Photographic classes are great.
They teach you what a camera can do.

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There are many cameras with manual controls in your price range.

Here are some for $300 and under:

Fujifilm has the following:
E510
F710 (Europe/England only)
S3500
E550 (Take a good look at this one)

Canon has the following:
A95 (This one has a swivel LCD - many possibilities)
A520
A510

Kodak has the following:
DX7440
DX7630 (this one is normally over $300 but it is being discounted right now ... shop around)

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