I'm looking for advice on a camcorder that would be good for recording faculty job seminars.  

Here are some things to consider.  (There may also be other things I don't know about that I ought to consider.)

I don't want to spend a lot of money, but would consider a rental if this can't be done with, say, a $300-$600 camera.   

We don't need broadcast quality.  We don't need HD.   This is so we can make the seminar available to a very few people who are involved in the hiring process but who can't make it to the job seminar.   

The speakers are not going to do anything special to prepare a presentation that will be recorded.  In fact, they'd probably prefer that we didn't record them, except they will probably go along with it because they want the job.   Ideally the recordings would cease to exist after the successful candidate got tenure, and maybe even before that point.  That's not a requirement, though.   But recording a seminar in which unpublished data might be presented is a delicate undertaking.  At a minimum we need to be considerate.

We don't need to capture the slide show.  We'll probably ask the candidates to provide a PDF version of their powerpoint presentation, or something like that.   Recording the audio is important.   The speaker could be miked.   

One challenge is that the overhead lights are usually turned off so people can see the powerpoint screen.  The room is not dark (there are windows) but the lighting is dim when the lights are off.  We'll be dealing with a low-light, high-contrast situation, trying to record video of the presenter who might sometimes be standing in front of the screen, and sometimes off to the side.   I suspect there is no good way to make a video turn out well in those circumstances.  I fear we may need to be satisfied if the speaker shows up as more than a silhouette.   

The seminar plus Q&A will generally last an hour, but we should allow for the possibility of it lasting 80 minutes.   

It would be good if we could go straight to digital, with a bare minimum of human intervention.   

We can have a camera operator.   The camera operator might be someone inexperienced like me, though.   I have generally tried to avoid such duties, explaining that I might be the worst possible person for the job.   If the seminar is interesting I get engrossed in it and forget about the camera.   If the seminar is boring my mind wanders and I forget about the camera.   I am not opposed to learning to do better, though.   I like to attend these seminars and if the price of my attendance is that I have to run the camera, I can do it.   

If I don't seem to be asking the right questions, please be gentle.   I do a lot of outdoor still photography, but have had hardly any experience with video.  So I may be very naive about this.   I once made a slightly-edited YouTube clip from an .avi file!  But it was a struggle.   (No, these seminars are NOT going to be put on YouTube.)   

Any suggestions for a camcorder and/or other resources for doing something like this?    Do any other departments have experience in recording job seminars?   

John Gorentz
Computer Services Manager
W.K. Kellogg Biological Station