Sony HDR-XR550 Full HD camcorder
A Full HD Sony camcorder with 240GB hard drive and GPS functionality
- Stellar video performance, plenty of storage space for recordings, doesn't skimp on manual features
- Expensive, almost identical to the previous model
The Sony HDR-XR550 is a feature-packed Full HD camcorder with plenty of advanced tools and features. Unfortunately, most consumers will find its price tag to be too steep.
Price$ 2,199.00 (AUD)
The Sony HDR-XR550 Full HD camcorder is a hard disk–based Handycam with 240GB of storage. It replaces the HDR-XR520 as the new top dog in Sony’s overcrowded camcorder kennel. (Other models include the HDR-XR350, HDR-XR200, HDR-XR100, HDR-XR150, DCR-SR68, DCR-SR47 and HDR-XR500 — and that’s just Sony’s hard disk–based models.)
Boasting a high-end Exmor R CMOS sensor, a 12-megapixel stills image mode, a manual control dial and an external microphone jack, the Sony HDR-XR550 is amply equipped for discerning videographers. It also comes with a 240GB hard drive capable of storing up to 96 hours of HD video. On the downside, the Sony HDR-XR550 is prohibitively expensive for a consumer-level camcorder, and it offers hardly any improvements over its predecessor. It’s also a bit bulky compared to competing models from other brands — although this may be a plus for some users.
As mentioned, the Sony HDR-XR550 is the successor to last year’s Sony HDR-XR520. We’re not sure what the extra 30 in the model number is supposed to signify, but this is pretty much the same camcorder we reviewed in 2009. Both camcorders share an identical BIONZ processor, 1/2.9in CMOS sensor, 37mm Sony G lens and 6.6-megapixel resolution. In fact, the only discernable difference is the LCD touchscreen, which has grown 0.3in (stone the crows! Etc.) The AVCHD bit rate has also been increased from 16Mbps to 24Mbps, but that's about it.
Without question, this is one of the laziest product refreshes we have ever borne witness to — it doesn’t even come with the obligatory boost in storage space (would an extra 10GB have killed you, Sony?). That said, the HDR-XR520 was pretty damn great to begin with, so the lack of enhancements isn’t that big of a deal. After all, you wouldn’t expect David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo to grow an extra leg each year, would you?
Like its Full HD stablemates, the HDR-XR550 comes with an inbuilt GPS receiver. The integrated mapping system lets you view your current location on a 2D map, though there are no navigational options like on a normal GPS. It will also organise your video clips based on the locations where they were shot. To be honest, we’re not 100 per cent sold on the merits of a camcorder GPS, but why look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?
The Sony HDR-XR550 looks appropriately polished for a high-end Sony camcorder. It eschews the hip ‘n’ happening colour schemes of newer camcorder models in favour of a basic black finish. With dimensions of 70x74x143mm and weighing in at half a kilogram, the Sony HDR-XR550 is not the most portable HDD camcorder on the market. On the plus side, the extra bulk helps to anchor the device during handheld shooting and the controls are less crammed together — a plus if you have big hands.
As expected, the Sony HDR-XR550’s video performance was pretty indistinguishable from its HDR-XR520 predecessor. Both camcorders produced exceptionally detailed video and excelled in dim lighting, with image noise only cropping up in the darkest settings. We initially found colours to be slightly muted for our tastes, but this was quickly remedied with the x.v Colour mode. The HDR-XR550 handled very well during testing. We were particularly impressed by its optical image stabiliser, which helped to keep our footage centred and silky smooth.
In addition to taking great video, the Sony HDR-XR550 also comes with an impressive 12-megapixel stills mode. This is achieved via interpolation (which is a fancy word for cheating) but the results speak for themselves. Our test shots remained crisp and vibrant in all but the dimmest environments, while the inclusion of manual controls gives you plenty of photographic freedom. If you’d actually like to make prints using your camcorder (as opposed to just bunging them on Facebook), the Sony HDR-XR550 is a rock solid option.
Become a fan of GoodGearGuide on Facebook
Follow GoodGearGuide on Twitter: @GoodGearGuide
Stay up to date with the latest reviews. Sign up to GoodGearGuide’s Gear Daily newsletters
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review
- 2 Portable power: Venom Blackbook 13 Zero review
- 3 Alcatel Idol 4S review: King of the mid-range?
- 4 Witness a 241% Australian price hike: Dell Latitude 7370 review
- 5 Is this the best value phone on the market? Moto G4 Plus review
Latest News Articles
- Samsung's UHD Monitor covers 99.5 per cent of Adobe colour spectrum
- HP settles cases with inkjet cartridge vendors
- Study predicts PS3 will win the console war
- Samsung wave makes a splash at Mobile World Congress
- Sony returns to profit, cuts full-year loss forecast
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- CCSenior Android DeveloperVIC
- FTIT Security & Risk ManagerNSW
- CCCustomer Service SpecialistVIC
- CCSolution Architect - POSVIC
- CCData AnalystACT
- FTPython Data EngineerWA
- CCProject ManagerVIC
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/Unix/Linux/Web) 160819/AP/173Asia
- FTApplication AdministratorACT
- CCSharePoint DeveloperACT
- CCStrategic Planning OfficerACT
- FTJava DeveloperNSW
- CCSalesforce CRM ManagerNSW
- CCActive Directory Consultant/ArchitectWA
- CCDelivery Manager - Change & RleaseACT
- CCLean Six Sigma Project ManagerVIC
- CCMainframe Application ArchitectNSW
- CCSr Project Manager - BASELINEACT
- FTOperations ManagerNSW
- CCContract Programmer (JAVA/XML) 160818/P/872Asia
- CCIT Assistant (Infrastructure/PC LAN Support) 160825/ITA/864Asia
- CCNetwork Engineer - TelecomVIC
- CCSenior Server and Storage Support EngineerNSW
- CCContract Analyst Programmer (JAVA/J2EE) 160901/AP/781Asia
- FTDigital Product Owner | Advertising Technology | SearchNSW