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There is one camcorder that is currently sub $1000 that does offer a good bit in the way of amateur filming:
Canon’s Optura Xi
Good luck finding it though, they are hard to find and Canon no longer produces them. There are really incredable. I have one that I bought while I save up for an XL2.
Anyway it offers a bunch of manual features, but alos does a lot of auomtic contrlling. So if you are new to the field. And especially if you are new to the concepts then it is a great camera to use. This is by no means a professional camera, but it is a prosumer grade. You will probably have to buy a used one, but it is a good low budget start. I bought mine while I was in college, with a $120 a week job.