So, you're looking for the best camera for kids? Perhaps your child is showing an interest in taking pictures on your smartphone or tablet, and you think you might have a budding David Bailey or Annie Leibovitz on your hands. By all means, nurture that gift! There are loads of great cameras out there for children, some of which are expressly for younger people, and others that just happen to suit them.
If you're picking the best camera for kids, the first thing to think about is the age of the child for whom you're buying. If you're shopping for a toddler, then something brightly colored and simplistic is the way to go, but beyond that things start to get more complicated. Is this a holiday distraction or a tool for a student? That will affect what kind of camera you buy.
Our guide is divided up into four sections. First we've got a couple of toddler-appropriate cameras that are great for pre-school little ones. Next, we round up our favorite instant cameras that allow kids to instantly print their images. Next, a few family favorites good for holidays and days out; these include some tough cameras that are waterproof and can take a few knocks. Lastly, we pick some more sophisticated cameras for students.
The best camera for kids in 2021
We've included just a couple of cameras in this section. This is 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.
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.
This 8 megapixel camera is designed for kids aged around 4 to 8, and comes with a decent set of features to keep the curious mind occupied. It has an 8 megapixel camera, but still video quality is reduced to a very low-res 320x240 pixels. An appeal of this model is that it comes supplied with a waterproof housing, that can be used at depths of up to three meters (10 feet) – but you do need to check the housing is secured properly before diving into the pool! Another fiddly operation is inserting and removing the optional microSD card - but this does at least mean that the user can take lots and lots of pictures. Available in bluish or pinkish color to suit different tastes!
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.
In addition, instant cameras are a fantastic way to help occupy younger kids with a tactile and fun project. Why check out our full guide to the best instant cameras, or pick up an Instax photo album and have a fun afternoon sorting through your child's prints together – after all, it's never too early to get them used to a comprehensive file sorting system!
Embracing retro cool while still incorporating modern-day features, the Polaroid Now is a fantastic introduction to the charms and quirks of analogue image-making. Previous cameras in this resurrected Polaroid line have included the OneStep 2 and OneStep+, but this one out-shoots them both with better image quality and an improved flash. On the flip side it's a little simpler in operation with fewer specialist modes, so while this might frustrate serious photographers, it makes it a perfect choice for kids. Images look fantastic with a single tap of the big, bright, unmissable button, thanks to the improved metering system ticking away behind the scenes, and the prints make for a perfect display in any home (the only downside being that they're a little costly per pack).
Read more: Polaroid Now review
Kodak's Mini Shot 3 is a tidy little digital instant camera that's great for anyone who doesn't want anything too complicate. It houses a proper little printer that uses Kodak's 4PASS all-in-one cartridges to spit out little square prints, 3 inches by 3 inches. The colors pop a good deal better than some other instant cameras. The camera overall is pretty cheap, and running it isn't too expensive either, making it a good option if you want to shoot instant on a budget. It also produces 10MP digital photos that you can save via Bluetooth on the app (and you do have to do it this way; there's no internal storage). A cheap option that's good fun for anyone - and thanks to having a digital camera, can bee a lot cheaper to run than normal instant cameras.
One of the easiest Instax cameras to use, this new version of the trusty Mini series is a great choice for kids. Its Auto Exposure mode produces great results in a range of lighting conditions, and though it can be a bit temperamental sometimes, you'll likely be mostly pleased with the images it spits out. Instax prints look great as ever, small and full of fun, and loading them is as easy as it ever was. The camera is powered by two regular AA batteries, and the flash reliably gives every image a burst of light (and we do mean every image; there's no way to disable it). Inexpensive, user-friendly and full of fun, kids big and small will have a great time with this one.
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.
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 (known 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.
Read more: The best point-and-shoot cameras
This is a no-frills family compact, that looks the part, even though can be bought at a really low price. Time has left the specification of this camera by – as proven by its low-resolution 720P video shooting. But with a 20 megapixel sensor and an stabilized 5x optical zoom it is more than capable of producing pictures that most smartphone cameras will not get in as close to. There are some neat extra touches too – such as Smile Shutter Technology which takes a picture when your subject is looking suitably happy.
Tough cameras are a great choice for kids because, well, they're tough. They don't mind being dropped in a pond, thrown against a wall, coated in mushy peas or whatever else a child might think up. Case in point, the Fujifilm FinePix XP140, which also earns points for being less expensive than other tough cameras on the market. It's waterproof down to 25m, shockproof against drops of 1.8m, freezeproof, and dustproof. Perfect for days on the beach or any kind of holiday you can think of. It also takes pretty decent pictures, making it a good choice for a slightly older kid with a burgeoning interest in photography. Granted, the 4K at 15p is extremely ropey and not worth bothering with, but most kids probably don't care.
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.
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 more recent models in the Hero range, but still with more than enough functionality to capture fantastic images and videos. While this older model 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 children tackling new adventures and outdoor pursuits.
Read more: The best GoPro cameras
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, and a bargain mirrorless camera...
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 as it offers vibration reduction to cut down on shaky shots.
Read more: Nikon D3500 review
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 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