Something that does have its own button is the twin-LED video light. This is enabled by pushing the jog dial upwards, and it doubles as a flash when in camera mode. There's also a separate button for changing recording mode between video, stills and audio only. But no other settings have discrete controls.
Via the menu, you can toggle night mode and the motion detection system, which records video when the camcorder picks up something happening within the frame. The final menu option is an EV exposure control with nine levels. In camera mode, there are additional options for a self-timer and continuous shooting. However, there's no direct manual control over shutter, iris or video gain, and no scene modes available either.
The HD550T comes with a 1,200mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, but it can also run on four AAA alkaline batteries if required, which could be useful if you run out of power when out and about. Strangely, whilst the USB 2.0 and mini-HDMI ports are covered by a rubber flap, the minijack, which drives composite analogue video and RCA audio output, is open to the air. But at least Genius supplies cables for HDMI as well as analogue video, so you should be able to view your content no matter what kind of TV you have.
Although it has a relatively large CMOS sensor, the Genius doesn't shower itself in praise where video quality is concerned. In good lighting, colours are adequately faithful, but there's already a noticeable amount of noise. This becomes very evident as illumination drops, and colours quickly fade to grey. The HD550T's low light performance is better than any other Genius camcorder we've tested, but still far from stellar, even at this price.
The majority of pocket Internet camcorders, all of which sport smaller sensors, outperform the Genius in poor illumination, making them a much better choice for indoor family gatherings. The complete lack of any image stabilisation is also very evident when shooting handheld. The G-Shot picks up the smallest of movements. This is particularly surprising considering the similarly priced Genius G-Shot HD520 does at least offer electronic image stabilisation, although not the superior optical system.
Overall, the G-shot HD550T shoots better video than other Genius camcorders we've tested, but that's not saying much. Its poor image quality and limited features aren't particularly mitigated by its low price. Although slightly more expensive, Internet-oriented models such as the Flip Video Mino HD 2nd Generation shoot more dependable footage in a wider variety of conditions, and they're more pocket-friendly too. Unfortunately, the Genius wins plaudits neither as a cheap pocket point-and-shoot, nor as a more feature-laden alternative to the Flip. We'd recommend the Mino HD for the former, or stretching your budget to the Samsung HMX-R10 instead, if you want a low-priced but feature-packed HD camcorder.