At Dell.com, you have the following under $500:
Canon ZR830 @ $299
Canon ZR850 @ $329
Canon ZR800 @ $279
Panasonic PV-GS85 @ $327
Panasonic PV-GS80 @ $264
JVC GR-D750 @ $283
JVC GR-D770 @ $313
Here at CNET.com or camcorderinfo.com, do some homework. Which one has the lowest LUX rating and the highest mega-pixel still-image rank?
You will also want an extra high-capacity rechargeable battery or two, a sturdy case, a monopod or tripod... any you may want an external mic... and upgrade the memory card (the one included in the camera will not hold many images). You will also want lots of miniDV tapes.
If your computer does not already have a FireWire port, that will need to be added. You will also need a FireWire cable as they are not typically included in the box.
Tell us what you find, we'll tell you if you are headed in the right direction.
I'm taking a long trip through Asia and having a hard time figuring out which camcorder is best for high quality video and stills as well as low light situations. My budget is max $500, though I would prefer to spend less and I'm limited to the selection at Dell.com
Does anyone have any suggestions?