Our Best Value pick, the VTech KidiZoom Action Cam HD, is out of stock. In the meantime, we recommend the VTech KidiZoom Duo DX Digital Selfie Camera with MP3 Player (available at Amazon) as a good value alternative.
A good camera taps into a child’s creative side and teaches kids to explore their world and observe it at a deeper level. Giving them a camera to experiment with encourages them to take a moment to look at the world with more detail and care, and creates a visual diary of what they’ve seen and how they’ve looked at the world at a moment in their lifetime.
During our testing, durability was the key. We took into account which cameras could stand up to the rigors of clumsy hands, and a bit of youthful carelessness. While some of these cameras are better suited to kids that are a bit older, even the most responsible child has their mishaps, and a mishap with an expensive luxury toy is bound to cause a meltdown in anyone. Usability was also important—we wanted a camera that could be exciting right out of the box; picture quality was, of course, important; and, finally, a camera that is fun to use made for high marks.
Here’s to seeing the world through your kids’ eyes—and for getting your cell phone back.
Here are the best digital cameras for kids we tested ranked, in order:
Olympus Tough TG-6
VTech Kidizoom Action Cam HD
VTech Kidizoom Duo DX
Kodak Smile Instant Print
Nikon Coolpix W300
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS80
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Olympus Tough TG-6
VTech KidiZoom Action Cam HD
How We Tested
What to Consider Before Buying a Digital Camera for Kids
The Olympus Tough TG-6 surprised us. The price point on this one made us fearful of testing it to the level that it promised to perform, but when my son tripped and fell on our concrete patio, dropping the camera and popping off the lens housing, we found ourselves fully testing the durability of this camera to a degree we never intended. The lens house did get disengaged (it’s meant to, in order to accommodate additional lenses), but it popped back in easily.
We were also surprised that this was the most intuitive of any of the cameras we tried—blowing even the kiddie cameras out of the water. While there are, of course, additional features to learn that add complexity to this camera, if you want a frustration-free start to photo-taking this one allows impatient kids to simply hit the “on” button and they are ready to shoot. The zoom buttons were easy to master for a child and the video button made perfect sense for him to start with, without my help.
What was really impressive was the resolution of underwater photos was so clear, vibrant, and crisp that even a 6-year-old marveled at it, commenting that it took much better photos than many others we tried. If you want to really get the most out of the camera, you certainly want to consult the manual and mess around with the settings for a bit, but we loved that this camera was so instantly gratifying that our son was immediately hooked and even interested to learn more. We imagine that the ease of use would hook an older child, allowing them to dive in immediately and motivating them to stretch themselves without confusion and frustration setting them back.
If this camera is bought for a kid that’s ready to get technical, they’ll love the bright wide angle setting, which is at the top of its class for waterproof compact cameras, making for excellent underwater and low-light photography. You can also upgrade this camera, with lens adaptor packs, including a fish-eye, a telephoto and a ring flash adapter for macro photography. This feature was unique to this camera versus other compact waterproof cameras we’ve tried, increasing its longevity.
If your kid is just too young to get a camera in the price range of the Tough, this is a respectable runner up for the littlest kids. It’s durable and fun and kids get a kick out of the additional components that come with it, including a helmet mount and a grippy handle that allows them to stick the camera into creepy rock crevices and stagnant tide pools with a reach of their arm.
It also has a unique look to it that made our son feel pretty darn cool while using it. It’s better than the Tough for young kid selfies, in that it’s just easier to grip and hold steady for young hands which, let’s be honest, is a huge draw for little kids. It also comes with a durable hard case that stood up just fine when it was accidentally flung out of our son’s backpack into the middle of our street. Nothing is going to damage this camera.
The biggest con for us was the added features. While having the ability to add gifs and filters is certainly fun, the video games on the camera detracted from the point of the product. Our son liked taking pictures, but soon picture-taking was secondary. He stopped taking photos a couple days into testing and for the remainder of our trial with this product he mostly used it as a video game player.
Hi, I'm Janelle Randazza. For many years I helped cast some of your favorite reality TV shows, including "Project Runway", "Bar Rescue", and "Naked and Afraid" before I took time away to raise our son. Prior to that I was a newspaper reporter in the Boston area and I wrote a book about the perils of social networking sites.
In both careers I was expected to snap respectable photos with mediocre camera equipment, so it’s a specialty of mine to find cameras that are durable, easy to use, and capture life beautifully. A perfectionist at heart, I always think I’m doing this parenting thing wrong and am always searching for evidenced-based ways I can do better. My reviews and articles are influenced by my burning need to dig deeply into every bit of research on a subject, and try to come out as an informed and (whether my kid agrees right now or not) fun mom that makes childhood safe and exciting. Time will tell if my kid thinks I even came close.
We tested the cameras with both my son and some of our neighborhood friends—and we tested rigorously. Our son is only six years old, so he can be a bit clumsy—a huge plus in that most of our durability tests came about organically. He even came up with a few tests we didn’t think of. Honestly, I was apprehensive about some of the cameras sent to us, but all stood up to the kid-test, which included dropping them on our hardwood floor, our driveway, a sidewalk, or our patio, from a height of about three feet.
