There are so many cameras on the market and figuring out which one is ideal for your child is daunting. We totally understand that the cost, photography terms, reviews, COST again…because that will always be a factor, can be overwhelming.
We can’t tell you want it the “best” camera for your child because there are so many variables to consider, but we can offer some pointers and answer some common questions.
1) What features are important in a camera for my child? When a child is just starting their photography journey any camera will do. Even the camera on a phone or iPad can get them on their way to learning about light and composition. When your child is ready, we would suggest some features to look for in their “first real camera.” A good learning camera will have shooting mode settings like A/AV or T/TV on their dial. This allows your child to start learning about exposure and get the camera off of auto. A DSLR or mirrorless camera will give your child the most flexibility to grow. In these cameras you can change out the lenses and as they learn verses a point and shoot.
Cameras can have lots of bells and whistles (sometimes too many for a young Lightseeker. It is ok to use a simple no frills camera. The photography basics are the same regardless of camera. We will say that in photography it is true though that more expensive does tend to mean better quality. Most kids though aren’t going to be blowing their images up larger than 8x10 in the beginning so don’t worry too much.
2) What should I spend on a camera? When looking for a camera for your child we suggest looking for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. This means you may spend anywhere from free to 500.00 for a basic set up. But even a simple point and shoot can get a child started.
Consider purchasing something used. Check out your local Facebook Buy, sell or trade site or Craigslist.com for a good used camera (check out our Buying Used Section below). Finally consider buying a new camera. Visit your local camera store (who usually will price match on-line camera prices) to try out cameras. Online stores also are great resources if you don’t have a local shop near by. Not only are they very competitive with their prices but you can read tons of camera reviews. Sites like amazon.com and BHphoto.com are excellent resources.
The bottom line is… if it gets broken at what amount will you cry. haha. Honestly that is what we had to ask ourselves. We are encouraging kids to go out and explore in nature with this camera. You know your child best. If they are clumsy and careless… we would suggest looking for a free camera that they can get started on without you investing too much. Or if the are really serious about learning the art of photography and you feel like they are ready, make a larger investment.
3) Should I buy the camera with the kit lens? Most kit lenses are going to be a lower quality zoom lens. Typically they are something like a 16-55 f/3.5-5.6. This lens is a fine lens. Again as in question number one…kids who are just learning will learn great things from shooting a basic lens. If you wanted to “upgrade” the lens, we always suggest a nifty fifty (50 f1.8 or 50 f1.4 lens.) This is an easy mid range lens that allows kids to really start to be creative. This lens ranges from about $100-300 depending on the maker.
4) Are there other accessories my child may need? There are a few additional accessories. The main one is a memory card. These can be purchased pretty inexpensively at Walmart or Amazon.com. Most cameras use either CF or SD card. We suggest starting with an 8GB card. We also encourage you to always have a camera strap on the camera (and have them use it!) and a specific camera bag to keep and travel with the camera.
BUYING USED EQUIPMENT
Buying a new camera can be overwhelming and there is no doubt that buying a used camera can add to that feeling. If you are new to photography we suggest always buying used from a reputable source. BHphoto.com has a great online used site as well as your local camera store most likely carries used equipment. Buying from sources like these gives you the most protection. If in the event it is not what you needed or something is malfunctioning you can return it.
If you are purchasing from a friend, Craigstlist.com or off of Facebook make sure to ask if you can shoot it before making the final purchase. If you are buying just the camera body, if possible bring a lens (either yours or a borrowed one) to see how if the camera functions like it should. Ask the owner if there is battery and to have it charge to allow you to see if all of the basic functions work on the camera. Often times these kinds of sources don’t want returns and you don’t want to be left with a lemon.
It is always good to check a few things out. First off… there should never been rattling in a camera. So if you gently shake it make sure you don’t hear anything. Most LCD screen will have minor scratches, but if it has major scratches that could make it difficult to use. It is not critical but you do want you camera and lenses to have all of the caps they should have. Lenses typically have a lens cap and a cap that goes on the back. Cameras usually have one that covers the internal mirror when the lens is not on. These caps are important to keep dust and dirt out. If they don’t have them don’t sweat it. They can purchase on line or at your local camera store. If the camera comes with all of it’s cords and manuals all the better. If not, again these can be either purchases on line or downloaded.
Often times while buying used can be a little scary, obviously you can more camera for your dollar. Many people sell their camera and multiple lenses for a fraction of what you would pay for a new camera.
When buying used from a store (online or local) they should have inspected the camera and typically give is a great 1-10 (10 being the best). Cameras in the 8-10 range are typically in great condition. If you are buying from an individual and you want to have your camera serviced take it to a local camera store or look up the camera makers website for information about where to mail your camera. Cameras do get dirty and it can effect the quality of image. It typically costs a couple hundred dollars or less but it it worth it, especially if a camera has sat for awhile.
Inquire with your local camera store or sources like lensrental.com if you want to try before you buy. Maybe you are looking for a camera for an older teen or one that you can share. For only a small investment you can try out a camera to really see if it is what you need. This could be especially helpful if you are planning on making a larger investment. Not only can your rent camera bodies but you can also rent lenses.
You can also ask a friend who has a camera that you might be interested in. If a friend has a camera that they don’t want to sell but will let you try it out that is great. And let’s face it, before you invest time and money into a new hobby for kids you may want make sure they are really interested.
We love photography and nature. Regardless of what your child comes to us with we are going to share with them knowledge about how to use the tools they have to see the beauty and light all around them.