When looking at the best cameras for kids right now, there are a number of things to think about, from how old they are to what sort of budget you've got to work with. Getting the balance right can be tricky, but we think it comes down to four things: the price, the fun factor / ease of use, and resilience and value over the long term.
The price is a big consideration, but the price itself doesn't have to be big! Entry level point-and-shoot cameras can cost very little, with the Canon IXUS, Nikon Coolpix and Sony Cyber-shot lines offering plenty of compact options that are perfect for small hands and some of the best cheap cameras are perfect for kids.
When it comes to fun factor, it's hard to beat the best instant cameras that come in all many of shapes, sizes and bright candy colours. The instant results are great for encouraging young photographers, but bear in mind that packs of film run out quickly if you've got a trigger-happy snapper, so you'll need to buy more.
The recently unveiled Kodak Smile Classic is a brilliantly retro camera that will let your little ones print their pictures instantly or save them to a microSD card. And Fujifilm is hitting a lot of home runs with instant cameras at the moment, like the fun-filled Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ20 and the Instax Square SQ6, which even comes in a Taylor Swift edition.
Thinking more long term, a rugged action camera is resilient enough to take a licking and keep on ticking, whether it's going with the family on holiday or just being "kid-proof" enough to survive dings around the house or being taken into the sand and sea.
Again looking further ahead, for older kids who take a more serious interest in photography, an entry level DSLR, mirrorless or compact camera will offer much greater long term value, so those are definitely worth considering.
We think these are the best cameras for kids right now across a variety of categories, including some that may not feature on our our best camera list but are perfect for the small folk.
1. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
Instant prints for party animals, 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. You get to adjust and edit images in-camera and choose which ones to print, which could save you a bundle on film packs. 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. Canon IXUS 185
Ultra-affordable slim compact with 8x zoom and a 20MP sensor
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 20MP | Lens: 28-224mm f/2.43.2-6.9 | LCD: 2.7in, 230,000 dots | Video: 1280x720 | User level: Beginner
If you're after a starter camera for your kids that won't cost a fortune, Canon's long-established IXUS range is a sensible place to look. The IXUS 185 is a beginner's model that delivers 20MP via its 1/2.3in sensor. But the 8x optical zoom should offer enough for young photographers who want to shoot a range a subjects. Light sensitivity is limited to ISO 100-ISO 1600 (with auto mode delivering max of ISO 800), but at this price, it's hard to pick faults and it'll likely prove sufficient as a first 'proper' camera for many young snappers. For more ambitious youngsters, the menu options yield some digital filters they'll enjoy experimenting with. And while there's no full HD video recording, the 720p capture is perfectly reasonable for the price. It's available in black, red or silver, and - like any of these cameras for kids - retailers that offer a long guarantee and accidental damage options are to be recommended.
Read more: The best point-and-shoot cameras
3. Sony Cyber-shot WX220
A good price for a 10x optical zoom compact
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 18.2 | Lens: 25-250mm f/3.3-5.9 | LCD: 2.7in, 460k dots | Max video resolution: 1920x1080 | User level: From kids to adults
If Canon's IXUS 185 doesn't quite do it in the specs department, then Sony's Cybershot WX220 is a slightly better appointed choice - albeit at around double the price. The main advantage Sony's camera offers in comparison to Canon's is the improved zoom (10x optical), with a focal range spanning 25-250mm and WiFi. Picture quality is impressive though, with good detail and bright, dynamic images, and youngsters will enjoy the 1080p video capture. It's fairly no frills, but a good-looking, small and light choice for budding photographers.
4. Nikon Coolpix W300
A robust choice for bigger kids who want to enjoy underwater adventures
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 less careful members 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 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, so this could be the perfect camera for the whole family, not just the kids.
Read more: The 10 best action cameras
5. Olympus Tough TG-5
Strengthened snapper for the rough and tumble of active family life
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
In its bright red finish, the TG-5 looks brilliant even when it's just sat on your beach towel, and its high-tech look is sure to be a hit with the kids. 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 weather conditions. This little pocket-sized marvel can be dropped from a height of 2.1m and still work perfectly, and the latest-generation TruePic VIII processor and the ability to shoot 4K video clips at 30fps the icing on the cake for the next generation of vloggers.
6. Fujifilm FinePix XP130
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 most kids can't wait to share their adventures with their friends. You don't 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 XP140.
7. 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). The 16MP Ricoh WG-50 has a distinctively sporty and angular design, it's waterproof 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 are ticked, although video is capped at Full HD quality rather than 4K. 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 submerged in a rock pool.
8. Canon EOS 200D / Rebel SL2
Great as an introduction to proper photography for bigger kids and students
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 school age children and students. This also features some grown-up specs to get them hooked, namely 24.2MP sensor and a 3in vari-angle touch screen. Canon sees this as a way to tempt smartphone photographers to step up to their first proper camera. Its proportions make it perfect for smaller hands while the menus are nice and clear. The picture quality is very good too, with accurate white balance and well-saturated colours. It's not the cheapest Canon DSLR but it's our favourite for size, features and long-term usefulness.
9. Nikon D5600
Nikon's junior-level D5600 is ideal for more advanced teenage photographers
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 the Canon EOS 200D, this Nikon DSLR for beginners offers a relatively high-resolution 24.2MP APS-C sensor at its heart, together with a slightly larger 3.2in touchscreen with a vari-angle pivot for adventurous experimental photography. First-time DSLR users upgrading from their smartphones or tablets might not be impressed that it shoots full HD video not 4K, but the bigger sensor makes up for that in video quality. The bundled 18-55mm kit lens is usefully compact too and 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 it tempt kids away from a smartphone? It will when they see what it can do that their smartphone can't.
10. 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 a tight set of reins on more trigger-happy children, then both you and they will love the OneStep 2.
11. 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 also play five built-in games, so you've got a backup if the novelty of taking pictures wears off.
12. Fujifilm Instax Mini 70
Cheerful and cheap way to share 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. There's even a mirror on the front to help your kids get their selfie face on. 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.