Every photographer can remember his or her first camera. Mine was a Kodak Instamatic that I was given along with a single role of 24 exposure black and white film for my 10th birthday. I remember taking that camera around the house and yard, carefully composing and shooting what I was convinced were award-winning photos. I waited anxiously as we sent the film off to be processed. But when I ripped open the package to finally see my photos, I was shocked at the results – this is not what I had seen in my mind’s eye.
Think you have a budding Ansel Adams in your family? The holidays are a great time to get your child his or her own camera. But how do you choose the right one for them from the wealth of options available?
Fortunately, digital photography has made buying and using entry-level cameras easy to do and fun for your child while staying not-too-hard on the wallet for you. There are a number of factors to consider when buying a first-time camera all based on the age, interests and personality of the child you are buying for.
No matter how advanced your child is, anyone in the 5 – 10-year age group needs something durable, waterproof, easy to use and inexpensive. Fortunately, there are a number of good options available from vendors like VTech, Disney and even an entry level Coolpix offering from Nikon. All offer lightweight, intuitive designs that will hold up to the wear and tear it is likely to receive.
Once you get past those ages, there is a checklist to consider when buying for your older photography protégées.
Features vs. complexity
The majority of adolescences and preteens are probably still looking for the easy-to-use operation of a point and shoot camera. This can also be true of the less than techie teenager who may just be starting to take photography past the Smartphone stage.
Here Canon’s Powershot, Sony’s Cyber-shot or Fujifilm’s Finepix would fit the bill. These cameras offer great automatic shooting capabilities while starting to introduce some manual options for more control while shooting. They are also fairly durable but will need to be treated with a little more respect and care.
Starter for growth vs. throw away
Once the young adult is ready to seriously pursue the art, it is time to move to entry level dSLR’s with interchangeable lenses. Canon’s Rebel, the Olympus Pen Mini, or Nikon 1 S1 are all great starter level cameras that offer good functionality with a modest price point.
Brand loyalty is an important consideration at this point. Camera bodies can, and will, be replaced over time as the student’s mastery of more technique and technology continues its onward march, but if you are planning to make an investment in lenses, make sure they will work with the next generation models.
Social media ready
If your child’s interested in photography stems from sharing to social media apps, then having that capability built in is a key consideration. Beyond Smartphone capability, the Smart Camera from Samsung is one option available that offers built in WiFi connectivity.
App vs. software
So much of the fun of taking digital photos is the ease in which they can be manipulated into works of art. Several cameras offer built-in filters and apps, which allow for easy manipulation, but if your child is computer savvy and wants more control over the finished product, it may be time to invest in software applications like Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom.
So, if you’re interested in fostering a love of photography in your child, surprise them with a camera that you now know will be sure to please them no matter their age and then wait for the memories to develop.