The Best Cameras for Kids
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My kids love it when I take pictures and videos of them, and they're always trying to grab my camera out of my hands to view and take their own. Sometimes I hand over my smartphone or camera, but for kids who show a real interest in photography, a better option is to get a camera they can use on their own.
Your child's age and the environment where the camera will be used should guide your choice when picking out a camera. Following you'll find my picks to fit the needs of children over a range of ages.
Any camera you're going to give to a three- or four-year-old has to be rugged and inexpensive, so that goes without saying for these two models. Both also have SD card slots for plenty of storage. I like the Fisher-Price Kid Tough See Yourself camera ($49.99 on Amazon.com) because it lets kids put themselves in their shots with its 180-degree swiveling lens. If you want a flash and better image resolution (2MP versus 1.3MP), check out the Vtech KidiZoom Plus ($59.99 on Vtechkids.com).
If you don't want to worry when your child walks out the door with his or her camera, the 16MP Pentax Optio WG-2 ($262.88 on Amazon.com) is for you. It's built to withstand pretty much anything your tween will throw at it. It's waterproof to 40 feet, protected from drops up to 5 feet, crushproof , dustproof and even comes with a carabiner strap. Plus, its wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm equivalent) takes great pictures and full HD 1080p videos. There's also a GPS version ($349.95 on Pentaxwebstore.com). That's great for automatically organizing photos, but you'll want to caution your child not to reveal too much in their photos if they're going to post them online.
If you're willing to give up ruggedization, the Panasonic Lumix DMX-S2 ($90.50 on Amazon.com) is a great choice, with solid image and HD video quality and simple controls. The 14MP camera has a wide-angle 4X optical zoom lens (28-112mm equivalent) with Mega OIS (optical image stabilization) and a 2.7-inch display.
If you're looking for a rugged camera or a basic point-and-shoot, the Pentax Optio WG-2 or Panasonic Lumix DMX-S2 are great options for teens. But your teen might be a good candidate for another type of camera.
If it's time to get your child a smartphone, the phone can serve as your child's camera. There are affordable options for each of the major carriers that deliver impressive image quality. For AT&T, I'd recommend the Samsung Galaxy S II ($199.99 on Amazonwireless.com), the LG Lucid ($79.99 on Amazonwireless.com) on Verizon, the HTC One S ($49.99 on T-mobile.com) on T-Mobile, or the LG Viper on ($0.01 on Amazonwireless.com) on Sprint.
For the photo enthusiast, it may be time to step up to an interchangeable lens camera so he or she can have more control of the camera settings and experiment with different types of lenses. I like the Panasonic Lumix GX1 ($799.99 on Amazon.com) as a starter camera. It takes great pictures and, when bundled with the 14-42 Premium Power Zoon Lens, the 16MP camera is almost pocket-size. The lens has a rocker on it that lets you easily zoom with one finger, which is especially helpful when shooting video.
For the sports enthusiast, you might want to consider a hands-free video cam like the Looxcie LX2 ($149.99 on Amazon.com). The tiny camera clips over one ear to provide up to ten hours of hands-free recording and doubles as a Bluetooth headset. There's a range of accessory mounts, including a baseball cap clip and a vented helmet mount.