Let’s think about cameras for teens. There are several reasons why your teen might want a camera. Maybe they want to take pictures where it’s risky or impossible to use their phone. So at the skatepark, mountain biking, or when they’re swimming.
They might need it for a high school photography course. Perhaps you’re a teacher looking for recommendations for your students. Perhaps the versatility and quality of their phone are just fine, but they want the fun of instant prints. My daughter wanted an instant camera despite having a phone that produced way better photos. Beats me.
Perhaps you don’t want to give your teenager yet another reason to be on their phone. Or maybe they are developing an interest in photography. They want that little bit more control over the photos. Or they want to further develop an interest that has already taken hold.
All of these are great reasons to look at what are the best cameras for teenagers. So in this review, I’ll try to address those broad areas. I’ll suggest some rugged cameras and some easily pocketed digital cameras. To finish, I’ll look at some fun cameras and finally some more serious hobby cameras.
When all that is done, you’ll have a clear idea for choosing an amazing camera for your teenager. Most of these cameras can be bought for less than $500. But you’ll have to dig deeper in your pockets when you get to the slightly more serious ones at the end.
What Features Should I Look for in a Digital Camera for Teens?
Except for the novelty-value instant cameras, they are all capable of video recording. There are a few things to bear in mind. These mainly relate to the image quality of the photos and videos and the connectivity of the digital camera.
For the hobby photographer, these features also relate to the room for growth. Will beginner photographers be able to develop their skills, knowledge, and understanding? And even if they don’t want to be the next Annie Leibowitz, will they still use it as a hobby photographer?
Look for the sensor size of the camera. This will be given as a number followed by MP (megapixels). As a rule of thumb, the bigger the number, the more detail in the photograph.
Video quality also depends on pixels. You will find this stated as how many pixels there are on the vertical edge of the image. HD video recording needs at least 1080, so you’ll see “1080p.” One step down is 740p. One step up is described as 4K. At least one of the cameras I’ll recommend actually has even better than that at 5.3K. In general, get the highest resolution you can afford.
The focal length of the lens is expressed in mm. For reasons we don’t need to go into here, this is described in terms of the 35 mm film equivalent. Many cameras will claim a “digital zoom.” This is another way of describing “cropping.” So I won’t include it when talking about the lenses on these cameras for teens. I will only give you optical zoom figures.
With each camera, you can assume that it will be straightforward to use. It will cope well with mixed lighting conditions. If a camera excels in one of these areas, that will get a special mention.
What’s the Best Camera for Rugged Use?
There’s a whole world out there of action cameras. An action cam is designed to take the knocks. And it is designed to be easy to use and survive underwater use. GoPro dominates the market. But there are also many alternatives. Here are some that fit the bill for the best camera in this category.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 20 MP/5.3K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 16 mm
- Features: Waterproof to 33 feet (10 m), HyperSmooth stabilization, up to 8x slow motion
If you want a camera that can go pretty much anywhere, the GoPro HERO10 Black is a great choice. Known for its action cam credentials, the HERO10 packs a load of features into a very small package. It is small enough to fit in your pocket and tough enough to withstand swimming and diving.
The HERO10 is great if you want a digital camera that will capture lots of action. The stabilization is second-to-none, and teenagers will love the slow-motion recording. It has a front-facing screen, which is great for vlogging and selfies.
The GoPro HERO10 Black isn’t great for bringing the action to you. It has a fixed focus, fixed aperture, and fixed-focal-length lens. This makes shooting action scenes quick and simple. But you have to be close to that action. This is perfect for its intended use. But this is not the best camera for your teen if they want to shoot a football game or take portraits.
2. DJI Action 2
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 12 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 12.7 mm
- Features: Waterproof to 33 feet (10 m), modular design allows for different configurations
The DJI Action 2 is not as familiar-looking as a GoPro. But it has some innovative features that make it an interesting choice as a digital camera for teens. It does not have as strong a set of features as the HERO10, but it is cheaper (depending on the configuration).
The Action 2 makes good use of magnets to clip the modules together. They also allow a range of mounting options. It will deliver better-than-HD video recording and has up to 4x slow motion.
The DJI Action 2 shares some shortcomings with the GoPro. You have to go to the action. The 12.7 mm lens won’t bring it to you. It doesn’t have the same almost endless range of accessories available. The GoPro mounting system has been around for so long that an entire industry has developed supplying mounts and accessories. Finally, its still photo resolution of 12 MP is limited.
