Have you seen camcorderinfo.com for reviews showing test images from many of common camcorders? I could be wrong in suggesting that place, though, since I only began looking last week and their reviews can sometimes seem a bit errant here and there but it helped me anyway. I got the Canon ZR400 simply because it was okay enough for the price (that, and I used a DELL Preferred Account since I don't use CC's anymore only Debit Card).
$500 CDN is about $415 USD so you'll be hard-pressed to find anything good in low light from what I've seen of these camcorders-- even the ones costing twice that! I haven't owned one since 1999 and that was one of the first compact Panasonic VHS-C kind.
The ZR400 I got from DELL was $467 after a customer discount but I believe you could find that one for as low as $400 after shipping. Of course, I cannot even begin to recommend it since mine isn't delivered yet. However, it did seem the logical choice of all the miniDV's I checked out. I was more interested in the Canon Optura 60 with optical image stabilization and more still photo pixels but beyond my budget I figured since I'm also looking to upgrade my 4MP, 4X zoom, digi-cam someday.
Good luck with whatever you ultimately get.