PROS / A rotating camera makes for easy selfies.
CONS / It has a relatively low storage capacity.
VERDICT / The Spin & Smile Camera has everything you need from a kids' digital camera. It's durable, feature-rich and easy for kids to grasp.
The best digital cameras for children are those that are durable, easy to use and engaging. Out of the 10 digital cameras that we chose and tested, the VTech Kidizoom Spin & Smile Camera presented the best combination of these aspects. Although it's not perfect, it represents the best choice for most kids.
In our testing, we found the Spin & Smile is the most consistently durable and feature-rich camera in the lineup, and it produced some of the highest-quality images. For this reason, it is the recipient of our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for kids' digital cameras.
Durability is the biggest issue when dealing with digital cameras for kids, so we knew from the start that our number one product would have to be a tough one. And tough it is: The Spin & Smile camera features rubberized bumpers, covered ports and more. In fact, only one camera ranked higher in durability.
Cheap construction and materials can be a real problem when it comes to toys of all kinds, and the same can be said for digital cameras. For this reason, we carefully inspected every corner and seam for weaknesses, inaccuracies and or cheap components. In this regard, the Spin & Smile is excellent.
It is easily one of the best-constructed cameras available, with a design that's precise and gives the impression of longevity. The parts of the camera that are likely to be subject to the most abuse are rubberized, so even dropping the camera isn't likely to cause much damage. A good example of this is the viewfinder eyecups which, despite being raised from the camera's surface, cannot be broken off. But the grips on either side of the camera provide the most protection, as they are raised from the rest of the camera body on all sides to absorb impacts.
Ports for transferring photos or charging your camera can also be a weakness for digital cameras. If left uncovered, they can be compromised by dust or water, which can cause your camera to malfunction. The Spin & Smile has two ports: one for an SD card, and the other for a USB connection. To help you avoid damage to your camera, each port is covered with a rubber cap that fits tightly in place and keeps most foreign substances on the outside of your camera.
Ease of use is an important factor in a camera for children. Whether your goal is to teach your child about photography or to simply keep them occupied, being able to use the camera easily is vital. For this reason, we thoroughly tested the Spin & Smile using a focus group made up of children aged 4 to 11.
In this testing, we found that kids consistently gravitated toward the Spin & Smile and tended to get the hang of it sooner than they did competing models. Much of this seems related to its comprehensive controls, which are far superior to most other options. In addition to its variety of clearly marked, useful buttons, the menus are easy to navigate.
The Spin & Smile requires four AA batteries for operation, which is standard for cameras at this level. It also has an internal capacity of 350 images, which is actually somewhat less than usual. Fortunately, there is a micro-SD slot that you can use for expanded storage.
Other interesting features include the viewfinders and a built-in flash disguised as a lens on the front of the camera. The two viewfinders are great for kids, as kids can peer through them and line up shots accurately without having to close one eye.
Ultimately, digital cameras for kids are toys, and like all toys, they're made with one major focus: fun. A camera that's fun is a camera that performs its intended function well. In our analysis of the Spin & Smile, we were consistently impressed with the quality and quantity of extra games, options and fun features.
In particular, the Spin & Smile's rotating camera caught our eye. This feature allows kids to face the camera either forward for taking photos normally or toward themselves for capturing selfies, which can be a very useful feature. The reason for its usefulness is less about the actual images than it is about what it allows kids to do with the camera.
One of the camera's best features is the ability to add funny effects to your images in the camera. Most of these effects are overlays that distort faces or make people into silly characters. With the front-facing camera, kids can use all of these features easily, without needing help from anyone else. They can simply snap a photo of themselves and get creative with it.
Although digital cameras for children are toys, they're also cameras, and so it's impossible to discuss performance without touching on image quality. It should be noted that image quality is generally fairly low among cameras in this category. This is mostly related to the low-resolution sensors in these cameras.
The Spin & Smile offers 2 megapixels of resolution, which is actually pretty good for this type of camera. The images aren't very large or detailed, but for the purposes of this camera, they suffice. They are large enough for all the features and functions that this camera offers, but you're not going to be capturing anything spectacular.
Help & Support
VTech offers a 90-day warranty on the Spin & Smile that covers you against any defects in materials or construction. Although some cameras on our lineup offer one-year warranties, these cameras are much less reliable and durable than VTech's. So if you're looking for a purchase that you can be confident in, don't be deterred by a lesser warranty.
In addition to warranty support, VTech offers a user manual and support staff that you can reach by phone or email for help with other problems. Some companies also include special software with each camera that you can use to sort and organize images. The Spin & Smile does not. This shouldn't be an issue, though, as you can easily find free photo-organizing software online or elsewhere.
A digital camera for children should be engaging, durable and easy to use. In our testing, the VTech Kidizoom Spin & Smile Camera has proven itself to be among the best in each of these categories. It's simple enough to get the hang of quickly but has enough features to keep kids occupied, and thanks to its covered ports and rubberized components, it'll last a while too.