Entry-level cameras are the best option for beginners, right? Plus, that popular brand must be the right choice, mustn’t it? As the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so. Here’s why you should consider choosing something better.
Education Systems Can Destroy Creativity
Little children can all draw and paint at an equal level. Hang the paintings of most four- or five-year-olds side by side, and they are very similar. Then, something dreadful happens. A digression starts, where some children progress while others don’t. The same happens with music. At first, most little children can sing, blow a penny whistle, or beat a drum, but then, some improve while others stagnate.
Why is this? It is partly down to our education systems. Around the world, in many (though not all) schools, creativity is stifled. The system knocks it out of the children. By the time they are grown, most young adults have had the gift of creativity stolen from them. This is appalling, as creative thinking and the arts are central to the growth of every society.
There are various reasons, but no small part of that failure is down to the quality of the creative tools the children are given.
There Are Good Reasons not to Buy Cheap
It's tempting to buy children the very cheapest art equipment. After all, they are only children and not Picasso. They don’t need the same grade of tools and materials that top artists use, do they? Of course, they do. Do you remember coloring in pictures at junior school with cheap crayons? Alternatively, you were possibly painting with insipidly thin watercolors, using brushes that shed their nylon bristles. Children’s results are restricted when they only have poor-quality tools to work with. Consequently, they are disappointed with what they produce. Unable to achieve the results they want, they are discouraged from pursuing art.
How can a child achieve their best creatively if they are held back by inferior pencils, crayons, paints, brushes, paper, musical instruments, or, indeed, cameras?
Yes, there is a big difference between entry-level and more advanced models. It’s the reason why top photographers don’t use cheap, low-quality cameras and lenses. They are just not good enough to do the job well.
If we want our children to thrive at photography, then we should furnish them with the best equipment we can afford.
The Reason Why Manufacturers Make Budget Cameras
Why then do manufacturers produce low-quality cameras? It surely cannot be to stifle beginners’ creativity, can it? Anyone who has ever worked for a large business will know the answer to that. It is their bottom line. So long as companies can persuade people into buying large quantities of cheap tat to maximize their profits, then they will continue that practice.
Like all low-end products, cheap cameras don't last. That poor build quality is typically reflected in the low shutter-life. While a seasoned photographer will know that, the inexperienced parent buying a camera for a child might not.
Moreover, the manufacturer knows that the beginner, if they stick with using this sub-par device, will very quickly outgrow it and buy another. Additionally, after buying their first interchangeable lens camera, the photographer is probably stuck with that brand forever. Swapping systems has barriers, not least the cost; changing means investing in lenses and other ancillary equipment that is brand specific. Why sell one camera if you can sell two?
This approach of selling inferior kits to hook photographers is especially bad for young children. They do not have the financial ability to upgrade, nor the experience to realize that it is the camera that’s holding them back. Most young children don’t know to ask for better quality crayons or paints, so they are hardly going to know they need a better camera. I wonder how many potentially great photographers have walked away from our art because they were discouraged by sub-par equipment.
The Misconception About Beginners and Entry Level Cameras
But, I hear you ask, isn’t it common knowledge that beginners should buy entry-level cameras because they are simple to use? After all, as the argument goes, why wear out the shutter of an expensive camera taking thousands of snaps?
That argument is insulting. It assumes that the quality of the photographs from the novice photographer is going to be worthless. I run photography training courses and workshops, and I meet beginners, including youngsters, whose work astounds me. Yet, they are often shackled to cheap cameras fitted with slow, low-quality lenses that hold them back, cameras that lack the features that enable them to expand their photographic repertoire.
Secondly, you are getting much better value from a more expensive camera that has a longer working life than a cheap one that will break after a shorter period.
Thinking about this, I wonder how many children have lost interest in their chosen hobby because of cheap microscopes, binoculars, telescopes, and even sports equipment.
Cheap cameras are cheap for a reason. They missed out on the expensive investment in design and development that top-end models have. Consequently, the joy of photography is diminished when given a poor-quality tool to work with. Yet, according to popular belief, beginners are supposed to be bound to these uninspiring, low-cost dollops of plastic that are bundled with poor-quality accessories. It's the photographic equivalent of buying unbranded wax crayons and cheap coloring books from a discount store.
What Children Can Learn From Using Better Quality Photographic Equipment
But let’s not just dismiss the low-end cameras without looking at the additional benefits of higher-quality cameras. Besides their better long-term value, there is the enjoyment and inspiration gained from holding and using a quality piece of well-designed, precision engineering. Photographers should be excited by their equipment. It should be a joy to look at, handle, and use.
