I have Strata3Dpro (base's big brother) - I think it's really good and easy to use (if you're from a graphics background).
Strata3Dbase is free by the way!!!
Strata3Dplus is the guy in the middle - not as many features as pro but more than base.
Then there's Strata3Dpro which has everything.
I don't feel Strata's a rival to Cinema4D or Lightwave but the pro version isn't as expensive either!
I've done some things in Strata3Dpro here http://www.cjproductions.co.uk/html/3d-animations.html
My advice would be - Try Strata3Dbase for yourself (as it's free) and if you like it but want more, see how your budget is for base.