So what’s the best entry-level camera for your budding young street photographer? After spending a week with 10 kids and 10 different cameras in our Riveted Kids Street Photography day camp (check here for 2019 photography day and travel camp dates), I learned which cameras allowed the kids to learn some fundamental photography concepts, take great pictures, and have fun.
First, just know that:
- I’m only evaluating cameras I saw and the kids’ experiences that I observed.
- We don’t get anything for sharing these links with you. We know how hard it is to sort through the options – this is just a service for both you and your kids.
- I’m only listing cameras up to $500
- Camper ages were from the 4th to the 8th grade
Now, on to some great options!
Great Cameras (~$500)
In no particular order, kids had great experiences with these cameras. To be in this category, the kids were able to experiment with different camera settings (e.g., being able to set shutter speed), some great photos had to emerge (e.g., in focus with good colors), and I didn’t notice any major issues during the week (e.g., battery life or over complicated controls). All of these cameras can be found used under $500:
- Canon EOS Rebel T6. Lots of fun pictures up close and far away.
- Nikon D3400 paired with the 18-55mm lens. One of our campers wowed her companions with the images, showing them on camera LCD screen. Note, the newer Nikon D3500 is comparable with a few more bells and whistles.
- Nikon D7000. While this camera is discontinued, you can find the body for about $300 and then could pair it with a used 18-55 lens.
- Nikon D90. Used on Amazon. Another discontinued model, but still worked great. You can find it for $250 used and then could pair with a new or used Nikkor 18-55mm lens.
Here are some example images taken with these cameras:
Great Cameras (under $200):
These cameras worked well for the campers and produced comparable images as more expensive cameras. For these cameras, the lens is built into the body, so you won’t be upgrading to more fancy lenses later. Still, it’s a good way to stay under budget and see if your kiddo sticks with photography before spending a lot more money.
The benefits of these cameras are that they come with some form of zoom, take fairly hi-resolution images, and also typically include image stabilization.
Wait, what about cameras that didn’t lead to great experiences?
Kids with these cameras struggled for one reason or another. While that’s not to say that another kid wouldn’t love these cameras or get different results, I’m listing them here since I can speak to the experiences as I saw them. For our learning activities, the first two just didn’t offer the campers enough control to experiment with fundamental photography concepts (such as being able to manually set the shutter speed or aperture):
- Kodak EASYSHARE C1550. Frustrating battery life and no clear way to adjust aperture or shutter speed settings.
- Fujifilm FinePix XP120. This had a frustrating battery life and no obvious way to modify aperture or shutter speed settings.
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85. Though arguably a great featured camera, its complicated controls made this camera hard to navigate for our young photographer. And the touch screen also made it easy to bump into unwanted modes.
What do all the camera terms really mean?
Here’s a reputable online reference for all the terms you may come across on a potential camera:
But hey, what’s most important…
Regardless of the specific camera, motivation and enthusiasm will take your budding young street or travel photographer to the next level. As the old saying goes, “The BEST camera is the one that’s in your hand when you need it.” So if the above recommendations are helpful to selecting your kid’s first camera – great! And if all you have is a hand-me-down or point and shoot or even sharing the camera you already own – that’s better than no camera at all.
Does your teen want to learn Street Photography in Seattle or Mexico?
Oaxaca Street Photography Camp | August 3-10, 2019
8-day teen travel camp. Learn street photography alongside Oaxacan teens and a local Mexican photographer. Immerse yourself in amazing food, Spanish language, and new friends in one of the most culturally rich cities in Mexico.
Street Photography with Riveted Kids | Two sessions: July 8-12 and July 29-August 2, 2019
Day camp for kids 9-12 years old in Seattle partnering with Meridian Summer Quest in Wallingford, Seattle. A great way to learn and have fun, becoming skilled with your camera through outdoor photography games and challenges.