depends on the buck your trying to spend.
in the $1000 range I would say get yourself a Canon HFS-100. Canon has AVCHD cams locked down. They are freaky good for consumer use.
In the $3000-$4000 range I might recommend the JVC GY-HM100U. This is one nifty camera. I wouldn't mind having this as a second camera. This will give you those awesome fun controls that everybody ends up wanting and placing them where they should be. I hate little toggle joysticks and gizmos to control focus, zoom, aperture, etc. The camera is rather cheap. It stores data on a cheap medium. I believe it gives you a shotgun mic which is nice. And it has a lot of power for such a small package. There really isn't anything to compare this camera to mostly because nothing that size has that many options. This is the camera you probably should get even over the Canon regardless of price.
HOWEVER THERE IS ALWAYS WANTING THE GOOD STUFF AND THAT BRINGS UP THE PANASONIC AND SONY WAR...
If your really looking to get your hands dirty and really dig in. Then I would say go with the camera that packs the most punch for the amount of money you spend and drop $6000 on an EX1. There really isn't anything that matches up to what you get out of that camera for the money you spend on it. Most start low and then upgrade later. Most go from around the $1k handhelds to $4k cameras. The way I look at it that's damn close to $6k and the cost of the EX1.
I prefer Sony over Panasonic. I think Panasonic is pricey for what you get. Plus at the time of purchase and after all the research I found that the basic rundown of anything Panasonic offered compared to EX1 was this.
Panasonic - Sensors are Smaller CCD's. Pixelshifting is used to get the 1920x1080 resolution although video is high bitrate codec with 4:2:2 color subsampling. P2 is expensive and still required an adapter.
Sony - 3x 1/2" CMOS sensors. True Native 1080p. Stores Variable Bit Rate 4:2:0 to SxS cards which fit into the side of my mac and rip down 25min of footage in 2.5 min. Also have 10bit Uncompressed HD out of the HD-SDI. When comparing Panasonic the 4:2:2 arguement is made but they forget that their picture is pixelshifted to achieve the full resolution. I therefore get more true resolution to use and chroma keying has never been an issue for me. So really it's not even an arguable point. The picture profiles is where the magic happens. People claim that Panasonic has a look to it, but I say, Sony just expects you to setup the picture yourself. I dare say that if you can't acheive the look you want with the ridiculous amount of options in Picture Profiles on the EX1 then you shouldn't be spending that much money on a camera in the first place. The amount of control you get with the EX1 is mindblowing. And the transitions function works great for push pulls, rack focus, etc. Basically you can set up the camera with all the settings you want one way and store it to 'A' and then setup your camera another way and store it to 'B' and set the time of transition and ease-in and ease-out functions and you can move from one setup to another with just the push of a button. This makes technical shots easier to manage.
I could go on all day but I'll let others chime in their experiences and why they like certain cameras. We just had this discussion recently. Check out the other posts for more info as well.
(Message edited by iamnathanhudson on June 26, 2009)