Cameras For Kids

Our middle son is just over three years old, and has a healthy interest in cameras.

Which usually manifests as him creeping into his parents’ bedroom, grabbing a camera from a shelf and running off with it laughing.

Beyond this, he does actually want to use them to make photos, and knows how to aim and shoot, most of the time.

The purist in me – who doesn’t much like using a phone as a camera and has gone through dozens of cameras in the last decade finding the select few I love holding and using – is all for encouraging him, and teaching him more with a “proper”, old school (digital) camera.

My DSLRs, small as they are, are still too awkward and bulky for his little hands, so something like the old Ricoh R6 I have seems a good option.

However, even on a simple point and shoot mode, there are generally too many buttons to press, moving parts to damage (the lens telescopes out quite far from the body at start up, even if you don’t zoom) and glass to put fingers on – the aforementioned lens is quite large and easy to put tiny fingers over.

His older sister has a dedicated kids camera with chunky rubberised grips which has survived many a drop, but again it’s more complicated than it needs to be, and isn’t that great for picture taking unless you hold it really steady, in good light.

So I’m thinking a better option might be a phone camera.

Given that our son is very competent on an iPad, and on a phone would only need to aim and tap the screen, then tap the image in the corner to see the picture just taken (surprisingly so much more intuitive for a child – and perhaps an adult – than pressing a button with a little triangle (Play) symbol on, with a regular camera), it seems silly to look beyond this route.

On this occasion, my urge to educate him with a “proper” camera and not “just” a camera phone is overridden by the obvious practicalities and fun of a phone in three year old hands.

So I’ve charged up my old iPhone (5C), will remove anything on it that might be pressed in error and see how our son gets on with it around the house and garden.

I’m keen to hear about your experiences in encouraging the kids in your life to photograph. Have any tried your own cameras? Have you bought them a dedicated kids camera for themselves, or something else? Or just given them an old phone (or bought them their own) to try?

As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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18 thoughts on “Cameras For Kids”

  1. If your son is using an iPad he already has a camera. Have you showed him how it works?

    My father told me that I started looking through the viewfinder of his Leica and pressing the shutter when I liked what I saw at about age four. But I was strictly supervised. I didn’t have my own camera (a 127 Brownie) until I was almost eight.

    1. Thanks Doug, yes he has an Amazon Fire tablet, and we’ve switched the camera off actually as it’s not great, fills up the on board memory quickly and wants to link with Amazon Photos which I don’t want to. I might look at it again and see if I can simplify it.

      I can imagine any four year old handling their father’s Leica would be strictly supervised!

  2. It’s a shame 110 and/or APS film is no longer available, and processing is no longer cheap (at all). There are a plethora of cheap, old 110 and APS cameras out there that would be perfect for small hands, and it wouldn’t matter much if things got broken.

    1. P, so pleased you’re still reading. Yeh I had a couple of the later APS cameras, one was a Pentax, one a Canon. Never put film through them alas, but they were both beautiful little jewels of cameras. I don’t think any kind of film camera is an option (though my son likes playing with my Holga) due to the exorbitant cost these days.

      1. Yep, I’m still around. 🙂

        Regarding film cameras not being an option due to the absurd costs today, I completely understand. It’s a huge shame things are as they are. I strongly believe everyone’s introduction to photography should be with film. It sadly seems to me the manufacturers — at least part of them — are hell-bent on making sure that is no longer possible for the vast majority, though. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were trying to destroy film photography…

      2. Guess it comes down to money, and there isn’t enough in film photography for the manufacturers of film, even with the crazy prices now being charged.

        If film was available at £1 a roll and processing £2-3 a roll, like it was around 2012-15 when I was really into it, then I would still shoot film today. I can’t afford six or seven or 10 times that.

        On the upside, there are thousands of half decent digital cameras around now that can be picked up for pennies, for kids to play with and at least get familiar with the concept of making pictures, even if it’s not on film.

      3. I think there’s more than enough money in film photography. In fact, it’s rather staggering. Film is in a way better position today than it was back when you were shooting film and rolls could be had for £1 and developing done for £2-3. So, again, I believe it’s simply greed driving the situation today. I see absolutely no reason for today’s prices. If one starts breaking down the costs, while also taking into account film’s surging popularity and sales, things don’t add up at all. I believe we’re being massively exploited and taken advantage of. And I think anyone willing to actually look into the situation instead of simply believing corporate marketers would come to the same consensus I have.

        I’m glad there are plenty of affordable digital cameras out there. Unfortunately, shooting digital does nothing for me. I’m glad it does for you, but for me it just doesn’t. If I can’t shoot film, photography is dead.

