Buying a Digital Camera for Kids & Teens - Part 2: Recommendations

child with camera In part 1, Buying Digital Cameras for Kids, I looked at the different types of cameras available today. Now, I will outline the main recommendations for each age group. Throughout I will make refer to the three types of digital camera outlined in part 1, compact / point and shoot, DSLR, and hybrid.

Please do remember to read reviews of any specific camera model before making a purchase, as there will be significant differences between different models. Also note that throughout both articles I have made references to actual camera models and prices. These prices and models were current at the time this article was written, but may have changed since.

Buying a Digital Camera for Kids - Recommendations

Age: up to 6 years old

Up to the age of about six, kids want a simple and easy way to take decent pictures. They are also very likely to drop the camera (etc.) and therefore need something that is durable and inexpensive. At this age, they usually have no interest in camera settings and are mainly interested in showing their pictures to others, printing them easily, and having their photos hung up on the refrigerator.

The best choice here is probably to go for a toy camera as it is cheap, very easy to use, and fairly durable.

The "Vtech KidiZoom Plus" is a good example of a toy digital camera for kids. It has 2.0 mega pixel resolution and can store more than 500 images or 10 minutes of video. The "KidiZoom Plus" is easy to grip and it will also survive accidental drops. The camera is light enough that it can easily be carried around. The camera has a LCD display and can also be connected to your TV so that you can easily view your child's pictures. For when you are not out taking pictures, the "KidiZoom Plus" also has a photo editor and 5 built-in games. This camera is available for under $60.

Age: 6 - 10 years old

Compact Cameras From the age of about six, some children will start to understand how they can use more of the functions found in "regular cameras". It is usually still a good idea to get a very durable camera.

The best choice in this case is probably either a robust compact camera, or an action compact camera, which is specifically designed for durability. Point and shoot cameras come with a fully automatic mode as well as with a variety of options (some have more, some have less) and can therefore introduce your child to "real" photography.

The cheaper point and shoot cameras can still produce good images under normal conditions and are usually fairly durable. Action cameras (which can be waterproof, dust proof, and shock resistant) are more expensive but they will last longer and can be taken along to all sorts of activities.

Cameras for this age group should be able handle a fair bit of punishment. Two good compact camera examples are the Pentax Optio WG-1 or the Nikon Coolpix S30; both are waterproof and shockproof so they will handle sports and other activities. The Pentax is priced at around $140, while the Nikon costs about $90.

An example of a relatively inexpensive action camera is the ISAW A1 (priced at about $180). It comes with a waterproof housing, as well as with attachments for mounting the camera to a helmet or to the handle bars of a bike. The camera takes HD video with a 120 degree field of view, to capture a great deal of what the photographer sees. With the waterproof housing the camera can be used for all sorts of water-sports, including diving to a depth of 50m

Age: 10-15 years old

Hybrid Cameras At this age, kids will start to develop a better idea of how to use light and shadow in a picture and how to capture movement. They will become more creative and start to experiment with their photos.

Children will start to understand how to use the camera's settings, allowing them to be more creative and to explore different photo opportunities. You can also introduce your child editing software, which will give them even more control over their images.

  1. There are several good options for kids this age:
  2. If the child has a passing interest in photography, or if he/she is not interested in the more technical aspects, then a mid range compact camera is probably the best choice.
  3. If durability is a key factor for whatever reason, then consider getting an action compact camera.
  4. If the child shows a deeper interest and has the patience that it takes to learn to use more advanced options, then a hybrid camera is highly recommendable.

A good example of a top-line hybrid camera is the Canon PowerShot G15. This camera has the form and functions of a DSLR and has a similar type of sensor, while being smaller and less expensive. The G15 supports RAW format, has good light sensitivity, and image stabilization so it allows the user to explore almost all of the capabilities of a DSLR. It is priced around $500 so it does imply a far bigger investment than a compact camera (or even cheaper hybrid models).

The Panasonic Lumix GX1 is a cheaper alternative, priced from around $400. Although not as advanced as the Canon, tt is sturdy and has all the functions of cheaper DSLRs.

For compact camera examples, please see the examples in the 6-10 year old group.

Age: 15+ years old

DSLR Camera At this age, many teens with an interest will already understand the basics of photography, have started looking on the internet for more information, and will often have an opinion about what equipment they want next. At this age, the teen is also more likely to be buying his own camera.

For kids above 15, the recommendations are very similar to those for an adult:

  1. If the teen is not interested in the more technical side of photography, a compact camera is the best choice. At this age, the teen will know how to take care of his equipment, but if durability is a top concern, an action camera remains an excellent option (see the examples in the 6-10 age group).
  2. If the teen is more seriously interested in photography, a good hybrid camera is a great way to learn to operate a more advanced camera and to take more specialized, quality photos, particularly in less than optimal conditions, without having to carry around cumbersome equipment. Overall, I would say this is the best choice in most cases, as it provides an excellent balance of picture quality, portability, durability, and price (see the examples in the 10-15 age group).
  3. If the teen is very serious about photography, if he/she has ample experience with simpler cameras, and in particular if this interest is targeted towards types of photography that require a highly customizable camera with a full frame sensor, then a full-frame sensor DSLR is the best option. However, apart from the amount of learning that must go into using a DSLR and the fact that this is not the kind of camera one just takes along wherever one goes, full frame sensor DSLRs are expensive. While entry level DSLRs start at about 450 dollars, we would rather recommend to go for a hybrid like the Canon PowerShot G15 (see the 10-15 age group) as it is better than a cheap DSLR. However, if the teen is so advanced that he would benefit from a full-frame DSLR model (a full frame sensor allows the photographer to make full use of wide-angle lenses, whereas other cameras capture a narrower field of view), then a Canon 6D is one of the cheapest options and costs around $2100.

This concludes part 2 on buying a digital camera for kids and teens.

by Simon James Allanach, edited by Alan Frost
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