Despite Shotkit being focused mainly on professional photographers and their gear, recently I’ve had a lot of requests to research the best cameras for teens.
One thing’s for sure – it’s never too early to get started with photography! I often wish I got into photography more seriously during my teenage years, so I’d be 10x better now than I am!
I remember the first time my dad brought home a Fujifilm digital camera back in 1996, and it blew my mind. Seeing the image appear on the back of the LCD was pure magic.
Cameras may not have the same wow-factor nowadays, but I’ve tried to choose a selection of cameras for teens that can do much more than the average smart phone, so will hopefully keep them entertained and interested for longer.
If you’re a teen that’s just starting out with photography, check out my selection of the best cameras for beginners.
Table of Contents
How I selected the Best Cameras for Teens
Here are my criteria for selecting the best cameras for teens. These are all criteria that are important to me as a father of 2 kids when purchasing their first camera.
Although this is very subjective, I think we can all agree that we’d like to spend less on a camera for our children than we perhaps would on ourselves, or another adult – reason being, kids and teens break and lose stuff a lot!
I’ve selected cameras below that are affordable for most parents, but will still provide years of use and growth as an enthusiast photographer. (See here for a complete guide to cheap camera gear.)
- Image Quality
It’s a fact of life nowadays that kids will always have a mobile phone in their pocket. It’s probably a smart phone too, and one capable of taking a great photo.
For a teenager to want to use a dedicated camera, it has to take a much better photo than their phone. I’ve selected cameras which can do this.
- Additional Features
To hold their attention and deepen their interest for photography, cameras for teens also need to be able to do things their phone simply can’t.
At this age, a camera is basically a form of toy for a teen, so it needs to be able to have some tricks up its sleeve!
I’ve selected cameras for teenagers that meet all the other criteria listed here, and have some fun and functional features to boot.
I want kids to be able to sling their camera in their school backpack without it weighing them down or being too bulky.
Some camera formats such as dSLRs are inherently larger than other compact cameras, but I’ve still selected ones that are on the smaller end of the scale.
The fact is, no camera is going to be as easy to use as a smart phone’s camera. However, it’s still important for these cameras to be easy to start using, even if mastering them may take a little more time.
Above all, all the cameras below I consider to be fun to use, in that they are not annoying or fiddly, and the simple act of taking a photo remains a joy.
Best Cameras for Teens | dSLRs
For teens and slightly older kids, my recommendation for a first camera would either be a dSLR or a mirrorless camera (check out my top mirrorless picks here).
A compact camera is great (I recommend some below), but if you want your child to really explore the possibilities of photography and grow much further with their camera, a DSLR or inter-changeable lens camera is best.
In short, a dSLR is a proper camera. It shares all the functionality of a traditional film camera, most importantly, the ability to control each setting manually. Whilst this may not be necessary for a teenager initially, it’s great to have for when they outgrow the automatic functionality.
dSLRs also allow you to change lenses, which opens up a world of creative options. This all ties in to keeping teens interested in photography – more lenses=more toys, right?!
It also gives you as the parent options for future birthday presents which can be considered educational gifts, or ones that promote creativity and thinking.
dSLRs also offer much better image quality than smart phones, and many features that smart phones don’t have. Whilst a smart phone is great for fun snaps, teens will quickly appreciate the difference between when to use their phone and when to use their dSLR.
Investing in a dSLR for your child is giving them a tool they may one day use to make a living. On this site, there are wedding photographers in their teens making thousand of dollars a year.
If you feel your child is ready for it, invest in one these great dSLRs for teens below.
Nikon D3400 w/ 18-55mm lens
Weight: 15.7 oz (445 g)
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
I’m a huge fan of entry-level dSLR cameras. They’re often overlooked for more fancy mirrorless cameras, but the fact is, at this price point, they really are unbeatable.
The Nikon D3400 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens is incredible value for money at just under $500. It’s won numerous awards as the best dSLR for beginners, and as such, I think it’s also a great camera for a teen.
There’s a lot of great features packed into the Nikon D3400 (see review), most notably a 24.2 megapixel sensor which delivers fantastic image quality to blow away any smart phone camera your teenager holds so dear!
Another huge benefit of the Nikon D3400 (and one that sets it apart from the mirrorless cameras mentioned below) is the battery life, which can easily last over 1,000 shots on a single charge – more than enough for a few days shooting, or an overseas school trip.
When your teen starts learning about the basics of exposure, they’ll realise that by increasing the ISO on a camera, you can essentially shoot in low light without a flash. Try doing that with an iPhone!
