Sony Bloggie 3D £200
24th Aug 2011 | 13:56
Simple 3D camcorder recording, but is it worth the price?
Overview and features
The Sony Bloggie range arrived relatively late to the 'simple video recorder' party, well after the advent of the Flip camcorder.
But with Flip's demise, the Bloggie finds itself ideally placed to become the new king of quick video capture.
In fact, with this new version, Sony is getting even more aggressive when it comes to the technology inside its little camcorder device. The Sony Bloggie 3D MHS-FS3 is, unsurprisingly, a 3D-capable camera, as well as a competent 2D video camera in various formats.
The recording options are 1080p 3D at 30 frames per second (fps), 1080p 2D at 30fps, 720p 2D at 60fps, 720p 2D at 30fps and 640 x 480 at 30fps. That's a lot of options for a little camera. In fact, it's comparable to the (larger) Panasonic HX-WA10 camcorder, though that one doesn't do 3D.
Like with the HX-WA10, we pleased to see a 60fps recording more, meaning you can do some slow-motion stuff once you get the footage on your computer.
This is all recorded using the fancy new Exmor CMOS sensor, which impressed us when used in the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. Aside from recording video, it takes still photos in 2D and 3D. For the latter, you're limited to a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080, but 2D images can be taken at up to five megapixels.
Of course, the 60fps mode is just a footnote here. It's that Full HD 1080p 3D recording we're really interested in. When you're recording in 3D, the 2.4-inch display on the back of the Bloggie 3D becomes an autostereoscopic 3D display, similar to that used in the Nintendo 3DS, meaning you can view the 3D footage you're recording without the need for any special glasses.
It isn't the best 3D display you'll see – stray just a millimetre or two away from centre and the image will become 2D again – but it's nice to have a simple and quick way to see what sort of effect being in 3D will have on the footage you're recording. When you want to view your 3D footage back, the Bloggie 3D can export it to PC using the Bloggie software, but it also has an HDMI port for connecting to a 3D HDTV.
Footage is recorded to the Bloggie's 8GB of internal memory, and there's no way to expand this with with an SD card. This limitation is a shame, and restricts you to taking less than two hours of 1080p footage. You can get up to four hours if you shoot in 720p at 30fps, though.
That said, the battery is only rated for 80 minutes of continuous 3D recording, so the amount of footage you shoot may not be the limiting factor, ultimately. To charge the Bloggie 3D, you'll need to connect it using the built-in USB connector, so that gives you a chance to offload your recorded footage anyway. The whole situation isn't ideal, but it's easily manageable.
The Bloggie itself is a brilliantly made bit of hardware. It's got a premium feel to every part of it, from the matt plastic finish on the front, which makes it easy to grip, to the sturdy pop-out USB connector and the subtle texture on the buttons. Even the cover for the HDMI port doesn't feel like it'll snap off any time soon. The glossy back and screen picks up fingerprints like mad, but they wipe off easily.
At 120g and with dimensions of 55 x 108 x 17mm, it's nice and light, and can be carried comfortably in a pocket.
There's a threaded hold for tripod use, but it's on the short edge of the Bloggie 3D, and the device can only record in 3D when held in landscape, so tripods that can't angle their heads are useless with it.
The Bloggie 3D will set you back around £200 online, which is no small change for this kind of point-and-shoot camera. You're really paying for the 3D capability – the Bloggie MHS-TS20 Touch Mobile does 1080p 2D recording and costs only around £130 online.
To get your footage from the Sony Bloggie 3D MHS-FS3, you'll need to use the included Bloggie software. Once it's installed, you can import video using it and use it to trim the 3D footage in the likely event you're not already packing an elaborate 3D-capable video-editing suite. You can also use it to upload straight to Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.
The first thing to note about the 3D footage is that it isn't quite what you might think of as Full HD 3D video, despite it being described that way. Instead of being two 1920 x 1080 images for each frame (one for each eye), you instead get one 1920 x 1080 image divided into two vertically.
This means that each eye actually only gets 960 x 1080, which means a reduction in quality compared to the 2D 1080p. This also means that when you convert a 3D movie to 2D in the Bloggie software, you get a drastic reduction in quality as it upscales one of the two 960 x 1080 images into a 1920 x 1080 images.
