on 2 March 2010
This is a very smart little device, with Sony's usual high build quality. Very simple to use, just press 'record' and you're off. Picture quality is excellent, and the rotating lens is a great idea that allows you to film stuff at odd angles, or even yourself.
The 360 attachement is great fun, though you might find it not worth the extra cash. It is basically just a conical mirror that attaches over the lens, allowing you film in all directions at once. You can then use the software that comes with the camera to 'unwrap' the cylindrical image, giving you a super-wide angle picture. The quality suffers, as you might expect, but the novelty value more than makes up for it. It's lots of fun, and you can get some great effects with it. I'm imagining things like holding it up above your head at a party and filming everything, or leaving it running in the middle of a table at a family meal and filming the whole thing... lots of possibilties!
Battery life is fantastic, and the camera is about the size of a chunky mobile phone. Easily small enough to always carry with you, and quick to start and fantastic for filming your life. The rotating lens also has a trick, in that with it set at the correct angle, you can very easily film people and things while 'appearing' to be using a phone to send a text message. Excellent for candid shots. There is a tripod screw at the bottom, and the camera will stand up on its own. You can also rotate the lens so that you can lie it on its side and film.
However, this camera does have some downsides, and they are silly ones. Sony always makes beautiful objects and then spoils them by overlooking the details.
Firstly, image stabilising only works on the lowest quality setting, 30fps at 720p. Not a huge problem, but why?
Stills camera is very poor, not much better than a mobile phone. And no flash! Given the excellent xenon units sony uses on its mobile phones, there's not much excuse for this.
Low light perfomance is essentially non-existant. This is the biggest downside - this camera is meant to be always with you, and your most fun is usually in the evening, out with friends.
The user interface is very unintuitive - pressing 'play' to view pictures often results in you going back to record mode, or at least, not actually showing you the image.
Deleting a picture or recording takes half a dozen key presses, which means you rapidly fill up the memory card as you're too busy recording to stop and file through things to delete stuff. Silly things, but they get in the way, they slow you down.
The supplied software is awful, and is really only useful for 'unwrapping' 360 images as I've mentioned above. For example, you can't rename files! There is just no option to do so. If you 'manually' rename a file in windows explorer, the sony software promptly crashes.
The 'upload to internet' functionality is poor (no facebook! no flickr!), although you can manually add sites to upload to. However, this works by simply copying the file location of the video to clipboard so you can upload from the site's upload page which the software opens for you. Clunky, but it works - oh, except that Sony for some reason have decided you must use Internet Explorer rather than your default browser. It also can only copy the location of a single file. Sony's usual poor attention to detail here - it's a good idea, but not much use in practice.
Despite my whinging, this is a really fun bit of kit and I'm really pleased with it, hence the 4 stars. It's simple to use, discreet, excellent quality, looks good and is a lot of fun. However, this camera sells at a premium and if Sony want to compete with the likes of the Flip or Kodak's excellent cameras (which sell at almost half the price), its very disapointing not to be much, much, better.