Finding the best camera for kids may sound easy, but in actual fact it's almost as difficult as finding the best camera for an adult! Of course, first and foremost you want a camera that is straightforward and easy to use. And, depending on the age of the child, you might be after a camera that effectively a toy, or one that's more educational and gives them room to develop.
A very real consideration is that whatever the camera is, it's likely to get quite a bit of knockabout use – so looking at something that's either very cheap or very robust is probably a wise bet. And then you have to work out of your kids would prefer to have their images in digital form, or whether they would prefer the physicality (and magic!) of instant film. So as you can see, there is a lot to take into account!
That's why we've split our best cameras for kids guide into a few sections. We've arranged some cameras by suitable age, from toddlers to teens and students, and we've also included a dedicated section for instant cameras, as these really can suit any age range.
See also: Best drones for kids
Most of the cameras here are made by the same companies that make the best cameras for adults, including some of the best instant cameras (which have the fun factor to keep kids occupied), the best point and shoot cameras (which are affordable, but have a splash of style to suit teenage tastes) and the best waterproof cameras (to survive even the harshest treatment!). Some of the best cameras for beginners, meanwhile will suit older students studying photography.
So whether you've got a tiny tot who wants something brightly colored to play with, or a serious student who is thinking about making imagery their career, there should be something here for you!
The best camera for kids in 2020
We've included just one camera in this section because although there are a lot of cameras for very young children on the market, they are not very sophisticated and could be outgrown very quickly.
1. VTech KidiZoom Duo 5.0
Aka ‘My First Digital Camera’, this is the best camera for young kids
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 5MP | Lens: Fixed (4x digital zoom) | LCD: 2.4in | Max video resolution: 320x240 pixels | User level: Age 3+
VTech makes a range of brightly colored, 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 have been improved with the most recent edition of this camera with a 5 megapixel sensor, coupled with a 4x digital zoom. On the back is a 2.4in 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. The camera uses 4x AA batteries and a microSD card, that you will need to buy separately. So the best camera for kids? Yes, but only if they're very young.
Instant cameras have made a comeback! They're perfect for kids of all ages – even young ones, because they're big, chunky and simple to use. And for that endless succession of kids' parties that seems to last for about a decade, they offer some instant picture swapping fun to keep the party vibe going. They also mean you don't have to spend half a day printing photos on your inkjet printer – the camera does all the work.
2. Polaroid OneStep 2
One for older kids, 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. Younger kids won't get it, but older teens will appreciated the retro vibe. 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.
3. Kodak Smile Instant Print Camera
This hybrid instant/digital camera saves the pictures it prints
Type: Instant camera | Film type: Zero Ink (ZINK) | Image size: 2x3in | Lens: 32mm f/2.8 | Minimum shooting distance: Not given | Shooting modes: Colour, B&W | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: Yes | Viewfinder: LCD screen | User level: Beginner
The Kodak Smile Instant Print is a digital instant camera – a modern update of instant photography that combines the best of analog with the beauty of digital. This cute, colorful camera is essentially a miniature printer with a lens – it uses ZINK (zero ink) technology to produce 2x3-inch sticky-backed prints, which are perfect for kids to swap, share and stick everywhere. The camera's 5MP sensor is ideal for images of this resolution, though the pictures are definitely more like printouts than instant film… not that kids will care! The ability to add up to 256GB of microSD memory means that kids can snap to their heart's content, then cherry pick the images they want to print. The integrated battery keeps the camera nice and small, though you only get around 40 prints per charge – a far cry from the 120-160 shots you get from Polaroids. The buttons are big, bright and straightforward, so this is a good option for tech-savvy little ones.
4. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
Easy instant prints for party animals, and it won't break the piggy bank
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. The instax cameras aren't designed specifically for youngsters, but their low cost, chunky handling and novice-friendly simplicity mean they are amongst the best cameras for kids to use.
Whether you're looking for a gift for a hard-to-please teen or a camera simple enough for the whole family to use, a low-cost point and shoot camera fits the bill perfectly. Or, if you think you need something tougher, many underwater compact cameras are also shockproof and freezeproof, which covers three household hazards at least.
5. Canon ELPH 180 / IXUS 185
Smooth, sophisticated and stylish, the Ixux 185 could be ideal for teens
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 ELPH and IXUS ranges are a sensible place to look. The ELPH 180 (know as the IXUS 185 outside North America) 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
6. Sony Cyber-shot WX220
This is a good price for a compact family camera with a 10x optical zoom
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.
7. 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. There is a more recent Fujifilm XP140 that adds 4K shooting, but is currently not really worth the substantial price jump. Rugged point and shoot models like this one are amongst the best cameras for kids.
