Great for shooting video of yourself, but we prefer the simplicity of Flip's UltraHD.
1/2.5in CMOS sensor, PAL, 1,280×720, 1,440×1,080, 0.0x zoom, 75g
Available in the US for some time, Sony has finally decided to release its MHS-PM1 camcorder in the UK.
The original trio of colours has been slimmed down to one: orange, great if you like it, tough if you don’t. Colour aside, the hardware feels sturdy despite being practically weightless at only 75g.
The PM1 is in direct competition with Flip’s UltraHD, along with other mini camcorders such as the upcoming Kodak Zi8. One key difference is the PM1’s swivel lens. This lets you video yourself without having to guess if you’re in the frame. It’s great, especially for those who want to make video blogs. It isn’t entirely without its downsides though, as it means the screen is lower down, forcing you to hold the PM1 at the bottom.
The PM1’s other main selling point is its sensor. It’s roughly twice as large as the UltraHD’s sensor, and packs in five megapixels. The increased resolution lets the PM1 shoot higher-resolution video – 1,440×1,080 pixels – as well as act as a stills camera.
To this end, there are two main buttons on the rear, Photo and Movie. The PM1 has a total of seven buttons, plus a toggle for the 4x digital zoom and a four-way mini joystick for navigating its menus. This is a long way from the simplicity of Flip’s products, and the buttons feel cheap and lack feedback.
Video is recorded as MPEG4 files using the H.264 codec. Sony claims that the PM1 is capable of 12Mbit/s, but we calculated that it was averaging nearer six, lower than the UltraHD’s 9Mbit/s. This means you’ll get about 93 minutes of footage on a 4GB Memory Stick Pro Duo. There’s no built-in memory on the PM1, and no memory card comes bundled with it either. However, there is currently an offer to claim a 4GB card by post.
Video quality was a mixed bag. The higher resolution provided some extra detail, but it wasn’t a huge leap over 720p camcorders such as the UltraHD. This wasn’t surprising given the modest bit rate. Colour accuracy was also impressive. It was a little sluggish to change exposures, though, and low-light shooting resulted in lots of noise, probably because of the large number of pixels crammed on to the sensor. The lens isn’t as wide-angled as those of other mini camcorders, which is good for shooting yourself at arm’s length, but it makes video feel a bit claustrophobic. Still images were also noisy, and not up to the standard of five-megapixel stills cameras. With no flash or optical zoom, it’s suitable only for the odd snap for Facebook.
The included rechargeable Li-ion battery is a big factor in the PM1’s low weight. Disappointingly, the battery uses a separate charger; we prefer the UltraHD’s hassle-free USB charging and use of an AA-replaceable battery pack. The PM1’s battery lasted for 103 minutes, so you should fill a 4GB memory card before it expires. With no built-in USB plug, you’ll need to attach the supplied USB lead to connect the PM1 to a PC.
Like the UltraHD, the PM1 has built-in PC software for uploading videos and pictures, with support for YouTube and Picasa Web Albums. This software is easy to use, but you can’t crop clips before uploading them. To do this you have to install the software on the supplied CD or use the fiddly onboard editing functions. There are also component and AV outputs for TV playback.
Both the PM1 and Flip’s UltraHD are available for £140 including VAT, and both are impressive devices for the money. The PM1 is a far better suited to those who want to video themselves. It’s also marginally better if picture quality is key, though you won’t see that extra detail once you’ve uploaded the results to YouTube, and it suffers badly in poor lighting conditions. For everyone else, though, we’d recommend the UltraHD due to its 8GB of built-in memory, HDMI output, easy charging and PC connectivity, as well as its superior onboard software.
|LCD screen size||1.8in|
|Video recording format||MPEG4|
|Video recording media||Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Video resolutions||PAL, 1,280×720, 1,440×1,080|
|Maximum image resolution||2,552×1,944|
|Memory slot||Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Mermory supplied||30MB internal|
|Analogue inputs/outputs||AV out, component out|
|Other connections||charge jack|
|Battery type||3.6V 930mAh|
|Battery life||1h 43m|
|Battery charging position||charger|
|Warranty||one year RTB|