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When a camcorder costs under £100, you don't expect it to make claims about having 'Perfect HD'. But that is what Genius has emblazoned on the G-Shot HD520. In fact, it only offers 720p shooting at 30 frames per second, not Full HD. That's still fairly impressive, though, considering that HD pocket Internet camcorders offering 720p, such as the Flip Video UltraHD, still cost twice as much as the HD520. So how has Genius achieved this budgetary feat?
The G-Shot feels reasonably sturdy in the hand, but the main quartet of buttons are a little wobbly. There is also only 32MB of memory built in; just enough to let you test the camera is working. So you will need to invest in some SD memory before doing any serious shooting. An 8GB card will be enough for 2.75 hours in HD shooting mode. This runs at under 1MByte/sec, which is rather low even for the H.264 compression the HD520 uses.
The lens is also fixed, with just a 5x digital zoom to call upon, and image stabilisation is electronic, as you would expect at this price. The HD520 boasts still images up to 11-megapixels, but the CMOS sensor itself is only natively 5-megapixels, so this will use a hefty dose of interpolation. Aside from 720p, the Genius can record VGA video at 640 x 480 and web-oriented footage at 320 x 240.
But these are only the main headline functions. Open up the Mode menu and a few more will be revealed. The HD520 can also act as a voice recorder, capturing audio in MP3 format, and conversely function as an MP3 player. It has a 'Personal Media Player' (PMP) mode, too. Using the supplied Arcsoft Media Impression software, you can convert and copy over still images or video for playback from the device.
This would be a painful experience using the 2.5in LCD screen, but presumably this is more for when the HD520 is connected to a TV, although the AV socket does double as a headphone minijack. The same can't be said of the e-book reader function. There's no guidance as to which formats are supported in the manual, and the prospect of reading a book on a tiny camcorder screen is basically ludicrous anyway.
Probably the most useful extra feature for a budding videomaker, however, is the motion detection mode. In this setting, whenever the camcorder picks up movement in the frame, it will begin recording. If the scene is motionless for five seconds, it will supposedly stop again. But we found we had to push the camera button on the front to end recording manually. Clearly, motion detection mode will be most effective with the power supply attached, as the battery only lasts an hour or so.