How To Choose A Digital Camera For Children
The top performers in our review are the VTech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Camera, the Gold Award winner; VTech Kidizoom Action Cam, the Silver Award winner; and VTech Kidizoom Camera Connect, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 digital cameras for children.
Photography is a great way for kids to learn about the world around them and express creativity at an early age. Unfortunately, most cameras are fragile and not well equipped for the inevitable bumps and drops associated with being a child's toy. And cameras that are tough enough are often too complex for young kids to understand.
Digital cameras for children overcome this issue by offering very simple designs and tough bodies that can absorb falls, nicks and bumps. These features, in addition to price point, almost always take precedence over image quality. For this reason, you should focus on the overall quality of the product much more than image quality specifications.
However, it's important to understand that, for the most part, cameras in this category are toys, and their images are rarely more than another feature to keep your kid engaged as he or she toddles about, photographing things. Many parents buy these cameras with certain image quality and performance expectations and are disappointed when these expectations aren't met. To learn more about the various features these cameras offer, check out our articles on digital cameras for children.
Instead, parents should focus on quality of construction and durability safeguards as well as additional features and games. Only when these other concerns are addressed should you look at resolution. That way, you're much more likely to buy a model that's interesting enough to keep kids engaged and tough enough to last.
DIGITAL CAMERAS FOR CHILDREN: WHAT WE TESTED, WHAT WE FOUND
The best kids cameras offer the unique benefits of simplicity, durability and appealing kid-friendly designs. While you could simply give your kids an old digital camera or cell phone, it's unlikely that it would fulfil all of these needs. Luckily, there are plenty of cameras built specifically with kids in mind. We've tested the top 10 kid-specific digital cameras based on the following categories to determine which designs work best.
Durability: Fit, Finish and Protective Features
For most parents, durability is the foremost factor to consider when purchasing a digital camera for children. After all, a camera with a cool design is only cool until it breaks.
Because of this, many cameras incorporate durability features into their designs to help prevent falls and absorb impacts when they happen.
The first thing we found is that many cameras feature rubberized bumpers, typically integrated into the grip. These bumpers cover vital areas and help to absorb shocks that could damage internal components. Cameras that include these bumpers got a higher durability score.
Some of the cameras on our lineup also come with removable waterproof housings. These housings increase the durability of your camera by making them unsusceptible to water damage. Cameras with optional waterproof housings received a slightly higher durability score because they provide shock and water protection. However, keep in mind that the waterproof housing is less comfortable to hold, and you lower the camera's durability if you remove the housing.
Ports for connecting USB cables and transferring data to and from your camera are chinks in the armor of a kid's digital camera. Be it dirt, dust, water or anything else your kid happens to get into – these ports are the easiest way for foreign substances to enter a camera and wreak havoc on its internal components. Many manufacturers counter this weakness with port covers. Cameras whose ports were left uncovered took a hit in durability score.
While protective features like rubberized bumpers, port covers and waterproof housings significantly increase the durability of a camera, it's also important to consider the quality of construction and materials. We analyzed each model on our lineup for potential breaking points, weak materials or below-average assembly. Cameras that made use of cheap plastics, easily breakable parts or questionable craftsmanship received lower marks for fit and finish.
Design: A Kids Camera Should Be Easy to Use
Features, games and image quality are all important aspects of a digital camera to keep in mind as you sift through your options. But the fact is that features simply don't matter unless kids can figure out how to use them. To test this, we used a focus group of children to play with each camera.
During this test, some cameras clearly outperformed others, offering kid-friendly navigation and simple features. Cameras that required more effort, or that repeatedly frustrated kids, received lower marks in this category.
Performance: Keep Your Kids Engaged
Many factors went into our performance scoring. Specifications like resolution, digital zoom and video recording capabilities all play a large role in determining just how well a camera can perform its intended purpose. Of course, it often takes more than a cold analysis of numbers to determine the degree to which kids will actually enjoy a particular model.
In order to learn how children react to each model, we again turned to our trusty group of kid-testers. The results were not surprising. Cameras that did well in our tests offer good imaging features and easy access to quality games and effects. For the most part, kids enjoyed the photography features more than games and other extras.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
WHAT ELSE TO LOOK FOR IN A DIGITAL CAMERA FOR CHILDREN
Aside from the things that we tested for, many other aspects of design, performance and features influenced our rankings. In order to get a camera for kids that suits your needs, you should also take these factors into account.
Other Design Factors
Ignoring aesthetics, the designs of kids' digital cameras are typically similar to one another. Rounded edges, simple buttons and a small screen could accurately describe almost any camera on the market. The two main differentiating design features are expandable storage and the presence of a waterproof housing.
Storage capacity is an important factor to consider. Cameras with expandable storage offer a slot for an SD card, much like a standard digital camera. For this reason, they can potentially save a far greater number of images than the average 550. If you have an SD slot on your computer, this also makes for easier file transfer.
Cameras in this category make use of small sensors that can't produce good images in low light. Some cameras make up for this by offering a built-in flash. The flash helps to provide enough light to produce images in circumstances that would be too dark otherwise.
It's also a good idea to look out for cameras that offer video recording. This gives your kids another way to express creativity with their cameras. Shooting video on one of these cameras is essentially the same as taking photos. All you have to do is switch modes and you're good to go.
Automatic shutoff is perhaps the most important additional feature for parents. Cameras equipped with this mechanism will automatically power down after a period of inactivity – usually between 30 seconds and two minutes. Since children's toys are often mistakenly left on, this feature is essential to getting the most use out of your batteries.
DIGITAL CAMERAS FOR CHILDREN: OUR VERDICT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The most important thing we learned about the category of kids' digital cameras is that many of them simply aren't worth your time. They're often either poorly made, lacking in resolution or simply not fun enough to keep kids occupied for more than a few minutes. There are, however, a few models out there that offer the durability, features and design qualities necessary to make a camera worthwhile.
Our top three models come from VTech, which offers by far the best options available. Not only are they the most durable and feature-rich cameras, but they also produce the best photographs and video. These three models all have slight variances that make each one unique, and worth considering individually as you look for the best digital camera for your child.
Our Bronze Award winner is the VTech Kidizoom Camera Connect. It's the unofficial base model from VTech. It offers the same durability and most of the same games and features of the others, but it lacks any sort of differentiating benefits. Our top two products, on the other hand, offer unique features that make them stand out.
The Kidizoom Action Cam, for example, comes with a waterproof housing and mounts that kids can use to attach the camera to a skateboard, bicycle or whatever. While this camera can capture stills, it's certainly more video oriented than anything else on our lineup. Nonetheless, it still includes the fun photo editing effects, games and features you'll find in other VTech models.
Our Gold Award winner, the Kidizoom Spin and Smile Camera, goes back to a more traditional camera feel. It's similar to the Kidizoom Camera Connect in that it's durable and feature rich, but the Spin and Smile offers superior imaging performance and a special lens/sensor element that can rotate to face forward or back. This makes it easy for kids to take photos of themselves and friends. Due to its category-leading durability, performance and fun features, we found the Spin and Smile to be the favorite choice among parents and kids alike.