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No camcorder costing under £100 is going to give mainstream models much to worry about when it comes to image quality, but the HD55 does a respectable job. With just a fixed lens, it doesn't produce pin-sharp images. The compression is also extremely aggressive, using only just over 4Mbits/sec even in HD mode - where Flip's Ultra and Mino use a higher rate for video one third the resolution. This is visible in a general softness and lack of detail. The macro mode proved relatively effective at pulling close objects into better focus, but it was virtually impossible to get objects closer than 2m sharp in either mode.
With enough light, colour fidelity is perfectly acceptable, whether the illumination is natural or artificial. In fact, even in worse conditions the HD55 did surprisingly well. However, here you have to choose between brighter, but jerky images in Night Mode, or darker smoother footage with this off. The LED light will make shooting possible in near darkness, but only for objects a few metres away - and the results are very grainy indeed. The zoom is also extremely jerky and we wouldn't recommend using it except to set up a shot. If you use it whilst recording, you're likely to induce seasickness amongst your viewers. It's also digital, so reduces resolution.
A minijack on the rear provides component analogue connectivity, and there is a proprietary plug which doubles for USB and composite analogue video plus RCA audio. Whichever quality mode you use, the Genius records H.264 MPEG-4 video and AAC audio to a MOV file. This will therefore be Mac compatible, but not every PC editing app supports this format. Genius supplies Presto! VideoWorks 6 in the box, which has a basic set of editing features.
Priced under £100, the G-Shot HD55 goes up against the likes of Flip's range and Creative's Vado. If you're shooting video destined for YouTube, these devices are a better option. They may not offer HD resolution, but they perform better in low light and make the upload process a doddle. Conversely, the cheapest standard definition big-name models have a lot more features, if not the raw pixel count. That said, the Genius G-Shot HD55 is about the cheapest HD-capable camcorder currently on the market, and its video quality is far from appalling. If you really are on a very limited budget, it would make a reasonable way to try your hand with video.
Scores In Detail
- Image Quality