* Prices may differ from that shown
Initially, it feels fairly heavy for a handheld, but when you use the strap against the rubber, it provides a steady and surprisingly comfortable grip. The focus 'button' is a dial easily situated on the front left side. Other important buttons are the zoom is a steady plastic doohicky on the top, at your finger tips - as with the reputation of this devices stability, the zoom is also incredibly smooth. There's mic and headphone input jacks, dedicated photo and record buttons, a Mini USB, HDMI slot, reset and night vision.
Aside from viewing all your videos and photographs on screen, you get a wealth of other stuff to tinker around with, to suit your style of shooting and whether or not you need to be conservative. The most important thing, the quality of video, has 4 settings: FX utilises the maximum capabilities of the camera with 24 Mega-Pixels worth of recordings. FH Uses 17MP but still provides decent quality, with less data clogging up space. HDHQ alludes to, High Definition, High Quality, at 9MP. HDLP typically records in lower quality at a measly 5MP to preserve space and battery. As for photographs, there's 5: which adjust the size of files.
The touchscreen itself is simple to use and clear, for navigating menus, swiping photos. It's clarity is so assured that in most cases, it's worth shooting via screen rather than the viewfinder. It has built in face & smile detection with sensitivity settings, so whilst on autofocus, you can capture the most important things. If you want in on a group photo, there's the self timer. The camcorders camera abilities don't end there though as it also features flash, red eye reduction and various controls that are commonplace in digital SLR's. The camera has built-in GPS so you'll know when and where you are when taking video/photo.
The sony can handle the generic SD cards - although there's not much point dishing out more money because it has a whopping 240GB built in harddisk! Even when recording at the height of its powers, that is gunna take a long time to fill. The battery life on the other hand is by far this camcorders biggest downfall. A large battery variant will claim it can get 157 minutes worth of recording time.. which is a tad enthusiastic. The standard battery manages 97 minutes.
I was really quite surprised with the video quality on this. It may be small and compact but quality is pin sharp, though it's the stability that gets the bragging rights. It can struggle in low light situations, perhaps that explains the inclusion of night vision. Audio is fairly standard, unpleasant in windy areas. Photographs are less impressive though, barely rivalling that of an entry level SLR - with poor depth of field. It is fairly difficult to find this exact model - there are various in both ascending and descending prices and specifications - but a quick search will fetch some results around the £500 bracket.
HDR-XR550VE features Full HD 1920 x 1080 video shooting (AVCHD format) at maximum bit rate for increased detail and clarity. With 3-way shake-canceling for stable images, even while walking, now it offers enhanced stabilization at all zoom settings.