.
The built-in microphone is mono (as is the built-in speaker), and of course, mono is what you'll get out of your computer or TV speakers. (Pocket camcorders aren't known for containing an external mic input, and the Bloggie Touch is no exception.) The computer software stored in my pre-release Bloggie Touch that I uploaded to and installed on my Windows 7 PC didn't yet enable me to transfer content from the camera, so I can't comment on how the program compares to the great Flip Video software.
All told, the Bloggie Touch is a sleek pocket camera for capturing both high-def video and photos on a thin touch screen from a manufacturer that acknowledges the value of including hard buttons for the critical functions of recording video and taking photos. Also, enabling a choice of video and photo resolutions is a nod to users that they can think for themselves. With its in-camera ability to let you select Internet destinations for specific photos and clips, the popout USB connector to a computer, and the HDMI output to a TV, sharing or viewing content you create on the fly is simple and straightforward. Sony seems to have a winner with these attractively designed little wonders.