What camera to get for a child to get into photography?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by inni_pants, Feb 3, 2015.

  1. Hi there, I was interested in a camera that would have all the functions of the professional DSLR camera- Manual/Aperture/Shutter/Program modes, Raw file option, exposure comp etc, but would maybe be more compact or at least smaller than DSLR so a kid could carry it around, but still would learn the basic principles of photography. Preferably with at least one changeable lens so an 8 year old would learn how to change lenses and understand why it's necessary. Quality is not that important, although, it shouldn't be very bad also :)
    What would be your suggestions for an 8 year old- where is a good way to start and what is your experience?
  2. From my experience, the most important camera attribute to a child learner is responsiveness - anything that has no shutter lag will make them happy.
    Much less important are "serious photography features" that you've described - Manual/Aperture/Shutter/Program modes, Raw file option, exposure comp etc., that will only serve to frustrate an 8 year-old, at least in the beginning.

    I find the most fruitful way to guide a child is to let him/her explore to develop a level of keenness that will hopefully turn into a passion. The quickest way to make a child lose interest is to saturate them with "lessons" that will take all the fun away.

    Give them a responsive camera and turn them loose even if they shoot in Auto mode all day, because the initial success will breed the desire for future success that will also make them more keen to learn. Conversely, they will be quickly discouraged and lose interest if their initial experience is a struggle.
  3. Most important with kids seems "dispensable" in my eyes. I'm not sure at which exact age the neighbors daughter enjoyed dabbling with my *istD.
    I'd recommend one of the early DSLRs with built in image stabilization. - K100D comes to mind maybe get it with a kit zoom and hunt down a pair of fitting K mount heritage primes like a 50mm f2 / 1.7 and a 135mm f2.8? The kit should be available for 200 Euro including some flashgun and or eneloops and a charger.
    Minolta 5D dropped pretty deep in price too.
    If smaller is really needed maybe go for a NEX 3 or such- again with (adapted) manual mass market heritage lenses.
    If you can cope with RAW but no lens changes go for a Canon G 4 or similar?
    But: a DSLR is nothing compared to a school bag! - So why bother if the kid shoots it after school? - Please don't raise a generation more decayed than us MILCs & MFT shopping geezers no longer willing to carry a pair of SLRs + tripod!
    Mentioning tripods... I believe getting one and a tabletop one too is VERY important for a kids photographic upbringing. Especially during the earlier years of school. I'm recalling a neighbor boy given a camera and tripod back in 3rd orr 4th grade. My mum frowned upon that family because he took close up pictures of his toys. - OK film & processing did cost some serious money back in the late 70s... But: documenting portraing ones toys is something a kid can do much better than a grownup observer.
    I turned 13 or 14 before I got a chance to do such things and due to the not so tender age missed a lot of great oportunities.
  4. I bought my wife a used Nikon 1 J1 with the kit lens. My son likes using it and he is 8. He actually started playing with some of my manual focus slr's when he was around 4 or 5, so he knows how to handles an slr. I only have a Nikon Df digital slr, so he doesn't get to use my Nikon. If I were to buy a digital camera for him with the features you are looking for, I might look for a used mirrorless ilc. I know you were thinking of a small camera and not an slr, but something like a Nikon D40 with 18-55 is small and lightweight. I will most likely buy a (used/inexpensive) Nikon dslr for my son for his birthday. Good luck
  5. I think eight years old is a little young for a DSLR interchangeable lens system (lens are delicate!) a "super zoom" camera where you can adjust aperture, shutter and ISO is probably more appropriate, something like a Canon SX powershot model perhaps
    The early DSLR models like the Canon XSi/ 450D XT, XS, etc. are cheap ( $150 with lens) so even if he drops or breaks it no big loss
  6. My daughter was six when I got her a used Canon XSi, which I later replaced with an SL1 (she's almost eight now). The SL1 is, I believe, the smallest and lightest DSLR ever made. She enjoys photography, but uses only a small fraction of her camera's features. I got her an EOS body so we can share EF lenses, since I also use EOS.
  7. I think the responses above are all good. My suggestion is similar to Jochen's: something like an NEX or Micro 4/3 camera, but with the important features of dedicated aperture and shutter speed controls. Something like an NEX-3N won't have dedicated dials like that.
    FWIW, there are some older commercial RAW converters that are sometimes offered for free. Occasionally. DxO will give away previous versions of Optics Pro. But those are available for limited time periods.
    Buying used is obviously a better idea, unless you see a bargain.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    My experience is similar to Mark's. My younger daughter got a 400D when she was a bit older than 8. We bought a Canon because I have Canon DSLR and the 400D was small and light.
