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The Genius's controls are slightly strange compared to most camcorders. The large button on the rear with a red LED in the centre only takes photos, and you have to push it annoying hard to get it to do even that. Video recording is inaugurated by an innocuous button on the front. With the pistol-grip format of the HD520, shooting video feels even more like firing a gun, and relatively intuitive once you get used to it.
The same can't be said for the zoom control. Its positioning on the side of the HD520 means you will have to move your index finger from the video record button every time you want to use it. Alternatively, you can use your middle finger to operate record, but that's hardly comfy. In all, Genius clearly needs to apply some further thought about control positioning.
Genius has incorporated a few manual controls into the joystick on the rear of the HD520. Pressing this upwards enables 'Z-Lighting', which corrects for scenes with very high contrast in lighting. Essentially, it boosts detail in shadows, although it doesn't appear to do much for blown-out highlights. Pressing the joystick right enables the HD520's face detection system, a surprising feature in a sub-£100 camcorder. However, it's a bit slow compared to the best implementations and doesn't pick up faces well against bright backgrounds. There is also a macro switch on the top, which allows the shooting of objects down to a range of about 10cm.
The remaining functions are found within the menu system and they're not particularly extensive. In Program mode, you can adjust exposure up or down by four increments. You can also choose between three daylight and two artificial illumination white balance presets, alongside automatic and manual modes. Genius also provides two scene modes, but they're extremely strange choices. Although the Dawn and Auction options have their uses (for sunrises and shooting photos of items for eBay), without the usual Sports and Low Light scene modes they seem rather random.
That's about it for video, although there are metering options for still photography, plus single and continuous shooting modes. Five digital effects are available, but as always we'd recommend leaving this until the editing stage.