Furthermore, owning good quality equipment teaches children a valuable life lesson about respect and care for possessions and property.
Of course, most budget interchangeable cameras can shoot okay photos within their restricted parameters. Indeed, in the right hands, they can even take good photos. All a camera does is open and close a shutter. But despite what some will claim, and as every experienced photographer knows, there is a lot more to achieving a great shot than releasing the shutter. Much of that is down to the creativity of the photographer, but it's also the quality and functionality of the camera. There are certain images I can shoot with my camera that rely on its unique functions.
Therefore, look for cameras with special features that will help your child take the sort of photos they want to shoot.
When Buying a Camera, Don't Immediately Jump for the Obvious Choice
Shunning the obvious choices in photography, as with any art form, and instead opting for the alternatives of cameras, focal lengths, accessories, compositions, and subjects allows for a greater variety of creative possibilities. It would be a sorry situation if all photos were generated completely by Canons, entirely by Nikons, or solely by Sonys. So, when shopping for a camera, don’t just stop at the brands that saturate the display cabinets. Instead, also consider thinking out of the box. Look at the excellent cameras available in the OM System (formerly known as Olympus), Fujifilm, Panasonic Lumix, and Pentax as well. They all make exceptional cameras, and they may have functionalities missing from other brands.
Choosing Better Quality Lenses and Accessories
It’s not the cameras that vary in quality. Don’t necessarily go for the bundled kit lens, but instead consider something better suited to the young photographer's preferred genre. If they are into wildlife, get them a telephoto lens. If landscapes are their thing, then get them a wide angle lens. Kit lenses are okay, but there is a reason why top photographers are not using them for their work: pro lenses give better results.
There’s another reason for avoiding cheap kits too, and this applies not only to cameras and lenses but also to tripods, filters, camera bags, and flashes as well. If you care about the environment and are annoyed with this throwaway world that's polluted with waste plastic, then selecting longer-lasting, better-quality equipment is the right thing to do for this planet of limited resources.
If we all avoided the makes that mass-produce low-quality, short-lived gear, and instead decided upon supporting those brands that concentrate on high-end products that last, we could change the industry for the better. Your children will thank you for that.
The Benefits of Buying Secondhand
Of course, not everyone can afford a new high-quality camera or lens. However, there is a thriving secondhand market to consider. One of my clients recently bought a secondhand professional camera. It's a model I still use. It was in mint condition and cost less than half the original retail price, and not much more than a new budget camera. Again, this is an environmentally friendly option.
Finally, don’t just give a camera and expect that the child will know how to use it. Do consider getting them some lessons with an inspirational and encouraging tutor too.
Education and gear are two different questions. Allowing younger children to play and explore, acheives significantly better outcomes than structured learning. Shoving a child into some sort of structured education is probably not optimal. Let them have fun, and answer their (to your eyes) stupid questions patiently, kindly and with an open heart. Beyond 'look here and press this button', don't school them, let them have fun and explore; they'll learn faster, and maintain a purity of vision.
How old is the child? It would probably be better to hand a tough camera to a child. After all, they throw things, and bang things, and jump in swimmming pools, and run in the rain. But we have daddy saying 'don't do that, because camera'.
But yes, something like a D80 for $50 should do just fine.
Edit: kids want nothing quite as much as the love, praise, and attention of their parents; so, when they say 'look at what I did', give them that.
And if they break the camera, don't get angry at them; that's a good way to stop them touching a camera for the rest of their life.
I do agree with you, William. But there are, as ever, caveats to that.
Throughout human history, young people have been taught skills by adults, whether it's playing a musical instrument, cooking, rock climbing, sailing, canoeing, navigating through the wilds, or archery. (Those are all things I have instructed youngsters in the past.) We have kids coaches for most sports too. I think children should be given the essential skills by adults, so they can develop their own abilities and talents by playing and practicing.
I first picked up a camera when I was very young, aged 7, and I was hooked. But I wish I had the opportunity then to be shown some of the stuff that I know about composition and exposure that I know now. Saying that, there are things I will learn next year that I wish I knew this.
You are absolutely right about parents giving encouragement.
The D80 was a fine camera in its day. There are some great cameras available second hand and considering functionality and ergonomics, I always recommend getting youngsters the best the parents can afford. If children are taught to respect and value possessions, then they cherish and look after their cameras.
Thanks for the great comment.
Hi Ivor, you could very well be right about the education system. After all, in a capitalist system we need many more employees for the companies than artists. However, I am not sure that it is mainly the education system and less the child's talents that are responsible for his or her development. There are other school systems, such as private schools, that focus more on art and literature. It would be interesting if more (real) artists would develop from them.