    She (also) didn't use all the functions, but it was good that she could try different lenses. What she developed a liking for the most was my 70 to 200/2.8, but that is relatively heavy. We bought a 55 to 250 IS (kit lens) and she showed a real interest in using that and she learnt a lot by so doing.
    Next she wanted to experiment with low level available light (this was about at ten or eleven years I recall), so we got an EF 35/2 and she really liked using that lens, again, at the time I had a 35/1.4 but that lens was too heavy and uncomfortable for her to use.
    What se didn't ever develop (yet) is any interest in Flash.
    She's kept with APS-C Format buying herself an updated body, but still mainly uses the 35/2, occasionally borrowing my 24 to 105/4L and she uses one of my tripods often - that's just where her interests are, recording buildings and other static stuff - your child's interests will develop differently but a key consideration I think, is for the child to have access to borrow extra gear.
    I would look very seriously at the SL1 if I had a child starting out especially because I have a lot of Canon gear - do you or any close friends or family have a kit that would be open to loan?
  9. What would be your suggestions for an 8 year old​
    Buy used.
  10. "What would be your suggestions for an 8 year old"
    For an 8 year old I would go with a simple point and shoot. After they get use to it and starts to wonder why their pictures don't always come out that good, then they might ask you to get them something better like a Leica.
  11. I second (or third) the suggestion of a versatile point and shoot like a Canon Power Shot. A child of 8 years can start in
    full auto mode with manual zoom. As time goes on, and if the interest is there, he can experiment and learn the various
    manual modes. Unless this particular boy is ahead of his age group, a full, advanced DSLR kit could more than he is
    ready to handle.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Unless this particular boy is ahead of his age group . . ."​
    Maybe I missed that the sex of the 'child' was designated by the OP, if not the 'child' could be a girl.
    Maybe that matters to your point, as I believe that there are lots of studies on the different development trends of children, based on their sex.
    In any case, it occurs to me that the OP seemed quite definitive about a DSLR or at least the camera having the functionality thereof: there could be strong reasoning for that, perhaps Inna might expand on that point and explain why "all the functions of a pro DSLR".
  13. Yes, well I wanted the camera to have DSLR functions so a child could learn something about the photo gear not just point and shoot, but then again I saw this comment where it says that a child might lose his interest in photography at all if there would be all these confusing things to learn and would end up loosing interest in photography.
    I own Nikon DSLR so if I would decide to buy cheap used DSLR then it would have to be Nikon so we could share lenses. Reading comments I start to look more in favor of compact camera since this will be like an experiment to see if he will even keep his interest in photography. After compact camera I might buy him cheap DSLR if the interest will still be there. So I guess I should go for compact camera with few developing features.
    It was really inspiring to read all of your comments because to be honest, I was a bit in doubt that so young kid could pick up photography and actually be interested in it for long period of time :)
  14. I have three grandkids ages 8, 5.5 and 3.5 that live in my house. Two of them have come to enjoy using cameras.
    What I personally found works best, is a point and shoot 'waterproof/toughened' camera. The one weakness many P & S share, is the extending and retracting lens.
    In the hands of a ruffian that will get jammed up, gritty or plain bumped and jostled and then the camera becomes a brick. I've seen it a lot with friends with kids, happens more than most would care to admit I think.
    A camera in which the lens does NOT extend seem to take a beating and go on ticking. No places for dirt and stuff to get into as they are fairly well sealed. I'm using an old Canon D10 and a Fuji XP170 but there are many around now at various price points. (Works great poolside, by the river and at the beach too.)
    My youngsters have also used my DSLR, but with any substantial lens the camera is just too large for them. They have tried my Nikon FM and FE and those are lighter weight more easy for them to hold. BUT ! ... but my kids are digital to their DNA not film based organisms. There is noting like the instant feedback of the LCD to inspire a kid to try all sorts of photographic discovery things. It's a real hoot to see them doing their thing.
    Good luck Inni.
  15. "What I personally found works best, is a point and shoot 'waterproof/toughened' camera. The one weakness many P & S share, is the extending and retracting lens."​
    Good advice. For a kid or anyone who wants a durable camera I'd consider an Olympus iHS TG "tough" camera P&S. A couple of years ago I took a friend shopping for her first digital camera and after handling everything we could get our hands on - Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, you name it - she preferred the handling ease and image quality of the Olympus TG-6xx (620, I think?). Very easy to use, no fragile telescoping lens (it all moves internally), great looking JPEGs right from the camera. And it's water- and shock-resistant.

