"The Flip is dead, long live the Sony Bloggie". Are the words probably uttered by the Sony pocket camcorder team when they heard the news earlier this year that Cisco had ditched the popular Flip camcorder.
Trying to fill the space, Sony has slowly trotted out a number of different Bloggie models that are aimed at capturing the moment via a dedicated pocket camcorder normally as good as, if not slightly better than, your mobile phone.
While that is a market that is constantly under pressure from phone cameras merely getting better, Sony hopes that you are more likely to opt for their Sony Bloggie 3D, a pocket camcorder that has two lenses on the back so you can record 3D video and capture 3D stills when you’re out and about, because it’s something that only a handful of phones currently offer.
Completing Sony’s vision of a 3D world from creation to viewing, the Bloggie is one of the last pieces of the consumer puzzle – until Sony Ericsson launches a 3D phone. But can the Bloggie 3D recreate your 3D world? We’ve been testing it out to find out.
The Bloggie 3D, or MHS-FS3 to give it its more boring name, looks like any of the pocket camcorders on the market. The front is adorned with a 2.4-inch glasses-free 3D screen, a trio of buttons and the usual d-pad for navigating around the menu system. There's also a big red button for recording.
On the side you get a shutter button for still shots, a power on/off switch, and a pop out USB dongle that allows you to connect the camcorder directly to your computer without having to faff around looking for a cable.
For those looking to just enjoy the content on their 3D TV there is also an HDMI out, for which you will need a cable. Finally there is a tripod thread, to get your shots rock steady, something very important for 3D video. Sadly, there's no way of plugging in an external microphone, but then you normally can’t with any of the other pocket camcorders on the market either.
Around the back are two Sony f2.8-f4.1 autofocus lenses and an LED light for when it comes to filming in low light conditions. Inside and you get 8GB of storage space to store all your movies and photos.
Shooting and watching 3D
The Bloggie 3D is capable of recording 3D 1920x1080p MP4 HD video with 2 megapixel still images.
3D video is saved as MP4 files which are the most widely used and readable files in the world of 3D at the moment. To record the third dimension, it’s simply a case of pressing the button. You can switch between 2D and 3D quickly, although not while filming.
Filming in 3D does come with plenty of limitations. The zoom functionality is turned off, you can only shoot stills at 2 megapixel in a 16:9 aspect (the camera supports up to 5 megapixels in 2D) and film 3D footage at 1080/30p (Full HD). In fact you really only get the chance to turn that LED on, or set the timer to delay the start of the recording by either two or 10 seconds.
In 3D filming you will get around 80 minutes worth of recording space and the battery does well to keep up with that.
Of course the beauty of the Bloggie 3D is that not only can it record in 3D, but you can also watch the footage you’ve recorded back, in 3D, then and there, rather than having to hunt down a 3D television.
The screen works like the LG Optimus 3D, the HTC EVO 3D, and the Nintendo 3DS. You have to align your eyes in the right position to see the 3D effect.The viewing angle is surprisingly very good though and means you can move the camcorder -or your head- around without losing the effect. This isn't the case with devices like the HTC EVO 3D. The screen isn’t fantastic in bright sunlight, especially if you are hoping to see the 3D effect, however it’s not a complete waste of time either.
Shooting and watching 2D
While Sony will have you believe that 3D is the future, it’s not the only option, or the only way. The Bloggie 3D can also do 2D recording as well. With 2D your capturing choices get a little wider. Aside from a 4x digital zoom and face detection (up to 8 faces), you get 5, 3, or .04-megapixel shooting modes for stills.
For video you get more shooting resolutions as well. There’s 1080/30p, 720/60p, 720/30p, and 270/30p. Although 720/60p is a standard HD resolution -more common in the US than here, it also has uses for slow motion video, as you can post-produce video to 50% of the original speed.
For users hoping for creative control, it's worth pointing out that there is no manual white balance or manual focus options. This really is a point and shoot camera, aimed at people who want to be able to easily shoot 3D.
Recording times at the highest settings are 80 minutes for 1080/30p footage working their way up to 240 minutes for 720/30p footage.
As for actual video quality, it is good. Colours are accurate, there is little noise and the results are pleasant rather than stunning. Movement is also crisp.
To get the best results out of 3D filming you need to have a completely different shooting mind set, and that’s going to be one of the biggest barriers here in creating decent 3D video or decent 3D stills. Once you’ve worked that out, artistically, you can start to make the most of the Bloggie 3D and its capabilities.
The good thing is that in all our recordings the Bloggie 3D didn’t get in the way. It’s small, easily pocket-able, and when it comes to recording, easy to fire up and get on with the task at hand without the need to worry about settings or manual control.
Picture quality is what you would expect from a device like this. You aren’t going to be able to make the next Sundance hit, but at the same time it’s a decent pocket camcorder that gives you 1080p 2D and 3D recording. And chances are, it's better than your mobile phone.
The main reason for getting the Bloggie 3D is of course the 3D. And when it comes to letting you produce that, the pocket camcorder works, and works well for the price. Whether it’s 2D or 3D the camera works in the same way. You can playback your footage on the small screen, or plug it into a computer or TV.
Sony has showed that 3D filming or watching needn’t be hard or difficult and for 3D fans that can only be a good thing.