The GZ-GZ-HM550 carries a suggested retail price of $799. Full technical specifications for the GZ-GZ-HM550 can be found here.
JVC Everio GZ-GZ-HM550 Video Features
The Everio GZ-GZ-HM550 uses the full AVCHD format for 1920 x 1080 high definition recording. It supports 24Mbps recording, the highest bit-rate available in the AVCHD video format. The GZ-HM550 features the same 10.6-megapixel 1/2.3-inch back-illuminatedCMOS image sensor found on most of the top-of-the-line 2011 Everios. Unlike JVC's mid-range models, the GZ-HM550 cannot record in standard definition (not that you’d really miss it).
The camcorder uses JVC's "Intelligent Auto" mode for automatically matching scene modes such as portrait, sunset, scenery, forest and macro mode, to shooting environments.
You can snap 9-megapixel still photos with the HM550, and it has a built-in flash to aid in low light photography. While it’s not quite a replacement for a standalone digital camera, it will deliver sharper pictures than camcorders without a built-in flash. It can also deliver a much faster burst mode than most digital cameras, with the ability to shoot 30 pictures-per-second.
You'll find a 10x optical zoom Konica Minolta HD lens on the Everio GZ-GZ-HM550. This optical zoom is joined by two digital zoom technologies: a dynamic zoom can boost magnification to 16x without sacrificing video quality. There's also a standard digital zoom, which increases magnification to 200x. The lens uses JVC's "Enhanced Advanced Image Stabilizer" for keeping your footage relatively shake-free. According to the company, the image stabilization technology can compensate for camera shake at wide-angles and is four times as effective in combating shake than the Advanced Stabilization found on less expensive models in the Everio line. In our experience, JVC has some of the best image stabilization technology in the camcorder market.
The GZ-HM550's lens is conveniently protected by an automatic lens cap.
Memory and Display
The GZ-GZ-HM550 offers 32GB of internal flash memory in addition to a single SDHC memory card slot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t accept higher-capacity SDXC cards for additional storage capacity, although with 32GB on board, you probably will not find yourself running out of memory. The HM 550 uses JVC's "seamless recording" system, which automatically switches memory formats when one is full.
You'll frame your recordings on a large 2.7-inch Laser Touch LCD display. The Laser Touch display is something of hybrid – it’s not a touch screen but there are no tactile buttons either. Instead, you’ll find a serious of touch-sensitive controls on the edge of the display, including a swipe bar, for navigating around the HM550’s menu items. In our experience, this Laser Touch display can be more responsive than small touch screens although it takes some getting used to.
Design-wise, the GZ-HM550 cuts an angular (in our view attractive) appearance with nice ergonomics. Thanks to the use of flash memory you'll still enjoy a light weight body though not as light as JVC's less expensive HD models (.67 pounds with battery inside). The GZ-HM550 measures in at 2.1 x 2.4 x 4.5 inches, roughly the same form factor as the entry-level series of Everios, and features a zoom lever on the top of the camcorder and a record shutter located on the side, next to the camcorder's battery. Open the display and you'll find buttons video playback, scrolling and info, plus the camcorder's ports: component, HDMI, USB and AV.
Aesthetically, the GZ-HM550 is available in one color - black.
The GZ-GZ-HM550 offers Bluetooth wireless capability. Using Bluetooth and a free app from JVC, you can send resized video files from the camcorder to your phone and sync your video-recording with Google maps for geo-tagging purposes. The free app also lets you use your phone as a remote control for the camcorder. The app is available for Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile phones.
The Everio GZ-GZ-HM550 is also outfitted with face detection and a face flow playback, which highlights faces in a frame in the playback menu so you can search your footage by the people you've recorded.
The GZ-HM550 also offers several fast frame rate options for recording in slow motion. The effect is very cool but the video files are lower quality, so they won't look as good on the big screen.
Among the other features you'll find on the GZ-GZ-HM550 is a time-lapse recording function that lets you record one frame at a time for a selectable time interval (between one and 80 seconds). There's also an Auto Record function which starts recording automatically whenever an object moves into the frame. The camcorder will automatically end recording if motion stops after five seconds, so the camcorder can double as a motion-activated video camera (the battery won't last long enough for it to truly replace a security camera though).
Finally, you can add basic animated effects to video in the camcorder as well as to still images. JVC's Everio Media Browser software is built-in the camcorder as well for disc-free loading when you attach the camcorder to a computer via USB. The software supports basic video editing (color changing, clipping, etc.) as well as sharing via YouTube and Facebook.
The Everio GZ-GZ-HM550 offers a built-in HDMI output for connecting the camera although the cable is not included. You can also connect to a PC via USB cable. There is, as mentioned above, Bluetooth for camcorder-to-cell phone transfers.
At $800, there is a lot of high-quality competition for your camcorder dollar. One of the big differentiators that the HM550 offers is Bluetooth. Depending on your needs and your interest in experimenting with tech, this could be a big benefit – or not. For my money, the still photo and slow motion modes on the HM500 deliver greater value than the Bluetooth, but other models in this price point offer larger touch-screen displays.