The ISO on the Nikon D3400 can be comfortably increased into the thousands, meaning the camera can see in the dark and produce nice, clear images after the sun has gone down.
There’s a lot of functionality packed into the Nikon D3400 that’s borrowed from much higher-end dSLRs in the Nikon range, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Despite being the entry-level model, the Nikon D3400 can take better quality photos than cameras that cost hundreds more.
Another huge plus of this camera for teens is its size and weight. With a small, lightweight lens like the one included, the Nikon D3400 is still light enough to wear around your neck all day, or to be carried unnoticed in a kid’s backpack.
For the teen who’s constantly on social media, the SnapBridge technology inside the Nikon D3400 makes it child’s play to transfer images from the camera to a smart phone. You can even turn on an auto-setting so smaller 2 megapixel versions of your images magically appear on your phone moments after taking them, without having to fiddle with your camera.
Cameras for teens need to be simple and fun to use, and being able to have photos ready to share on social media straight away is a huge plus of the Nikon D3400.
Currently you’re able to buy the Nikon D3400 with an 18-55mm or a 70-300mm ‘kit’ lens. I’d recommend the 18-55mm as it’s a much more usable focal-range for everyday photography, plus it’s smaller and lighter than the other long-range zoom lens – see: recommended lenses for Nikon D3400.
Kit lenses used to be notoriously bad, but they’ve come a long way. The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens which comes bundled with the Nikon D3400 here delivers impressively sharp images, and the VR (Vibration Reduction) means that the camera can be hand held at slower shutter speeds with less chance of a blurry image.
If you’re worried about a dSLR being too complicated for the short-attention span of your teen (!), the Nikon D3400 offers ‘Guide Mode’, which essentially provides tutoring in the camera to explain certain functions.
The inclusion of 5 frames-per-second shooting means that active teens can capture multiple shots of their friends skate-boarding, and the 1080/60p video recording is ideal for capturing smooth slow motion or action-packed sporting events.
All in all, the Nikon D3400 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens is an excellent dSLR for a teen, or any beginner photographer. For around $500, there simply isn’t a better camera.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i w/ 18-55mm lens
Weight: 17.1 oz (485 g)
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
Unless you already have some Canon lenses laying around for your teenager to use with this camera, you can stop reading right now – the aforementioned Nikon is slightly better than this camera.
If however you’re already invested in Canon gear, or simply prefer the brand over Nikon, read on to find out why the Canon EOS Rebel T5i is included here on my list of the best cameras for teens.
There’s always some confusion when buying a dSLR for the first time – which to get, Canon or Nikon?! Usually there really isn’t much advantage with either, and even if you opt for this entry-level Canon dSLR, you won’t regret your decision.
At the time of writing this review, there are several cameras in the Canon ‘T’ series that could be considered better than this one. However, they are also much more expensive, and in my mind, the extra cost doesn’t justify the benefits.
With the Canon EOS Rebel T5i with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens you’re still getting a great camera at a bargain price. Be careful when researching this camera, as there are several variants with different lens bundles and even an non-‘i’ version – this is the one I recommend.
The Canon EOS Rebel T5i uses a DIGIC 5 processor coupled with an 18 megapixel sensor which delivers impressive results. Coupled with the 18-5mm IS (Image Stabilizer) kit lens, you can capture sharp images even handheld in low light.
The ‘STM’ of the lens stands for ‘Stepper Motor Technology’, which basically means the lens can auto-focus silently, making it particularly useful for video recording.
Whilst the Canon EOS Rebel T5i would make a good stills camera for a teen, where it really shines is in its video recording capabilities.
If your teenager is interested in making great quality movies, or simply filming him/herself for YouTube style videos, the Canon EOS Rebel T5i is by far the best option at this price point.
Even much more expensive dSLRs have trouble auto focusing during video recording, but the Canon EOS Rebel T5i handles it with ease, making it a hugely popular camera for YouTubers.
The articulating LCD display makes it easy to compose shots which are low or high, and the 180 degree flip means that it’s a terrific tool for selfies, or narration-to-the-camera style videos. If your teen yearns to be famous on YouTube, this is definitely the camera for them!
Obviously the tilting screen is a huge plus for stills photography too, allowing much easier creative compositions, and the touch screen is a welcome addition to speed up operation.
The Canon EOS Rebel T5i offers fully manual modes for when your teenager is ready, but the enhanced program modes (for macro, landscape, sports and portrait) will be more useful to them at the start.
