One of the nicest things about the HD7's controls is that every single one feels completely different, thanks to various combinations of button shapes, sizes, and textures. As someone who shoots primarily through the eye-level viewfinder--and with the HD7, the battery life is so abysmal you really should limit your use of the LCD--I hate that the menu button lies in the LCD cavity.
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When in manual mode, you select between aperture and shutter adjustments by pressing the relevant button, then scrolling with the jog dial somewhat misleadingly labeled "M-Menu." "Bright" actually controls exposure compensation. And that battery cavity feels like a bottomless pit. Better keep a few spares handy.
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You toggle between automatic and manual exposures via a button atop the camcorder (seen here on the left). Irritatingly, pressing the button once simply tells you what mode you're in; you have to press it again to change it.
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Like most prosumer camcorders, the HD7 uses a servo-controlled focus ring. With feedback in the viewfinder showing you which direction you're going, plus a very nice Peaking-like Focus Assist, the HD7 has above-average manual focus performance for its class.
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When you press the HD7's Focus assist button, it automatically switches the display to black and white and highlights in-focus edges with red, green, or blue (user choice). In practice, I found this quite useful. It provides easier-to-see feedback than typical Peaking controls, which highlight the edges in white and serves as a rough depth-of-field preview.
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I'm a big fan of the joystick for navigating menus, but hate that you must open the LCD to use it. For instance, as the battery lay dying I still needed to set the manual white balance; naturally, I didn't want to use the LCD, but had no choice because the Function button pulls up the white balance options and you navigate them with the on-LCD joystick. Needless to say, I left white balance on auto so that I could eke a few more minutes of video out of the battery.
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