Nevertheless, a good tool is the right thing to start with (not only in photography). And if you buy cheap, you always buy twice.
I have a Nikon D3200 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and a 35mm f/1.8 lens. The kit lens was included. The camera can do everything my D800E can do (just not as fast), the sensor is great (on par with the D800E, only DX) and both lenses, ie the 35mm, are very good. My kids (a little older now) get to use it.
Is this an entry level camera or something better already?
Thanks Jan. It's the morning for Nikon shooters to comment. :) The D3200 is a fine camera, as are all their ILCs. I think they are one of the leaders for the quality of their budget cameras in their features and build. If I remember correctly, DXO graded its dynamic higher than the Canon 5Dii full frame camera. If your kids have not yet come up against anything that holds them back with that camera, then that's perfect.
Not all cameras are equal. A year or so back, I was using a client's entry level camera - a different brand that I won't mention because I'll get trolled by its fans - and it was horrible. There wasn't even a diopter adjustment on the eye piece, and it could not focus on any horizontal lines other than with the sole cross-type point in the centre of the frame. It was slow to focus and lacked lots of essential features. It felt cheaply built too. I could see the client was disappointed in it.
Are your kids keen photographers? Nothing makes me happier than seeing young people get enthused by this art.
Thank you. No, they are not that interested in photography yet, but I see a growing interest. But I think the mobile phones with their great little cameras are keeping them away from the bulky DSLRs. But they are trying to rearrange and compose a photo, not just take a photo. Not that I'm a great role model, but it does rub off a bit.
I'm kind of confused. What age range are we talking about here? You say "young children" but unless you happen to be wealthy you're not going to be putting several hundred (or thousand) dollars worth of sensitive electronics and optics in the hands of a 2nd grader nor are they likely to benefit from it. The idea that any child short of some sort of savant is going to be held back by lower quality materials or tools is just silly. You can learn the fundamentals of art with cheap watercolors and brushes just as well as you can with expensive ones. The same applies to cameras. Learning happens in steps so I'd argue that you can just start with a cheap camera and let them get a feel for the idea of taking photographs and composing images before having them worry about manipulating shutter speeds or apertures. You can approach those things later when they're prepared to understand those things. Hand a young child a camera with full manual settings and most are not going to sit there and ask you questions about why they can't take a photo. They're just going to get bored because they're pressing the button and nothing is coming out, and then they're going to go move onto something else. I feel like you're taking mental processes closer to those of adolescents and adults and superimposing them on little kids.
In my case, my parents always bought me the best stuff they could afford for all of my hobbies and it didn't make any difference at all because the limiting factor was never the education system or the limitation of my tools. 100% of the time, it was simply a lack of interest to pursue the hobby any further on my part. Just about anyone who actually has a desire to get better at something will do so regardless of whether they're doing it with expensive stuff or cheap stuff. If your 5-year-old isn't progressing in their interest of photography, don't blame the education system or the fact that you gave them some $20 toy digital camera from Amazon. Blame the fact that they probably just aren't interested in photography... Putting a D850 in their hands isn't going to create a passion that's simply not there to begin with.
"Do you remember colouring in pictures with cheap crayons when you were in primary school?" I do, I had the cheap crayons, but a close friend had Caran d'Ache crayons. It made so much more fun to draw with them. And we know fore decades that motivation comes with joy.
And then: Everything in its own time. A kindergartener will not have a lasting interest in photography, but a ten-year-old might.
I don't remember ever coloring with cheap crayons because I never got cheap crayons. Despite this, I never took an interest to coloring nor did I perceive coloring with them to be any more or less fun than coloring with the cheap crayons my friends had. I actually distinctly remember getting yelled at multiple times for coming home with the wrong crayons in my crayon box since we always swapped and none of us cared about the difference.
Honestly, my parents could have probably saved tens of thousands of dollars over the course of my elementary school years if they didn't go all out always buying the best stuff they could find for a hobby that I ended up dropping within in a month anyway. It's not like I knew the difference or appreciated it at that age and I ended up quitting all the same because it bored me after a while.
Obviously, if your kid is of a certain age and they show a real interest, then sure, but even then it makes sense to limit your investment until they're sure that's what they want to do. Dropping a thousand dollars on the first camera your kid will ever own before you're reasonably certain that they have a real interest in it doesn't make much sense to me. They can learn just as well on a $50 used DSLR that has manual settings and then transfer that knowledge over once they've got the basics down. By the time they get to the skill level where the gear is actually a limiting factor, even better cameras will be out for the same exact amount of money that you're about to put down right now anyway.
The old adage about a horse and water apply.