But it is a great compact camera with some innovative features.
3. Ricoh WG-6
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 20 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 28-140 mm
- Features: Waterproof to 65 feet (20 m), GPS, integrated ring light, webcam function
The Ricoh WG-6 is a great bridge camera between an all-out action camera and a more conventional compact camera. The specifications say it will survive a 6’6″ (2 m) drop onto a hard surface. It actually outperforms the GoPro for out-of-the-box waterproof capability.
The Ricoh also is a better choice if you want to photograph people being inactive. Its 28-140 mm lens encompasses a decent wide-angle and a moderate telephoto. In the middle, you have the perfect focal length for portrait photos. The integrated ring light is great for vlogging and selfies. And the screen is much bigger than a normal action camera.
The f/3.5 lens means that the Ricoh WG-6 struggles in low light. The ring light often compensates for this. But it can be slow to respond to the shutter button.
This is a great compact camera that easily fits in a pocket or backpack and will survive some rough treatment.
What’s the Best Pocketable Digital Camera for Teens?
If toughness and waterproofing aren’t the main objectives, here are some great compact digital cameras for teens.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 20.3 MP/1080p
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 25-300 mm
- Features: Wi-Fi, remote control via an app, up to 15 seconds of long exposure
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS packs an impressive optical zoom lens into a compact camera. When in use, the lens emerges from the body. This means when it’s not in use, it is very slim. The 25 mm zoom is a useful wide-angle to have. The 300 mm telephoto is great for capturing sports or candid shots of people. The maximum aperture at 300 mm is only f/7. So it will need good light at this end of the zoom.
The 3-inch screen means you can easily review your photos. The Canon Camera Connect app allows you to download and print photos. It also gives you remote control of the camera.
The PowerShot ELPH 360 HS is a great choice for an easy-to-use compact with a long optical zoom lens. But the relatively low HD video resolution might put some teenagers off.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 20.3 MP/1080p
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 25-625 mm
- Features: Wi-Fi, remote control via app, near field communication (NFC)
The 625 mm zoom lens on the SX620 HS is a remarkable feature. Many keen amateur photographers will go their entire lives without owning a 500 mm lens. For getting close to sports action, this is a great bonus. It will need to be well-lit. The combination of f/6.6 maximum aperture and a maximum ISO of 3200 means that any fast-moving action will need strong light.
To help you deal with
Once again, it can only record HD video. But it is very compact and easily fits in your pocket or backpack. The zoom lens makes it a strong choice for the best camera for teens looking at sports or wildlife photography.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 18.2 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 24-720 mm
- Features: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, tilting screen, Zeiss lens
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX99 boasts an even bigger zoom range than the PowerShot SX620. A 24 mm wide-angle lens is much loved by professional photographers. It captures a pleasingly broad view without pronounced distortion. At the other end, you are nearly in the same category as the press photographers you see at sports events. This is a lens that covers a serious amount of ground.
The Sony gives you all the point-and-shoot ease of use of your phone. But it adds a lot of manual control. The pop-up viewfinder is a nice touch. For an experienced photographer, it can feel more natural than looking at a screen. For a teenager interested in moving into photography, it will make their first DSLR feel more familiar if they do progress.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 20.1 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 24-72 mm
- Features: Wi-Fi, 1/16,000 shutter speed, fast f/1.4 Leica lens
Two things strike me about the Panasonic Lumix DMC LX-10. First is the remarkable 1/16,000 of a second shutter speed. The second is the Leica lens. This has a limited optical zoom range from 24-70 mm. But at its widest, it boasts a maximum aperture of f/1.4. This puts whole new worlds of photographic possibilities at your teenager’s fingertips.
The articulating screen allows you to see the image from in front of the camera. This is great for vlogging and other video activities. A control ring around the lens adds to the camera’s serious “feel” and performance.
All of this is in a well-made and compact body. This is a real contender for the title of the best camera for teens.
What are the Best Cheap Cameras for Teens?
