I would say your first digicam will be the one you'll be learning what not to buy next time.
Your first of
will always be learning camera so it's wise not to spend too much on it. Concidering about one third to one half of what you spend on the equipment will go into batteries, media and accessories. Even worse if you buy a camera that uses regular batteries.
Still this is a camcorder. The real problem is availibility of parts like batteries since most are made just for certain line of that model. You are going to need more than one battery. I barely got by with just 2 at the last Anime North masquerade.
Don't bother with 8mm or non-digital formats. They're on the way out.
Didn't have money for miniDVD camcorder. Considering that miniDVD are non -reuseable and only 30 minutes. I had fun changing tapes and batteries in the dark as it was.
GOOD optic zoom. Forget digital zoom. Get a tripod unless you like holding your arm up for 2 hours and anti-shake only goes SO far.
Always blank first 30 sec of the tape. I tried shooting right off the bat and video tracking screwed up on playback. LABEL YOUR TAPES AHEAD OF TIME! Tape 1, tape 2... and once you used up the tape, switch the write protect tab ON! Needless to say buy bulk unless it's a new brand you haven't tried. My Samsung SC-DC353 does NOT like Fuiji brand.
Practice goes a LONG way. Most digital camcorder support flash memory. Get largest memory that _IS_ for your camcorder and play with the settings. Not only that, digital camcorders double as cameras.
You want to compare camcorders this is excellent way. Buy small size memory card for camcorder you're looking at. Get a multi-flash card reader. (Make sure it's supports the memory you're getting.) Go to camera store and ask the clerk if you can use YOUR memory and take a few clips at the counter. take a few stills (pictures). Remember to remove your memory card. (turn off camcorder. take it home and play. Keep in mind that some camcorders have their own codecs even though they say MP4. Samsung does just so you know.
Have fun. Be prepare to be disappointed. After all, what you think you want and what you actualy need will change as you break in the new camcorder.