Does the Camera Matter?

Whether your child has expressed interest or if you would like to introduce them to photography, choosing the right camera will make a difference to their overall experience. You will want to take into account their age, maturity, and the ability to comprehend exposure.

When you first learn how to hammer a nail into the wall, you aren’t given a nail gun. The same thinking should apply with photography. Leveling up your gear as your skillset grows is a fact of life for most photographers- even the youngest ones. So, while it seems counterproductive to buy a camera that only shoots in auto, if your child cannot comprehend the exposure triangle, then the best camera now is one that will allow him or her to focus on seeing the basics: light, color, and composition.

Making the Investment

You must consider the likelihood that it will be dropped, may get wet, and might even be left behind. This holds true for a photographer of any age. Warranties will help in certain situations, but many times they won’t cover a child’s lack of care.

Spend the money when your child can appreciate its financial value. When you’re 3-8, $30-60 is a large amount of money. When you’re a pre-teen, $100-$400 is huge. After you have your own job, there is a whole new appreciation for money at all levels.

Types of Cameras

chart to show pros and cons of different cameras available for children

The chart covers the types of cameras available and some categories of cameras offer a range of features at different price points. This includes opting to spend additional money on a better camera app for phones and tablets.

If you are going to invest in a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, shop used in the pro market or look for deals in the semi-pro line. You can get a better camera with more growth potential than the entry level models, if you time your purchases right.

    1. Camera Phone or Tablet
      •  pros: digital and easy to operate, editing happens in the device
      • cons: expensive and VERY risky if it is your personal communication device, limited in features, image quality may be poor, and harder to teach/practice exposure without a pro-style app
    2. Kid’s Digital Camera
      • pros: teaches general camera components and photography basics, durable and easy (great for preschool age child), edit in camera
      • cons: usually bulky, limited in features, image quality is poor, and your child will grow out of it in 1-3 years
    3. Polaroid or Instamatic
      • pros: teaches how to shoot with purpose, teaches general camera components and photography basics, easy to operate
      • cons: expensive (film/development fees) and limited in features/quality
    4. Point-and-Shoot (Includes Disposables)
      • pros: more expensive models will allow you to shoot in many modes including manual to learn exposure, has the features to produce a quality image (possibly RAW), small and easy to bring anywhere, some are waterproof and more durable than others, digital option is great to save money on film
      • cons: can be expensive, possible film/replacement cost, limited by the quality of the zoom lens and smaller sensor sizes (digital)
    5. (D)SLR and Mirrorless
      •  pros: the right camera will allow you to shoot in many modes including manual to learn exposure, select a semi-pro version to allow for lots of growth, has the features to produce a high-quality image in RAW, digital option is great to save money in the longterm on film expenses
      • cons: expensive (body + lenses + film/cards + batteries), rather large to carry (SLR body will be larger and heavier than a mirrorless camera)

Where to Shop

If you’re shopping for new cameras in the realm of tablets, kid’s cameras, Instant, and Point-and-Shoot, any “big box” retailer will be fine to use. Find the best deal by checking out sites like slickdeals.com to make sure you’re taking advantage of the best offers.

Like I mentioned before, shopping used from reputable dealers is the best way to make an initial investment in a (D)SLR or Mirrorless camera. Locally, Kiwi Camera, Harmon Photo, and Colonial Photo and Hobby all sell used cameras and lenses. Nationally and Internationally, I go to B&H Photo and Adorama for both new and used equipment.

To learn more about teaching your child photography, check out more posts in our blog!