We also recently got a splash pad and a wading pool to get through the summer and many of the cameras that claimed to be water resistant were tested against those in one way or another. The ones that didn’t profess to be water proof were kept to the side and were sincerely splashed to test their “splash-proof” claims. The cameras that claimed to be water proof were tested as such. There was even an embarrassing test of when our son read “water proof” on the box we were storing them in and put those cameras on the bottom of our pool for what may have been an hour… maybe longer (thankfully we had separated the waterproof ones from the ones that didn’t claim to live up to that promise). Suffice to say, there was rigorous testing of each camera’s claims. Every single one of these cameras lived to tell the tale.
We also let our son try to turn on, start, and snap a photo with each camera on his own committing to only intervene if he showed significant frustration. To our surprise, he was able to do so with just about every camera we tested, only showing struggle with the most advanced cameras, the two Lumex (which was to be expected for a six year old), and the VTechs, which—on first use—default to a setup screen that requires a parents’ assistance for younger kids.
What to Consider Before Buying a Digital Camera for Kids
The Age of Your Child
There are so many factors and variables that go into choosing the “best” camera for a child. For example the VTech Kidizoom may make the most sense for a small child, while a teenager who wants to embark on “influencing” their high school peers might do better with something more expensive.
How Much They'll Use It
The most important thing to consider before buying a digital camera is how much you think your child will use a camera, and for what purpose. If, for example, you child will likely just snap dozens of photos a day and load them up onto the Cloud, a camera with eight to 10 megapixels might be fine. However, if they intend to print out large format copies of their pictures for art shows or gifts, you’ll likely want a camera with 12 or more megapixels to improve the print quality.
How Much to Spend
Try to determine if you think your child’s interest is a passing thought and they’ll only grab their camera occasionally or if you are looking at cameras to encourage a passion. When you consider that, you’ll be able to make a better decision on how much to spend and what sort of specs to look for.
Other Digital Cameras for Kids We Tested
VTech KidiZoom Duo DX
In the end, most kids really just want to take dozens upon dozens of selfies. This camera has all of the aforementioned features of the KidiZoom Camera Pix, but is a step up in that it features both front and rear-facing cameras, allowing for selfies and group shots galore. This is a fun little camera with a self-filming video option too, for any young and budding influencer—I was actually amazed at how many times my 6-year-old filmed himself prat-falling.
This also has double the photo effects and the games are even more exciting—some are even motion controlled. Overall it takes photos at the same level as the Camera Pix and the video games are just as distracting. This one comes with parental controls to limit the amount of time your child can spend playing games though, which may tip the scales a bit more in its favor. It’s a bit more money than the Camera Pix but, of the two, this the one we favored.
For a low price point and sturdy kids’ camera, this is a popular and basic option. It’s incredibly durable and stands up to just about any bumps, drops, or “oopses” a kid can throw at it. With a 2.0 mega pixel camera and a bit of a lag-time when shooting, it doesn’t take the best photos, but it certainly provides a boatload of fun with the digital zoom lens and with photo collage templates.
Like most of the VTech cameras, this one has over 30 photo effects that will get your kid feeling creative and clever and it also comes with game apps. The game apps seem to be the real draw for kids and are a distraction from the real use of the camera. My kid and his friends loved this camera, but at the end of the day they stopped using it for photos after 30 minutes and he hasn’t taken photos with it since, instead using this camera as a makeshift GameBoy. In short, this is a great little gift but you’ll probably find your kid using it more for the video game feature than for photo-taking. Kids love it though, so don’t let the lack of interest in the actual reason for the product deter you.
A nice feature to this camera and to the KidiZoom Duo are the dual viewfinders, which can help budding young photographers get used to looking through a small window and can help them figure out which eye is stronger for framing photos. For little ones too small to look through the finder with ease, they can also use the screen on the back to position each picture before taking a snap.
This is such a fun camera. We love that it combines both digital photography with instant print photography. For younger kids, who aren’t great at holding still or understanding photo framing, this camera teaches them without them even realizing it. Photos are taken on the digital screen, captured on the SD card and then kids can choose to save, delete, or print them. This is a really fun camera and our son loved the ability to preview his photos and select which ones he wanted to print and which ones he didn’t—something that puts this camera above other instant cameras that don’t have the digital option. There’s also a photo booth option that lets kids take two photos to print side by side on one sheet, four filters, a timer, and a pretty effective flash should they need one.
While there are lots of kid-friendly cameras with an LCD viewfinder screen on the market, because kids have to go through and pick the right photo for printing, they start to think a bit about standing still and really deciding which photo looks good. We found this to be a really smart and fun option for a younger kid who you actually want to teach photography to, but who you aren’t ready to spend a lot of money on. We also like that front of the camera slides shut, protecting the lens. It gave us peace of mind that the camera would have a bit of extra protection from drops and from crumbs and toys at the bottom of a backpack, and it was a step we could remind our son of when teaching him to care for a camera.
This is also a camera that’s easy to hold: one side is smooth while the other has grooves—those grooves are not only a cute style feature they allow for a better grip when small hands are running around excitedly snapping pictures. Our one complaint is that the grooves are on the “button side”, so if your child uses the grooved side to hold onto tightly, they may inadvertently find themselves pressing the menu or print buttons.
