First, the SR45 is an entry level hard disk drive (HDD) camcorder. It records to a built-in hard drive like the ones used in computers. The benefit of this type of storage is that you are able to store hours and hours of video during one session. (I believe that number is 7 hours on the highest quality setting for the 30GB.) I would recommend you backup your videos in case you would use them later. Doing this requires you to either use a computer hard drive or burn DVDs. It isn't a good idea to wait until the drive is full to backup because you probably would not be able to empty the contents until you got back to your computer and you don't want to risk losing all of the videos.
The other type that is recommended is well is miniDV. This is a tape format that has been around many years. It provides very good video quality. The benefit is that you end with "automatic archives" of your video because they stay on each tape. The (personal) downside to this format is you must continually buy tapes. You shouldn't reuse them. And those are also another set of items to carry with you on a day trip or what have you. Also, transfer time to the computer is in real time, for example, one hour of tape will take one hour to transfer to the computer, whereas, one hour of HDD camcorder video will take about 10-15 minutes.
Looking at your choice, it doesn't have a viewfinder, but it does have a rotating LCD (most camcorders do now). Megapixels aren't as important as usually thought. The entire system including the sensor, lens, and processing engine determine the output quality. Sony is widely respected in its sensor design whereas Canon is respected for its superior lens designs.
Some suggestions to mull over:
Canon ZR950, Sony SR45, Sony SR65, Sony HC96, Panasonic GS320, Panasonic H60
Thanks for any help! Keep in mind I have very little knowledge of digital cameras and camcorders. I was looking at a specific camera (mentioned later) and wonder if it fits my needs:
Not looking to exceed 600 dollars.
Fairly small, average camcorder size.
I'm not too familiar with how important megapixels are. Perhaps some suggestions/explanations? I'd appreciate it.
Standard zoom should be good. Maybe a little extra.
Image/Video quality should be decent for making short movies (home and actual) within the 10-20 minute range.
Not really knowledgeable on shutter modes. Again, suggestions/explanations welcome.
I'll use the camera mostly for youtube quality videos I will make. I plan on making home movies and short movie projects I'll be working on. I'd say about a 6 or 7 in quality if 10 is the very best. Maybe even a 5 will suffice for all I know. The resolution of the camcorder I have in mind is 720 x 480. Is that sound?
I more than likely won't make any big prints of stills, mostly just standard.
I plan on making a lot of videos indoors (in a fairly well-lit room)
I probably won't be making many action photos, but maybe every now and then.
Not sure brand-wise. I hear Sony is pretty good.
I actually have a camera in mind but not sure if it totally meets my requirements. It's the Sony DCR-SR45 30GB Handycam