They say that the best camera is the one that is in your pocket. Now that is true for almost everyone, but where children are concerned, the old maxim can be modified to something like the best camera is the one that intuitively guides you to just point and shoot while having a ton of fun.
After all, that is what children are all about, right, having fun. It is their way of not only learning but of exploring the new world they have been brought into. Play is a child’s ultimate teacher.
In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world fraught with so many stresses, it is important to allow children to not only play but to use it to unlock their creativity which will define their future. And what better way to unlock their creativity than to take photographs.
Of course, most people will say cameras aren’t really toys and that there are a lot of other ways for children to express creativity. But think about this closely, children today are usually glued to one form of screen or the other from a very, very young age. How else do you think that Baby Shark has nearly a trillion views on YouTube?
Most of us are guilty of giving our phones to our children whenever we are doing a chore or are out to do the groceries. We think it keeps the children occupied while in reality the children are being conditioned from a very early age to use very complex devices with immense capabilities.
No wonder then that by the time children can comprehend a bit, they can not only unlock your phone but also get your boss on a video call.
With children already exposed to the workings of digital cameras from such an early age, it makes no sense to hold out on them when they are a little older so that they can explore their creativity.
There are a lot of cameras on the market, all the way from small, disposable ones to large cameras which cost thousands. Of course, not all of them are suited for children, even teenagers. You really wouldn’t buy your first grader a Leica camera, now would you.
The one trait that children have is that they have a very, very short attention span, unless they really get on to something, then they will not let go of it for years.
Children also have very simple needs and do not care that much about frame rates, pixel peeping and rack focusing as some professionals do. In most instances, children into photography will find that instant cameras which print out the image right after taking it or small digital cameras are good enough for them to exercise their creative muscles.
For those looking to shoot video, because that is all the rage these days, there are some very rough and tough options in fairly sturdy, yet small devices which are ideal for kids.
Let's go over some of these devices which you can buy for your children.
For the sake of this article, we will restrict our purchase decisions to three age groups to give you a more varied option. We will look at children who are eight years old, 10-years-old and early teens.
For the young ones just picking up a camera, there are a few options that are just right.
First up is the Fuji Instax mini. It comes in decent size with enough grip on the side for those small hands and instantly prints out images that have been shot to give a burst of fulfillment for children. They come in a range of colors, are quite lightweight, self-contained, and very, very simple to operate – just point and shoot, and best of all, fairly cheap. The children will have to pull the lens out of the camera manually so that the camera can focus.
Another contender for this category is the Canon Ivy Cliq. It too has a one-button operation. What is better is that each image comes with a built-in sticker so that they can stick it on the fridge or any other surface.
Then there is the Oaxis my first Camera. Again, highly simple, one-button operation. What sets this camera apart from the others is that it is a digital camera so it takes microSD cards and not film cartridges. Secondly, it is encased in a transparent plastic case which makes it completely waterproof. This allows the camera to be used even when the children are still in the pool.
There is also the first Camera 3. A digital point-and-shoot camera but with a body more apt for small children. They are colorful and have enough space on the rubberized body for even the grabbiest of kids. It sports a 16-megapixel fixed lens and a macro mode. It also comes with some basic editing options such as choosing templates for your photos. The camera also has a front-facing camera for children to take selfies.
For those wishing to get started with videos, one of the best video cameras for an eight-year-old are action camera. Just press the record button and off they go. Some of the options in this category are GoPros, variants of Insta360, and even something like the Samsung Gear 360 VR.
For slightly older kids, parents can look at getting them a camera that has a bit more capability as well as a curve to learn.
The first one in this list is the colorful yet practical and completely made of plastic – Lomography Konstruktor.
Made with the idea that children who are used to playing with blocks and some more intricate things can take this build-it-yourself kit and set up their first camera and run a traditional film through it to get both that vintage vibe and learn by constructing.
On the digital end, you can get your preteens some mid-ranged tough digital cameras, like any from the Olympus Tough series.
These cameras are built to take a beating, especially outdoors. This camera can make for a great companion shooter for kids whether they are hiking, riding bikes or learning to go deeper underwater.
It also sports some advanced shooting modes such as macro and slow-motion video allowing children to explore some very creative image-making features.
Staying with the tough theme, there is the GoPro – a favorite for adults and kids alike. It is one of the best action cameras for 10-year-olds.
The battery on these things can last a while and can be mounted on anything and taken anywhere, especially for kids who have started to bike, skateboard outdoors or do other activities. Their small form factor makes them super easy to handle and a wide field of view means that they do not yet have to work too much on framing.
You do not need to fork out the cash for the latest and greatest version as a hand-me-down or a used older generation model is good enough to keep their creative sparks flying.
Ah, the troublesome teens. What a time it was to be alive.
These are the times when children are at the peak of their exploration of the world. This is precisely the time to enable them to let loose with their imagination and explore the depths of their creative abilities.
This is why it is now time to introduce your children to some of the big boys of photography – the digital single-lens reflex cameras – DSLRs.
There are a ton of options and flavors in the entry DSLR range. You can opt for old-school film-based manual cameras like the Pentax K1000 which you can develop in your own make-shift darkroom.
If digital is more their thing, pick up any of the entry-level DSLRs or mirrorless offerings from any Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Sony, or Panasonic.
They offer the perfect tool to not only get started but to slowly evolve and master all the basics of photography before deciding – just as they exit their teens – whether this is something they want to get a little more serious about or try something else.
Other options for your teens remain digital point-and-shoot offerings from all of the manufacturers above along with the trusty old GoPro or any other action camera, even 360 cameras such as the Insta360 ONE R Twin or the Insta360 ONE X.
One of the best GoPro for teenagers is GoPro Hero 10 Black which boasts a 23-megapixel GP2 Chip that allows you to shoot videos at a staggering 5.3k resolution at 60 frames per second and at 4k for up to 120 frames per second. Moreover, it sports front and rear touch
screens, live-streaming, and improved HyperSmooth 4.0 Image Stabilization.
Teens can also look to satisfy their creative cravings by opting for a budget smartphone with a camera or an iPod touch that also comes with a camera. While many may scoff at the quality of budget phones, some models in that range have been offering seriously good
cameras if little else, so don’t write them off completely.
If you have the cash, you can also tempt your teens with a new type of camera, the gimbal-based DJI Osmo Pocket. This will add a whole new dimension to their budding photographic and videography skills before they are ready to trade up.
Technology has gotten to a point today that you can find an option at both spectrums – completely analog or completely manual options at all difficulty and age levels.
There is almost certainly the perfect camera for you or your child out there, you may just have to visit a few old camera stores to find the right one. Regardless of the camera, you end up buying for your child, the most important thing is for them to explore it on their own, make mistakes and correct them and just have fun doing it.