You can forgive a few bizarre settings at this price, if the footage is generally good. In good lighting, the HD520 shoots a vibrant picture, although colours can be saturated unrealistically. There is also less artefacting than would be expected considering the level of compression. Unfortunately, the zoom is extremely jerky, and being digital there is a noticeable loss in quality when you zoom in.
Performance is reasonable in low light. We weren't expecting miracles, but the HD520 did manage to do a decent job in adequate artificial illumination. It also maintained some colour as the lighting levels dropped, although it singularly failed our 100W ceiling bulb test, producing an image that was almost completely black. It's in good company here, though, with the majority of budget camcorders having similar problems.
The Genius shoots footage in AVI format, and as with our previous experiences with H.264 packaged in this way it's not the most compatible with editing software. Adobe apps will import this footage, but can't edit it properly. Fortunately, the supplied ArcSoft Media Impression includes some limited editing features, plus built-in YouTube uploading.
Alternatively, you can hook the HD520 up directly to your TV. As implied earlier, the headphone jack doubles as an AV output, but only provides composite analogue video and RCA audio. For HD-quality output, there's a mini HDMI plug on the front, and amazingly, Genius actually includes an adapter cable in the box so you can plug this into the full-sized HDMI on your HDTV.
It's hard to be too critical of a camcorder shooting 720p HD for under £100. The Genius G-Shot HD520 captures good enough footage in adequate lighting to be worth considering as a cheap and cheerful shooter for family occasions. However, if you have any more serious intentions with your video, the confused control system and jerky digital zoom mean saving up for a more expensive alternative would be a better choice.