Following the success of its Bloggie camcorder, Sony has introduced a new model featuring a touchscreen, along with several other nifty improvements. We were on hand at IFA 2010 to take a look at the new pocket camcorder and this is what we thought.
Along with the 3-inch LCD touchscreen, another major feature on the new model is the supplied 360 video lens. This add-on lens fits onto the top of the device and enables you to shoot 360-degree panoramas. The new version also comes equipped with an HDMI port so that you can rig it up to your HD TV or a compatible PC to watch your MP4 video clips in their native high-def resolution. As well as shooting full HD 1080/30 footage, the updated Bloggie includes a 12.8-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor for taking still images - a marked improvement on the 5-megapixel camera on the previous model.
The F/2.8 autofocus lens with wide angle and 4x digital zoom has been designed to offer quality images, even in low lighting. The Bloggie lets you bookmark your favourite photos and video clips so that you can "shoot it now, share it later" with swift uploads to social networking sites, or to your own photo album.
Weighing in at just 125g, the Bloggie is slim and compact, measuring a skinny 15.2mm thick and has been designed so that it can easily be held in either hand and sports a large recording button in the middle beneath the screen for fast, one-touch recording. What's more, the screen detects the position of the Bloggie and automatically flips between portrait and landscape.
The built-in fold-out USB connector means that you can plug the Bloggie straight into your PC, without the need for any extra cables. Built-in software then makes it easy for you upload photos and videos directly to sites such as Facebook and YouTube. This also means that you can charge the device through your PC. The 8GB internal memory offers space for around 4 hours' worth of 720/30p HD video footage, obviously shorter as you step-up to the higher resolution.
In terms of size and design, the new Bloggie has a similar appearance to that of a smartphone, thanks largely to that LCD touchscreen. While it feels solid and sturdy, it's still incredibly svelte for a camcorder and features a slick user interface. The large record button makes it a piece of cake to capture videos at a moment's notice. Taking pictures is also child's play, with a handily placed shutter button on the side for horizontal pictures.
You can even take snaps at the same time as shooting video. You can zoom in and out easily, simply by sliding your finger over the screen, although it took a few attempts for us to get this right - something that we are sure will come naturally with practice. Although the camera takes good, crisp, stills (from what we saw on display) the 4x digital zoom wasn't great, so it's probably better just to move closer to or further away from what you're shooting, if you can.
We found the touchscreen very easy to use: it was bright and very responsive to the touch, with no noticeable delay. The layout of the controls on the screen was clear and logical making navigating through the menus a swift and intuitive process. After playing around with the Bloggie for some time, we think that touchscreen control is definitely the way forward for pocket-sized camcorders, as it saves us from having to grapple with the notoriously dinky buttons with confusing labels often found on similarly sized models.
Unfortunately, there weren't any of the 360 lenses available when we went back for a longer play the Sony stand at IFA, but we still think that this sounds like a great feature.
The built-in USB connector, as featured on previous versions and on many camcorders of this ilk is a nice touch, although ease of use depends on where the USB ports on your computer are and you might have to unplug any other USB devices while you use it if they're in the way. Sony has foreseen this potential problem by supplying a USB cable, just in case.
It's available in silver, pink or black and is due to hit UK stores in November, priced at £219. We'll be getting it in to give it a proper testing to see if that autofocus lens lives up to its claims and whether the Bloggie Touch is going to be worth putting on your Christmas list.