So far, Sony hasn't done too well in the fast-growing, cheap-pocket-camcorder space dominated by Flip Video. After an initial flop with the NSC-GC1 a few years back, Sony redubbed its pocket-camcorder line 'Webbie'. That move fell flat, and now it's moved on to the marginally better 'Bloggie' name.
Although redesigned from its predecessor, the Webbie HD MHS-CM1, the Bloggie CM5 offers a similar feature set: 1080p video capture, a 5x optical zoom lens, a large 64mm (2.5-inch) swivelling LCD display, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that's also removable. It adds a mini-HDMI connector and the ability to charge via the attached USB connector. You can find the CM5 online for around £175.
Bulges in your pocket
Weighing 196g and measuring mm, the CM5 will fit in big, loose pockets, but it's more bag-friendly than pocket-friendly. Sony also makes the smaller PM5.
The CM5 records 1,920x1,080-pixel footage as H.264-compressed MPEG-4 files. It supports SDHC and Memory Stick Pro Duo cards, adds a 60-frames-per-second 720p mode, and can run the Picture Motion Browser Portable software on Macs.
Overall, we prefer the smaller designs of the Flip camcorders, but a larger size does have its advantages. Firstly, there's a significant difference between the digital zoom found in the Flip models and the 5x optical zoom found here. Digital zooms are basically useless, because the picture degrades as you zoom. While the CM5's optical zoom isn't stellar, and the autofocus can be rather slow when you zoom, the image is relatively sharp. You must keep your hand ultra-steady at the higher zoom levels, however, or your video will appear very shaky.
This model can do one thing much better than the Flip camcorders: it can focus on objects as close as about 51mm. Even the Kodak Zi8 can only get as close as about 152mm in its macro mode. You can really get tight, almost macro-like, shots of objects.
Interestingly, under the 1080p or 60fps 720p capture settings, you can't engage Sony's SteadyShot electronic image stabilisation. It only becomes an option when shooting at 30fps 720p or the lower-resolution, 640x480-pixel mode. The video looks better without the electronic image stabilisation, though -- it's less jittery and has fewer artefacts. For a rock-solid image, it helps to use a monopod or tripod, and, if you're inclined to use one, there's a threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the device.
Navigating the CM5 is fairly straightforward, although novice shooters will have to read the brief start-up guide to get a full handle on the settings. Flip camcorders are easier to use, but they have almost no settings to fiddle with, although some people will prefer that. To turn the camcorder on, you simply open the LCD. Pressing a menu button brings up options such as resolution, image stabilisation and face detection. You can also switch to still-image capture at a 5-megapixel resolution.
Overall, we found the CM5's image quality to be decent, comparing well to the standard set by Flip's MinoHD and UltraHD. The colour is extremely warm and over-saturated, but the video is sharp and the camcorder adjusts for exposure reasonably quickly. The autofocus responds more slowly, though. Like most models, the CM5 chronically under-exposes backlit subjects. There's some noise and softness when you're shooting in low light, and it looks like the CM5 occasionally drops the shutter speed until it adjusts, resulting in brief bouts of slow motion. But the video looks solid.