I definitely would disagree that you have to spend that much for a good quality HD camera. I did originally buy the Sanyo Xacti HD-1 which was AWFUL, but the Sony HDR-HC3 has the quality I expected when I bought the Sanyo. In well lit areas (anything outside), the video is Discovery Channel HD sharp. I think it does a really good job in darker areas (vs. other cameras I've seen), but video quality does deteriorate some. Fortunately, you can easily add an inexpensive external light to it to help offset that.
To answer your other questions...
MiniDV vs. HDD - I personally really like the Mini-DV version of the camera vs. the HDD one. With Mini-DV, the camera is smaller, the tapes are cheap (you don't need to buy special "HD" ones, though they exist), and you can transfer the files to your computer in whatever format you want (dictated by the software, not the camera). I think on the HDD camera it writes the file in Sony's specific format, which various software programs may or may not support.
With that said, the Mini-DV does only hold about an hour of video per tape in HD. I haven't found that to be much of a pain though.
Transfering Video - you definitely want to have a good computer to do this - I HIGHLY recommend using a Vista based PC. Vista has a program on it called Movie Maker that has full HD support, and will let you import your video, split scenes easily, add titles, music, etc., and publish in whatever format / resolution you want (Web, DVD, HD, etc.). I did some of this with Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 under XP, but it's much easier on Vista with Movie Maker.
HD files are big - but you can buy external HD's now for pretty cheap. I picked up a Western Digital 500GB for under $200 - well worth it.
Hope that helps,
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