I’ve been using the Sony Webbie HD video camera for over a month now. Admittedly, this is the first of the affordable, High-Definition pocketable cameras that I’ve used. I typically use my Nokia S60-powered smartphones to record video, so that’s my point of reference. I’m used to having a pocketable camera that takes VGA-resolution video, and is able to upload it instantaneously. However, I have come up with a few things that I love, and a few things that I hate about it.
First up, here’s what I love about this thing:
1. It’s intuitive. There are a minimal number of buttons, and they’re clearly labeled. To turn it on, you simply flip the LCD display out – that’s it, easy as pie. Even better, the camera takes both videos and still photos, but there’s no ‘modes’ to switch between. There are simply 2 buttons – one for taking videos, and the other for snapping a photo – you use whichever button does what you want. This results in a basically idiot-proof user experience, which is key, specifically at this lower-priced market.
2. It’s fast. There is a minimal delay from when you have the LCD display flipped out to when you’re able to start recording video. This is one thing that the Sony Webbie HD does well, and one area where my Nokia smartphones really struggle. This R2R speed (ready to record) is really vital for a camera, because it can often mean the difference in capturing the moment and missing it entirely.
3. It gets great battery life. When I discovered that the Sony Webbie HD doesn’t have a removable battery, I was somewhat concerned – this can easily be a big deal, specifically with an HD video camera. However, the Webbie HD handles it tremendously well. I don’t know the full battery life expectancy, but I know that for ~24 hours I was able to record close to a dozen videos of various lengths, at 720p, and it wasn’t even close to being dead, which is good enough for me.
4. It has a great form factor. I’m not sold on these candybar form factors like the Flip MinoHD and others. I really like the standard video-cam form factor of the Sony Webbie HD, and the fact that I can flip that LCD display around all the way, for great self-videos. It may sound narcissistic, but for video bloggers, that’s definitely a big plus.
Despite those great things, there are some really annoying factors of this compact video camera. Some of them, I fully expect Sony to address. Others, I’m not really expecting to change.
1. It uses Sony’s Memory Stick. Ugh, one thing I hate about Sony products is that they automatically assume that everything else you own is Sony, and use those proprietary formats (which is hardly ever true). The Sony Webbie HD is no exception, using a Memory Stick Duo Pro. Sony threw in a 4GB card, which is quite nice, and my Dell laptop’s flash card reader handles it fine. This isn’t really a big deal to most consumers, who will probably use the included miniUSB cord anyways, but it just means that I’m not able to make use of the handful of various-sized microSD cards that I have laying around. I’m still counting it negative, though.
2. It has a useless video light. I’m actually surprised this feature sucked so bad, honestly. It’s one of the few features that the Sony Webbie HD has that its competitors don’t. It’s sad that it’s a single bulb, crippled by the smoked-plastic cover protecting it. This is an area where Sony could take notes from Nokia, whose latest smartphones feature a dual-LED setup that can be used as a video light, and it truly lights up the subject, good enough for some high-quality videos in low-light situations.
3. It has a non-removable battery. Given that the camera has a removable memory card, it’s somewhat expected that you’re going to be taking HOURS of footage. Having a non-removable battery is going to limit that, at some point. I have, as previously mentioned, been seeing some great battery life, but still, it’s kinda more about principle. Not a huge mark against the Sony, but a mark, nonetheless.
Overall, for under $200, the Sony Webbie HD isn’t bad. It’s small enough to be carried everywhere, and takes great videos, specifically for someone on a budget. I’ve already recommended one to my parents and my sister, with grandkids/kids, and would definitely recommend anyone else at least take a look at it.