Sony Alpha 57 verses Panasonic X900
While there are quite a few DSLR cameras and camcorders in the sub 1000 dollar range from various manufacturers, all which would meet or exceed your needs, I will reference the two that I actually own. I should also note that my models have been replaced already with newer modles this year, but I have not had the chance to use and compare the newer replacements to mine.
Both the Sony Alpha 57 and Panasonic X900 or in the sub 1000 dollar range and are 2012 models. They both perform well in their respective environments, and are both good in low light. Both can be used in full manual mode, full automatic mode, or various combinations of some manual and some automatic control. Both have 1/8 inch stereo mike inputs, but the X900 has manual control over the volume and AGC while the A57 does not. The X900 has a headphone jack, the A57 does not. The X900 comes with an excellent Leica 12x zoom lens. To obtain a similar 12x range lens for the Sony costs an extra 650 dollars.
The A57 has better color saturation, greater depth of field and lower light capability with an F2.8 lens. It's limited to 29 minutes per video clip, so long unattended recordings of two hour events are not possible. It's harder to get good auto focus or auto exposure with the A57. The X900 is better at these. The reduced depth of field of the X900's smaller sensor can be a plus if you're shooting an event with lot's of people, and you want all of the scene to be in or near focus.
A decent external mike is a must for good audio recording, and here is where the X900 shines. You can set the volume manually and bypass the ACG, getting near professional audio from the onboard electronics. This means the audio is in sync all the time. You can do this with the A57 as well, but without being able to control the volume or bypass the AGC, the results, while better than the internal mikes, are nowhere near professional. For film work, you'd need a stand alone audio recorder with your external mike, necessitating some serious shot logging and post production audio sync work in order to obtain professional sound.
In summary, for family events, weddings, parties, speeches or stage presentations I would choose the Panasonic. X900. For shooting film or documentary work where I can control the lighting and scenes, I'd use the Sony Alpha 57.
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