including the HV30 - have "auto" mode that is the default, all you need to do is point and shoot. It gets exciting when you drop into manual mode (focus, zoom, shutter, aperture, audio, add mics, etc).
I added one manual item at a time - over time - and waded into the pool rather than jump in the deep end. Of course, using tips from others - try not to pan or zoom; pay attention to shots at the movies or on TV; think about "framing" and the other visible items in the shot in addition to the subject; try to always use a stabilizing device - tripod, chair, table and rarely (if ever) handheld...
The convenience with miniDV tape is that the tapes are cheap... fill a tape, pop it out, lock it, pop in a new tape resume shooting, mark the old tape with some sort of content ID. So you have the tape ready to work or archive in a cool dry place.
When you import the DV or HDV form the HV30 to a computer, that act of importing is decompressing the video stream. Basically doing two things at once - similar to the tape also being the archive.
The miniDV tapes are available in 60 minute or 80 minute lengths - and you always record in SP. MiniDV tape based means the computer to which you connect the camcorder must have a firewire port. Transfer using USB will not be successful.
When you finish the editing project, export the video project back to the camcorder - and use the camcorder as a playback deck to watch in high definition; save the project as a computer readable file and connect the computer to the HDTV for high definition playback; export the project to an AppleTV or similar multimedia device connected to your HDTV; or burn a standard definition version of the project to a DVD for playback in a regular DVD player; or render a h.264 encoded file suitable for playback using a BluRay player (or PS3).
With a hard disc drive based camcorder, it's "feature" is that it can hold multiple hours of video on the hard drive - but there are some "tradeoffs". If the camcorder is lost, stolen or broken and you have not yet transferred video from the camcorder to some other device, getting the video can have challenges. The standard definition video typically needs to be converted to a format the video editor can deal with - not always - this depends on your computing platform. Your first step after copying the video over USB to the computer is to make a back up/archive.
For AVCHD based camcorders, the first step after copying the files is to make another copy - then when the video it pulled into the editor, it decompresses. So, yes, editing video files form hard disc drives can be done - but there are other steps in the complete process flow that are otherwise "combined" in the miniDV tape process flow. I am a miniDV tape fan - but if my only choice is HDD or flash memory (they store to the same formats), I would skip HDD camcorders and go with the comparable flash memory camcorder (like the HF series).
The Canon HV20/HV30/HV40 and Sony HDR-HC9 are the least expensive camcorders with a mic jack and manual audio control... I do not believe the other camcorders using different recording media - in the same basic environment (up to about $1,200 for the Sony HDD AVCHD camcorders) have manual audio control (but they all do have a mic jack).
The export and playback options for HDD and flash memory are the same - and also the same as miniDV tape - with one exception - I do not believe you can export the finished project back to the camcorder (form the computer) and use the camcorder as the playback deck - at least not with all of them...