    It's about as close as you can get to the Baby Brownie box camera I started out with at age 8 back in the 1960s. I didn't get a camera with interchangeable lenses until I was 12-13 years old, and even then I used only one lens, the 50mm, which I occasionally used with an extension tube for closeups. In between I used various non-interchangeable lens compact 35mm film cameras and 120 TLRs. Very basic controls, easy to learn the fundamentals of exposure and composition.

    A decent P&S digicam will add the benefit of instant feedback to help reinforce the concepts, and to encourage kids to shoot freely and not worry about "mistakes". Photographing freely costs nothing but a moment in time, and the time it takes to press the delete button. Digital helps lift the burden of worrying about cost, something that hindered me as a kid with film. I rarely regret taking "too many" photos. But looking back at my film era photos I often regret not having taken more variations of certain scenes. Yeah, I have shot a few rolls without a single keeper, but even those were good learning experiences.
  16. [[What I personally found works best, is a point and shoot 'waterproof/toughened' camera.]]
    [[For a kid or anyone who wants a durable camera I'd consider an Olympus iHS TG "tough" camera P&S]]
    Yes, and Yes. While my children (8, 4, and 1) will use a DSLR from time to time, (well, not the 1 year-old) the most used camera is the Olympus tough point and shoot (we have an older TG-820). They can take it anywhere, use it however they please, and I don't have to worry that it's limiting them in their activities. They shoot videos and stills in the snow, at the beach, in the pool, hiking in the woods on a muddy spring day or even just running around the house like little maniacs.
  17. I started shooting with an Instamatic when I was 7 and progressed to shooting with a 6x9 folder and developing film when I was 12, then to my first cheap SLR by about 14. My kids have used their iPhones and a cheap point and shoot and other than a brief interest with my teenage daughter playing with my D7000 have never taken any real interest.

