Our pick for the best camera for kids is the. It’s not a toy camera, nor is particularly cheap, but it is very good at one thing that makes it a great choice for putting it in the slippery hands of youngsters: Survival. It is waterproof, drop-proof, crush-proof, and probably even dog-proof, so wherever it ends up and however it gets there, it should survive the journey.
Give a kid a camera, and you could spark a lifelong love for photography — or at least an expensive obsession with collecting camera gear. The best cameras for kids aren’t necessarily the ones with the brightest colors or princesses stamped on the front (although, those are fun, too), but rather the models that are easy to use and able to withstand some abuse (because, well, kids).
But such cameras aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal. If your child can operate an iPad better than you can, they may be better suited for a camera with some advanced features, while toddler-friendly models are designed specifically for little hands. And if you are looking for a camera for a teenager who shows a serious interest in photography, consider this list of DSLRs for beginners.
At a glance
- Best camera for kids: Olympus Tough TG-5
- Best Point-and-Shoot Camera for Kids: Sony WX350
- Best camera for toddlers: VTech Kidizoom
- Best cheap camera for kids: Fujifilm FinePix XP120
- Best instant camera for kids: Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
Why you should buy this: A camera that can withstand pretty much anything, with advanced features to grow into
Who’s it for: Tech-savvy teens, adventurous kids, and even parents that want to snap photos at the river or beach
Why we picked the Olympus TG-5:
The Olympus TG-5 is durable enough to survive 50 feet under water, 7-foot drops, or 200 pounds of pressure on top of it — which means it can survive at the hands of most children (unless you’re raising Sid from Toy Story). But while there’s a handful of good rugged cameras out there, the TG-5 has some of the best specs, with a bright lens that allows the camera to take decent photos indoors and 20-frame-per-second burst shooting for keeping up with the most active kids.
Designed as a consumer camera and not specifically as a camera for kids, the TG-5 is an excellent option for tech savvy teens because there’s room to grow and learn beyond using the camera as a basic point-and-shoot. Some semi-manual modes as well as some creative automated modes are included, for kids who want to really learn photography but are a bit too accident prone to try a DSLR yet.
Designed for capturing adventures, the TG-5 will also record things like the speed and location for outdoor adventures. Of course, if you’re handing this camera to a young child or capturing photos in your backyard, the GPS is likely a feature that you’ll want to disable inside the menu. Other advanced features include Wi-Fi for transferring photos over to a smartphone.
Olympus has recently launched the newer TG-6, but it’s a minor upgrade that may not be worth the price difference. Still, check the price on the TG-6 before buying — we’ve sometimes seen the older versions of this series sell for more than the newest option, depending on instant rebates.
Read the Olympus Tough TG-5 review
Why you should buy this: An inexpensive, compact camera with more zoom and features than a smartphone
Who’s it for: Kids (and adults) that crave the versatility of zoom but don’t need the drop, dirt and water protection
Why we picked the Sony WX350:
Budget compacts that offer more than a smartphone camera are getting harder to find — but whether you’re handing this to a kid that already has a smartphone or to a phone-free child, the Sony WX350 packs a lot of features for the price. The camera is equipped with a 20x optical zoom, which makes it great for both getting up close and capturing wide angle scenes. That lens is also stabilized, which is great for anyone but in particular kids who have a hard time holding still.
Beyond that good zoom lens, the WX350 offers solid autofocus, fast burst, and a panorama mode. Yet, the camera’s control scheme is simple, with just a few basic controls and only a handful of shooting modes. The camera is also very compact, making it easy to carry anywhere.
Sony has since launched the WX500 with even more zoom — but the price tends to sit quite a bit higher. For a solid camera for kids that doesn’t break the bank, the WX350 still fits the bill.
Why you should buy this: A cheap, durable camera designed for small hands
Who’s it for: Toddlers and preschoolers, ages 2-5
Why we picked the VTech Kidizoom:
Finding a cheap camera isn’t hard, but the VTech Kidizoom has one of the best toddler-friendly designs out there. The design is durable enough for toddlers, although it is not submersible like the Olympus TG-5.
But it’s the Kidizoom’s ergonomics that are really make the camera suited for the youngest photographers. The camera has two grips on both sides, with two viewfinders. Why two viewfinders? Most toddlers really don’t get the concept of closing one eye and putting the other up to the camera. There is also a screen, along with large buttons and a big joystick for navigating the different options with little fingers.
Will the Kidizoom capture great photos? Not at all — it’s a 2-megapixel camera. The Kidizoom isn’t a camera for taking photos good enough to print or share; instead, it’s designed specifically to teach toddlers photography basics and to spark an interest in photography. We’re a bit more conservative than the manufacturer’s suggested age range on this camera, however, which goes up to age 8 — we can’t really see a child that old getting excited about it, but it’s certainly a hit among toddlers and preschoolers.
Why you should buy this: A durable, rugged camera that’s easily affordable
Who’s it for: Adventurous or accident-prone kids
Why we picked the Fujifilm FinePix XP120:
The Fujifilm FinePix XP120 is both durable and affordable. The camera is rated for 65 feet underwater, and is also protected against dirt, dust, and cold. The 16.4-megapixel sensor is paired with a 5x optical zoom lens which isn’t as bright as the lens on the Olympus TG-5, but the mix of durability and features are excellent for the price.
The XP120 has a good 10-fps burst mode for photographing action. It also boasts a control scheme designed for easy operation while wearing gloves and it works well for kids smaller hands, too. With only a handful of controls, the XP120 should be easy for kids to learn and use. Wi-Fi is included, but a GPS isn’t — which is often a good thing for kids.
The XP120 has since been replaced by the XP140, but one of the best ways to get a budget-friendly camera for kids is to opt for a model that’s a few years old that isn’t missing out on too many features. The mix of durability, simple controls, and image quality beyond those 2-megapixel toy cameras make this a great option for kids that doesn’t break the budget.
Why you should buy this: The novelty of instant film is great for kids — and can serve as a teaching tool
Who’s it for: Kids (and kids at heart) that prefer holding physical pictures over looking at pixels on a screen.
Why we picked the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9:
Want to teach your kids that some things are worth waiting for, or that photographs used to be more than just pixels? The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is a colorful, easy-to-use instant film camera. While giving a kid instant film means you may end up paying for lots of photos of feet, the ground, and other random things, kids of all ages tend to love the novelty of instant film and peppering their bedrooms with prints.
Compact and colorful, the Instax Mini 9 has simple controls, but still includes features like a flash and a macro adapter for close-ups. Automatic exposure helps ensure better photos from young users, though there are some limitations to keep in mind, such as getting too close to a subject.
While inexpensive, film will cost shy of a dollar for each print and the batteries also aren’t rechargeable — so it’s a camera that will need continual reinvestment.