In truth, the first ‘camera’ most children will own these days will be a camera phone as they hit secondary school, their parents having finally acquiesced after years of pestering. This device will then be used for the taking and sharing of images much more than it is ever used to actually phone someone.
Alongside the smartphone, more nostalgic mums and dads can treat their progeny to one of the best instant cameras resembling the Polaroid models of their own youth, but now also made by Fuji, Canon, and by Kodak’s current license holder. Which kid, big or small, doesn’t still revel in the magic of being able to take a picture and witness the results gradually appear from the ether via a hard copy print a mere minute later?
Better still for those self-same children, the backing on these prints can often be peeled off and the images used as stickers for decorating textbooks, diaries or bedroom walls. Shopping malls in Japan, being the country from which most of these cameras and ideas originate, are full of brightly-coloured instant print booths that output images for enthusiastic teenagers in a wide array of sticky-backed formats.
If we do want to treat budding photographers under the age of ten to a dedicated point-and-shoot digital camera with a screen on the back, especially a camera that is ruggedly waterproof and shockproof, it’s increasingly the case we must turn our attention to discontinued lines or the second-hand market, where such once mass market devices can now be picked up on the cheap. One look at Amazon will also reveal a plethora of no-brand imports from the far east of varying quality, which are probably best viewed as toys. The exception however in VTech has long done the job of straddling the divide between toys and tech devices ‘proper’ and remains a reliable brand to seek out for very young children.
The fact remains though that brand new digital cameras are currently aimed at photo enthusiasts or professionals with money to spend; the more affordable options being the best entry-level cameras increasingly targeted at would-be YouTubers or ‘content creators’, which, let’s face it, most teenagers are these days.
As a result, we’ve included a couple of the more approachable versions of such mirrorless cameras here, our valid reasoning being that they will suit older children, as well as students practising the art of photography at school or college.
This same audience is also increasingly embracing film photography. Though with the exception of some fun Lomography branded cameras, new analogue cameras are likewise thin on the ground, again decent film-based SLRs can be picked up online or via dedicated camera shops for almost pocket money prices.
What is the best camera for kids?
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As we’ve noted, although there are currently a variety of options, the choice is probably pretty straightforward based partly on the age and proficiency of the child concerned, but just as practically on the budget available. For both young children and teenagers, the brightly coloured array of instant print cameras and the instant gratification they provide are a safe bet. And, while the cost-per-print is set at a premium of around £1 per sheet, the cameras themselves remain affordable, their pricing putting them within reach of those saving up their pocket money. Alternatively, they’re great as birthday or Christmas gifts.
For older children showing a definite interest in photography, entry-level mirrorless cameras are worth exploring.
Sure, these metal build devices are several times the cost of a plastic-moulded instant print camera and mirrorless models aren’t specifically aimed at children. Yet they do offer plenty of room to grow via a wider array of creative choices and being able to change the lens in use. There is less chance of a child getting quickly bored with such a product, meaning there’s a greater degree of future-proofing built in. Plus children can learn as they shoot – witnessing how various functions have a direct effect on the quality and effectiveness of the end result.
Offering something of a ‘bridge’ for younger users stepping across from smartphones, mirrorless cameras today include an array of effects and features – including touch screens – that will feel familiar, thus making for an easier transition. Entry-level mirrorless camera options include the likes of the Nikon Z 30, Olympus E-PL10 and Canon EOS R10.
How to choose the best camera for kids
If we think that a dedicated camera for our children will merely be a passing fad, it makes sense to go for one of the more affordable current models, or even consider second-hand. Most online and bricks and mortar camera shops still in business will have been able to remain so by having a good selection of used equipment that comes with a warranty.
However, if it’s likely that your kids will take their photography a little more seriously, or are indeed studying it at school, then a latest generation mirrorless camera such as the few examples we’ve included here may be the way to go. Also take a look at an older film-based SLR if they’re looking to get to grips with the basic principles of playing with light.
When making a purchase decision, it’s also worth considering what your child is actually going to want to photograph. Are we considering a camera for taking on holiday and perhaps into the pool or onto the beach; one that will only be brought out occasionally for family occasions and when friends come around on playdates; or will the camera be a regular day-to-day creative companion for your photo-savvy prodigy? Whichever of those examples your child is closest to, we’ve got some suggestions immediately below…
The best kids cameras you can buy today
Like the alternative ‘Mini’ models in Fujifilm’s ever-expanding and updated Instax line up, the Instax Mini 11 comes in a multitude of colour choices and outputs credit card sized prints. In our opinion its model number ‘11’, whether intended or otherwise, credibly nods to the approximate age of the child this would be most suitable for.
This is a point and shoot auto focus model, or should we say ‘point and hope’. So, although there is always a degree of trial and error with instant print cameras like this basic example – which doesn’t feature its own LCD review screen – as long as there is plenty of light around then decent if slightly soft results are achievable from the off. Young users and the young at heart will both delight at the ‘theatre’ of its cogs turning noisily as a print is ejected, the blank sheet, available in packs of 10, slowly and magically revealing a captured image. Never quite knowing what we’ll get, and having to wait a minute or more to see what develops, is of course central to the Fuji Instax Mini 11’s appeal.
