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With reference to a “professional” look, it totally depends on what you wnat to be shooting. If you want to get the look of a feature film, everything in your budget is likely to fall short. However, for shooting commercials, music videos, stage productions, documentaries, etc.,both Standard Definition and High Definition can look professional. It also doesn’t matter whether you shoot MiniDV, AVCHD, or HDD. Each have their benefits and detriments.
Also, isn’t harder to edit per se. It simply requires more computing power. You need to determine what you will want to be shooting first. If you’re just getting into video production, there is not real need to shoot HD. Standard definition will be cheaper, easier on your editing computer, and easier to share with other people. (MiniDV is not really a thing of the past. It is still considered by many to be the most stable and reliable shooting medium for independent filmmakers.)
To summarize, my advice would be to go with a small Standard Definition MiniDV camcorder, and just start shooting. While books can be helpful, the best teacher is experience. So just start shooting and editing and shooting and editing. You will see your own progress very quickly.