Video Cameras forum

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Inexpensive camcorder with manual controls

I am looking to buy my first camcorder, but even after a great deal of research I am undecided on what to buy. Even though I am just starting out and this will be my first camcorder, I have had a fair amount of experience and wish to "skip" the beginner's stage and purchase a slightly more advanced camera; one with as many manual controls as possible. I have a specific list of features that I want the camera to have: Manual focus, manual white balance, and adjustable shutter speed; microphone and headphone ports; and decent picture in a semi-lowlight environment. Also, I do NOT wish to shoot in high definition.
I am into editing and creating special effects, so most of the footage will be transferred to my PC (which runs Vista) and then be edited using Adobe Premiere CS3, as well as other programs in the CS3 suite. This brings me to another question about my future camcorder: what do I want it to record to? I have read that mini DV tapes are the most desireable for editing, but I am concerned about them being outdated and obselete in a few short years. The high memory capacity of hard-drive camcorders is appealing, but I have also heard that there are often quality and format problems that I don't want to deal with.
Now for the most important feature: the camera must accomodate my small wallet! I am looking for a camera in the sub- $700 price range. Is there such camera that meets all of my needs? I can compromise if necessary, but I have plenty of time to shop so I want to get the Very Best camera that I can in my price range. Just to give you an idea, I was extremely impressed with the Canon Optura XI; but I am hesitant about the $800, and I would prefer not to buy a used camera.
ANY SUGGESTIONS?? I can use all the help I can get, and it would be very much appreciated.

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