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500 of Less Camera -- POSTER size quality

I am a part of a team trying to pick out a Camera for a grant which has budgeted 500 for a new digital camera. The camera will be used for taking pictures of children in the classroom during the grant, and these pictures will then be blown up to Poster size.

I am trying to research what sort of numbers to be looking for in specifications of cameras when looking for good quality pictures at this size (up to larger posters - 20x30)

The camera will also be shared with others to take and re-size pictures to poster size to any media of their choosing.

I have read that a good lens and sensor is more important than megapixels. I am unsure what figures of the Camera description really tell me this -- and I'm not sure what is "good."

I'm assuming (please correct me) that a 10-12megapixel camera should be used but was hoping to find out what numbers to look for for lens quality and sensor quality. (What is the dpi?? and what # should I look for)

I also know that I need to make sure it will shoot "RAW" Will that simply be listed on the specifications?

Thank you SOOO much!!!

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one option

You might look at just renting a DSLR and a 50mm F1.8 lens to shoot during separate times. Unless you have kids staying still and using a tripod then you'll have to use a flash. An onboard flash will not look appealing, especially when blown up.

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In reply to: one option

For $500 there are several very nice dSLRs out there with good kit lenses:

Nikon D40
Sony A200
Olympus (forget which model)

Excellent Cameras that will do what you want. Good sensors, full control over exposures, etc. Easy to use, too.

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in response

In reply to: dSLR

Thank you!!

are there any specific specifications to look for that you could recommend?? Like, what is a 'good lens' -- is there some specific detail to be looking for in that.

So, for poster size prints I need a good lens and around 12 megapixels??

What about the ability to shoot RAW?

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some areas of concern

In reply to: in response

The kit lens that come with DSLRs are usually not bright enough for indoor. Many people choose a prime lens, such as a 50mm F1.8, or they go with an external flash.

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In reply to: in response

AS the previous poster noted-good choices.

The Nikon D40 is only 6MP and would be less suitable for poster size then the 10MP Sony A200.

I would get the Sony for the following reasons.
-Price is right at $500 with 18-70 zoom lens and the lens is plenty good enough for what you are doing,
-Camera has full auto mode available, so passing it around would be easy to learn and use
-Has image stabilization, so users are less likely to get blurry images from camera shaking
-Can shoot in RAW, JPEG or in RAW+JPEG if you desire.
-Accepts Minolta auto lenses and you can pick up a used 50mm f/1.7 for under $100 if you need a low light lens.
-very long battery life between charges (about 750 shots per charge)

Memory cards are not included with camera, so add that to your budget as well as any extra lenses you think you may need.

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