The Canon menu interface is superior than that of Nikon, being much more visual and user-friendly. This could be a consideration when choosing a camera for a teen who is used to tapping apps on the iPhone over reading text-heavy menus.
On the minus side, battery life is far shorter than the Nikon equivalent, and there’s no built-in Wi-Fi option to transfer images wirelessly from the camera.
This said, the Canon EOS Rebel T5i produces excellent images and is unbeatable at this price as a video-recording camera. If you want a camera for a teen who likes to experiment with both still and motion picture formats, this is the one for you.
Best Cameras for Teens | Mirrorless Cameras
I’m a big fan of mirrorless cameras. If you want the most innovative camera for a teenager that’s packed full of the latest technology, it’s hard to beat a mirrorless camera.
I explain the benefits of mirrorless cameras over dSLRs here, but to summarise, a mirrorless camera can provide similar image quality to a dSLR, despite being more compact and offering more features.
Top of the list of benefits of a mirrorless camera is the EVF, or Electronic ViewFinder. This means that when you look through the camera’s viewfinder, you see an electronic representation of the scene (rather than the actual scene when looking through a piece of glass in an optical viewfinder).
This makes it much easier to see how changes in camera settings affect a scene’s final exposure. When learning about photography, it’s really an invaluable tool, and something that’s much easier to understand for a teenager who’s very visual.[Side Note: these Photzy Snap Cards are also a brilliant gift for anyone just getting into photography].
Due to the amount of tech that’s packed into mirrorless cameras, they do start off a little more pricey than other compact cameras (such as these sub $300 point and shoot cameras) or entry-level dSLRs. However, investing in a mirrorless will set your teenager in good stead for several years, and not require frequent costly updates.
Type: Mirrorless Compact Camera
Weight: 12 oz (340 g)
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
For the image conscious teenager, there really is no better looking camera in this class than the Fujifilm X70. Understated, retro and beautifully designed, this is one camera that a teen will take with them everywhere.
Available in black or silver/black, the Fujifilm X70 is modeled on the extremely popular Fuji X100 series (see the latest Fujifilm 100F review), and shares many of its features but without the price-tag.
Even though I’ve written extensively about Fuji lenses, I’m also a big proponent about keeping it simple with just one camera lens. The Fujifilm X70 makes this easy, since it’s fitted with an 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.8 wide-angle lens which offers stellar performance and is perfect for almost every use.
Whilst it can be fun to experiment with several lenses, the restrictions of having just one lens on a camera is a great learning tool too. Your teenager will learn to compose a shot quickly, and see the scene before even lifting the camera.
The Fujifilm X70 doesn’t have any viewfinder, which could be seen as a downside for purists. However, in this day and age of smart phone photography, being able to look at a large LCD screen to take a photo is usually considered the norm.
I’d actually argue that even if a camera did offer a viewfinder, EVF or OVF, most teens would choose to keep it at arm’s length and shoot using the rear LCD screen anyway – it’s just quicker and much more fun.
Thankfully the 3″ LCD screen on the Fujifilm X70 is excellent, offering a 1.04 million-dot resolution on a 180 degree tilting mechanism. Teens love selfies after all!
Fujifilm is well known for offering fantastic image quality, and its X-Series line of cameras is no exception. Despite the Fujifilm X70 being the entry-level mirrorless in the line-up, it shares the same amazing image quality as most of the other, more expensive X-series cameras.
The Fujifilm X70 also offers some great Film Simulation modes based on classic Fujifilm film stock. Teenagers who love Instagram (i.e. all teenagers!) will have fun with all the film inspired filters which will give their images an ‘Instagram-look’ straight out of the camera.
Then they can use the built-in WiFi to quickly transfer their photos to the free Fujifilm app on their smart phone to share to social media, or text to friends.
Whilst learning post processing is an essential step in the growth of a digital photographer, most teenagers won’t have the patience to be stuck behind a computer editing their photos. The ability to transfer photos to their phone to edit or share really is an enormous plus.
Another big benefit of the Fujifilm X70 for teens is its compactness. Weighing in at a little over a smart phone and similar in size, it can be slipped into a jeans pocket or handbag easily, meaning it’s much more likely to be taken out and used.
Another handy benefit of this compact mirrorless camera is the ability to charge it via USB. Most teenagers these days carry around mini battery packs to top up their mobile phones – these can also be used to charge up the Fujifilm X70. The battery should last an entire day of shooting, but it’s nice to know that it can be topped up easily on the go too.