  3. My three years old nephew covets my Fujifilm X100S, he doesn’t know how to turn it on but he knows how to press the shutter. The only thing is that when the photo appears he wants to slide as if it were a touchscreen. I am seeing what could be with that characteristics. I am happy I don’t use fuji instax xD

    1. It’s fascinating how kids find touchscreens so intuitive. Our son sometimes goes up to the main TV and tries to touch and swipe, as it’s what he knows from his iPad. He can’t see why we need a complicated clunky remote control, but to be honest nor do I, I control the TV via my phone wherever possible, like with Spotify! So much easier.

  4. My 3 y.o. looked interested in taking photos when I myself started photographing again, so I bought her an old beaten digital Canon IXUS at a thrift shop (finding a new battery was the most expensive part). She sometimes runs around with it and takes pictures in fully automatic mode, and even discovered how to view all the previous pictures. I also bought her a broken Zenit ET because she likes the tactile feeling of it (loud mirror clank, shutter lever, timer whizzing, even the back that opens). I don’t teach her anything about photography though, as she seems not too interested in the end result.

    1. Thanks Ilya. Yeh our daughter has a little IXUS he runs off with sometimes and enjoys that, I might try and find him a similar one next time I’m in a charity shop.

      A Zenit ET is a handful for a three year old, she must be strong ha ha! Those old Zenits are very satisfying in terms of the chunkiness and the loud sounds they make, proper mechanical compared with a near silent digital compact. My son likes my Holga for the same reason but that’s probably about 5% of the weight of a Zenit!

  5. When my oldest son was about 5 or so I gave him our Sony DSC-P200 which I had for about 9 years and was finally replacing with my first DSLR. He broke it within 5 minutes. A few months later I found another one cheap at at a pawn shop and he managed to break that one quickly as well. So my kids didn’t get cameras until more recently… my now 13yo has my K-50 (with DA 35 2.4, a very competent combo), my middle son has a Sony DSC-W80 and my youngest has a DLC-P200 (yup I keep buying those).
    Sometimes they like to use them but for the most part they don’t. I’ve been meaning to give my two K-S1 bodies to my younger sons but because they don’t show interest, I held back… they do occasional videos on a youtube channel they have with our meighboor, and phones work well because they make the videos and edit all within the phone, and then upload. They’ve gotten quite good at it. I guess stills are not what this generation really likes, but I still prefer pictures to movies.

    1. Yes, the generation that’s now early teen and below have known nothing else but smart phones and iPads with touch screens, and anything with buttons or dials or even a keyboard seems slow and unwieldy to them.

      I read an interesting post about a new intake of students for a computing course of some kind, and the teacher was shocked that virtually none of the students knew anything about the kind of file structure any of us around 40-50 years old grew up with in computers, that themselves emulated old paper filing systems, with multiple pages on the same topic put into a named folder.

      The new kids were asked how they ever found anything on a computer/tablet/phone and they answered they either searched for it with an overarching file search tool, or they didn’t know where it was.

      I’ve noticed how mainstream software like MS Office has gone this way too, and whilst I still like to have organised files in my day job, most of the time if I want to open a certain doc or spreadsheet, I go into Word or Excel, look at the most recent files, then use the search bar. I rarely dive into the internal file hierarchy, even though it is pretty organised.

      For this to work though it’s essential to have logical filenames. “Untitled (33)” won’t cut it, ha ha!

      I often ask myself “when I’m looking for this file in six months time, what will I search for” before deciding on a filename!

  6. Just a thought but maybe try and find a small wrist or hand strap for a small camera if you’re worried about him dropping one? I mean it wouldn’t stop him from smacking it against a wall by accident but it’d solve the dropping part if you could find one that fit.

  7. My 8yo granddaughter uses my iPhone, my old Canon sd450 digital, and very occasionally my Olympus Stylus Zoom. I think her best reaction is when she uses her Instax Mini. I think actually getting something to hold and watching the print develop is very good feedback, better than looking at another screen, as it is tactile and permanent.

    1. Thanks Alan. These days Instax is probably the best – and most affordable – route into film photography, plus has the instant (well, a few minutes) feedback that kids take as second nature from seeing photos taken on phones and being instantly visible.

  8. I use a Fujifilm X100S more often than my Sony alpha cameras. No more menus for adjusting f-stop and shutter speed. One button for accessing ISO in menu. I like the outside dials and that I can’t transfer them to my phone on the spot using WiFi. I also like the BW and Vivid film simulations. But for the majority of my pictures, I like BW with darker shadows.

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