Whether you’re looking for a nearly unbreakable camera that your toddler can throw against the wall, or something for an older child who’s keen to learn more about photography, there are several options available that won’t break the bank.
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We’ve broken this guide down into four categories:
- It’s okay if it breaks
- Rugged and inexpensive
- Indestructible, with great image quality
- For the budding photographer
Here are our picks for each of those categories:
It’s okay if it breaks: VTech KidiZoom Camera Pix ($40)
|(Yes, it comes in pink too)|
There are a million cameras in the $50 and under price range to choose from, and this VTech model is one of the most popular. The Camera Pix has a 2 Megapixel sensor (presumably smaller than that of a smartphone), 4X digital zoom, micro USB port, and both built-in memory and a microSD slot. The camera is rugged to some extent (though VTech doesn’t give any specifics) but is not waterproof. The KidiZoom also powered by four AA batteries – a bargain compared to $60 lithium-ion packs found in typical digital cameras.
Kids can take pictures through stereo viewfinders or with the 1.8″ LCD on the rear. In addition to taking stills, the KidiZoom also captures QVGA (that’s 320 x 240) videos for up to 5 minutes.
The KidiZoom has a few other tricks up its sleeve. The camera has an selfie mode, where it takes a photo when it detects faces. It also has four built-in games (!) and tons of special effects.
Overall, the VTech KidiZoom seems like a fun and inexpensive way to get your five-year-old into photography, and if it does break, it’s only $40 for a replacement.
Rugged and inexpensive: Nikon Coolpix W150 ($150)
If you want something a little more ‘camera-like’ than the cheap options, then the inexpensive yet rugged Nikon Coolpix W150 may be a good option.
The W150 can survive a drop from 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) and can function up at depths of up to 10m (33ft), so it’ll be alive if you find it at the bottom of the swimming pool. If you take it to the snow park, the camera should keep working at temperatures as low as -10°C (14°F). The camera is also dustproof, so the beach shouldn’t be a problem, either.
The design of the W150 is simple, with simple controls and large shutter release and video buttons. As with all current underwater cameras, it lacks a touchscreen, so there will be a small learning curve for a child used to a smartphone.
Tech specs for the W150 are unremarkable, but then again, that’s not why you’re buying it. The camera has a smartphone-sized 13MP sensor, 30-90mm equivalent lens, 2.7″ LCD and 1080p video capture. It does offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so getting photos onto your phone is easy.
Indestructible, with great image quality: Olympus Tough TG-6 ($399)
If you want a higher quality camera for a child who is more… responsible… with your electronics, then the Olympus TG-6 is a great option. Its rugged credentials are even better than the Nikon, with the ability to go much further underwater or get crushed (within reason). Build quality is excellent, with two locks on both of its doors and dual-paned glass to prevent the lens from fogging up.
The TG-6’s larger sensor and faster lens (which offers a versatile 25-100mm equiv. range) make it a capable point-and-shoot, even in low light. It won’t run circles around best-in-class smartphones in terms of image quality, but it’s the best you’ll find on a waterproof camera.
We could write a whole article about all of the features on the TG-6, but suffice it to say, it can shoot very fast bursts, capture photos that were ‘taken’ before the shutter release is fully pressed, take some truly impressive long exposures and records 4K video. If your youngster enjoys hiking, the camera’s ability to record the location, elevation and temperature for each shot make reviewing images more fun than a typical camera or phone.
For the budding photographer: Canon PowerShot G9 X II ($429)
If you have an older child who is developing a keen eye for photography and want something they can grow up with, we recommend Canon’s PowerShot G9 X II, which can be had for under $450. This camera is pocketable, produces very good image quality from its 1″ sensor and has a touch-based interface that smartphone users will quickly pick up.
The stabilized lens offers a 28-84mm equivalent focal range which, while not as versatile as more expensive enthusiast compacts, is more than enough for a pre-teen. Beginners can set the mode dial to the Smart Auto mode and the camera does the rest, like selecting the right scene mode for the situation. The are plenty of special effects modes, with ‘background defocus’ being one example, and some fun star modes that are easy to set up and enjoy. Transferring photos to a smartphone is a cinch using the camera’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
As your child grows, the G9 X II will be ready, offering manual exposure controls, advanced AF modes and Raw support, which opens the door to using more advanced cameras.