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What's the best handheld video camera for creating video podcasts?

Okay all you video podcasters out there, what in your opinion is the best handheld video camera out there for creating video podcasts?

Here's the deal. I'm heading down to Orlando next week where we will be doing a number of presentations in front of customers. I want to record those presentations in video form and put them up on Voxeo's blogs, YouTube, maybe, etc. I'm also going to several conferences in March where my intent is to create some more video podcasts.

Right now the videos I've put online have come either from my trusty Canon SD1000 "point-and-shoot" camera or from the webcam in my MacBook Pro. Those have been fine for short videos. In fact, I've been quite impressed with the quality that you can get from such tools. But now I'm looking to record longer presentations. Some might be an hour or more. Sure, I can probably do that with my Canon SD1000, but I think I'm getting out of the range of what's realistic to do with camera.

Unfortunately I haven't really paid any attention to the video camera market lately and a simple glance at the Sunday newspaper flyers tells me that there are a zillion choices out there. Here's what I think I want in terms of a camera:

  • SMALL - I travel to conferences and having been burned too many times I never check luggage and always travel with carry-ons. So the camera, power adapters, etc., need to be small for travel.
  • TRIPOD MOUNT - I'm recording hour-long presentations. It's gotta work with a tripod.
  • LONG RECORDING TIME - I might be recording 8 hours of presentations and I really do not want to be having to stop and transfer files over to my laptop.
  • EASY TRANSFER TO COMPUTER (MAC) - I want to be easily able to transfer the video files over to my MacBook Pro. (Where I'll probably simply edit them in iMovie and then post them.)
  • GOOD BATTERY LIFE - Next week in Orlando I'll have power but in March at conferences I'll be roaming around. I don't want to have to be constantly swapping batteries - but I also do want the ability to swap batteries if I need to do so.
  • ERASABLE MEDIA - I don't want to be needing to carry around blank tapes or anything like that. The new range of cameras that shoot to hard drives or SD cards seem intriguing because I can just copy over to the PC, erase it and start recording again.
  • INEXPENSIVE - Oh, and by the way, I don't want to spend a fortune on such a camera.

Two desirable attributes of a camera would be:

  • SEPARATE AUDIO INPUT - When I'm recording a session where the audio is also being captured through microphones, I want to take an audio feed from the mixer and feed it directly into the camera.
  • ABILITY TO ACT AS A WEBCAM - Perhaps I'm stretching too far on this one (or getting away from "inexpensive") but it would be very cool if the camera could also be configured to be a USB (or Firewire) webcam for my MacBook Pro. Say that I'm at a conference and want to do live video streaming from my MBP. Obviously I can use the MBP's built-in webcam, but if I also have this new video camera, it would be great to use it as the video input for the MBP. (Bonus points if I could do both recording in the camera and simultaneously streaming to the MBP... but that may be too far of a stretch.)

Any advice, comments, opinions, recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Anything I left off my list that I should consider? (Thanks in advance)

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