The one issue we had is the camera itself isn’t fantastic. It’s only 10 megapixels, so a smartphone takes better photos but if you are tired of giving your child your cell phone, they are going to have way more fun with this camera anyway. The camera is also very slow to take pictures and if you have a kid that loves to take photos of the family pet or hasn’t yet developed a steady hand there are going to be a lot of blurry shots to wade through before they find the perfect picture to print.
Waterproof, shockproof, and freezeproof, this camera can go anywhere and live to tell the tale. A fun and novel feature is the “action control” button on the side of the camera—simply shake the camera and it scrolls it down to the function you want, so you don’t have to fumble with controls with wet, sweaty, or mittened hands.
We also like that the COOLPIX W300 features Nikon’s new SnapBridge technology which works over Bluetooth and WiFi to provide wireless links between the camera and your smartphone. WiFi-equipped cameras allow you to control the camera remotely and download photos to your phone, what’s cool about this camera is that you can transmit images to your phone in real time as you continue shooting using the Bluetooth connection—making it a really fun camera for kids who take their sports photography seriously.
Our only complaint, really, was that the menu is a little hard to muddle through and set up for younger or impatient kids—making it a little hard to unbox and go—but if you have a patient kid who reads directions thoroughly (or if you don’t mind doing that for them), this camera is a great choice.
If you thought you couldn’t get your serious photographer a camera rugged enough to endure the rigors of childhood and adolescence—think again. If you have a serious budding photographer in your midst, this is the camera you want to surprise them with. This camera will stand up to splashes and dust, making it perfect for a kid who wants to explore outdoor photography or wants to take a camera with them on any camping trip or backwoods hike.
Typically, if you are searching for a rugged camera, it won’t have a very good lens or if you have a camera with a good lens you certainly won’t be able to trust a child with it. And, usually, if you have a DSLR camera that can take any sort of respectable photo, it’s going to be heavy and a pain to lug around. The Lumix FZ300 defies all rules and expectations in that it is both rugged and lightweight, and it comes with a 24X (25-600mm) full-range F2.8 aperture Leica lens that takes gorgeous, crisp photos.
While we are touting the toughness of this camera, it’s still a DSLR that should be handled with care, so we wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 12 years old. That being said, this camera would serve any kid well who has a real interest in photography well through high school and beyond.
For the kid that’s way too talented to be stifled by a phone camera, this compact with a superzoom lens travels well and takes gorgeous pictures while doing so. The body is well-built, strong, and sturdy—so if you splurge on this for your older child you won’t soon get a teary phone call about a broken camera.
This camera would be an amazing buy for the more technical kid who has a great eye and wants a feature-packed camera. We see this as the perfect camera to give to a kid who might be taking a semester to be a high school exchange student who fully wants to chronicle their time abroad, the school news reporter who wants to capture dynamic stills and videos with a compact camera that travels well, or the kid on the traveling sports team who wants to get lots of terrific story-telling shots.
This camera does so much more than a cell phone camera and everything it does it does remarkably well. It boasts an incredible 20 megapixels for vibrant and gorgeous photos that print large for the kid that’s interested in photography as a print art. It also has a flip screen that’s great for kids who like to take selfies or group shots.
While the Nikon and Olympus we reviewed are for the active photographer, this camera is packed with cool features that are for the more creative photographer that likes to post-process shots to create unique storytelling through still photos. One such feature is the “creative panorama function,” which allows you to take consecutive shots and overlay them. This camera also comes with 18 filter effects including selfie-perfecting ones, like “slimming” and “makeup” effects.
This camera is bursting at the seams with great features. The only downside, really, is just how good the Lumix FZ300 is. They’ve made that camera so light and sturdy that if we could only get our kid one camera we’d recommend getting them one they can grow into. Still, this is a camera for the modern kid and we can see a more technical personality where this is just the right camera to pique their interest in a lifelong passion.
Compact, affordable, colorful, and cute. This was the camera that the neighborhood kids grabbed first for its candy-colored and color-blocked style. At under $50 it’s certainly affordable for someone just wading into photography.
This camera is as analog as you can get, without actually being analog. It is a point-and-shoot and a fun novelty camera that looks cute and is light and compact, but—for us—it defeated the purpose of having a digital camera overall. There is no LCD screen for previewing photos, no filters to get creative with, and you aren’t even given the option of if you want to use a flash or not—leaving a lot to chance when it comes to photo-taking.
What that means is, there isn’t really anything for a kid to learn when using this camera. So much is left to chance in the final photo product that there wasn’t really much to teach, but our child did get a kick out of the two options for picture mode: color or black and white. He also, of course, loved the instant gratification of the in-camera printer.
While the look of it is a major selling point, the feel of it is so smooth that it tends to slide out of small hands easily. And while it did hold up to being dropped, the construction of it feels like we may have gotten lucky and it could pop open at any time.
In all, while this might be the best-looking camera of the bunch for little kids, if you have a little extra money to spend, the Smile is the far better option.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.