Sony Handycam HDR-XR550VE 240 GB Camcorder - Black Reviews
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Sony Handycam HDR-XR550VE 240 GB Camcorder - Black

3 consumer reviews
Average Product Rating: Excellent
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Amazing Value, Awesome Performance, Best For The Price

Feb 4, 2010 (Updated Feb 5, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Movie Quality:

Pros:Low light shooting, steady shot, HD quality, hard drive space, viewfinder and LCD, more.

Cons:CCD censor, perhaps hard drive instead of flash memory, standard battery life.

The Bottom Line: A must-buy for anyone looking for an excellent video camera under $1000.  Amazing quality, ease of shooting... just all around amazing video camera!


For those looking at the XR500v, a newer series is coming out with the XR550v.  I went with this model because I have already experienced it, knew it had great low light and steady shot, and wasn’t sure how the newer models would compare.  I also was price-aware and figured the going price would be several hundred dollars higher for what I would guess is about the same thing.  In this current series, you can double your hard drive space with the XR520v, but trust me that the 14.5 hours of record time is more than plenty assuming you do clean it off from time-to-time.  You can lower the quality and still get really good HD results with a ton more space.  But again, the 120GB drive will hold more than enough footage (14 tapes worth) to get you by.  I debated with the idea of buying the XR520v, but opted to take the extra money to purchase the warranty.


While the steady-shot is amazing on this camera, the low-light was the big selling point for me.  I shot hailstorms on this model after dark in headlights and the picture was amazingly clear.  Storm scenes turned out great with or without strong lighting.  I was amazed at the quality, hands down.  That in itself was worth the purchase price, but adding the steady shot into it made it a dead ringer.  I could hand hold this camera and it was close to tripoded.  I was amazed even how steady video from moving cars on dirt roads did.  It was terrific!  The sound quality is good as well, but its not something I’ve really paid enough attention to where it affected my overall purchase.  The only area where this camera, along with most consumer-grade vids, fell short was in its ability to shoot lightning.  It has a CMOS censor as opposed to 3CCD, so you get choppy lightning video.  I shoot photos, so lightning isn’t a big deal for me and didn’t factor in heavily to my decision to buy.

The GPS is a fun feature, but if I could buy this exact same camera without the GPS and save a couple-hundred bucks, I would.  I haven’t used the feature enough to determine its worth and I don’t know for sure whether it logs the GPS when you first start shooting or if it will track your movement on a map as you’re shooting and you can go back and look.  I think if I dive into this and find that out, I may find this feature a must-have, but right now, its not something I felt was important.  It does automatically set the camera’s clock and will adjust for timezones, so that’s about as handy a feature as I’ve used in terms of the GPS.

Editing AVCHD requires newer video editing software packages such as Adobe CS4.  With a very pricey codec from MainConcept, you can work in Premiere CS3, however I experienced a lot of crashes and frustrating lags and don’t recommend this particular codec at the price they were offering at the time.  Since upgrading to CS4, I was able to rid of the codec and crashes, thus haven’t researched additional software or codecs since.  I do know that my editing with CS4 has been crash-free and smooth, rendering out files in Quicktime, MPEG, or various SD widescreen formats.  you can use the supplied Sony software to pull the files onto your computer and edit those from Premiere, or you can copy and paste the raw .mts files from the camera to the computer as if it were a flash drive and drop those in just like that, too.

I haven’t played alot with the Sony software, but assume it will bring the files down for not only the video, but GPS.  With the CX100 I also use, there are no GPS files thus I typically just pull the raw files straight from the camera without using the Sony software.  I think it might edit videos with a limited degree, but again, I do not have a lot of experience with the software itself.  Last season, I would get all the files from the camera with the Sony software and it pulled three different file types from the camera for each video clip.  One being the video file (now .m2ts as opposed to .mts), a .modd file, and occasionally a third file for what I think is the GPS information.  I used the ‘Media File Import’ as opposed to the Easy PC Back-up as it gave me more flexibility with what files I wanted to pull in the event there were clips I didn’t need at a particular time.  From there, I would import the .m2ts files into Premiere and edit them from there.

I did not have any major malfunctions or technical issues in my usage of the XR500v last season (approx 6 months hard use).  My biggest complaint is sometimes the focus wheel on the front is a bit unresponsive and you have to turn the knob delicately to aquire the focus you want.  I would also like to see a button that you can press that will send the camera into manual focus at infinity mode.  Again, every review has to have some gripes, and those are mine.  The hard drive performed flawlessly, never had a failure even with it being used as a dashcam on rough roads or being hit with 1-inch plus hailstones.

Oh yeah, it shoots 12MP photographs.  I save this for my Nikons, so this isn't a feature I've done a lot of playing around with.  However, I do like that I can take fairly good photos WHILE taking video.  The megapixel goes down in those instances, but I have snuck a couple photos in on occasion and they do well for my website.  Not sure they'd make a calender, but they'll easily do in a pinch.

You'll want to upgrade the battery immediately as the supplied one won't really do you a lot of good.  Check online for the NP-FH100 and it will give you plenty of shot time.  Also, there is no HDMI cable included, so shop online for one of those as well.  You'll need the mini HDMI connector for this camera, not the standard width you get with your TVs, so be weary of that.  Again, both accessories, among others, can be found for much cheaper than retail online, so shop around.

Overall, you cannot beat the quality of this camera for the price.  Hands down, this is my favorite camera I’ve taken into the field storm chasing.  Its performance, steadiness, low light abilities, and storage are impossible to beat!  I hope future models have these exact same qualities cause I don’t wanna try and find working versions of these in 5 years when/if I am in the market again.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 850
Recommended for: Trendsetters - Hip and Stylish Gadgets


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