Review: Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5/V pocket HD camcorder

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Short version: This camcorder is certainly small, and the swivel head can be handy, but the lack of optical zoom hurts, and the poor video quality, focus trouble, and low light performance pretty much sink this little bugger. Cute, though.

Features:

  • Swivel head for easy vanity shots
  • 1080p resolution (720p at 30/60fps also available)
  • Built-in USB plug
  • 360-degree lens accessory (extra)
  • MSRP: $169.99

Pros:

  • Very compact
  • Nice screen and layout
  • Swivel head works great

Cons:

  • Video quality pretty bad
  • No close focus
  • No zoom

Full review:

I saw this little Bloggie at CES and was impressed by its form factor. The swivel head and 360 lens accessory were unique and seemed practical. Plus, it’s 1080p and all that. We got one of the first to review and, well, I’m afraid it’s not all I wanted it to be. Sure, the swivel head works great, and the 360 adapter, while kind of janky, looked like a lot of fun when I saw it at CES, but the fact is that this lens and sensor simply can’t handle 1080p. I understand you’ve got to look like you’re on the cutting edge, thus 1080p on everything, but when the product suffers, that’s no good.

I compared it against my own Sanyo CG-10 for clarity and low light performance. The CG10 is last year’s 720p version of the new pistol-grip Sanyos, and really has more in common with this Bloggie’s big brother, but I felt that at least they could compare based on price and video quality.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9197005&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=ff9933&fullscreen=1

It’s pretty easy to see that there is a huuuuge amount of motion blur in the Bloggie due to the small lens and necessities of a 1080p stream, although it’s difficult to tell since it’s been resized and re-encoded. For comparison, here are some stills from the Bloggie (left) and CG10 (right).


As you can see, neither one is going to win any awards for clarity or low light performance. To be honest, I expected better from both. The truth is, compact HD cameras are pretty terrible these days if you really want sharpness or color accuracy. You need a good lens, and even the Sanyo’s, which is probably twice as big as the Sony’s, can’t do much with medium- and low-light situations. So know that going in: these things, from whatever company you like, are HD in name only.

Image quality when there’s little movement is okay, but you still have a lot of compression, and as you can see in the video, action can get pretty choppy. I found there were few manual controls in the menus to, say, close the aperture a bit to increase the shutter speed.

The lack of an optical zoom is pretty weak, but many other pocket cams don’t have optical zoom either, so I can’t really ding it too much for that. Unfortunately, the fixed lens also can’t seem to focus well up close — you can see that when I go up close to the bookshelf in the video. That’s a problem for many common camcorder uses.

Conclusion:

I can’t recommend this thing, though I wouldn’t count out the Bloggie line entirely. There’s a version for $30 more that has optical zoom and a better lens, at the cost of some portability. I’d suggest that one over this without even seeing it, but we should have a review soon of it as well, so you’ll be sure then. In the meantime, stay away from the MHS-PM5/V — its useful features can’t outweigh its shortcomings.

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