Sony PlayStation Vita firmware 1.60 pictures, video and hands-on

When we reviewed the PlayStation Vita - due to launch on 22 February in the UK and US - the build of its system software didn't allow for video recording. The Photos application would only allow you to take, ahem, photos through the rear and front-facing cameras.

However, Sony Computer Entertainment has released a firmware update (1.60) which fixes that strange oversight. And introduces Google Maps and enhanced Mac compatibility too.

Pocket-lint has been trying out the new features, so you can consider this hands-on and video test as a sort of addendum to our full, in-depth review.

The first thing that you should note with the video recording functionality is that it is housed in the Photos application, not Videos, confusingly. The latter is reserved for playback of video content that has been downloaded, bought or rented. The same goes with viewing your self-shot clips: you have to click on them in Photos, not Videos. Hmmm.

Once that little hurdle is over, however, the rest is a doddle. Like with an iPhone or other mobile device, the camera app offers a one-touch button that switches from still photography to video recording, and there are few other options to get in the way. You can choose to capture from the front camera or the rear, but can not alternate between them while the footage is recording.

The other limit is in aspect ratio and resolution. Although stills can be taken in three aspects - 480 x 480, 640 x 480 and 640 x 360 - video is locked to 4:3, 640 x 480 [as you can see by the black side bars above]. Nor can it have a location stamp on it, unlike snapped images.

What did surprise us though is that the quality isn't too bad in decent enough light. Like with its still camera talents, footage can look super grainy in darkened rooms and at night, but shine enough light on to the scene and things dramatically improve. Unfortunately, the sensor isn't too keen on variations in light, taking a while to adjust and effectively phasing contrast up and down, but should you just be recording a brief clip of the kids on the beach, it will suffice.

Google Maps is the other major addition that comes with the over the air system software upgrade. Appearing as an app on the home screen, it works in much the same way as Maps applications do on other smartphones and tablets, except, perhaps, devices running Google's own Android operating system (understandably).

You can access and search for all of the locations available on a smartphone, and switch between normal map mode, satellite map mode, or a combination of the two. There's even an option to overlay basic traffic information.

To be honest, we have been able to test the service only on a Wi-Fi version of the PS Vita, and even then it's not the quickest to refresh when you zoom in and out, but we'd consider this a work in progress. After all, how many other apps out there are still on their first build, irrespective of device.

As previously mentioned, firmware 1.60 also introduces better compatibility with Mac computers, and Sony now offers its Content Manager Assistant for Apple machines. You need this to smooth the process of putting content on to and pulling it off of the Vita, so that's a hugely welcome development.

And the final, very minor, change is that the home button on the front of the console now lights everytime you switch the Vita on, rather than for a brief few seconds.

We would expect system software 1.60 to be pre-installed with the UK PS Vita when it hits stores next Wednesday. But, if not, you should check for a system update the moment your brand, new device is fully charged.

Are you excited by the PS Vita? Will you be buying one? Let us know in the comments below...

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