Those of us who aren’t parents themselves might imagine that younger members of the family will be happy with any old camera. But, with smartphones having mostly killed off low-end, cheap digital cameras – the ones you’d probably be happiest entrusting a child with – the choice therefore shifts to what’s left that will be easiest to use, that still manages to deliver the most satisfying results.
Rugged cameras that are practically bombproof, plus instant cameras that provide the spectacle of the image extruding and then slowly appearing before excited eyes, seem the most obvious choices, but there are other worth considering. Here are ten top choices across a variety of categories.
Need something more specific? Make sure to also check out these further buying guides:
- The 10 best cameras for beginners
- The 10 best cheap cameras
- The 10 best compact cameras
- The 10 best cameras under £500 / $600
1. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
Instant prints to please the little ones, with handy extras we’d expect from a digicam
Type: Instant camera | Sensor: 1/4in | Megapixels: 3.7MP | Lens: Fixed 28mm f/2.4 | LCD: 3in, 460,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Flash: Built in | User level: From kids to adults
Aside from the new square-format film pack, the most notable feature of the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10 is the ability to review and edit your shots via a small LCD display on the camera’s back. Previously, Instax owners would have to point, shoot and hope that the lighting was right and the subject framed accordingly – now, your children can store up to 50 images in the camera’s internal memory or add a microSD card to extend storage space. It adds up to a fun piece of kit, and for anyone who'd like more control over images and the ability to adjust and edit in-camera, it's a good fit. If your family simply wants instant prints, however, Fujifilm’s cheaper Instax Wide, Mini and Mini 90 Neo Classic may do just as good a job.
2. Nikon Coolpix W300
A robust choice for bigger kids who want to enjoy underwater frolics
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm f/2.8-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 921,000 dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: From kids to adults
A toughened camera is an obvious image-capture device to place in the hands of the smaller member of the family, but Nikon’s Coolpix W300 is loaded with an array of other features. With 4K video, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity plus an altimeter and underwater depth gauge, your youngest can make like James Bond that's just been kitted out by Q. Also impressive is the 921,000-dot OLED monitor, plus the fact that the camera can function down to a depth of 30m underwater, which means it will be more than adequate for likely use in and around the pool or sea. A wide-ish zoom range from a safely internally stacked lens starting out at 24mm and going up to 120mm acts as a jack of all trades, though we did find output a little inconsistent when it comes to getting exposure spot on.
Read more: The 10 best action cameras
3. Olympus Tough TG-5
Strengthened snapper able to deal with all the rough and tumble active families can throw at it
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Lens: 25-100mm f/2.0-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 460,000 dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: From kids to adults
A bright red TG-5 is sure to make younger members of the family wide-eyed with excitement and image-taking anticipation. You don’t need to fret about them wrecking it either, as build quality is exceptional enough to inspire confidence. The camera has a fairly chunky construction, but still manages to be ergonomically designed, which, together with the well-placed controls, makes it simple to use in a variety of shooting scenarios – and indeed, weather conditions. Oddly, this model sees a reduction in pixel count compared to its forebear, down to 12MP from the 16MP of the TG-4, in an effort to minimise image noise issues in lower light or at higher ISO settings. This little pocket-sized marvel can be dropped from a height of 2.1m and still work perfectly, with the latest-generation TruePic VIII processor and the ability to shoot 4K video clips at 30fps the icing on the cake for young, inquiring minds.
4. Fujifilm FinePix XP120
Rugged camera that’s as well suited to the beach as it is the playroom
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16.4MP | Lens: 28-140mm f/3.9-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 920,000 dots | Max video resolution: 1920x1080 | User level: From kids to adults
It may not have the broad set of specs offered by several of its rugged rivals, but younger members of the family are hardly going to care as long as it is simple to use (it is) and does the job (it does). There are a range of fun filters included to keep the family happy and Wi-Fi connectivity for the transfer of images too, the latter an important, but perhaps overlooked, feature when considering ease of use for a child. We don’t, however, get some of the more advanced features to be found on competitors’ models, such as on-board GPS, although this Fujifilm camera is more reasonably priced than most. Incidentally those considering this model may also want to take a look at the newly announced Fujifilm XP130.
5. Ricoh WG-50
The Transformer-like design of the WG-50 is bound to appeal to kids
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 28-140mm f/3.5-4.2 | LCD: 2.7in, 230,000 dots | Max video resolution: 1920x1080 | User level: From kids to adults
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to toughened cameras suitable for handing to the children and not having to worry about them getting trashed (the camera that is). Enter the 16MP Ricoh WG-50, which carries on the distinctively sporty and angular design of its predecessors. It also features waterproofing to a depth of 14m, and it's shock-proofed against a fall of up to 1.6m. Not only that, but it can even withstand a force of up to 100kg bearing down on it. Add dustproofing and the ability to keep shooting in temperatures as low as -10°C, along with an internally stacked 5x optical zoom lens, and the basic boxes for this class of camera are ticked, although video is capped at Full HD quality. What we love most about it, though, are the six LED lights arranged around the lens for illuminating close-up subjects, whether on land or in the briny.