Maybe you’re looking for a fun alternative to a phone camera. Or you want to be able to take instant photos. Here’s a quick selection of some of the fun, relatively cheap options out there.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 5 MP/none
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 28 mm
- Features: Instant camera, records to SD card, range of colors
The Kodak Printomatic combines the fun of instant cameras with the convenience of digital. At 5 MP, this will never set the image quality world on fire. But for its clear purpose of giving both a physical and a digital record of your fun event, it’s a great choice. The prints have a self-adhesive backing to add to their versatility.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 16 MP/1080p
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 22 mm
- Features: Made of Paper, self-assembly
Teenagers like to be different, don’t they? Well, this camera could hardly be more different. The case is made of durable paper card. And you assemble it yourself when it arrives. The inner workings are suitably high-tech. The manufacturers want to offer an alternative to cheap disposable cameras. And they want to offer a no-frills, no-distraction digital camera.
The Paper Shoot certainly offers that. It seems a great choice for a no-nonsense digital camera that will produce usable results.
What are the Best Digital Cameras for Aspiring Photographers?
Some of the cameras we have seen so far are very decent bits of kit. But let’s look at the best camera for a teenager interested in photography. These include slightly larger compact cameras, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras. Bear in mind that this is only a small selection.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 16 MP/1080p
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 22.5-900 mm
- Features: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, tilting LCD screen, 4x slow motion
The Nikon COOLPIX B500 looks like a mini DSLR. It has the familiar shape with a lump above the lens and a grip on the right-hand side. This houses the shutter button. The above-lens lump is home to the pop-up flash. Like a DSLR, it has continuous shooting capability. In this case, up to 7.4 frames per second.
The standout feature of the B500 is the optical zoom lens. At both ends of the scale, it goes beyond what the average hobby photographer has. The 22.5 mm wide-angle lens gives impressively wide coverage. And the 900 mm telephoto is in the realm of ultra-specialist sports and wildlife photography. You’ll need both the IS and the tripod mount if you do much shooting at that length. The downside of all that range is in the aperture. The absolute maximum of f/3 is quite slow.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 18 MP/1080p
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 28.8-88 mm
- Features: Interchangeable lenses, Wi-Fi, full manual controls
This is a very different proposition. A DSLR with an 18-35 mm kit lens. As a photographer, seeing a DSLR at this price is very exciting. It is a great introduction to photography and could easily be the best camera for any aspiring teen. With a tried-and-trusted kit lens, the EOS Rebel T100 is a stepping stone into the whole world of DSLR shooting.
This is a camera that offers full control of the elements of exposure. Lenses for the Canon EF-S mount are plentiful. Even the full frame EF lenses will fit. So there is a massive market in used lenses available. This might be the best place to start if you want to encourage your teenager into photography.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 12.1 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 25-600 mm
- Features: Constant f/2.8, Wi-Fi, 5-axis image stabilization
A Leica lens with constant f/2.8 from 25 to 600 mm. That is something to make you sit up and take notice. The f/2.8 aperture at 600 mm is an amazing achievement. Add to this the technical wizardry that Panasonic has used to bring 4K frame rates to still photography. It means you have a potential class-beater. 8 MP stills are possible at 30 fps. There is also a feature found on better action cameras. The camera records stills at 30 fps for one second before and after you press the shutter button. This is mpressive stuff.
This is a great choice for teens interested in action photography and looking to learn the craft. It has a full range of manual controls and semi-automatic operation.
- Max Photo/Video Resolution: 16 MP/4K
- Lens Focal Length (35mm equivalent): 24-64 mm & 90-300 mm
- Features: Touchscreen, kit with two lenses, dual image stabilization
The Lumix DMC-GX85 is a great introduction to the world of mirrorless cameras. This kit comes with two lenses, giving a great range of focal lengths. The Lumix also uses a very sophisticated IS system, making it an attractive choice for video and stills.
Combine the IS and the maximum ISO of 25600, and you have a great camera that can shoot in low light and challenging circumstances. This is one of the best digital cameras as an entry point to serious photography for any teenager.
If you want a rugged, go-anywhere camera for a teenager, the GoPro HERO10 Black is a great choice. It is very capable, and it has a certain coolness to it that should prove popular. It is one of the best cameras on the market.
For a lightweight, pocketable digital camera with great features, I would opt for the Panasonic Lumix DMC LX-10. I like it for its range of features—especially the Leica lens.
For an interchangeable lens camera, I would choose the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85. With the two lenses and the very smart implementation of technology, it’s a great camera for teens.