I've gotten this question enough times via email that I thought I'd create a quick blog post mentioning what I think is a good deal for a video camera setup for recording short videos, ideally with one person speaking.
In such a situation, since you probably won't see a major difference in picture quality in anything under $500, I'd skimp a little on the camera itself and just make sure the video camera you buy has an external microphone input, then buy a microphone like the Audio-Technica ATR-3350 to clip onto the person being recorded.
A microphone goes a long way towards making quality video—many people think the camera's the most important part of a video recording setup, but it really isn't (unless you're doing a top-notch production!). That's how I can use the tiny iPhone camera as my primary video camera and record good videos, since the iPhone accepts external microphones so easily.
I'd buy a Canon VIXIA camera, as long as it has an external microphone input. The Canon VIXIA HF R100 is only $179 on Amazon, and it records great video and has a microphone and headphone jack.
As stated earlier, using an external microphone (instead of the cheap, junky built-in microphone) will dramatically improve the overall quality of your recordings. I recommend two different microphones:
- For one-person recordings: Buy a lavaliere microphone. If you'll be less than 10' from the camera, buy an Audio-Technica ATR-3350 for $20. If you'll be further away, a good wireless lavaliere is the Audio Technica Pro88W-R35 for $130 (see my review).
- For multiple people or environmental recordings: Buy a shotgun microphone. My favorite is the Rode VideoMic for $150, but you could get by with a cheaper option.