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I need to shoot for a billboard advertisement. The billboard size will be around 20-15 foot.
Do you think a consumer level DSLR [550D, D5100, D90] is good enough for this or need to switch to pro level DSLR [5D, D3s] ?
Ans also what megapixel will be good enough for that size ?

Edit
Billboard size approx 20[w]-15[h] foot
Minimum distance from Viewer will be around 35 ft from the bottom point of the billboard.
The billboard image will be colorful.

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3  
A lot depends on how far away from the billboard the closest viewers will be. What will be the closest distance it will be viewed from? What is the maximum resolution or minimum resolution requirements of the printer printing it ? –  Michael Clark Jul 6 '13 at 2:35
    
And for any application: optics are more important than the camera body. Put a $2000 lens on a $100 camera and you get better results than you'd get putting an equivalent $100 lens on a $2000 camera. –  jwenting Jul 8 '13 at 10:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

While we often ask what resolution is needed for a certain print size, it no longer holds for things which are so large. What is key is resolution per angular extent, meaning how big do you expect people to see the billboard. That largely depends on how close viewers can get to it.

A 20 foot billboard seen from 20 feet away looks pretty much the same as a 5 foot one seen from 5 feet away, so it needs the same resolution. If you do need to produce a billboard that will stand real close inspection, then even a medium-format camera will not cut it and you will have to resolve to stitching images. Any camera with manual controls can do that, you basically need a very long lens and take each section at a time with some overlap.

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The difference in resolution between a high end consumer DSLR and a professional DSLR is not that significant. Depending on how big the billboard is and how far away people will view it from, it may or may not be a high enough resolution file.

You can try and simulate it by printing out a file at 300dpi (ideal resolution for close viewing) and holding it at arms length. Stand where you expect people to view the billboard from and hold the picture at arms length. If it covers the billboard, you should probably be ok.

If the resolution is not sufficient, you can either a) take multiple photos with a DSLR and stitch them together or b) get a medium or large format camera that can capture much higher resolutions. There are digital medium format cameras that go up to the 80+ megapixel range, but you would probably need to rent one as they run up in the $50,000+ range. Using a film medium or large format camera is also an option and then drum scanning it.

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Think the resolution question has been added and answered a lot. Almost all 2013 cameras probably have enough resolution as explained in other comments.

The question is why you would want to use a your lesser gear for such a project? There are many even more important features of the higher end gear that also contribute to the quality of the picture. The pixel debate is a red herring.

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