I was somewhat struck by the notion one should give $3k worth of camera and lens to a toddler.
But I suppose when you are hyper-wealthy it doesn't matter so much.
I didn't mention $3K, did I? In fact, I concluded by mentioning cheaper, second hand cameras. I'm not hyper-wealthy. Not many people in the creative industry are.
Ivor, take a real good look at the example cameras you're throwing up as being appropriate.
I would also note above you made a "not all cameras are equal" comment.
And just an FYI, "hyper-wealthy" are billionaires; I thought the sarcasm would be manifest.
I haven't mentioned toddlers, and I wasn't talking about them. Children are a mixed bunch, and there are six year olds I would trust with a good quality camera, and some 12-year-olds I wouldn't. It's down to parents to make that decision, which is why I didn't stipulate an age.
Children and young people here are everyone below the age of 18.
Then maybe you should be explicit. That wasn't far from how i read "little children" - that word phrase frames your entire article.
The fact multiple people interpreted what you wrote in the same way, would suggest the error is yours.
"Children" is generally used in the context of people that haven't reached adolescence (otherwise most people would use "adolescents" or "teens"). If you say YOUNG children, it usually implies that you're talking about the lower end of the age spectrum. Also, I'd point out that considering that you have full grown adults being victimized by armed robbers in broad daylight, putting a thousand dollars or more of very visible camera gear in the hands of even a 12-year-old sounds like you're basically setting up your kid to be mugged. Granted, this is coming from someone who has the experience of being mugged at knifepoint in broad daylight in the middle of a busy street when I was in 6th grade for $5 and my library card so maybe where you live is different.
You've misunderstood. My reference to "little" children was just referring to drawing and coloring. The principle of providing children, and all learners come to that, with the best possible equipment still applies for all the reasons given in the article. Little children are restricted by low quality art materials. All children (and all learners) are restricted by low quality tools and materials, in photography and any other pursuit.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines child as "a human being below the age of 18 years." That was the reference I was using, as that is what I understand a child to be. I consider the exclusion of adolescents from the definition of children is a dangerous failing of society.
I'm sorry that you live in an area of such violence. Parents, sadly, supply children with expensive iPhones and Nike footwear. If a child is carrying a camera of whatever value, then the same risk exists, and it is down to the responsible adult to assess that risk and put control measures in place to reduce that risk. It would be an irresponsible adult who sent a child alone into a high risk area, especially with expensive equipment. In fact, my advice to inner-city street photographers is to work in pairs and small groups for that reason.
For anyone not keeping score on these articles - gear doesn't matter, unless you're a toddler, and then gear matters.
Is there a way to give 5 thumbs up? This is, far and away, one of the best replies I've ever seen on FS regardless of the subject. Bravo, hear, hear, and amen!!!!
Nick, I didn't mention toddlers. Children and young people here count for everyone up to and including the age of 17.
Toddlers weren't mentioned, but I get Nick's point. The vast majority of articles state it's the shooter, not the gear. Nick's sarcasm is spot on.
First of all, I'm now convinced that my phone is listening to my conversations. My wife and I were just having this conversation yesterday. Our daughter has shown real interest in taking pictures and we were discussing a beginner level DSLR for Christmas. Then like magic this article pops into my news feed.
I grew up poor as dirt in southeastern Kentucky. I don't remember the quality of my crayons being the thing holding me back. So I'm not convinced my third grader needs a D850 with fast glass. You could make a very strong argument that I don't need one myself. I don't shoot professionally. I'm an advanced hobby shooter at best. And I must say after reading countless articles from this site, telling me that I don't need expensive gear to get great shots, I'm a little confused.
Maybe you cover this in another article. If you teach classes I'm sure you do. But I feel like you're missing the forest for the trees here. If a young kid is interested in photography I think the best gift you can give them early is the ability to take actual pictures. Nothing beats the instant gratification of a Polaroid. Our daughter has one and she plays with it all the time around the house. She takes pictures of her friends at school, our pets, her dolls and any thing else. She has taken enough pictures now that she's started to ask questions like how did they make that picture look like that or wow that picture looks great how did they do that. It opens up conversations about effects of shutter speed and aperture and the actual art of photography.
I let her play with my old D610. But unless I'm there to set it up for her she looks at it like it's a Rubik's cube. We've even printed some of her pictures out but she usually gets bored pretty quick with it and goes back to her Polaroid. She's 8.
