I have owned this camera for but a few days, certainly haven't become familiar with EVERY feature. I still own a Sony DCR-TRV840 (a digital 8mm tape based camera) and this DCR-SX44 will eventually replace the TRV840.
As a technical consumer, I always review any default settings for devices I purchase; I immediately set the recording mode to highest quality.
Pros: Small size (barely larger than 2 of the old TRV840s 8MM tapes in their storage cases), touch screen menuing system (minimal buttons on the camera), 60x zoom is optical (much more zoom is available if digital zoom is enabled - at the expense of image resolution), several optional battery capacities, a lot of features to suit novice videographers (spot metering options, face detection, slow shutter for low light recording, white balance, telephoto or Macro modes, guideframes (1/3rd rules), 'Zoom microphone' enable, 16:9 or 4:3 recording mode, self timer, media format, view/delete/protect images, more). One added feature: a Reset button, in case you go too far using those menus!
Cons: Cannot take a snapshot WHILE recording (my old TRV840 could do that), small still photo size (640x480, = VGA, VGA sized digital photos were a breakthrough back in the late 1990s), any USB connection requires LCD display to be opened (cannot use USB with the LCD closed), user option buttons are flush with surface of the case and are impossible to determine by feel (for turning on the recording light, playback, backlight, disc burn), small size camcorder forces a small sized LCD display, cannot add a carrying strap - no loops for straps, support for cards larger than 32 GB is not guaranteed (32 GB SDHC support is guaranteed (I'm quoting the manual - the Sony user manual uses the term GB, not GiB)), unusual connector on the camera for A/V outputs (lose the supplied A/V cable and you need to contact Sony for replacement - try doing that in 5 years), pricey batteries if going for larger capacity than stock battery.
All in all, for under $250, this is a good family camera, offering room for experimentation, with direct to flash recording capability.