Human RAD52 promotes annealing of complementary single-stranded DNA (ssDNA). In-depth knowledge of RAD52-DNA interaction is required to understand how its activity is integrated in DNA repair processes. Here, we visualize individual fluorescent RAD52 complexes interacting with single DNA molecules. The interaction with ssDNA is rapid, static, and tight, where ssDNA appears to wrap around RAD52 complexes that promote intra-molecular bridging. With double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), interaction is slower, weaker, and often diffusive. Interestingly, force spectroscopy experiments show that RAD52 alters the mechanics dsDNA by enhancing DNA flexibility and increasing DNA contour length, suggesting intercalation. RAD52 binding changes the nature of the overstretching transition of dsDNA and prevents DNA melting, which is advantageous for strand clamping during or after annealing. DNA-bound RAD52 is efficient at capturing ssDNA in trans. Together, these effects may help key steps in DNA repair, such as second-end capture during homologous recombination or strand annealing during RAD51-independent recombination reactions.