potential future livelihood, I think I would be getting the best I could afford - and as close to what is in use today (or even recent history) by people who do it for a living... I don't think any of the camcorders you list are used by professional videographers or news gathering companies.
As close as I can get might be a Canon GL2 or maybe Sony DCR-VX1000 or VX2100. They have been workhorses for several years and you may be able to find some used in good shape. More typically, pros use shoulder-mount units (on a tripod) - not hand-helds - from Sony, Panasonic and JVC (and occasionally, Canon) - especially for talking heads. Have you spoken with any video journalists? Perhaps they have gear for sale? I know looking in the consumer environment is easiest and cheapest, but they are far from what working video-journalists use. They will also have manual audio controls (not just a mic-in jack) that most consumer rigs do not have.
If you have good control of your lighting and are expecting to replace the camcorder in a year or two, then your list looks OK - I have no experience with eBay and "cheapest on the internet" will get you what you pay for:
Are you expecting your webcasts to be live or delayed/edited? How are you planning to set up and do the webcasts?
I'm looking into buying my first camcorder, and I need some recommendations. I'll be using the cam for freelance video journalism projects and for collecting footage to use on my news demo tape. I'll also be using the camera for video webcasting of sporting events. I'm entering graduate school for journalism soon, and I think it might be useful to have a camera that I can use well when I start. Here's what I'm looking for:
-Mini DV format (for use with Avid Xpress Pro editing software)
-Mic Input (essential for shooting stand-up material)
-Headphone Jack (helpful, though not necessarily required, for monitoring audio levels prior to shooting stand-ups in the field)
-Some sort of manual focus capability
-Hopefully less than $400
From what I've seen, the Canon ZR800 is one of the few consumer-level camcorders to offer a mic input on a Mini DV camera. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a headphone jack. I'm also somewhat concerned about the image quality on the ZR800. How good does the picture look? I'd like the material I shoot with the camera to be suitable for inclusion on a demo reel.
I also have the option of going with a used camera of some sort. Three cameras that have caught my eye are:
-Canon Elura 100
My main concerns with these cameras are image quality and durability, since they are all older models. Does anyone have experience with these cameras? The Sony in particular seems like it can be had on eBay for around $250-300, which is right in my price range.
My final option is to go big-time with the Canon HV20. I've seen prices as low as $660 on the internet, and it *might* be a good option if I can justify spending the extra dough. Not sure I can do that, though- any thoughts on whether or not this upgrade would be worth it? From the research I've done, the HV20 seems to be the best camera for me, but the price is steep.
Any thoughts on these cameras would be great- is the ZR800's picture quality going to satisfy me? What about one of the used cameras I mentioned? Would it be stupid to break the bank and get an HV20?
Thanks so much for your help!