I like your point about all the articles about how to shoot like a pro with the cheapest gear and then they put up an article about don't skimp on the quality of your kid's first camera. So, for Fstoppers, this is how it should go. Your family shows up at the Grand Canyon. You get out of the car and set up your 2008 Canon Rebel with a couple of 3rd party lenses and a Vanguard tripod, while your 8 year old gets out and starts setting up her Sony a1 with all native G Master lenses on Really Right Stuff tripods and heads. Then, while eating an ice cream cone and fiddling with the dials and buttons on the camera, she accidentally trips over her untied shoelace and knocks all her gear over the edge. Is that what you were alluding to?
Hi Terry and Rich.
In answer to your point, we are allowed to have differing opinions. Not every article written by every writer will agree. Additionally, those who comment on articles may believe differently from the writer and express their own belief, or they may agree. I really like that it generates discussion, so long as it stays respectful. It is up to individuals to come to their own conclusions and balance what they read.
It's often my writing style to produce articles that challenge conventional thinking, because sometimes I think that we photographers get complacent and there are actually different ways of thinking about a topic.
I recently read a review of a camera in a respected consumer magazine here in the UK, and it was clear that the writer had never even handled the camera, but just repeated the subjective opinion from another influential publication as fact. So, challenging popularly held beliefs has to be a good thing, doesn't it?
DSLRs allow for progressive learning. It is possible to shoot good pictures with everything set to auto. Years ago, for my very young children, I did that. The results were far better than those taken with a point and shoot. As he progressed in his knowledge, so he moved on from full auto.
Additionally, most point and shoot cameras have major restrictions compared to ILCs. Consequently, learners can only progress so far.
Rich, as a former outdoor instructor, I have seen parents allowing kids to stand close to the edge of cliffs to take photos with their phones. There are far more precious things that could go over the edge than their cameras.
I am stunned by the visual creativity shown by often "very young artists" with a smartphone and a processing app such as snapseed loaded up. The speed with which they rise on the learning curve is way ahead of what I saw in the days of learning on a "proper camera". If you doubt this, just check out the stunning array of video's posted to "you tube" as everyone shows off, and shares, their latest picture style.
Never has photographic creativity been simpler or more controllable - and for many youg "imagers", a change to a camera can be a step back.
All this has happenned so fast, that "educators" are struggling to design a curriculum to help while the technology and ideas race ahead. But just as an experiment - try teaching composition to schoolchildren with an I-Pad vs' a DSLR and see which system wins!
Have to agree. A smartphone camera with some smart instruction will teach that young photographer how to SEE. How light works and how to compose. How to find the right moment, and how to improvise. How to do simple things with image processing right there on the phone.
You don't need a $2K camera and mid to high level lenses to do that. A simple camera. I learned on a Brownie, then a SpeedGraphic, and then a Ricoh 35mm. You can do a lot, you just have to learn to see.
Hi Paul, I agree that the smartphone cameras have come a long way and I often run workshops concentrating on just those. They do, however, have their creative limitations.
I disagree. I think that you're discounting the ingenuity of the child.
I got hooked on photography after my parents bought me a cheap 110 film camera when I was 9 or 10. When that little 110 broke and I asked for a new camera, my father's answer was, "Why didn't you take care of the camera you had?" (I had dropped it off a cliff, once, but that's not what killed it.) "If you want a new camera, you have to buy it yourself." From that point on, every camera I've ever owned, I bought it, myself.
I bought a lot of garage sale cameras. I learned a lot of things with these cheap cameras. Double exposures and putting "ghosts" into pictures. As a kid, that was cool, as was the process of learning how to do it. I also learned it was easier to do with 35mm film than 110.
I shot "macro" through a magnifying glass, sometimes two. I'd prop up the magnifying glass with bricks or sticks then put the bugs under it. Probably not award winning stuff, but again, cool!
I learned to yell at people on TV who used a flash to take pictures of athletes on the field! (Ok, that's not something I learned from a cheap camera. That's just knowledge of how light works.) Ok, maybe this one doesn't belong in the comment.
Not having equipment with all the best features didn't hamper my creativity, it spawned it. I didn't get my first SLR until after I was 18 and my first DSLR until after I was 40. The things I did as a child have helped me venture outside the box when I need to. I used to use a 2x converter and a nifty-fifty to make a 100mm f/2.8 portrait lens. I already had the 50mm and the used 2x converter was considerably cheaper than the 100mm lens, also used. So, I think I made out like a bandit on that one.
The point is, it's not in the equipment. Creativity is in the mind of the child. You give them a camera without all the features, they'll find a way to get things done anyway. It's not the kids who need all the extra features, it's us adults who think we need all the latest bells and whistles.
I'm not saying to not buy your kid the best camera that you can afford. I'm just saying to not worry about what you can afford. Your kid's mind can take what you get them as far as their imagination will let them.
