Camcorders are moving in two directions at the moment: Bigger more traditional ones are recording to large solid-state drives, while the cheap pocket "youTube" camcorder is getting better video quality. Sony's latest offerings slide into that second slot.
The MHS-PM1 brings a smattering of Sony's highly-polished design thinking to the pocket camcorder: The gizmos actually do look pretty sweet and feature a rotating lens element at the top so you can hold the camcorder at whatever angle you please.
The other contender in the Webbie range, the MHS-CM1, is a slightly more traditional shape but features a 5x optical zoom versus the PM1s fixed-focus lens, and a small flip-out viewing LCD.
Both have sensors close to 5-megapixels for still imagery, and both capture 1440 by 1080-pixel video at 30 fps—nearly, but not quite, full HD resolution. They encode in H.264 format so the videos don't take up too much space, and are instantly compatible with many an online video-sharing site. In fact Sony's bundling software onto the cameras that takes your vids instantly to Shutterfly, Picasa, YouTube, Dailymotion and Photobucket.
Slightly unusual for Sony, the cameras are also priced in line with the rest of the pocket camcorder market: The CM1 is available in three colors for just $170, and the CM1's extra features knock its price up to $200.
Flip Mino's original Ultra set off the pocket YouTube camera revolution, and the company's Mino HD version shoots 720p true widescreen 1280 x 720 pixel resolution video—which is not as good as the sony's new models. The Flip is also limited by its 4GB of internal memory (giving you around an hour of HD video) while the Sony cameras record onto interchangeable memory sticks—a 4GB one will cost you around $20. And while the Mino offers you very basic controls, the Webbies offer slightly more control over the camera functions—including that optical zoom on the CM1. All in all, both Sony units trounce the Mino—which is in the same price range.