The best cameras for kids in 2016

Photography knows no boundaries, and age is certainly no exception. Young or old it’s one of the most popular pastimes out there, and there’s a wide range of cameras available that are suitable for toddlers all the way up to teenagers. 

In fact, some of the cameras that are perfect for younger shooters are equally suitable for adults thanks to the availability of advanced features and functions.

Cameras for younger children offer an introduction into the world of photography with fun and innovative designs and features. Older children and teenagers might benefit from a convenient compact camera offering features such as high-resolution sensors and wireless connectivity to a smartphone app.

For teenagers looking for a small, lightweight and versatile option, a compact system camera (mirrorless) could be the perfect choice. With the ability to change lenses the camera kit can grow as the experience and needs of the photographer change.

One camera that continues to appeal to photographers of all ages is the instant camera. Traditional instant prints as you take them remain as popular as ever, because nothing beats a print in the hand that can be passed around and enjoyed. So whatever the age of your children or grandchildren, there’s a camera that’s perfect for them…

1. Bigshot

A fun camera that you build yourself, but offers limited image quality

Sensor: 3MP | Lens: Regular 40°, Panoramic 80° and Stereo 16° (3D) | Monitor: 1.4-inch LCD | Viewfinder: Optical | Movies: No | Special feature: Self-build project | Age: 8+

Build your own camera
Hand crank dynamo
Image quality is limited
No video recording

The Bigshot is a unique camera spanning science, engineering and creativity. The kit is designed to be assembled by the user, with all the parts you need ready to be put together. Once assembled you have a functioning digital camera with a 3MP sensor and a small LCD screen on the back. What the camera lacks in terms of image quality and traditional camera features, it certainly makes up for in other areas. First up there are three lenses that are selected by rotating a ring on the front of the camera. These offer what’s described as a regular field of view, panoramic and a 3D lens. There’s even an optical viewfinder that changes with the lens selected, and a LED flash for shooting in low light. The Bigshot uses a Lithium Polymer rechargeable battery and also features a hand cranked dynamo so you can charge the battery on the go. The selling point of this camera is that it’s more than just a picture taking device, it’s a project! It’s expensive for what it is though.

2. Vtech KidiZoom Duo

Tough and simple build to withstand the rigours of play

Sensor: 0.3MP | Lens: Not specified | Monitor: 1.8-inch LCD | Viewfinder: Dual optical | Movies: 160x120px | Special feature: Built-in games | Age: 3+

Tough rubberised build
Easy to hold and use
Poor image quality
Small low-res LCD

As the perfect introduction into photography for young children, the Vtech KidiZoom Duo is designed for small hands and ease of use. With a tough rubberised body and small recessed lens, it’s more than up to the rigours of play. Stills and video are possible at resolutions of 640x480px and 160x120px respectively using the front and rear mounted cameras, but as you’d imagine image quality is extremely low. The balance here is ease of use and build over image quality and standard camera functionality. On the back are two binocular style viewfinders to make composing shots easier. Plus there’s a 1.8in LCD monitor that can be used to compose shots, review them and play the five built-in games. 

3. Nikon Coolpix W100

Waterproof, shockproof, cold resistant and dustproof – this is one tough camera

Sensor: 13.2MP | Lens: 30-90mm, f/3.3-5.9 | Monitor: 2.7-inch, 230,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Movies: Full HD | Special feature: Available in five colours/designs | Age: 8+

Water and shockproof
Wi-Fi connectivity
No viewfinder
Fixed LCD screen

The Nikon Coolpix W100 is a compact camera that could easily tick the boxes for children and adults alike. Waterproof to 10m, shockproof to drops of 1.8m and cold resistant to -10°C make this a truly rugged camera. One of the great features for kids is that there’s a special children’s menu to make operating the camera even easier. For budding filmmakers you can shoot full HD video, and take advantage of electronic image stabilisation for smoother handheld shots. Plus, SnapBridge allows you to transfer images to your smartphone or tablet to share online.

4. Panasonic Lumix FT30

This pocket-sized powerhouse offers an impressive zoom range and optical image stabilisation

Sensor: 16.1MP | Lens: 25-100mm, f/3.9-5.7 | Monitor: 2.7-inch, 230,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Movies: HD | Special feature: Available in four colours | Age: 8+

Excellent zoom range
Water and shockproof
Doesn’t shoot full HD video
Small for younger children

The Panasonic Lumix FT30 is a lightweight and pocket size tough compact which is waterproof to 8m, shockproof up to 1.5m and freezeproof down to -10°C.
Other features include a useful 25-100mm equivalent zoom along with optical image stabilisation. This means you can take shots in darker conditions without a flash, and shoot smoother videos handheld. On the subject of video the FT30 shoots HD video (720p) which is OK, but rather low in the age of 4K. If Wi-Fi and the ability to immediately transfer images to your smart device is important, along with Full HD video, the Nikon Coolpix W100 is worth considering thanks to its equally rugged credentials. Although resolution is lower than the FT30.

5. Fuji Instax Mini 8

Enjoy the fun and excitement of instant analogue photography

Sensor: N/A | Lens: 60mm | Monitor: N/A | Viewfinder: Optical | Movies: N/A | Special feature: Instant prints | Age: 5+

Instant prints
Easy to use
Film is expensive
Limited exposure control

Taking a shot couldn’t be easier, with the Instax Mini 8 automatically determining exposure, indicating which of the four aperture settings you need to use. You can of course set the recommended aperture or choose a wider or narrower setting to creatively over or underexpose the shot. The shutter speed is limited to 1/60sec, and the flash always fires so creative exposure is limited. Instant photography is a lot of fun, and the small traditional analogue prints look great. The overall film dimensions are 35x86mm, and the picture dimensions are 46x62mm. The downside however is cost, so you have to be sparing with your shots – something that’s the complete opposite with digital photography. An Instax Mini film pack offering 20 shots costs around £15/$18, so while it won’t break the bank you will have to pick your shots wisely. But that’s part of the instant experience.

6. Canon EOS M10

DSLR image quality and interchangeable lenses in your pocket

Sensor: APS-C CMOS, 18MP | Lens: 15-45mm, f/3.5-6.3 | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Movies: Full HD | Special feature: Interchangeable lenses | Age: 10+

Great image quality
Good value
Limited lens range
No viewfinder

For more serious young photographers a compact camera may not provide the level of control and image quality they need. With a large APS-C sensor and almost pocket size build, the Canon EOS M10 offers DSLR image quality in a small package. The EOS M10 provides automatic controls for less experienced photographers, but for those who need to take more control there are semi-automatic and full manual shooting modes. This dramatically increases the creative possibilities with the camera. As well as shooting stills the M10 allows you to shoot Full HD video. And thanks to the silent AF motor in the lens, you can autofocus during video. 

James Abbott

James Abbott is a professional photographer and freelance photography journalist. He contributes articles about photography, cameras and drones to a wide range of magazines and websites where he applies a wealth of experience to testing the latest photographic tech. James is also the author of ‘The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing’.