Top of camera controls (right)

The button positioning is much like that of the A350 - only with the Smart Teleconverter button pushed across towards the viewfinder, making the more useful exposure compensation and AEL lock buttons the easiest to reach. The high, square-edged top plate means the four buttons on the top of the camera aren't easily reached with the camera in the traditional to-the-eye position (I found the ISO button particularly fiddly) but leaving them fairly well placed if you're cradling the camera at waist level and using live view. Two new buttons control the A550's new features: D-RANGE and MF CHECK LV.

Changing settings

There are two screens for viewing the camera settings and Sony becomes one of the last manufacturers not to make these screens interactive (you can't scroll around the options to make changes), instead you are taken off to different screens to change each setting (which is odd, given that it was a feature on the A700 nearly two years ago). Thankfully there's a good number of buttons giving direct access. However, you'll still need to use the function menu to make changes to white balance, AF point behavior, autofocus mode (continuous/single/auto) or metering mode.

The alternative is to use a rather attractive exposure display screen. It very prettily shows aperture and shutter speeds as continuous scales, with the exposure compensation scale beneath them. However, closer examination shows it to be distinctly flawed - both aperture and shutter speed scales are arranged with darker exposures to the right, meaning that the other aperture and shutter speed pairs shown are neither equivalent to the chosen exposure, nor consistent with the exposure compensation scale (which has brighter exposures on the right). In fact, it's not clear what information you're supposed to glean from the display - we think it's more likely to confuse beginners rather than helping them understand exposure settings.

You can choose the traditional 'settings display' mode. It rotates to match the orientation of the camera but isn't interactive (you can't navigate around the screen to change settings) Or the pretty but deeply unhelpful 'exposure display' mode. It gives the appearance of showing the relationships between apertures and shutter speeds but actually just confuses the issue.

Function menu

Most commonly changed shooting settings are kept in the Function menu (including those with their own buttons). This can be navigated in two ways:

Pressing the Fn button brings up a list of settings. Pressing the 'AF' button takes you to other screens to change each of these options (Creative Style screen shown in this instance). However, if you turn the control dial, the options dance past you as if you were dealing with a 'virtual mode dial.'

Buttons (shooting mode)

Because the settings display isn't interactive, every time you press a button you are taken to a separate screen for each setting.

Control dial

Used to change settings and navigate menus, by default also used to select shutter speed (or aperture if you'd prefer) in M mode. The front dial is also used for scrolling through images in playback mode.
Live View / OVF switch

Activates the mechanical switching between Live View mode (using the secondary sensor) and the conventional optical viewfinder.


MF Check Live View

Flips the mirror up and actives the A550's new main sensor live view mode. This mode can be invoked irrespective of the position of the Live View / OVF switch. In MF Check Live View mode the autofocus (and associated features such as face detection) are disabled.
D-RANGE DRO / Auto HDR button

Pressing this button brings up a menu of options for using the A550's Dynamic Range Optimizer and new Auto-HDR features. Turn front dial or use up/down keys to select item, use left/right keys to choose between options.

 • DRO
Lv 1
Lv 2
Lv 3
Lv 4
Lv 5
 • HDR
1.0 EV
1.5 EV
2.0 EV
2.5 EV
3.0 EV

Drive mode (turn front dial or four-way controller to select mode, left/right to choose between options)

 • Single frame advance
 • Continuous advance (Hi/Lo)
 • Spd.Prty.Cont.Adv. (7 fps mode with AF and AE fixed at start of burst)
 • Self-timer (2sec/10sec)
 • Continuous bracketing (0.3EV/0.7EV)
 • White balance bracketing (Lo/Hi)
 • Remote commander

Exposure compensation / Flash Output control

Hold this button and turn the dial of left/right on the four-way controller to change from the metered exposure using the on-screen scale. +/–2.0EV


ISO selection

Press button then turn the control dial or use the four-way controller to change the ISO (sensitivity) setting in 1EV steps.

