"which will cost about $500 and be better than someone else's $2000 unit. Pipe dream."
My advice is to get what you see them using so you can at the very least get the same quality.
I have never owned a camcorder. I want to tape badminton which is played indoors, very often under flourescent lighting which outsiders consider dim. We are unable to use auxillary lighting (or flash photography) as it affects the players. I am hoping to be able to produce tapes good enough to be shown on the local stations here - not in USA (and maybe do a wedding or two). Presently we pay about US$300 to produce a short clip that is carried on the sports news of, if we're lucky, 3 stations. Owning our own unit would enable us to produce full length matches and hopefully get more exposure for the sport. I was initially looking at Panasonic but after research it seems that Sony is the champion on low light situations. Am I on the right track? Any suggestions re specific units that might be economically feasible? I am in the US for maybe 2 days, 3 or four times a year. Not enough to look around and do proper assesments so I depend heavily on forums like this one for information. Rental is not an option. Most of us approach a new electronics purchase with the thought that there is probably a great buy out there that someone knows about and all we have to do is ask and we will be told what is the best unit which will cost about $500 and be better than someone else's $2000 unit. Pipe dream.