OK folks, I need your help. New baby means new camcorder, and I'm having a hard time picking one out. The primary objective is to acquire video, indoor and outdoor, suitable for editing and burning to DVD's to send to relatives with DVD players, so video and audio quality are paramount. Something tells me a camera that does poorly under low-light conditions, or whose microphone picks up tape whir, would drive me crazy. As much as I would enjoy a semi-professional $3,000 3CCD unit for making films suitable for Sundance, what I have in mind is a camera suitable for Disneyland. The ultra-portables look neat, but I'd prefer video quality to extra-small, and anything that passes for a one-handed home camcorder these days would probably be fine. Digital, obviously, and Mac-friendly is a must, so Firewire (IEEE 1394) output is required. I'm storage-format agnostic (MiniDV sounds popular), though capacity is high on my list. I'm willing to spend around $1,000.
Secondary objectives include analog video input for digitizing, compatibility with mainstream video conferencing software (iChat AV, Yahoo Messenger), and built-in still photography (not for quality, but for convenience). I wouldn't sacrifice video quality for these features, but I might pay a little more for them. At first glance, most mid-range consumer cameras have these features, so I'm not too worried I'll go without.
CNet's guide tops off with the tempting Sony DCR-TRV80 ($1178 from J&R). It's heavy on the gadgets and high in price, but if someone told me it took better video than any of the others, I'd consider it. The fact that it has features I know I wouldn't use (Ethernet?) makes the price a concern. The Canon Optura 300 ($780 from J&R) would be more what I'm looking for if it weren't for CNet's complaints of unfavorable low-light performance and a poorly placed microphone. Third in CNet's list is the Sony DCR-TRV22 ($550 from J&R), with fewer features (and in some ways, less camera) than the TRV80, but a much better price, praise for night vision, and all the features I mentioned. An Amazon reviewer mentions motor whir on the audio track.
Anyone know anything about these cameras? Are there any features that I'm not considering that I should? Image stabilization? Optical zoom greater than 10x? Are there any ultra-portables with stellar video quality? Are tapeless cameras worth it?
As someone who used to claim an interest in filmmaking, I'm surprised that I'm not already on top of the whole camcorder thing. I'm especially surprised that I haven't really wanted one until now. The quality of consumer video has gone up quite a bit in the last five years, and consumer video editing has arrived. But mostly, I now have something I actually want to record.