Flip Video may have started the mini-camcorder craze, but Sony wants a slice of the gateau too. The Sony Bloggie Touch is just about the simplest video-recording device we've ever come across, with the interface mainly consisting of a touchscreen and one big red button. It shoots high-definition 1080p videos but, at around £180, it'll cost you a pretty penny. Is it worth it? Let's find out.
Touch-a, touch-a, touch me
Measuring 15 by 107 by 52mm, the Touch would fit very snugly into the pocket of most breeches. We carried the Touch around for a week in the pockets of our jeans, and, at just 125g, never found it too heavy or bulky. It sat comfortably next to our mobile phone.
The Touch is pleasingly slim, with a rounded back. The lens on the back is set high into the frame so you won't find your fingers accidentally getting in the way. The case has a charming brushed-aluminium effect.
Around the edges, you'll find a power button, a button for taking camera stills, a tripod screw, a flip-out USB stick for connecting the Bloggie to your computer, and a space to plug in an HDMI adaptor, so you can view your movies and photos on a hi-def telly. The big record button under the display is the only physical button on the front of the camcorder.
The Touch is impressively easy to use. Once you turn it on, the display acts as a viewfinder, with on-screen buttons letting you control shooting. There isn't a great deal of controlling to be done, admittedly -- mostly you'll be sliding the little bar along the bottom to control the zoom. It's a lowly 1x optical zoom, with a 4x digital option.
We're not a big fan of digital zooms -- you'll lose a great deal of resolution when you zoom this way. Digital zoom essentially just crops the image, so the footage you get when you're zoomed in looks grainy and ugly.
A bigger problem is that dragging the on-screen slider with your finger doesn't translate to a smooth zoom. We found it to be quite jumpy. Sadly, this translated into our recorded footage. When we played it back, our video was all over the place whenever we zoomed in or out, making it look rather like a Hitchcock thriller.
That may not bother you much -- after all, the Bloggie isn't designed for recording professional-grade video. Rather, it's intended to capture quick and dirty footage. Thankfully, that's something it does very well -- you'll have only a few seconds to wait between turning the Bloggie on and starting recording.
The Touch shoots 1080p video at 30 frames per second. If it's more important to you to have smooth video, you can opt for 720p at 60fps, or 720p at 30fps. You can capture stills at resolutions of 2, 8 or 12 megapixels.
Unlike other compact camcorders, you'll want to hold the Bloggie on its side, in landscape mode, when capturing videos. That way you'll get proper wide-screen footage. Shooting in portrait mode will leave you with just a thin strip of video. The Touch knows when you've flipped from portrait to landscape mode, and rotates the display accordingly. We found that switch to be pretty fast.
Video looks very clear indeed. It's sharp, with balanced, natural colours. Low-light performance isn't up to much, however -- you'll soon find unsightly noise sneaking into your footage.
Your video won't look its best on the Bloggie's 3-inch touchscreen, but it looks good once you blow it up on a computer or telly. Photos look decent too, although not on a par with what you'd get from a good compact camera.
One cool feature is that you can take still shots while recording video. There's a 360-degree lens included too, which attaches to the top of the Bloggie. It produces a doughnut-shaped video of the camera's surroundings, but is little more than a novelty.
We like how easy it is to pop out the Touch's USB stick when you want to nab all the content -- it makes transferring video files a breeze. The Touch has 8GB of storage, which should tide you over for a day's recording, but probably not much more.
We were impressed by the Touch's battery life. Sony reckons you'll get 160 minutes of juice under normal shooting conditions. We shot a couple of short videos every day for a week with the Touch, and didn't have to charge it over the whole period, so battery life indeed seems to be pretty decent.
The Touch's sound quality deserves a mention too. Everything captured by the tiny microphone came through very clearly, and we never found ourselves straining to hear something when playing our videos back.
The autofocus is rather irksome, though. When you switch subjects, the autofocus is often slow to catch on, which could lead to a few seconds of blurry footage.
The autofocus also makes a quiet ticking sound as its tiny mechanisms constantly check and recheck the focus. It's very quiet and it's possible that you could use the Touch for years and never notice the sound. But, if you record in very quiet surroundings, the noise will show up in your footage, which is something to bear in mind if you like filming in libraries or at funerals.
The Sony Bloggie Touch is an appealing mini-camcorder. Its sluggish autofocus and lack of settings mean its uses are quite limited, but it will prove a faithful companion if you want a small camcorder that you can carry around at all times in order to grab rough and ready footage.
If you fancy saving a few quid and don't mind shooting in 720p, check out the Flip Video MinoHD before parting with your cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet