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Sony CX 550v Camcorder

Sony CX 550v Camcorder

Platform: Media & Storage Devices
Category: Hand Held
Author: Murray G

Manufacturer: Sony

Camcorders have come a long way in the last year or two. One could say that the last two years have been the most impactful. Of course, I’m referring to the HD revolution and its impact on the camcorder industry. Sure camcorders have evolved from tape to digital storage, but picture quality, IMHO, wasn’t really all that different in some cases. Digital HD has changed how we shoot, edit, create, exchange, distribute and watch home movies. A whole culture has sprung to life thanks to HD digital camcorders. People are shooting HD home movies, capturing spell binding life moments, creating viral videos and letting their inner Spielbergs come out.

I was recently sent a Sony HDR CX 550v HD camcorder. My first impression as I took it out of the box was, wow this is light and small. It weighs less than two pounds and is 5 inches long. Impressive for a camera that shoots video in 1920 x 1080 and has a 12 megapixel digital camera built into it. I was hoping this small unit would pack a powerful punch.

My review is not so much technical in nature but more about usability. Let’s face it, most people don’t care how it works, just that it works, works well, and is easy to use.

“Size matters” doesn’t really apply anymore when it comes to camcorders. HD camcorders are much smaller and lighter than their bulky cousins. I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve seen lugging around giant tape cameras on their shoulders. Most of which couldn’t hold a candle to the Sony CX 550v performance wise and the CX 550v is 1/10th the size and 1/20th the weight.

I literally got the camera just days before we left for E3 and didn’t get a chance to preview it before we left. This was a true baptism by fire and a great way to put “ease of use” to test. Now for all you shutter bugs out there, of which I’m not one, there are a million settings; see below for a list of the most popular. I’m like most people and I like my cameras to be as automated as possible. I just want to point and shoot. I leave the techno review to my more camera nerdy compatriots.

From this standpoint (ease of use) the Sony HD CX 550v is a dream to use. The camera has easy touch navigation on the flip out screen. From here you can access 99% of the camera`s features, settings and modes. There are a wide variety features and functions, but below are the favourites that stood out for me.

Low Light Shooting - The camera comes with a back illuminated Exmor R CMOS Sensor. This sensor allows the camera to shoot in lower than normal lighting conditions. Some of the video I shot at E3 was in pretty low light conditions. I thought the camera performed very well in these conditions. See for yourself by viewing the video at the bottom of the page.

Camera Shake - Much of the video I shot was impromptu. Truly point, click and go. We didn’t have time to set up a shot so we had to get it right the first time in most cases. Nothing destroys video shots more than the shakes. Once again the 550 did very well in this category. As you can tell from our video there is no obvious shaking and all the shots were hand held.

Picture Quality - Let’s face it, Sony has been leading or on the leading edge of camera technology for years. So if they got this part wrong I would be very disappointed. The 550 comes with a professional Wide angle “G” lens. G lenses are high quality lenses originally made by Minolta and are now made by Sony. They offer a comparable performance to Carl Zeiss lenses. The colour reproduction and images are very sharp and detailed. Overall another homerun for this camera.

Sorting, transferring and uploading. - The camera comes with Picture Motion Browser software known as PMB. PMB is extremely easy to use; it’s so easy I’m confident my 80 year old father could use it on his first try. The software makes it easy to transfer your recordings from the camcorder to your PC or Mac. It does have a minor editing feature that allows you to remove dead or unwanted video. You can also burn your video to Blu Ray, DVD or AVCHD. For people who have a Youtube or other video sharing account, PMB has an automated conversion and upload process. Another easy process to learn. We were uploading videos to our Youtube page (known as Gameboyzvideo) from our hotel room in no time. It’s a simple 3 or 4 click process and once your username and password are in memory it’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.

What’s not to love about this camera? It’s light, easy to use and takes great HD video. The manual is relatively small and easy to read and it works great straight out of the box. If you’re in the market for an HD camcorder I would advise you to take a good look at the Sony HD CX 550v. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better one on the market in this price range.

List of Main features and function taken for the Sony website.

1920 x 1080 high definition video recording:

1920 x 1080 high definition resolutions let you record your memories in exceptional Sony® Full High Definition quality2. Capable of 1080/60p playback via HDMI™ and compatible HDTV4 providing stunning clarity and incredibly detailed playback of your memories

1/2.88” ”Exmor R” CMOS Sensor

1/2.88” "Exmor R" CMOS image sensor with ClearVid™ array: delivers bright, vivid, spectacularly detailed video footage, as well as 12 megapixel still images. With 6 megapixel (effective) video resolution, the image sensor actually captures video at four times the density of high definition resolution resulting in a sharper and more detailed 1920 x 1080 HD picture. In addition, "Exmor R" technology captures images with high resolution and high sensitivity, while the advanced Sony® BIONZ™ image processor improves camera response time and screens out noise to help ensure that the signal from each pixel is as pure as possible.

Wide Angle G-Lens (26.3mm):

Experience the pinnacle of Sony® lens technology with the professional-quality G Lens. Engineered for superior optical performance, Sony G lenses deliver brilliant, accurate color reproduction and sharp, amazingly detailed images. In addition, a short, 26.3mm focal length offers a broader perspective for enhanced wide angle shooting in photo mode and 29.8mm in video mode. The six bladed iris allows for superb shallow depth of field photography.

3.5” Wide3 Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD (921K) plus viewfinder:

TruBlack™ technology brings remarkably higher contrast and brightness to the camcorder’s 3.5” Wide3 Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD display, delivering more natural, realistic colors and easier viewing in bright conditions by reducing glare. An adjustable .27” 3 Color Viewfinder (201k) allows you to capture video and frame your shots with the LCD closed.

