I have been in the event video biz for over 15 years. I currently use two Sony DCR-VX2100 and a DSR-300.
It's time for new cameras. Here is what I want:
Good in low light
All the standard features of a camcorder (versus a DSLR)
No rolling shutter
Decent HD image (does not need to be the very best/sharpest - my work is about storytelling)
As I research this there seems to be just one choice: HMC-150.
Given your list of requirements, I agree that the HMC-150 is about it. Not many CCD cameras on the market right now.
BTW, I've owned a HMC-150 for almost 2 years now and I absolutely love it. Great camera. The built-in mic is horrible, so you might want to add an AT875 short shotgun ( $200 ) as a good on-camera mic for ENG style shooting.
The HMC 150 is in your price range. Don't overlook the HPX-170 ($500-1000 more). You will not find an HD camera that performs well in low light. You are going to need a decent light. The DSR-300 was and still is exceptional in low light. It also has a 1/2" sensor compared to a 1/3".
I made the HD switch 3 years ago. I decided to invest in the HPX-500 and HPX-170 from the DSR-300 and DSR-170.
Eisen Video Productions
Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group
I love my HMC-40, but if he's dead-set against CMOS sensors (eg, rolling shutter potential), that's not the camera for him. The HMC-40 does everything else he's after, and even with the XLR module, still below $2000. That leaves money to buy a decent mic... I've got the Rode NTG-1 on mine, and it's a great match.
The HMC-150 doesn't suck either.. that'll get you the CCDs rather than CMOS sensors, more weight, but with it more buttons, less need to navigate menus. And more low light capability.
I've got the 150, and it's ok in low light, but my 7d is now what I take for very low light situations. Maybe get two 150s and one 7d? But if u routinely use a camera mounted light, then the 150 is fine.