Sony’s new MHS-TS55 Bloggie Live pocket camcorder, $250, is getting lots of attention for its ability to stream live video to your computer using Qik.com, a web video hosting service. This means you can record and simultaneously broadcast your video on the web. Smartphones have been able to do this for a while, but it's new for pocket cams.
I've been shooting with the Bloggie for several days, using many of its features, including WiFi. Here are my first impressions.
Live streaming video. I was skeptical when I learned this Bloggie was wireless. In the past, wireless digital imaging products have been hard to set up and use. But I was pleasantly surprised to find it was easy to set up an account on the www.Qik.com website and the camcorder itself.
Initially, I did run into some difficulties. When I tried to live stream, my video page on the Qik website wouldn't produce a video image. I tried two different computer platforms, several operating systems, several different browsers, different Adobe Flash plugin versions, and different WiFi connections. For me, the key seemed to be uploading the very latest Adobe Flash plugin and downloading and installing the latest version of the Google Chrome browser. Once I did this, the live streaming service worked, albeit with a bit of a delay on the video stream. I never was able to get it to work using Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.
Sony's Post and Share feature. This worked flawlessly, letting me quickly upload photos or video to a variety of social networking and photo sharing websites, including Facebook, YouTube and FlickR. I was also happy to see that FlickR displayed the photo's geotagging (which is in the metadata of my photo), which indicated where my picture was taken by pinning my shot to a map.
Video and still photo quality. Like most pocket camcorders, the Bloggie Live does not have an optical zoom lens. It has digital zoom, but I found that image quality suffered when I used it. The camcorder stores video on 8GB of internal flash memory, but doesn’t include a slot for additional memory.
In bright light, the Bloggie worked very well. The autofocus snapped into place pretty quickly in bright light and images were clear and sharp. The only downside I noticed was a subtle but persistent clicking, like the faint sound of a fan, in some of my quieter videos. But in noisy environments, like a basketball game, audio sounded decent.
However, I was disappointed with the performance of the Bloggie's camera and the quality of still photos. I noticed a delay when snapping a photo, which took longer in low light, since the autofocus was hunting for a subject. Also, photos taken in high dynamic range settings, such as shooting indoors toward a window during the day, produced shots that either blew out all the highlights in any subjects outside the window or made the indoors look completely dark. And in low-light shots, photos appreared very grainy.
Camera-body design and GUI. As with past Bloggie models, this one is sleek and nicely designed. In size and weight, it's similar to an iPhone 4, and has a similar minimalist design. It includes a big red button at the bottom (for recording video), a side button (for capturing still shots), an on/off button and a USB connector that flips out from the camera body, just like the Flip models did. Sony even includes a tiny USB extension cord to make it easier to connect to your computer's USB port.
It also has a large, 3-inch touchscreen that I found quite responsive and easy to type on, although not quite as intuitive as typing on an iPhone. I also liked the menu structure, which was simple and clear.
Bottom line. For the price, I think this is a promising pocket camcorder for those who want a simple, easy-to-use pocket camcorder that can live stream video or simply upload images and video to the most popular social networking and web video sites. However, I'm disappointed at the still photos it shot. And if you want to get the most out of live streaming your video, be sure your computer has the latest updates for your browser and Flash plugins.