Keeping costs down, power here comes via two bog standard AA batteries. Happily a pair is provided out of the box, with the camera powering down if forgotten about after five minutes to automatically save power. We also get a hand strap and user manual.
While it’s not water resistant or shock-proofed in any way, this Fuji is a fun starter option for the younger members of the family, for whom it really feels like we can’t go wrong with this choice. It even comes with two stickers with which to customise its shutter release button. Choose from a sparkly jewel or go for glow-in-the-dark, which, as the kids will say, is ‘sick’!
Probably the biggest selling point of the XP130 is its low price point. Available for under £150, there are much better rugged cameras available on the market - but if you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful for children, it’s well worth a punt. While the Nikon W100 would be well suited to the under 5s, the XP130 probably suits the age range 5-10, with its slightly more complex operation. It’s got a 5x optical zoom and is waterproof, shockproof and all the usual tough credentials that we’ve come to expect from models such as this. Image quality can best be described as average, but it does well in bright light - so it should be perfect for holidays and sunny day trips. The bonus is that your kid can drop it, dunk it in the swimming pool and get sand all over it and it should still survive.
For clued-up teenagers and youths with an eye on future YouTube careers comes the Sony ZV-E10. This is a compact, second generation vlogging camera equipped with a large-ish 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor and Bionz X processor, as found in Sony’s more ‘grown up’ mirrorless models, while remaining conveniently portable at 343g in weight.
We can also change the lens in use, so there is a degree of flexibility that the previous generation fixed lens Sony ZV-1, another possible option, didn’t provide for. Some other helpful features for the uninitiated have been carried over, namely Background Defocus to smoothly switch between a blurred and a sharp background and provide pictures that really ‘pop’, plus a Product Showcase Setting that allows the camera to automatically shift focus from a subject’s face to any object being highlighted. A side opening vari-angle screen can also be flipped to face whomever is in front of the lens for easier direct-to-camera monologues, which are aided by built-in stereo microphones plus the ability to connect an external mic if for even more broadcast friendly results.
Be warned though – if buying this for the teenager in your life you might be tempted to nick it for yourself instead.
If you're looking for a kid's camera that is a bit more toy-like, then check out this entry from Diswoe. It's almost identical to the hundreds of other cameras that can be found on Amazon by typing kids camera (opens in new tab), but there's a reason these are so popular - they're great at encouraging creativity in young children.
In terms of specifications, it has a 2-inch screen size which can be used as a viewfinder and for playback. It can also be used to play built-in puzzle games, weirdly. The 1/2-inch sensor is capable of capturing 12-megapixel images and 1080p HD video. Now, obviously, don't go expecting the ultimate image quality here (a smartphone will take much better images) but that's not really the point of this camera.
The rechargeable battery is good for 1.5 to 2 hours of continuous photo taking, and when it comes to recharging the battery it's done via the USB cable provided.
The case, which comes in a unisex orange, is made from shock-resistant and non-toxic silicone. It's compact and lightweight too, which means it can be worn on a lanyard.
These really go make excellent gifts - I've gifted them before and it's always gone down well.
Coming in at under £40, it goes without saying that it’s unlikely that the Kidizoom Duo 5.0 camera is going to produce any stunning masterpieces, but in terms of getting kids interesting in photography, it does a fantastic job. It’s got two lenses for switching between taking normal shots and taking selfies - and there’s also a range of other fun features including a voice recorder, a photo shaker, games and a photo editor. It even includes a viewfinder for composing through to make your little one feel like a “real” photographer, too. In terms of toughness, it’s not officially rated, but the rubberised grips should mean it can withstand a small bump or two.
Canon has attempted to grab a slice of the instant photo print market with its own Zoemini ‘zero ink’ device, which is, like competing models, a camera and printer in one. It does however boast slimmer, pocket friendly dimensions than most which adds to the child friendly appeal, as does the fact that it weighs almost nothing at 188g. In being Bluetooth equipped, the Zoemini S2 has the further advantage of working in tandem with Canon’s Mini Print app for smartphones, providing any selfie-obsessed teen with something that also doubles up as a standalone portable printer.
Unfortunately we don’t get a screen provided on the Zoemini S2, unlike the competing Fuji Instax Mini Evo. But, along with a battery life lasting an unimpressive 25 shots, that’s one of the very few obvious downsides here, even if most children won’t be shooting and printing off 25 pictures on the trot.
The Canon’s credit card size prints and stickers at 314x600 dpi resolution are bound to delight a youthful audience. As is the ability to add borders and colour filters, print in black and white, plus switch between shooting modes as well as save favourite snaps to print later, with an optional microSD card adding internal memory. A good option for fledgling photographers used to smartphone photography for sure.
