Off the top of my head, I don't believe there is any camera that meets your desires.
98% of all cameras are eliminated by "optical zoom while recording".
The few that can do that are more than $250.
Some claim to do that but if you read the fine print, it will say "the microphone is turned off while zooming" or "the microphone will record the sound of the zoom motor while zooming".
The Canon SX10IS has a silent zoom motor.
But it does not do 720p.
The Canon SX1IS does 1080p and has a silent motor.
But it is very expensive ($600)
Neither camera is small.
On all cameras, to output to HDTV requires a special extra cost cable or cradle. Those range in price from $45 to $99.
The closest thing to what you want is the Canon TX1.
If you can find one.
It can do 720p and I believe it comes with the HDTV cable.
It originally sold for $500, but it did not sell will.
If you can find one, you might be able to pay under $250.
You next best choice will likely be one of the Panasonic cameras.
Strong desires, indeed...
So I've never owned my own digital camera before, and I need a little help. This is just going to be for fun, I'm heading to a university soon. Was originally going to get a flip minoHD to record things just for fun, but then I decided I'd get a real camera that can also record good videos. Here's what I'm looking for:
1) Anywhere from 8-12 megapixels
2) Can record video in 720p
3) Can use optical zoom while recording
4) Uses SD cards
5) Can output pics/video to tv in hd (component or hdmi)
6) I want it small enough to fit in my jeans comfortably
7) Price not over $250
I've been trying to research Panasonic cameras and Canons, mostly because people have told me they are good cameras. Panasonic TZ5 looks nice, but I'm worried it may be too large? I've also looked at the FX500 which is about $50 cheaper than the TZ5, but I notice it lacks zooming while recording, but is smaller... I also found the FX37, and a Canon sd780 which is tiny, and then I realize there are so many cameras out there its hard to know the difference by reading a lot of specs I don't understand.
So, what are your thoughts, and are there any other cameras I should consider? Thanks a bunch for any help!