Well I didn't spend that much, but I just bought one and I will toss out my 2 cents. I was looking to film wildlife and long Range hunts. So optical zoom was important to me. I bought the Sony DCR-SX41. It has 60X optical and 2000 X digital zoom. It is very small and easy to carry. But, it is so small I can hardly use the buttons with one hand. My thumb will not bend tight enough to push the record button. I can deal with this but the real kicker is it does not have a sight glass to view through, only the screen view. Outside forget it, I cant see crap on the screen, even in the woods. So I plan to buy another and for sure the next WILL have a sight glass view finder.
The Cannon GL2 is a great camera for the money. It is the camera used on outdoor shows for years, only now have they gone away from it because everything is going high def. I have a couple and have really enjoyed them. They have a true 20x optical zoom and produce fantastic video. I have one that has less than 25 hours use on it that I would let go for $1200 if you are interested. Would come with some accesories as well. If you are wanting to make movies for yourself and not planning on them being on the outdoor channel the GL2 is hard to beat.