Camera Shopping for Kids: How to Equip Your Budding Photographer

It’s a great feeling to see your child take up the same hobby that you’re interested in. For most of us here, that would be photography. But what’s a good camera to start a kid with?

If you’re like me, nothing less than a 1DX Mark II will do. Realistically, while that camera is a pretty tough one and can survive a tumble or two from small hands, it might be out of the budget for many parents. That’s where photographer and YouTuber Chris Winter’s handy YouTube guide comes in.

In looking for camera ideas, many of the videos I saw had all manner of strange bots reading articles to me. They also made some questionable choices such as an Intova Duo, which, while cheap, won’t really make it easy to create high-quality images with a 5-megapixel sensor of questionable origin and a fixed-focus lens. If you’re a photographer, you probably want something that a child can grow into.

Winter's offers a few options that are much more appealing to photographers, from the obvious cell phone (my kid gets distracted by the apps, so this one doesn’t really work for me) to the not-so-obvious: giving a kid a Fuji Instax in 2018 is a brilliant way to get them to really think about what they’re shooting when it’s a slower process to watch the photo develop before your eyes.

There are also, of course, the requisite older DSLR mentioned and some other options I wouldn't have thought of, such as a GoPro Hero, something that's rugged but can also take good photos.

In addition to the suggestions from Winter, I'll offer another one - I gave my son an old Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS I had lying around. It’s the distant ancestor of the Canon PowerShot Elph 180. It has surprisingly taken a lot of abuse, and after a short time using it, my son even figured out how to keep his finger off the lens. If he breaks it, I won't be too worried, since it hasn't been used in years otherwise.

Teaching my son to photograph by picking a subject he's interested in, Spot from The Good Dinosaur.

Teaching my son to photograph by picking a subject he's interested in, Spot from The Good Dinosaur.

What do you think of Winter’s picks? Check out the full version of his list at this link. Do you think there are better options for kids? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Tony Northrup's picture

Kids do love instant cameras like the Instax - though my experience is they'll burn through a block of film and never pick it up again.

We have all the cameras in all shapes and sizes but I haven't gotten my kid or any of her friends past the part where they need to transfer pictures from the camera. I know, they're spoiled, but every kid on the planet learns photography on a smartphone where they can edit and share shots with their friends instantly. Every "real" camera is an upgrade optically but a HUGE downgrade in usability.

So we've been teaching her photography using her smartphone, focusing on composition, lighting, storytelling. She genuinely cares about the quality of her photos and she's gotten some amazing results. Someday, maybe she'll feel like a real camera will improve her photography enough to make it worth the trouble, or maybe someone will make a camera that doesn't seem like a PITA to the smartphone generation.

I've definitely had friends who really tried to push "real" cameras onto their kids. 3 months later, the camera is gathering dust. I don't really care what camera my daughter uses, so long as she learns to tell stories visually and appreciate the beauty around her.

Edwin Tam's picture

I think it depends on age of the child. I assume the article was written for parents of children who are probably 8 to 10 years of age, or maybe even adolescence. My then 2 year old wanted to copy me when I shoot, so fortunately, I had a 10 year Pentax waterproof camera kicking around. It took AA batteries (easy to use rechargeables), was waterproof, built like a little brick, and if he managed to destroy it... no great loss. He's four now, but it's "his" camera to play with. And now and then, he captures a pretty cool image.

Simon Patterson's picture

Yeah, little kids need a waterproof, sand proof, shock proof, little kid proof camera. I learned that the hard way when my then-4-year-old dropped a point-and-shoot camera in the red dust of the Australian outback, and that was immediately the end of that camera.

I started my kids on the Nikon S33. It's cheap, simple and virtually indestructible. My kids loved the playback albums and music. Their next step was the Nikon D3xxx series. The interface is perfect for beginners. It has a graphical representation of the aperture as the f/stop changes, which is great for autofocus lenses without aperture rings. The info button interface maps the buttons so that my son can learn the ergonomics of a DSLR. Paired with an inexpensive 35mm DX lens, he shoots stills and time-lapse videos with great results.