To conclude, the Fujifilm X70 is a great ‘no-fuss’ camera for the teen who just wants to get great looking photos from their camera to a friend, or the camera to social media. It offers all the manual controls of a dSLR, should the teen want to experiment a little, but it’s real strength is as a kind of luxury point-and-shoot.
I’d recommend this camera to parents of fashion conscious teens who want something small and light to slip into their bags for the occasional party snap shot. It can equally serve as a more ‘serious’ camera too, should your teen wish to learn more about the intricacies of photography.
If I didn’t already own the Fujfilm X100F, this is actually the camera I’d buy myself to travel with. When my sons are old enough, I’d pass it on to them!
Sony a5100 w/ 16-50mm lens
Type: Mirrorless Compact Camera
Weight: 9.9 oz (280g)
Average Customer Rating: 4.5 stars
If you think your teenager will be interested in an inter-changeable lens mirrorless camera with the latest tech features, the Sony a5100 is the best value for money camera to get.
Alike the Fujifilm lineup of mirrorless cameras, the Sony Alpha range is rather confusing. It’s easy to get lost amongst all the products in the range, with updates to cameras being released regularly and ones whose features often overlap the previous generation’s.
This said, the entry-level Sony a5100 (review) offers the best features of other more expensive cameras in the Alpha range for a bargain price. You’ll notice that the price is cheaper than the aforementioned Fujifilm mirrorless camera, and the feature-set is actually broader too.
I say ‘broader’ rather than better, as not all of the features will be essential to your teenager. In addition, I personally still find the Fuji a much better looking, and better designed camera to hold, which is quite important to me personally.
The Sony a5100 offers a 24 megapixel sensor coupled with a powerful processor which delivers impressive image quality and great low-light performance. In fact, camera testing website DxO Mark gave the sensor in this camera an ‘excellent’ rating, and many YouTubers call it the ideal camera, or even, the ‘best deal in photography’!
The Sony a5100 may lack the fancy film-look presets of the Fujifilms out there (offering instead more gimmicky ‘Picture Effects’), but it makes up for it in image performance. Your teenager will be able to raise the ISO right up to 3200 to be able to take night time shots of friends without having to resort to the flash.
The flash is actually much better on this camera than other compact cameras, with it being supported on an extended arm away from the camera lens in an attempt to deliver a slightly less deer-in-headlights look!
Another area where the Sony really shines over its competitors is in auto-focus. Using a class-leading 179-point hybrid AF system which covers almost all of the frame, the Sony a5100 can lock focus on even the fastest moving subject.
If your teenager is a fan of sport or wants to photograph fast-moving friends whilst skate-boarding, the Sony a5100 will make it very easy to capture the image – something that smart phones still struggle with.
The tilting LCD screen will make it much easier to compose low or high angle shots, and for video shooting at 1080/24/60P, a screen like this really makes the camera a lot of fun to use.
The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 power zoom lens which comes coupled with the Sony offers an extremely usable focal range, allowing a teen to take everything from flattering portrait snaps of friends to wide-angle landscape photos or group shots.
With its lens attached the Sony a5100 isn’t quite as svelte as the Fujifilm X70, but it’s not bulky either. At only around 10 ounces (280g), it’s lightweight and can still be slipped into a jacket pocket or purse.
The Sony a5100 also offers WiFi and NFC1, which coupled with the Sony PlayMemories apps can transfer photos quickly from camera to smart phone, ready for editing or sharing.
As with all mirrorless cameras (whose ‘always-on’ LCD screens suck up power), battery life isn’t great, but you can still expect around 400 shots on a single charge – more than enough for the average teenage adventure! You can also charge the Sony a5100 via USB with a separate battery pack, which most teens use regularly for their phones.
Speaking of the LCD screen, it’s markedly better than the one found on its predecessor, the Sony a5000.
Investing in the Sony a5100 also opens up the doors to unlimited creativity via the growing range of Sony E-mount lenses for a-series cameras. Once a teenager has mastered the kit lens, he/she can move on to the next lens which can provide an entirely different look to their photos.
In summary, if you want the best image quality for your teen in a camera body that’s barely bigger than a smart phone, with manual controls and inter-changeable lenses to allow them to grow as photographers, this really is the best camera in its class.
Best Cameras for Teens | Compact Cameras
The compact camera market is getting smaller and smaller, most notably due to the fact that smart phones are gradually taking over as the camera of choice.