    For an 8-year-old today I would get a cheap point and shoot or, at most, something like a Canon G-15 Powershot that can be set on full automatic or used manually as they learn more. You could do the same witn an entry level DSLR -- set it on full auto until they learn and stick with the kit lens until they outgrow it. But my strongest instiinct would be to give them a hand-me-down of whatever camera I was no longer using. Spending even $300-400 on a new camera for a kid that young who will very likely become obsessed with a different hobby a week or a month later is a big gamble.
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    This conversation has highlighted to me, that, when my daughter was young, there were fewer quality options in compact cameras (or I didn’t search vigorously enough).
    Another point that the conversation triggered in my memory, is that my daughter was continually interested in using my DSLRs and 135 film cameras, so it seemed to me at the time to move in that direction with a purchase for her. I think how much the child wants to play with your Nikon gear is a relevant consideration.
  19. A decade ago I gave my wife a Panasonic FZ3 and using it for a week before Santa took it off me for her I discovered that it had all the useful features of a DSLR .... with bigger hands I got the FZ20 and discovered that you do not need to change lenses ... a hazard with dust on the sensor [ filter] anyway.
    With just a two dioptre close-up lens to enable tight framed shots from about a foot using the full zoom it wasn't until some eight years later I added MFT to my stable but seeing that what I wanted was a 'larger sensored bridge' camera I put a moderate zoom on it ... so now I can change lenses but rarely do and MFT has made my DSLR surplus to requirements. I gave it away to a 'good cause'.
    Despite it often being left out, chucked on the floor of a car in a moment of irritation, the FZ3 a decade later is still going strong but to my regret my wife is simply not interested in having a 'good camera' and simply wants to point and shoot. But she has the tool if she had the inclination.
    So my suggestion is an Olympus E-PL1 with kit lens, mine cost $180 without a lens from KEH, complete rigs probably about the same these days. A metal mini-tripod and a set of cheap dioptres would complete the picture. [ $30 and $15 respectively on Amazon ]
    My main camera is a Panasonic GH2 with all its knobs and levers which as a long time photographer I appreciate and like to have but mostly I shoot in A mode. To a youngster other modes than auto are irrelevant complexity. Though something to explore as they have the interest and need.
    Most important in the digital age is access to a good editing programme. Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, else Paint Dot Net [a free download].
  20. My eight year old stepdaughter has just begun experimenting with more advanced image controls after several years of
    using her Olympus E-500. The small body and kit lens are the perfect size for her hands and, being an SLR, she has
    been able to explore increasingly complex shooting methods with the same system. She started out, at around five years
    old, using it in full auto but is now practicing aperture, shutter speed, and flash level adjustments. She just recently
    discovered the self timer, so she's been keen on shooting self portraits with a small tripod.

    The light weight is also an advantage, especially for days at the zoo and the like.

    This system is so cheap from a used dealer like KEH, that it is essentially disposable, but she's so proud of her "grown
    up" camera that she takes incredibly good care of it.

    Her five year old sister has started asking for a similar camera (after years of playing with and old 620 and using a digital
    P&S). I think we may buy her something like an E-420 in the near future.
  21. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    "The one weakness many P & S share, is the extending and retracting lens."

    Yes. I just changed batteries in my Canon Powershot A570 IS and when I turned it on I inadvertently had my finger in front of the lens. That slight resistance did something and was enough to keep the lens from fully extending when I turned it off and on. I managed to pull it out so it now extends when turned on but the photos it takes are now badly out of focus. Trash.
  22. Just give them yer old cameras I gave my D70 and D90 to my kids and they love it. It may have a steep learning curve but that's not a bad thing.
  23. Thanks all of you. I have a big list now :) It's going to be point and shoot after all and with some A/S priority modes around 100 british pounds with zoom. Wasn't expecting such great responsiveness. Take care.
  24. thankfully you dont have to pay for film to be developed nowadays. always meant stopping the kid from actually taking photos when trying to encourage them to get into photography!
  25. Go film, a 35mm SLR will do wonders.
    Yes I said it, film. A basic film camera with none of the features, bells, and whistles of modern day cameras. A point and shoot will work and get them started, but film will force them to learn patience and the underlying photographic techniques. It will teach them to value every shot, and the needless clicking away of the shutter sucks up valuable film. As they get older pick up some darkroom equipment, safety practices and technique will instill a discipline and maturity in the your photographer. If they take a passion into the art, they will have valuable knowledge that others of their generation will be lacking.
    Just my two cents.
  26. I think photography is the only field where anyone suggests that delayed feedback, practicing less, and paying more are beneficial to the learning process.

    I learned with film (starting when I was about six), and like Lex, I wish I could have taken a lot more photos without worrying about the cost. Probably would have learned a lot faster.
  27. Oh wait, that's right, film, thank you for idea. Somehow it didn't cross my mind, but yes, it would be a great way to learn.

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