If you’ve got big-screen dreams this high-def cam has a pro-friendly wideangle lens, manual controls and 12MP stills. But can it trump its Canon rival?
Sony always wants to go the extra mile and its latest Full HD shooter, complete with 240GB hard drive, has the capacity to put the 32GB and 64GB storage of rival cams well and truly in the shade.
Favouring HDD (hard disk drive) over flash memory, the chunky and robust HDR-XR550 can store up to 101 hours of movies and stills. But it doesn’t end there. Sony has opened up the XR550 to SD card recording as well as its traditional Memory Stick media, so insert an extra card of your choice and you’ll increase recording potential still further.
Built for folks who are serious about their video, this cam uses a wideangle G lens (26.3mm stills, 29.8mm video) that lets you cram loads more into a scene without the need to keep moving further away from your subject. It’s perfect for landscape shots but works just as well for group shots. No one gets left out of the frame this time.
The pro-credentials are enhanced by the inclusion of a viewfinder and a superbly responsive 3.5in touchscreen LCD. You can use it to compose shots, browse the extensive but practical onscreen menu, and perhaps best of all review your footage on a screen that doesn’t make you squint at what you’re supposed to be watching.
Shaken not stirred
A manual focus and exposure ring to the side of the lens adds another level of user control over image taking, while an intuitive image stabiliser delivers something labelled as three-way shake cancelling – which in plain speak means you get smoother shots no matter what end of the 10x optical zoom you’re shooting at.
There’s even space to include built-in GPS, which debuted on Sony’s 2009 model the HDR-XR520. This can show you where you are on a map that’s displayed on the LCD, and it also means you can geotag movie clips and any stills you take. You can then find and play these images by pressing on a map location shown on the touchscreen
The XR550 doesn’t quite have the colour zing of Canon’s LEGRIA HF S21, or that cam’s all round stunning image performance. But it does do detail incredibly well, along with delivering solid low-light results.
The 12MP stills are sumptuous and crisp and there are enough connectivity options to satisfy those who want a high-def telly connection or computer hook-up. Not the perfect package, but a tempting one all the same.
Sony HDR-XR550 review
Huge storage, great stills and a top-notch touchscreen, but not quite picture perfect