Trust me. I should know. I'm a kindergarten teacher!
I agree with creativity being the most important factor. I've said that plenty of times in other articles.
But, with a camera that is more advanced than a point and shoot, don't you think the creative possibilities can be stretched further? Having the ability to do more than just look through a viewfinder and press a button, having lots of knobs and buttons to play with and discover what they do, is a great learning opportunity. After all. If a child wants to learn piano, we don't give them a cheap 2-octave keyboard from a discount store.
You used the wrong analogy with me by comparing cameras to musical instruments. I've lived most of my adult life in Asia. Various different countries, but I currently live in Taiwan. Children learn to play musical instruments on cheap instruments. Beginner violins are plastic with synthetic strings and can be bought for about $20 US. They buy better ones if and when they improve.
Pianos, children are usually given instruction on a shared piano at school and their practice pianos can go from a roll out paper keyboard, with no sound, to a portable size, battery powered keyboards. Starting out with this, I've had 5 child prodigy musicians in my classes, over the years. 3 piano and 2 violin prodigies.
My two violin prodigies could make you jump for joy or weep when they touched bow to strings. But they started with plastic violins and earned the right to play a Stratovarius. This turned out to be pretty cool for me. More than once, I've been treated to million plus dollar Strats being played in my classroom. However, I never once saw any of them in concert. I couldn't afford the dress code to get into them.
But here's the crux of my story, they started with something that taught them the basics before they moved up to something that was more complex.
As far as buying better cameras go, I'm not saying don't buy them, I'm saying that, as a parent, you don't need to feel like you have to.
This article is ninety percent pure Bullshit. I admit I was so put off that I stopped about midway through, but even that was enough to piss me off thoroughly.
Think about the magnificent photographers who developed their craft with Brownie Hawkeyes,or even more primitive box cameras. Initials AA come to mind for anyone?
An American photographer named Aaron Huey is teaching his son, named Hawkeye, with a Fuji Instax. Hawkeye Huey started at age four, and was first published in National Geographic at age six. Yes, he had help from Dad, but he didn't get one of Dad's high end digitals to begin.
Beginners should start with a modestly priced camera with manual capability and learn to use it to the camera's limits for a few years when they've reached that point they should consider upgrading within their means.
The author of this article sounds like a shill for the camera manufacturers who are luring the people into making a large investment they may or may not realize any return on at all.
In reality, all of the reputable manufacturers, dealers and most importantly educators will tell you KISS.
Bob, I disagree with your analysis. My first camera was a third-hand Kodak 620 point and shoot TLR when I was 6 or 7 years old. It was all my parents could afford. I got my first SLR when I could afford to buy my own after starting work as a teenager.
I would have advanced my photography much faster if I had been given a camera with interchangeable lenses, and some instruction when I was much younger.
In reply to your accusation, which is insulting to my integrity, I am not affiliated to any camera brand. If you read this and other articles I write, I am often very critical of the big manufacturers. Making insults like that just undermines your own comments and so you come across as a troll.
Most of the young people I teach are teenagers, and my own son was 8 when I let him use my SLR. I see no reason for holding them back by giving them cameras that limit their capabilities.
this article made me register to respond.
I'm a hobby photographer since I was 14, when I bought my first SLR (a GDR made Practica LTL 3).
At hat time I regularly went to the public library and borrowed and read books on photography, the physics behind it and regularly read a german photo magazine. (I could not afford the subscription)
Short after I became a student, i had the opportunity to ge a really good job during summer holidays and from my first "salary" I bought myself the then famous Pentax ME Super with an M 50 f1,4 and a winder.
Later I added a 28mm, a 200 mm, the famous 40mm and the big Metz 45 flash.
I made lots of photos and had my Pentax with me when sailing or skiing.
Around the year 2000 I started with digital photography Canon 90IS (bridge camera,strong tele-zoom and 2 MP).
Followed by a Pentax K-7 (that got stolen), by the Pentax-K5 and since last year a near-mint, used K3.
Last year, after several years of only shooting some family and holiday photos, I decided to revive my old hobby,
I invested in some (used) lenses, a light tripod and some filters. Due to Corona limitations I did not have as many opportunities for my hobby as I would liked to have, and the job was demanding too....
Last year my oldest daughter (9) wanted to accompany me when I went for a small nearby landscape photo tour.
So I gave her the Lumix compact camera (easy camera, my wife can also shoot family pictures with).
After the tour, when watching the photos, I saw that she had talent in finding interesting spots / targets and that she liked taking photographs.