8. Olympus Tough TG-6
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 fire engine-red finish, the Olympus Tough TG-6 looks brilliant even when it's just sat on your beach towel – and it makes sure that it's easy to find when you drop it in the snow or in a pool of water which it can survive down to 15m / 50ft! It's also available in a sleek black, if your kids prefer the high-tech Batman look. As well as being waterproof, the camera can survive drops of 2.1m / 7ft, as well as being crushed by anything up to 100kg / 220lbs (and it's also freezeproof to -10°C / 14°F, should it somehow get left in the fridge or freezer!). It's quite an advanced camera, with lots of features and functions (such as excellent macro and microscope modes) should you want them, as well as crisp 4K video for filming adventures, and has a great zoom range of 25-100mm.
9. GoPro Hero7 Silver
Inexpensive but highly capable camera for adventurous family holidays
Type: Action camera | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 10MP | Lens: Fixed | LCD: 2in touchscreen | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: From kids to adults
A GoPro camera is a terrific thing to bring along on a family holiday, able as it is to capture all your adventures in crisp detail as well as stand up to the rough and tumble adventure that is life with kids. The GoPro Hero7 Silver is the perfect choice, more affordable than the current models in the Hero range, but still with more than enough functionality to capture fantastic images and videos. While it lacks the sophisticated features of its more expensive contemporaries, there's plenty of great stuff here; 15fps burst shooting is nothing to sneeze at (and you do get 4K video at 30fps)! The whole family can have huge amounts of fun with a GoPro, and this affordable version is the ideal choice. A GoPro isn't a camera for kids specifically, but their ruggedness and ease of use make them ideal for older kids tackling new adventures.
Read more: The best GoPro cameras
10. Lomography Konstruktor F
This build-your-own camera kit perfect for budding engineers!
Type: 35mm SLR | Lens: 50mm f/10 | Viewfinder: Twin-lens reflex viewfinder | Focus modes: Zone focusing | Flash: Optional (sold separately) | Self timer: No | User level: Teenagers and up
For those who are looking for a little more of a project, it’s worth looking at the Lomography Konstruktor F, a fun build-it-yourself kit that gives you all the parts you need to assemble a fully functional 35mm SLR film camera in a matter of hours. There’s no need for glue or anything else – like an Ikea table, everything’s in the box, and there are a few extra screws for the inevitable moment one disappears through a gap in the floorboards. Be aware, though – this is not a Meccano kit. It’s pretty complicated and will take a good long time, and we wouldn’t recommend it as a project for kids younger than mid-teens. The Konstruktor F also comes with stickers, allowing it to be customised as the user pleases, and once it’s ready it functions by and large pretty well – though the controls are a little fiddly and the top-placed viewfinder might give you a crick in the neck. The finished SLR is plasticky, crude and basic by any standards, but it's an excellent grounding in how film cameras actually work.
If your kids have reached the age where photography has become part of their coursework, you need a more serious camera. Even here, though, you won't want to spend a fortune on a camera that might get forgotten about in a year, or crushed under a pile of rucksacks in the back of the school bus. For this section, we've picked two DSLRs, a mirrorless camera... and wildcard!
A beginner DSLR that is a great camera for photography students
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F (DX) | Screen: 3in, 921,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD) | User level: Beginner
The Nikon D3500 has a brilliant ‘Guide’ shooting mode that acts as a fully interactive tutorial on photography, delivered via the rear LCD screen. It explains how, when and why to use different camera settings for best effect, simply and efficiently. But D3500 can also be used in fully manual mode, so it's ideal for photography students learning how camera settings work and why. It's not as sophisticated as the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D, but it's not as expensive, either, and there is a huge range of Nikon lenses you can use with it. The overall image quality and performance is very good, and the 5fps burst rate is sporty for an entry-level DSLR. If you like the look of it, we advise getting this camera bundled with the Nikon AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens – other kit lenses are available which might bring down the price, but this is the best one to go for.
Read more: Nikon D3500 review
Great introduction to proper photography for bigger kids
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens: Canon EF-S | LCD: 3in touchscreen, vari-angle 1.04m dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p | User level: Teenager to adult
OK, so you may not initially think of a DSLR when considering a camera for the kids, but this option from Canon certainly ticks three key boxes in being small, light and easy to use for school age children and students. A great all-round choice is the relatively recent EOS Rebel SL3/EOS 250D which boasts great autofocus and 4K video. It also features some grown-up specs, 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 colors. It's not the cheapest Canon DSLR but it's our favorite for size, features and long-term usefulness and the best camera for kids starting in college.
Read more: Canon EOS Rebel SL3/EOS 250D review