GoPro’snew top end camera is an expensive but durable option for kids, giving you a rugged and waterproof action camera that can withstand knocks and tumbles. Kids will likely be at home with the touchscreen operation, with its simplified settings making it easy to capture quick videos and photos without much effort. It shoots 5K, as well as a number of other image options, making it something the whole family might want to borrow (if they can get near it). Kids will also likely love the ability to control the camera by voice, telling it to take a photo or record a video while they’re out and about. All in all, it’s the ideal first time little camera to fit neatly into your kid’s life (and their pocket).
Offering a bit more than the standard analogue point and shoot instant print camera, by virtue of featuring a 3-inch LCD screen at the back, this is an ‘evolution’ of the basic camera-with-inbuilt-printer idea, hence the name. Though the retro styling makes it look more adult, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo is an ideal introductory camera for kids in helping them grasp the principles and benefits of both analogue and digital formats.
The beauty with this option is that we can preview our image on the backscreen before we actually hit the print button – so in theory less wasted prints. This being a ‘Mini’ model in the Instax series, output is the usual credit card size. While some may grumble that being able to preview the shot takes away some of the ‘magic’ of instant print photography, we were impressed by the camera offering the highest print quality of its manufacturer’s line up so far at 600dpi; that’s if prints are made from the camera’s own captures, rather than a smartphone or other smart device.
In delivering one stylish device that does it all, this has gifting potential written all over it, while older children will tire of it less quickly than rival novelties.
The Lumix DMC-FT30 is built for active lifestyles, making it perfect for kids! The 16.1 megapixels camera offers better resolution than many built for mini-mes and has 4x optical zoom and 8x intelligent zoom. There’s a Creative panorama function, allowing shots to be stitched together, plus various filter effects for teens who are used to tinkering with their pictures as they take them. One of the camera’s big plus points is its MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) to help little hands take less blurry shots and there’s the ability to record videos in high definition, which is ideal for capturing singalongs at birthday parties. Built to last, the rugged-looking camera is capable of surviving 8m under water, while its also dustproof, shockproof up to 1.5 metres and freezeproof down to -10 °C, meaning it might just survive everything a toddler has to throw at it.
Weighing not much more without a lens than many point-and-shoot digital compacts of old, this interchangeable lens APS-C sensor incorporating mirrorless camera apes the look and feel of a traditional DSLR and is therefore a great option for older children wanting to learn the basics of photography. A further advantage for teenagers studying light is access to a very wide range of available Canon lenses and accessories to expand their creativity as proficiency improves.
The EOS R10’s relatively lightweight and compact construction makes it less daunting for younger users too, so they’re more likely to devote the time to mastering its features. For the absolute beginners there’s the option to point and shoot to begin with and then move to more complex settings as and when familiarity allows. A decent 24MP resolution and AF system ensure pictures with plenty of detail and colour, even when leaving the camera completely on its automatic settings, in conclusion making this one a sound choice for inquisitive youth wanting to push the boundaries a little.
Another option for teens keen on photography, would-be YouTubers and budding online influencers is this manageable starter-level mirrorless camera option from the Olympus PEN ‘Lite’ series that eschews the bulk of a traditional SLR. And, with lens removed, in being lighter than a bottle of water this will slip into a jacket pocket, while feeling solid enough to withstand repeated use when held in the palm.
Aiding budding content creators is a 3-inch screen on the backplate that can be flipped around to face whoever is in front of the lens for easier framing and recording. While the camera can be left fully on auto for great results in return, simple intuitive features such as touch shutter and touch auto focus, allowing the user to tap where a chosen subject appears on the back screen and have the camera direct focus towards that point and subsequently take the shot directly attributes to an overall user friendly feel. In short this is a creatively flexible option that will suit older children and teenagers wanting more creative control over photography than their smartphone presently allows.
Youngsters being steered in the direction of Nikon, or chancing upon the long established brand themselves, could do far worse than check out what, with the discontinuation of various older compacts and DSLRs, is currently its most affordable and approachable ‘starter’ camera, albeit at a price. The Nikon Z 30 naturally also happens to be a mirrorless compact as much, if not more, aimed at those wanting to shoot videos as stills. Nevertheless it does both admirably while being intuitive and easy to use with it.
Teenagers will either need very supportive parents or a long stint in a Saturday job to afford this one, but once bought they’re very likely to find themselves hooked. Amateur attempts at photography often suffer from blurred images, but a large and chunky handgrip helps to hold this one steady, even if it does mean a build too large to conveniently squeeze into a jacket pocket. About the most apt camera for beginners that Nikon currently offers.
How we test the best camera for kids
We spend a lot of time reviewing the best cameras for kids, so when it comes to recommending what cameras to buy, you can be safe in the knowledge that we'll recommend the best options for you.
We'll usually spend a week or longer testing new cameras, and the review process is fairly straightforward – we use them and where possible, give them to children to test as well. This helps us see how robust the cameras are and how easy it is for children to use. We'll also test the image quality of the cameras, as that's just as important as ease fo use.
Once the initial review period is complete we'll publish a full review, give the kids camera a star rating, and add an abridged review to this guide.