The "Prosumer" market is still a relatively new concept in the electronics world. Around the turn of the millennium, many manufactures realized that average consumers wanted professional gear at a reasonable price. And since technology was advancing at a rapid pace, it was possible to form this mid-range market of electronics that weren't incredibly expensive, but definitely more advanced than your everyday gadget.
These cameras have some high-end features, but still include lots of automation for basic users. We highly recommend the cameras in this tier for newsrooms that plan to incorporate multimedia to a larger population of their staff, and not just limited to a specialized tech staff or photographers.
Sony HVR-A1u High Definition Camcorder ~ $2,100
The Sony A1u is the cheapest in the "U" line of Sony cameras (third from the Z1U and V1U). It is more than adequate for capturing high-quality HD footage at a relatively affordable price. This is not a three-sensor camera, which is why the price point is considerably lower. It shoots 60 frames per second interlaced, with an option for 30 frames standard (not progressive). This means, while it can capture HD footage, it is not quite as flexible as its more advanced cousins.
The minimum illumination is 7 lux, which means it can capture video in dim-lit situations, but nowhere near to the extent as the more expensive models in this line. While this camera might not have the range of features as its more expensive counterparts in this line, it's a terrific option for the Web. We highly recommend this model.
Sony DSR-PD170 Standard Definition Camcorder ~ $2,500
The Sony PD-170 is a workhorse in the camera line-up. It's a three-CCD camera that is built very solidly. We have used several of them at the UC Berkeley School of Journalism for several years. They were battered by heavy student use and survived very well.
It is antiquated only by the fact that it is standard definition. It contains two XLR mic inputs to allow recording two audio channels simultaneously, has several options to control features manually such as focus and white balance, and it comes standard with a wide-angle adapter. It records to MiniDV tapes, so real-time logging will be required.
Canon GL-2 Standard Definition Camcorder ~ $2,600
The Canon GL-2 is a three-CCD camcorder that shoots in standard definition mode. It's a step down from the XL2, so it doesn't have removable lenses or many of the professional features as that higher-end model. However, on the flip side, Canon made the GL-2 very easy to use. It includes lots of automatic features to cater to a consumer base.
The one downside about this camera is that it only includes a mini-input for audio, which limits you to the types of microphones you can use. Most higher-end cameras use a special audio cable connector called XLR which opens up a wide range of microphones, including "shotgun" microphones which are very directional and great for video cameras.