6. Canon EOS 200D / Rebel SL2
Great for the more ambitious user, and a gateway into possible long-term DSLR use
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: via Canon EF mount | LCD: 3in touchscreen, vari-angle 1.04m dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1920x1080 | User level: Teenager to adult
OK, so you may not initially think of a DSLR when considering a camera for the kids, but this recent option from Canon certainly ticks three key boxes in being small, light and easy to use for older children. This also features some grown-up specs to get them hooked, namely 24.2MP sensor and a 3in vari-angle touch screen, as a boon to composing shots or videos. Viewfinder coverage is ‘just’ 95%, but that’s par for the course for a beginner-friendly DSLR. Indeed, Canon sees this as a way to tempt smartphone photographers – and which teenager doesn’t covet their smartphone? – to step up to their first proper camera. Its proportions make it perfect for smaller hands while menus are nice and clear, and moreover its output is very good too, with accurate white balance and well-saturated colours.
7. Nikon D5600
Nikon's junior-level D5600 is ripe for the more advanced teenage photographer
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: Via Nikon F mount | LCD: 3.2in touchscreen, vari-angle 1.037m dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1920x1080 | User level: Teenager to adult
Like its Canon competitor, this Nikon DSLR for beginners offers a relatively high-resolution 24.2MP APS-C sensor at its heart, together with the same fairly standard 95% viewfinder coverage. Here, however, we also get a slightly larger 3.2in touchscreen, which is usefully vari-angled for curious fingers. First-time DSLR users that are upgrading from their smartphones or tablets won’t be disappointed that video maxes out at Full HD quality, and they'll find the bundled 18-55mm kit lens usefully compact too. At 420g it’s not too weighty either, while the fuss-free body is crafted from a single piece of strong polycarbonate. Operation can be as easy as pointing and shooting, with Nikon’s 39-point AF system being swift and reliable in response. Will the D5600 completely tempt younger audiences away from their smartphones? Probably not, but it might just light a spark of further investigation when it comes to dedicated devices.
8. Polaroid OneStep 2
One for kids both big and small, with plenty of retro charm
Type: Instant camera | Lens: 106mm | Viewfinder: Optical | Focus modes: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built in | Self timer: Yes | User level: From kids to adults
Most of us adults can recall the ubiquity of the Polaroid brand in our own childhoods. So, for those former kids, who are now big kids, the OneStep 2 should be an easy sell. With the famous brand now under the ownership of the group of instant film enthusiasts who stepped in to continue producing Polaroid film once the brand collapsed (aka The Impossible Project), the OneStep 2 embraces a retro design inspired by the original OneStep from the 1970s, and it's just as easy to use too. Producing large, square-format instant prints (using Polaroid I-Type film), it does mean you’ll be paying quite a bit more per print compared to its Instax rivals, but if you’re happy to pay for that luxury and keep more trigger-happy children under control and supervision, then both you and they will love the OneStep 2.
9. VTech KidiZoom Duo
Aka ‘My First Digital Camera’, the KidiZoom Duo is aimed at the very youngest wannabe photographers
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 0.3MP | Lens: Not specified | LCD: 1.8in | Max video resolution: 160x120 pixels | User level: Age 3+
VTech makes a range of brightly coloured, big-buttoned, entry-level tech gadgets for kids, and this is its current digital camera offering. Build quality is great, with its oversized rubbery build absorbing the shock of occasional drops, with big meaty grips on either side of the recessed lens for small hands to get enough purchase. While the camera and its controls may be relatively big for the average intended user, the specs aren't anything to get a photo enthusiast hot under the collar, with 640x480 (VGA)-quality stills and 160x120 video. On the back is a 1.8in LCD for composing and reviewing shots, through which you can play five built-in games. Don’t be surprised if your little one starts playing these in preference to taking pictures once they discover it!
10. Fujifilm Instax Mini 70
Cheerful and relatively cheap option for sharing the thrill of instant analogue photography
Type: Instant camera | Lens: 60mm f/12.7 | Viewfinder: Optical | Focus modes: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built in | Self timer: Yes | User level: From kids to adults
Another firm favourite, and a cost-effective way to get the family into instant photography via this strictly analogue device, which is a little more advanced than Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 9, but not quite as sophisticated as the same manufacturer’s Instax Square SQ10 (above). Aside from the fact that little ones will need to be supervised so that their fingers don’t obscure the built-in flash when taking shots vertically, it's an ideal option for kids because just about everything is fully automatic, including the essentials of focusing, exposure and flash. Actually, the inability to control the flash may prove a bit of an annoyance for the more senior members of the family, but we do at least get a mirror on the front to aid the taking of selfies. For kids parties and more, this could prove a winner – as long as the little ones don’t go too mad with the packs of instant film, that is.
Read more: The 10 best cameras for beginners