 • Available values: AUTO, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800


Enters or leaves the current mode menu, all menus are accessible once in the menu system but pressing this button in Play mode will take you directly to the Play section.


 • In live view mode, this button toggles between four levels of shooting information, all with exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture and shake warning visible along the bottom.
 • In optical view finder (OVF) mode, it toggles between the status panel, the exposure panel and no display

• In MF Check Live View, the button toggles between three levels of shooting information. These are much like the ones seen in standard live view mode but without a live histogram option. The exposure scale is also missing from one of the display modes.

Delete (record review).

During record review (image playback immediately after taking the shot) you can press this button to delete the image. This displays a Delete / Cancel confirmation box.
Multi Selector

The multi selector is used to navigate menus and make selections (using the center button). If the AF area is set to 'Local' the controller is also used to select your focus point when shooting. Pressing the center button forces the camera to focus on the center spot (irrespective of the focus area or spot currently in use).


Function button

Provides access to the function menu, that provides control over the camera functions you may want to change fairly regularly. The four directions on the four-way controller move between options and the AF button selects them. Alternatively, spinning the control dial rotates through the settings for each option.

• Drive mode (Same options as Drive Mode button)
• Flash mode
Fill Flash
Slow Sync
• Autofocus mode
• AF Area
Wide (Camera automatically selects from its 9 AF points)
Spot (Uses central AF point)
Local (Manually select AF point using four-way controller)
• Face detection (On/Off)*
• Smile shutter (On/Off)*

• ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800)
• Metering mode
Multi pattern
Center weighted
• Flash compensation (+/–2EV)
• White balance
Daylight (Blue/Amber +/–3)
Shade (Blue/Amber +/–3)
Cloudy (Blue/Amber +/–3)
Incandescent (Blue/Amber +/–3)
Flash (Blue/Amber +/–3)
Color temperature (Green/Magenta +/–9)
Manual WB
• DRO/Auto HDR
DR Off
DRO (Auto, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
HDR (Auto, 1.0EV, 1.5EV, 2.0EV, 2.5EV, 3.0EV)
• Creative style (Standard, Vivid, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, B&W) All have contrast, saturation and sharpness adjustment where applicable

* live view mode only


AE Lock button / Slow Sync / M-Shift

By default acts as a standard AEL lock button (hold it down to lock the exposure), though you can change the behavior to 'Hold' (press once to activate AEL).

In manual exposure (M) mode holding this button down activates a 'Manual Shift' option, which allows you to retain a fixed exposure but to change the aperture and shutter speed combination pair by turning the control dial.

Smart Teleconverter

Engages 'Smart Teleconverter' mode, in which the camera crops the image size to simulate 1.4x or 2x zoom. This only works when shooting JPEG images in the main live view mode. The button displays error warnings at all other times.

Enters play mode, displays the last image taken or the last image browsed.

Play mode controls


Enters or leaves the current mode menu, all menus are accessible once in the menu system but pressing this button in Play mode will take you directly to the Play section.


Select play mode display:

 • Image with information overlay
 • Just image
 • Full shooting info and histograms

Also used to toggle between 4 and 9 thumbnails in thumbnail views

Delete (play only)

In play mode press this button to delete the currently displayed / selected image. This displays a Yes / No confirmation box.

Leaves play mode and returns to shooting. Note that you can achieve the same function by simply half-pressing the shutter release button.
4-way controller

Press left or right arrows to browse through the images, note that you can also use the control dial to achieve the same function. When magnified the controller is used to scroll around the image. (The control dial selects other images when in magnified mode)

Allows you to rotate the displayed image through 90, 180 or 270 degrees.
Zoom in

In play mode enters the camera's magnify mode, press again to magnify the image further (up to 14x). Pressing the 'Play' button jumps back to full screen.

Index/Zoom out

From playback mode, toggles index (thumbnail) mode on and off. (Pressing the DISP changes the number of thumbnails). When zoomed in, this button zooms back out.