So for her birthday I bought a used (nearly unused) Pentax K30 body, and had a photography course with daddy as present. I did NOT give her the camera as a gift, since I have 3 children and I would have to give her sister and her brother something equivalent.
I said: I will teach you some basics to understand HOW TO photograph and IMPORTANT things to take into account and you can "borrow" the camera to make photos.
The K30 is equipped with the 18-55 WR and the 50-200 WR kit lenses I already owned, but the decision to buy a Pentax was with the idea in mind, that later on when she is more proficient she can also use some of daddies "good" lenses too.
I really like the idea that at least one of my kids will be able to use the advantages of a DSLR over these "image calculators" aka mobile phones. Knowing the basics of focal length, field of sharpness, stops, sensitivity will surely help to understand how to create technically good photos.
Sure it's a little early to teach her the physical backgrounds, but I found a way to explain her the basics of exposure using the picture of water (bucket small/big, hose (small/large), valve (fully open/ nealy closed))
Of course if any of my other children show interest in photography, they surely will get the same chance/offerings.
Children are amazing in their ability and speed to learn things when they are interested in something.
The same daughter is also very interested in horse/pony riding and this year she passed the riding license (allowing her to take part in competitions) exam that most other children pass at the age of 12. And the written part of the exam was in French, which is not her mother tongue. Before she passed, I doubted that she could do the written part since to understand the questions your french needs to be rather good.
So for me the resume is: Give the children something to really work/experiment with (not a DSLR to a toddler) but
don't forget to teach some basics, so they know what they do.
The 2K $ or € camera won't make them super photographers, but with a only fully-automatic compact camera they can't really be(come) creative, perhaps only becoming creative on how to cheat the automatic, but still then it's far easier to do it, when you WHAT you're doing and WHY.
Thanks for reading so far
Thank you for that great comment and enjoyable read, Axel. I hope your daughter continues to take great photos.
Great first comment, read with pleasure. We have had similar experiences, e.g. I also bought a Metz 45. And my children can use my equipment now that they are old enough. When they were younger, they liked to help set up the studio flashes. Where to put it? Here! Why? ... and there was another situation where children have the chance to learn something new. You are right: give them something to find out and try out. - Or, on the contrary, give them an "AI" device like a mobile phone that takes most of the decisions off their hands and does everything for them? Definitely not!
Not sure where to start as there are a lot of valid points in the comments. I am 60 yrs old, been shooting since I was 13 so been around this for a little bit. I have shot all kinds of cameras over the years. Started with the Brownie box I bought a garage sale, to the Nikon FM I bought when I was 16 to the Leica M3 that my grandfather left me up through the digital Nikons I shoot today. Let's make one thing clear, there will be some that money spent will not be a problem so they will go out and spend whatever, so let's toss them out of the equation. I also play 70 - 80 rounds of golf a season so I will use that experience as well in my response.
When a parent tells me their child wants to start playing golf and they ask me what clubs they should buy, I never tell them to but the best PING's, Titleist, Callaway, etc. I tell them to go to the course and ask the pro if they have any used sets for sale and to start with one of them first. Reason: many times children get excited about a new sport or hobby, they just know this what they want to do and after a couple of months a lot of time the excitement wears off, they just don't like it or something else gets their attention. So when that happens, the parents now have 1500 dollars in clubs just sitting in the garage. If the kid keeps up with the game, then they improve their equipment when needed.
Same with a camera. I bet there's countless cameras gathering dust on shelves because of the scenario mentioned above. If a kid takes an interest in something, and you know your kid better than anyone else, look for something that meets the immediate need. I know several young and upcoming photographers that started with a Nikon or Canon kit camera with a lens and started working on their craft, learning composition, lighting, etc... they kept up with it and have upgraded when they could or needed to so they could continue to grow.
You all know this as well, the best equipment does not do you a damn bit of good if you don't have the talent. Sorry if that sounds harsh but it is true. I see guys at my local golf course that show up every Spring with the latest driver and the newest most technologically advanced putter on the market and they still slice the ball to the right and can't make a putt to save their butt, yet every year they think they can buy a new game, you can't. You need to have some level of skill. Same with a camera.
Over the years I have seen the same thing with people and cameras. I see moms and dads with better gear than mine, standing next to me on the sidelines on a Friday night and I see their photos, and they are not good. They just don't have they eye, the instinct, whatever it is that separates good photographers from bad ones. Same thing in golf, I can buy the same clubs, balls, shoes, etc as the pros but I am never going to play as well as they do because I don't have "it", whatever "it" is.
Think of it in reverse. The best golfers in the world can pick up any club from anywhere and still play better than the amateur. Same with good photographers, they can pick up any camera and make great images. The camera is a tool and they have learned to use the tool they have in their hand because they have "it", whatever "it" is....