You can see this below; the top image is converted from 3D to 1080p 2D, the bottom was natively recorded in 2D 1080p.
However, there's another odd fly in the ointment here. We thought the difference in quality between the two images here was a bit too large, so we inspected a little further.
It's actually the left-hand image that's used to create the 2D version, and when we went back though all the 3D footage, we noticed that the left-hand side is consistently poorer in each one.
This is a frame from the side-by-side 3D video that the above converted 2D image was taken from. Notice how the colours are more washed out, the turf is blurrier and the mud in the cup is soft and ill-defined.
This isn't really noticeable when viewing in 3D, since you're not making the same comparison as when viewing them side-by-side, but it's consistent, and disappointing.
Sony Bloggie 3D: 3D video sample
Sony Bloggie 3D: 1080p video sample
Sony Bloggie 3D: 720p video sample
Otherwise, the Bloggie 3D is broadly very good at capturing video. There's a fair amount of detail (albeit, only on the right-hand side in 3D), really natural and appealing colours, good skin tones and most motion is captured well, with little in the way of artefacting.
Very fast motion, particularly when moving the camera itself quickly, will bring in the digital artefacts quickly, and result in a major loss of detail, but it's no worse than you'd expect for a little point-and-shoot recorder.
However, for 1080p 3D footage, the overall detail and clarity is slightly inferior to the Panasonic HX-WA10, which has a large CMOS sensor. This manifests as less crispness on the edge of objects for the Bloggie, most noticeably on skin, and more colour banding in areas with subtle colour changes, such as clothes.
However, there's far less wobble from the Bloggie's CMOS sensor than the Panasonic HX-WA10, which has highly noticeable rolling shutter issues, creating an obvious wobbling of the picture despite having image stabilisation. The Bloggie simply doesn't have this issue, to its credit.
The Bloggie's screen is bright and crisp when playing back footage in 2D, but quite as great in 3D. There are visible lines down the screen when in 3D mode, and the viewing angle for 3D is absolutely tiny, but get yourself in the sweet spot and it's not a bad performer at all. It's suitable for showing your brief 3D videos to your friends, and is a good guide that you're getting some depth in your footage.
The microphone on the Bloggie is generally very good, picking up noises clearly from all around. The only problem is, as you might notice in our videos, that it's very sensistive to wind noise, which rapidly pushes the noise levels into the red, and generally isn't very pleasant.
The Sony Bloggie 3D MHS-FS3 certainly isn't cheap, but then this is a distinctly premium point-and-shoot video recorder. The obvious draw is simple, hassle-free 3D recording and playback, with an easy way to trim and upload the footage.
But it's not just a one-trick, three-dimensional pony; there's a good range of 2D recording options too, including 1080p, so Sony's camcorder ends up as something of an all-rounder.
The Bloggie 3D really feels like a premium bit of kit. It's immaculately made and the design is easy to use and light.
The image quality is quite good for this kind of video camera, particularly the colours. Motion is captured well, and detail is strong for the size.
And, of course, there's the 3D recording. The Bloggie is a simple way to record and play 3D footage on your 3D TV, or to import it onto your PC with the included software. You can get it onto YouTube in 3D without ever having to worry about formats.
The Bloggie 3D is definitely expensive. It doesn't necessarily seem pricier than it should be, considering it's features, but there's no doubt that a lot of people will baulk at spending this much on a basic camcorder.
This high price means we do have some qualms about the video quality. As we said, it is good, but you can get better for not a huge increase in price, and with more features, such as the Panasonic HX-WA10. And the fact that one side of the video is of lower quality is disappointing.
There are a few other niggles, though mostly minor: the lack of expandable memory; the somewhat limited battery life; and the narrow 3D viewing angle of the screen.
Whether you want cutting-edge 3D footage for your new TV, or just some good 2D video recording, the Bloggie 3D is a good choice.
There are caveats, such as the fact that you can't expand its memory with SD cards means it may not be the best choice for some holidays, but it's still a strong performer overall.
The main question is price. You can get slightly better-performing 2D cameras for around the same cost, so the 3D recording may be the clincher. You won't be disappointed, though.