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Hank hit it right on the head.
If you’re looking for any sort of true quality, the sub-$1000 market just doesn’t have much.
Coming from a background in photography, you might expect the camcorder market to work a lot like the camera market, where it’s possible to find a $500 camera that performs close to the $2000 camera’s capabilities. Sadly, this couldn’t b farther from the truth.
Camcorders are vastly more complex than digital cameras, and understandably so. Where a digital camera takes one photo at a time, a camcorder basically has to take 24, 30, or 60 images in one second’s time. That means a lot more processing, a lot more effort, and a lot more money to get quality.
The bottom line is that for all the technology it takes to get a good picture in video, camcorder manufacturers simply can’t put it all into a sub-$1000 machine and expect to make enough money for it to be worth their while.
I have three suggestions. The first would be to save for the funding to get the right camera. The second would be to rent a couple cameras to try them out. Find a friend with a sub-$1000 MiniDV cam and record some clips. Then go rent (and learn to use) a pro grade camera and shoot some footage, and compare. Thirdly, you can look for used gear. Used gear can be seriously marked down, but make sure you can physically inspect and test everything. Look for bad pixels, tape drive problems, and anything that might cause issues down the road. I would trust a used Sony more than a used Canon personally (Canon has a somewhat flaky tape head on their GL series), but either would work.
But if you still insist on a sub, $1000 camera, I’ll sell you two for that price. I’ve got a Hi-8 Sony handycam and a MiniDV JVC, and I’ll sell them together for that price. Be advised the the JVC has issues and is probably less than 15 hours of use from needing servicing. The Sony’s working fine though, and I actually use it as an emergency camera at weddings. As long as I keep the footage shot on it very brief, you don’t notice the poor quality too much.