So I guess my stance is someone starting out will not be stunted in their creative growth if they have less than ideal gear. I am sure most painters, drawers, etc didn't start out with the best brush or pencil on the market, they worked with what they had, learned and developed their craft. In my experience creativity will always be the basis for great work, not gear. Thanks for taking the time to read through my ramble...
I reflected on my own experience as a professional cyclist. You don't buy a child a junk bike, as it won't be enjoyable to use, and they'll stop; but you don't go buy a $10k plus bike either. Something second hand and mid-range is perfect.
My wife and I ride, we have a couple of Felt road bikes for road use and the same applies there as well. They are not the cheapest bikes in the line but not the 5K bikes either. Even if I did buy a 5 - 10K bike I am never going to be a Tour rider, just not going to happen. It is easy to get caught up in gear in any hobby but in the end it just boils down to talent and desire, IMO... thank you for your comment.
Same take. My 10 y/o son wanted a bike to ride with me, so we searched high and low and found him a Specialized Allez Jr for $250 about a two hour ride away. It happened to be in Huntsville Alabama, where there is an air & space museum, so we made a day of it. Win. Win. Same with cameras. He shoots local pro wrestling and bands with me on a used Nikon D5500 with a Sigma 17-50. Total investment? About $300. Another win.
Agree that moving up from an entry level camera will enable children to take photos under a wider range of circumstances. As several people have mentioned, age can be a major factor, both positive and negative, depending on where the child is on the learning spectrum.
As a kid, I was borrowing my father's cameras to the point where it bugged him. He bought me a used Zeiss Ikoflex for my 12th birthday AND I had to take a 15 week photography class on Saturday mornings and earn a grade of at least a "B."
If I didn't like it that was OK. The shop where he bought the camera would buy it back even money (assuming same condition).
I did like it, a LOT.......and have thoroughly enjoyed photography as a hobby for the last 50 years >>> one example of moving up from an entry level camera + education, that worked.
The problem is, when you buy a kid a camera like an entry-level DSLR/mirrorless, you have to also buy them a computer to display/edit the photos. Otherwise, wouldn't they be happier with an iPhone that allows them to share their photos very quickly with the world?
I also think that entry-level cheap cameras with kit lens are more than enough. I know someone that sold his photo to Microsoft to be used in Windows Vista as a wallpaper with the 8 megapixel Canon 20D & an EF-S lens (Look up Hamad Darwish Windows Vista on Flickr). I am sure that todays entry-level cameras are way better than a camera that is 15 years old.
A used Panisonic with built in Leica zoom lens with 2.8 and EVF for under 45$, gets them started very well.
My Kodak Brownie Starflash, 127 film, M2 flash bulb, got me hooked.
T Lee Keene Aurora Colorado USA
Lee, cool name. It's my middle name, but in Asia, it always ends up becoming my surname. Anyway, I started out with a cheep, under ten bucks 110 camera bought during a Kmart Blue Light Special in the mid-70s. Ok, maybe it wasn't a Blue Light Special, but it was cheap and from Kmart. And that should be good enough for any kid starting out, today. However, I hate to say it, but I kind of agree with this guy. If you're buying a camera for a kid, go the extra mile and get them a Fuji or Olympus water proof camera so they can shoot underwater! I remember how much I loved using the Fuji XP I bought for my ex-girlfriend. I don't miss her, but I miss that camera.
Well.... If you give 100 kids cameras and only one shows interest, good cameras just don't make economic sense. I wouldn't recommend running out and buying kids anything more than a point & shoot unless they show desire an at least a little promise & commitment.
My son started shooting local indie-pro wrestling with me when he had just turned 7. He asked if he could shoot a show with me (I've shot indie-pro for years), I said "sure", handed him my walk-around Nikon D5500 with kit lens and BOOM! he did GREAT!
Why? Because he had watched me many, many times.
I upgraded him from the kit lens to a Sigma 17-50 f2.8, and he's still shooting pro wrestling shoulder to shoulder with me. We also shoot local bands now - when they venue lets kids in. It's our little father-son fun.
When we walk in, it's the kid who get's the high-fives from the wrestlers and the bands, and not his dad - a great lesson in life.
Would I recommend giving every 7 year old a good camera? Well... No. I'd need to see them walk before I ask them to run.
The great news is that any consumer DSLR made in the last 10 years will be more than capable. I just picked up a Nikon D3300 (less than 1000 clicks) for $100 that my JROTC daughter can take on school trips. If it's damaged or stolen, I won't be heartbroken. Go used!