For teens who already have a smart phone in their pocket, a compact camera really needs to offer something more to warrant a place in their backpack.
I compiled a list of the best compact cameras, but I have to admit, most of them aren’t actually suitable for the average teen who wishes to learn photography. Unfortunately, the majority of compact cameras won’t allow much growth for a beginner photographer or teenager just taking up the hobby.
I’d sooner recommend one of the compact mirrorless cameras above or even the dSLRs, since they are still small enough to be considered applicable for everyday use.
If you have a teenager who’s into a lot of water sports, climbing or other extreme activity where most cameras would be too fragile, the only compact camera I’d recommend in this class is the Olympus TG-5 – a waterproof, shockproof camera which can handle a lot of abuse.
Being virtually indestructible does have certain drawbacks, such as inferior image quality to a compact camera at a similar price point, but if your teen loves surfing, mountain biking and other similar sports, the Olympus TG-5 will be the best camera to keep up with them and remain in one piece!
Best Cameras for Teens | Instant Cameras
For teenagers who are used to everything being digital and instant, it’s often more fun and interesting for them to use something analogue, like a film camera or instant camera.
Whilst getting into film cameras is a great way to learn about photography, it’s also a lengthy and somewhat costly experience. Teenagers seldom have the patience to deliver film to a lab and wait for it to be processed, let alone to scan the negatives or buy rolls of film.
The next best thing in my opinion is a good instant camera. Teenagers will enjoy the film shooting experience (and ‘Instagram-like’ effect of film), but won’t get too bored with the process either.
For a teen, seeing the image appear before their eyes on the instant camera film is a magical experience, and something their iPhones can’t offer them.
The only downside of instant cameras is the inherent cost of the film, but at least this may teach teenagers to be a little more thoughtful about what they choose to photograph. Buying the film in bulk may help too.
As a great all-round instant camera for a teenager, I’d recommend the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. For a little over $100 (see the most recent price here), you’re getting a stylish instant camera that takes decent photos in all conditions.
If you have a colourful teenager or one that likes cute things, I’d recommend the Fujfilm Instax Mini 9, which is available in a rainbow of colours. It’s also less than $60! – you can see the most recent price here.
Obviously an instant camera does have its limits and can’t really teach a teen all that much about photography, but it is a good option for teenagers who have little interest in learning the ins and outs of exposure, etc. They’re also a much more affordable option if you’re not sure your teen will make the use out of a dedicated camera.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good first digital camera?
You have a wide range of options for selecting a first digital camera. You might like to start with something quite small and light, such as a Fujifilm X70 or Sony a5100 mirrorless camera – these offer incredible features in a small body.
What is the best digital camera for a teenager?
The best digital camera for a teenager is one that suits their needs and personal interests. If they want to shoot videos as well as photos, you might go for something like the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. If portability is important, consider something compact like the Fujifilm X70. For an entry-level DSLR, our top pick is the Nikon D3400.
How do I choose a camera for a teenager?
When choosing a camera for a teen, consider factors like price (they’re more likely to damage or break it!), image quality, portability, features and usability. You’ll want something that’s easy to use so they don’t get discouraged, but also something that produces better images than a smartphone.
How do I get my child interested in photography?
Giving them the right tools is an excellent start. Beyond that, give them the freedom to explore and learn for themselves. Offering support and advice is great, but ultimately their passion will flourish when they get to have fun and be in charge of their own journey.
Best Cameras for Teens | Final Words
There are so many good cameras available for bargain prices these days that it’s confusing where to start. When buying for a teenager, it’s tempting to just ‘test the waters’ with a cheap camera, assuming that if the teenager falls in love with photography, you can upgrade in the future.
Personally, I’d advise against this way of thinking. If you buy cheap (especially with cameras), you’ll usually end up having to buy twice.
Don’t be tempted by cameras that cost under $200, even though they’re great for certain usages. For teenagers who already have great cameras in their pockets (smart phones), the image quality won’t differ much, if at all.
I’d recommend you invest around $500 in a camera for a teenager to ensure the image quality is high. If you stick to the cameras mentioned in this article, you’ll be investing in a tool your teen can use to really experiment with photography.
If you’re not comfortable to spend this amount on a gift for your teenager, rather than buying a cheap digital camera, you should consider an instant camera, or even one of these disposable cameras! Waiting for prints to be developed is an enjoyable experience that’s uncommon in this instant age we live in.
I hope you found this guide on cameras for teens useful. Getting your young ones into photography early may be the best gift you ever give them :-)