Mini DV, all the way!!!! By far, one of the most versatile formats to date.
The Canon GL-1 and GL-2 are just abut the best bang for the buck, and Klaus and I will tell you they are "Baja Proven" and "RDC approved". Its what we shoot all of our videos here for the page, and alot of the stuff on DP video was shot with his GL-1.
If you don't want to spent that much, have a look at their consumer line, the Sony's aren't bad either, but Klaus did destroy one a while back. One thing to keep in mind is the compatability between your 'puter and the desired camera you are going to buy. Firewire ( or the IEE 1394 connection) connection is a must!
IMHO Sony and Mini-DV are all that you should consider. I have owned Canon and JVC and I didn't like either one as well as my Sony VX2000 and TRV30. Both take awesome footage and have stood up well to the abuse of shooting off-road. For shooting Off-Road, consider a quality wide angle lens that you can zoom through to the full mechanical focal length of the camera.
I have a Sony Dig8 that I got a while ago when they first came out. It takes stills also. It holds up pretty good to desert abuse and I am happy with it. I also have a wide angle lense on it and it works great!
I agree with Gabe on the tape format, stay with miniDV. Plus the cameras are getting cheaper all the time. As for the brand I would say Sony or Cannon. I use a Sony TRV-900 which is comparable to the Cannon GL-1, Sony just released its newer version called the TRV-950 I think. It has some new options and takes better still photos. I also have a Sony PC-5 which is one of their smallest cameras. I use it for an editing deck right now and its also cool to take with you during contingency or where ever you want to go with a camera but don't feel like lugging around a bigger one. It fits in a jacket pocket easily.
I also used a Sony TRV-10 as my first camera but I had some problems with dust. With miniDV you can get digital lines through your picture if dust gets in the camera. I have noticed with some of the more inexpensive cameras this happens easier. I bought a waterproof housing from Japan for my TRV-900 and it works great when in a real dusty area on the course. Some people also use tape and/or plastic bags to wrap their cameras in.
The write speed is not too optimal for any type of "real" application that we would deal with just yet.
We tested them here @ Disney a while back, and they were Ok, but not fast enough. (For us , that is)
A XL-1 16x optical $3k and a ZR45 18x optical $500 and the same pixels. I know you get what you pay for but....looking at them it is easy to see.... And miniDV and hi8, some of the tech people are staying with hi8, cheap and good image.
Being a 1600 person, looking at bang for the buck under a $1000.
The last camera was a full size vhs Sharp, about $500....
I shot the Dirty Ones video with a JVC super vhs-c...I think it looked pretty good.
I used a JVC regular vhs-c camera for all the suspension shots...it was nicknamed the "beater cam," because of it's ability to get beat to snot and still be recording and make a pretty darn good recording at that. I think the quality of the footage and the innovation of the photographer will win out against equipment any day. But just to be agree with everyone on the digital thing, yeah it shoots the best quality and I just bought a mini DV sony trv-18 or something like that but it sems to work good so who cares what it's called!
we used an older 8mm video camera for some of the ground shots in DP. Unfortunately a local backed over it at the Baja 500 last year. There is a shot of it sitting on a tire in the credits. I agree you can still get some good footage with older or less expensive cameras. Sometimes it comes down to how you use them.
What is the camera to buy today (2004)??? I want a camera to take to the races that is durable, yet has good enough quality to edit my own videos and the such. Oh yea, without spending 3k either...........probably no more than 1500.00.