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I'm not really sure I agree. In order to have a LEGIT HDSLR setup, more money needs to be spent, I agree. However, good results can be gotten with minimal equipment.
As of right now, I shoot with a Canon T2i. (The cheapest you can get now- I paid 800 with a kit lens). As far as lenses go, I mainly use my 50mm 1.8 super-takumar lens (bought for 30 bucks on ebay-what a steal). I also have a 75-300mm Canon lens w/out IS. This was given to me as a present and I don't use it often. Not the best lens for video, however, it can get a nice clean shot in the right situations. I am going to focus on getting another lens that is a bit quicker the whole way through (looking at a sigma 2.8 17-50mm) or possibly at just grabbing a few more primes.
Camera + Lenses I have = 800+ 30+ 150
Memory Cards = Two 8gb class 6 cards ran be about 50 bucks
Tripod head- 501hdv- 178.00
Legs- Manfrotto 190xdb- 100 bucks
ZaZa Slider = 150 for the complete.
Zoom H2- 100 bucks of ebay (decent sound quality)
Audio-Technica ATR3350- 20 bucks off amazon. This LAV seems to be QUALITY for the price which is wild. It's mono, however you just copy the sound to the right side in post and boom. 20ft cord which is nice.
As of now, I have spent a total of about 1,600 which is riiight at your limit. If I upgrade the kit lens to something faster, look at about 300 bills for that. I had a glidecam, however I sold it as I am not planning on doing many follow cam shots. I need to rearrange my lens situation and within the following months am looking to add a variety of primes to the list.
People talk crap on the kit lens (18-55..3.5/5.6) however I find this lens to be very sharp and produce a good image when the light is right. It's completely fine to learn the camera and isn't a bad lens to have in your bag sometimes. When money is an issue, it works.
I feel that your laptop is a little slow in order to edit 720/1080 footage, however I may be wrong.
HDSLR may be your route, they produce great images. You can get the T2i even cheaper than what I paid and if you look around, and are willing to use primes, there are TONS of great lenses available for use.
I hope this helps!