The Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1 looks like a toy, but don't let its basic looks and controls fool you: the Webbie has the most well-rounded feature set we've seen.
The Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM11 has five different shooting modes: Auto, Backlight, Low-Light, Sports and Landscape. It also shoots decent 5Mp stills, complete with a self-timer and an on-screen histogram. You can also choose from three resolution settings: VGA, 720p and 1,440x1,080, all in Mpeg4 format with the H.264 codec.
The Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1's standard features match the competition's: a choppy 2x digital zoom, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a tripod mount. However, it also has a nifty swiveling lens, which we found a neat addition.
Drawbacks include the lack of an integrated USB connector (you must attach the included USB cable to transfer clips to your computer) and the Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1's very poor low-light performance. Footage is very bright, but colours look more muted than they do with the Creative Vado HD and the Kodak Zi6, and without the cinematic look of the Flip Video MinoHD.
You must remove the Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1's battery to charge it. You get no internal memory and need to budget for the cost of a Sony MemoryStick on top of the purchase price. We also think this camcorder's small navigation joystick may be too tiny for some people.
The Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1's microphone is sensitive almost to a fault: it's excellent when the camcorder is on a tripod or held still, but moving your hand on the chassis creates loud noises in your recording. On the other hand, the microphone does a great job of picking up audio from a distance.
In common with the Kodak Zx1, the Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1 camcorder is being marketed as ideal for recording and uploading YouTube clips. In addition you can output your footage directly from the Webbie HD to an HDTV. Flipping up a cover on the side reveals the USB port, a component A/V port for connecting the camcorder to an HDTV (you can switch between NTSC and PAL output in the camera's menus, as well), plus a DC power port.
Operating the Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1 is simple. Rotating the 270-degree swivel lens switches on the camcorder on, though there's also a dedicated power button on the side. Buttons for accessing the menu and camcorder settings sit beneath the power button.
The 1.8in LCD screen on the back of the Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1 looks great, but as with almost every pocket camcorder, footage appears much better on the LCD than it does on your PC or on YouTube. We'd have appreciated a larger display though. Sony includes Picture Motion Browser software on CD, or you can simply drag-and-drop footage on to a PC or Mac hard drive.
The versatile Sony Webbie HD MHS-PM1 camcorder is a good looker and provides plenty of control over your footage. It stands head and shoulders above the rest of the competition here, but we’re puzzled as to why Sony has saddled it with such a huge premium given the £150 pricing of headline-grabbers such as the Kodak and the Flip.