The A550's live view switch makes clear that live view is seen as a mode in which you might choose to operate the camera, rather than a function you might occasionally enable. Compact camera uses will immediately feel at home with the seamless, fast-focusing live view that the secondary sensor brings.
On the left-hand side of the camera there's an HDMI port for connection to hi-definition TVs. There's also a USB connection for offloading your images then, just beyond these is the connector for a remote shutter release. In common with the latest A230 and A3XX series cameras, there's no AV output for non-HD televisions. On the other side of the camera, just above the memory card door, there's a DC IN socket for powering the camera.
The A550 has slots for both SD cards and Sony's own Memory Stick format. It will also accept the higher capacity SDHC and Memory Stick HG Duo cards and has a small switch to select which slot you wish to write to.
Base / Tripod Mount
The tripod mount is centered in the middle of the A550's rather substantial body. There's no material around the mount to provide additional grip but plenty of surface area to contact with.
The A550 includes the same flash as the A350, offering guide number 12 (m) at ISO 100. This is more powerful than the units included in the A230, 330 and 380, which have smaller, Gen 10 flashes. As usual for Sony, the A550 can control external flashguns remotely using its built-in flash (though this does not extend to multiple groups with differing outputs as the Olympus and Nikon systems do). The hotshoe is the Minolta standard.
Battery / storage Compartment
The A550 (and its simpler sibling, the A500), both use the FM500H battery that appears in the A100, A200, A300 and A350. It's certainly larger than the batteries that appear in the current A2XX and A3XX cameras but offers twice the capacity (11.8Wh, rather than 5.9Wh), giving the A550 a rather impressive 950 shot capability, based on CIPA testing using the viewfinder. The A500 manages an even more impressive 1000 shot battery life - the largest of any Sony Alpha yet.
Lens Mount / Sensor
The A550 is built around a standard Sony Alpha bayonet mount which is itself identical to the older Minolta A-mount. The sensor is a new CMOS design not to be confused with the CCD of the same megapixel count that appears in the A350 and A380.