OP, don't let 'em scare you off... the pleasure you derive from coffee, ultimately, is a very personal thing. Sure, there are numerous things you need to learn... but that's the fun part. And beans to try.. that's also the fun part. Its all for fun. so just go and make the mistakes, as long as they are little ones and not committing terminal amounts of personal resources and you learn from them, then fine. that's life and this is your journey. There will invariably be strong opinions about what you should or shouldn't do or buy and they may tend to focus on the serious grease monkey part of it, which is fine for the wannabe technogeeks and wannabe grease monkeys. But if you just wanna have fun and a good tasting cuppa joe, then wade on in. The water's just fine.
I did just fine with a modified air popper for a long time, I think it would do a max of something like 180 grams at a shot. When I started, it was just a watch and my ear to listen for first cracks and my nose to smell. I think the popper cost like $5 at Goodwill. You'll learn from there just fine. Add a good thermometer/thermocouple for a couple bucks and you can hook up your computer and teach yourself to make a pretty roast profile using Artisan, and its free. What eventually moved me off the air popper was the 180g limit, I would have to do a half dozen back to back roasts each time to keep me in a week or two's worth of coffee. I've moved up to a Kaldi Wide, I think it was near $625 ish, and its good, but its limit is 300g and I'm already wanting something a little bigger, perhaps around 600g or 800g or a tad bigger so that back to back roasts are no longer necessary. I don't want it too big, though, because the coffee drinkers in our household like variety, so there are always 3 or 4 different beans to mix and try. Also for espresso the straight shots don't seem to pour as nicely as a mix with brazils or south americans in it. I will agree with the post about cost, though; your selections are pretty limited and you won't find gear that will do what you want at such a low price point unless you build it yourself. You might score a small used drum with about a 500g capacity but those normally go for near $1k. I have a friend with the behmoor and he can go pretty dark, but he has all but given up roasting entirely because of the lack of control, he can't finesse it enough to get a good tasting roast consistently. If you don't mind hand turning, buy the manual Kaldi for like $225 and 300g capacity. Or you can rig an electri drill to turn it or or or... possibilities are endless. Its all you.