With Christmas almost upon us, perhaps it's time to bring that child you spawned — or one you just know — into our beloved hobby. Here is a selection of the best cameras for different ages, applications, and attention spans!
The entry point for photography is lower and more varied than ever before, and getting children to try photography is far different than it was even just a decade ago. Where once it seemed that a child was either interested in taking photographs or they weren't, now, most children have taken a photograph or understand the concept before they can articulate the thought. With mobile phone cameras in the hands of almost everybody, the notion of taking a picture of something is utterly ubiquitous. As a result, the bridge from child to child photographer is easier to cross and far less "dry." In the days before digital, selling the idea of taking pictures simply would have been either exciting or boring; the child would either revel in the use of the machine and the delayed gratification, or they wouldn't have been interested.
Now, cameras are not only a staple, but they're alluring in many ways with the advent of social media. But, even the very young can be drawn in with many of the dedicated cameras made for children today. In this list, I will cover a multitude of cameras for different ages and personality types.
VTech isn't a big name in the photography industry in most people's books, but they control a sizable chunk of the children's camera market and for good reason. I bought one of their cameras for my nephew, and I was impressed with the functionality and durability. As it is aimed at the very young, it does a lot of work to entice the child into using the device for anything they might want, like games and music, then the camera application has filters and selfie modes. It's a good choice for a first camera if you're starting them early, but honestly, it'll be something most children will enjoy whether they have shown any interest in photography or not.
If your child is more partial to pink than blue, VTech has you covered.
One of the key selling points for the first camera for me was durability. Children are clumsy and careless, and without meaning to, they will batter any object to within an inch of its life. This Vtech camera takes the familiar form of action cameras, and from the research I've done, appears to be borderline indestructible. The software is similar to the above in that it has fun functionalities, but it can be taken completely underwater as well as mounted onto bikes, skateboards, and so on, so it could be an appealing choice for kids of varying ages without spending a large chunk of change on a GoPro.
I came across this camera a few months back and bookmarked it. In just 1-2 hours, your recipient can build their own 35mm film camera and take pictures with it at 50mm f/10. I expected the functionality of this camera to be almost non-existent, but I was surprised to see you have a PC socket for flash, manual exposure control, manual focusing, bulb setting, and multi-exposures. My real favorite feature, however, is the waist-level viewfinder you might have seen in old, iconic Hasselblads, for example.
Film cameras have been in and around the list of in-vogue cameras for a while and in two groups: the first is the photographers, who like me, just love old cameras and the process of shooting on film. However, there appears to be the second group of younger folk who enjoy the aesthetic (and presumably the process too in some cases). I'm not just talking about film effect filters either. David Dobrik's "David's Disposable" app has been a huge hit this year. All it does is delay you from being able to see your photos and mimic the style of old disposable cameras. So, for a very low price, why not buy someone the real thing?
While on the topic of film cameras, I had to include the Instax range of Polaroid-themed instant cameras. However, for me, the essence of instant cameras is the square 1:1 aspect ratio with the white border around it. This particular Instax is my favorite and a great present for just about anyone with working eyes; from kids to teenagers, to adults, this camera makes a great gift.
I'm now moving on to cameras that are aimed at teenagers and above, as they are fully-fledged, interchangeable lens bodies but that are accessible for first-time photographers, yet complex enough to learn and grow. They also won't break the bank, though they're admittedly not cheap. I have had the Olympus PEN E-PL10 in my possession for some months now, and it's a brilliant starter camera in a light, pocketable body. Its marketing approach appeared to aim at social media addicts and influencers with a number of filters and settings built-in, but don't let that fool you: this is a legitimate and proficient camera.
It can record 4K video at 30 fps, which will please the budding filmmakers, YouTubers, and the like, as well as in-body image stabilization (IBIS), quick autofocus, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allowing you to connect to your phone, for instance.
Now, for my final suggestion, I want to offer the most serious and lasting of the cameras on this list, for someone who really might like a "proper" camera. In many ways, it isn't much of a leap from the Olympus above, but it has a bigger sensor (APS-C crop sensor as opposed to the micro four-thirds of the Olympus) and frankly, a better sensor. This little camera has a superb spec and is on sale at the moment, bringing it in at a lower cost than the Olympus with a lens!
I'm not going to start gushing over the technical details that make this such an incredible value, as you can seek out reviews, but the X-T200 came out earlier in 2020 and hit almost every marker we all hoped it would. One highlight is the stunning, articulating 3.5", 2.76-million-dot touchscreen. I'd also argue that Fujifilm has a better selection of lenses and, finally, the styling is beautifully retro.