Here in Colorado, it’s tantalizingly warm. People here are dreaming about hot summer days, adventures in the mountains, and wading in cool, glistening streams. (That last one might not happen if we don’t get any spring rain this year).
June — summer break — will roll around before you know it.
Bored kids are annoying kids, amirite?
Whether you yourself are a photographer or not, photography is a great hobby to introduce kids to. It engages their creativity. It encourages them to go out and explore and look for interesting things to photograph. And if they’re old enough to understand the mechanics of the “Holy Trinity” — Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO — they’ll work at achieving specific effects in-camera, which means it’s educational (shh!).
It’s instant-gratification. Kids and adults can immediately see the results, get excited, and go looking for more things to photograph.
It’s a great hobby to nourish.
I don’t know about you, but I know I wouldn’t trust a 10 years old with a gadget that costs $2,000-plus (lens included). So I went looking for options.
The criteria were:
- Must be easy for small hands to use
- Must be beginner friendly
- Must produce images of decent quality
- Should be relatively inexpensive. Let’s say under $200
Many smartphones made within the past 2-5 years have decent cameras. You can find them used on a number of platforms like Amazon, Ebay, and even Craigslist. You don’t even need a phone provider contract; many smartphones can connect to your home’s WiFi and your kid can upload their pictures to the cloud or internet using the WiFi.
If you decide to have data/voice services for just the summer (in case of emergencies while the kid is out exploring), you can get a pay-as-you-go plan for the summer months instead of locking into a contract.
- Easy to use. Most kids nowadays know how to use smartphones. Sometimes better than adults
- Can practice composition, exposure, etc
- Can practice basic photo editing using free apps like Snapseed
- Inexpensive, affordable – for example, you can find a factory-unlocked Iphone 3G 16GB for $50 on Amazon (this deal is kinda tempting me, actually)
- Smaller sensor, image quality may be noticeably poorer in large sizes if you print
- Will struggle in low-light situations
- No DOF control in most older smartphones
- # of photographs may be limited if the smartphone has small memory
Some older dSLRs can be found for a song. If you yourself are a photographer, you can look for a dSLR with the same mount system, and share lens with your kid and shave costs that way. If not, pick up a used “nifty fifty” – 50mm f2.8 for under $100. They’re a great portrait lens.
Older dSLRs like the Canon 2ti and Pentax k10d are good starter options, and both have mounts compatible with newer cameras. Pentax, as an added bonus, is compatible with most lens dating back to 1970s (no autofocus for some, though).
- Sensor size/image quality – both take pictures 10mp or larger, and they make good, printable-quality images up to 16×20
- Manual control options – good for older kids
- Auto options
- Not ideal for under-8-years-old
- Additional accessory purchases: will likely need to purchase a lens, an extra battery and extra SD cards
- No Wi-Fi uploading capabilities with most older dSLRs, can be circumvented w/ a wireless SD card like FlashAir
Point and Shoot Cameras
I’m not a big fan of point-and-shoot cameras because they’re not very durable and produce mediocre images. However, there’s an option that might be a good one for kids: Ricoh’s WG-30w. It’s waterproof, shock proof, dust-resistant, and I’ve heard stories about people literally driving over their WGs by accident.
- 16 mp, decent images for a point-and-shoot
- Easy to use
- Kid-friendly. Very tough, will be fine if dropped in most cases
- Wi-Fi, can upload remotely
- Small sensor means image quality may be lower compared with dSLRs
- Pricetag is higher
- Additional costs: need to purchase a SD card
On a related note, the Fujifilm Instax, a Polaroid knockoff, is an often recommended choice for kids. However, I think it’s not a good one because it’s easy for kids to burn through the packs of photo prints, and when each pack of 20 costs roughly $10-$15, that gets expensive fast.