Assignable Dial (Iris/Shutter/Exposure/WB/Focus):

Get the most out of your camcorder with enhanced manual controls. The assignable dial allows for control of focus, exposure, white balance, iris, and shutter speed. Adjusting the iris lets you control depth of field, while shutter speed allows for control motion blur. There are a total of 6 settings are available: Focus, Exposure, AE Shift, WB Shift, Iris control, and Shutter speed control.

Intelligent Auto (iAUTO):

Intelligent Auto mode goes a step beyond traditional auto modes by analyzing your shot and then automatically selecting the appropriate settings from ten distinct scene modes (90 different combinations possible): Portrait Mode, Smile Shutter, Backlight Control, Scenery, Night Scenery Mode, High Sensitivity Mode, Macro Mode, Baby Mode, Walk Detection, Tripod, and Low Light Mode.

Direct Copy to External Hard Disk Drive13:

Store your memories in a whole new way with the ability to copy videos from your camcorder directly to an external hard disk drive13 (sold separately), all without a computer. Your camcorder can also access videos stored on the external hard drive for playback on your HDTV, allowing you to utilize the camcorder’s handy playback features.

Power On by opening LCD display:

Power on your camcorder by simply opening the LCD display.
Hybrid Recording to Flash memory or Removable flash media:
Hybrid recording technology delivers a new level of flexibility of capturing and transferring your video footage and digital photos from the camcorder to compatible viewing devices. Record to 64GB1 of internal flash memory or choose instead to record to removable flash media (sold separately). You can even select from various dubbing functions to easily copy video or still images from the HDD to the removable flash media -- without using a PC.

Smooth Slow Record:

The Smooth Slow Record mode increases the record rate from 60 frames per second (fps) to 240 fps, allowing you to capture 3 seconds of fast motion and play the video back in 12 seconds. This is a great tool for analyzing a golf swing or a viewing a bird in flight. In addition, you record an audio track to narrate the video footage.

Record and zoom controls on LCD:

The HDR-CX550V features an additional set of record and zoom buttons on the LCD screen, give you more control and flexibility when holding the camcorder, especially in overhead or low angle shots.

Active Interface Shoe:

The Active Interface Shoe lets you mount Intelligent Accessories, such as external lights and microphones, which can help extend the capabilities of your camcorder.

HDMI™ connection:

The High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is a compact audio/video connector interface for transmitting uncompressed digital streams. HDMI connects digital audio/video sources such as a compatible camcorder, Blu-ray Disc™ player, a personal computer, a video game console, or an AV receiver to a compatible digital audio device and/or video monitor such as a digital television (DTV).

64GB1 Flash memory:

The built-in 64GB1 embedded Flash memory can record and store up to 26 hours of high definition video footage (HD LP mode), or up to 48 hours of standard definition footage (SD LP mode).

Optical Steady Shot™ w/ Active Mode (Wide to Tele):

Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilization with Active Mode compensates for greater degrees of camera shake to deliver stunningly smooth video from wide angle to full telephoto shooting. In addition, innovative 3-Way Shake-Canceling adds electronic roll stability for even smoother video capture.

1080/60p playback via HDMI™ and compatible HDTV4:

1080/60p playback via HDMI™ and compatible HDTV4 providing stunning clarity and incredibly detailed playback of your memories.

Up to 24Mbps AVCHD2 video:

The HDR-CX550V can capture video at up to 24Mbps for amazing clarity and detail, ideal for recording on to Blu-ray® media since the AVCHD2 codec is highly compatible with the Blu-ray format.

Dedicated Mic and Headphone inputs:

The HDR-CX550V features dedicated mic and headphone inputs (external microphones and headphones sold separately).

Golf Shot:

Building on the slow-motion capture capabilities of Smooth Slow Record, Golf Shot captures a few seconds of motion as a sequence of up to 22 still images, which can be viewed/printed individually or as a composite “sequence shot” image, perfect for analyzing the nuances of a golf swing, tennis serve, and other fast action.

Smile Shutter™ technology for still and dual capture:

Smile Shutter™ technology lets the camcorder automatically take still photos when your subject smiles, even while shooting high definition video. You can also set the sensitivity and choose child, adult, or auto priority.

Highlight Playback:

Why spend hours editing your movies when you can let your camcorder do it for you? Highlight Playback uses several criteria - including Face Index, Smile Shutter™ technology, Dual Capture and time range - to identify and compile key scenes into a short, entertaining movie complete with music and transitions.

Includes Sony® PMB (Picture Motion Browser) software:

Sony Picture Motion Browser software offers a simple, intuitive way to transfer, sort, and view your video and still images on your compatible PC. In addition, multiple output options let you burn your memories to DVD, AVCHD, and Blu-ray Disc™ media (sold separately), as well as take advantage of one click upload to a number of popular video and photo sharing sites (compatible PC and internet connection required) 9.

BIONZ™ Image Processor:

The BIONZ™ Image Processor works in conjunction with the "Exmor R" CMOS image sensor with ClearVid™ array technology for pristine imaging. The BIONZ image processor provides Data Noise Reduction, Faster Image processing, and Data compression to preserve videos and images. In addition, the BIONZ™ image processor enables Face Detection technology and Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimizer for both video and still image capture. The higher processing speed also allows Dual Recording to capture still images while recording video.

Dynamic Range Optimizer:

The D-Range (Dynamic Range) Optimizer function adjusts the exposure and contrast of an image to counter the effects of high-contrast shooting condition, allowing for a great shot every time. The D-Range Optimizer suppresses “blackout” in dark areas such as shadows and “whiteout” in bright areas such as skies. As a result, the captured image appears as natural as the original scene.

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