Skip to comments.Seeking camera advice (vanity)
Posted on 01/21/2012 10:07:27 AM PST by FourPeas
I've done a bit of looking for a camera for my 12yo son, with little success. Hopefully some more knowledgeable FReepers can give me some good advice.
I want a camera that he can use to actually learn about photography, not just use to take pictures. I'd like a camera that has the capabilities to manually set shutter speed and aperture, not just one with a lot of snazzy automatic features. Actually, I'm afraid all those features will just get in the way. At the same time, I'm not looking to spend more than a couple hundred dollars.
I have no problems with a used camera from a reputable dealer, in fact that's where I've been doing most of my looking.
I waiver on whether to stick with a digital or revert back to a film camera. The immediate ability to review a photo on the digital is nice, but I've not come close to finding a good digital option.
Photography's been an on-and-off hobby for me for 35+ years. I have several old film cameras, and I may end up using one of them, but all would require me to very closely supervise him so wouldn't allow him to just have fun when he just wanted to take snapshots. My old digitals are too complex and maneuvering through the menus would be more confusing than the old-fashioned rotating dials.
Which brings me to the final complexity. This kid is my daredevil. Any camera will need to be pretty rugged to be really useful to him.
So, is there something out there that fits my needs? Maybe a better plan is a two camera strategy: one snapshot fun-only box, and one more educational manual box? Any ideas?
I’ll do some research for you.
What is the budget?
Needless to say, cameras are not what take good pictures, rather the photographer is the key. For somebody as young as 12, I don’t think a fancy camera is going to help foster interest or skill in photography. So, any modern camera, even smartphones, would suffice.
That said, either a high end point and shoot or an entry level DSLR would allow the person grow into. Being a Nikon guy, I suggest a high end point-and-shoot Nikon J1 or an entry level DSLR like Nikon 3100.
Nikon EM 1 - old camera, totally manual. Excellent.
Good selection of Kodaks here:
Second link has other brands....
As the son of a professional photographer, I grew up on manual film cameras and find that my Canon Power Shot G9 is a great little digital camera. You can shoot it full auto or manual, has dials just like the old film cameras to set F stops and shutter speed. You can probably get a used one for $150 or so.
Im looking also, so I’ll keep an open eye on this thread.
Making every shot count helps. To achieve that, start him out with a fixed focus 35mm chemical film camera. The time and cost of film purchase, processing and limited number of exposures will make him consider each shot carefully. Also get him a flat bed scanner and get him started with photo editing software like GIMP.
After two years, move him up to a chemical film SLR. After two years of chemical film SLR photography, he should be ready for a DSLR.
Get him a modern camera and Photoshop or other editing software. If that gets his interest, great, then he can read about film history and the way it was done when everybody walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways. Otherwise, you’ll put him at a disadvantage to his peers, which is what my parents did, and you don’t want him to turn out like me.
Thank you. Having enjoyed your photo threads, I highly value any input you can give me.
Go with digital. Way cheaper for a learner and he will get instant results so he can correct and adjust while shooting.
Thanks, I’ll take a look at it.
I’ve worked for over thirty years as a pro and must say that I believe you’re doing the right thing by having him learn the manual settings on a camera. Bravo!
I have had to sell my older cameras as they became obsolete (in a year!). That’s a good market to survey, because as your child learns more he’ll want a better camera.
Here’s a tip for his learning the real science of photography: a hand-held light meter. He will learn the difference between reflected and incident light. The exposure dial will show the various settings and he can select the effect he wants. When you understand lighting, you’re on your way to being a real photographer.
Canon Rebel is a good beginner camera although it is kind of pricey. (north of $500)
My wife is getting pretty good with it. And if she can do it, anybody can (sorry honey, it’s true).
I just got her a Nikon Coolpix S90 because she wanted a point and shoot for her purse. Man, that thing takes AWESOME pictures even in low light. About $250.
Thanks, I’ll take a look at it.
Great tagline, btw.
Take a look at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28K or equivalent. It has the look, feel (and functions) of a 35mm body with digital output. Used price: under $200.00
Interesting idea. I’d not thought about that angle. Thanks.
You might also want to consider some basic art classes, preferably drawing or beginning painting, if his school offers art. He will learn about composition, light, shadow, perspective, color.
If his school doesn’t offer drawing classes, see if there’s anything available in your community.
Thanks, I will take a look at the Panasonic.
First question to answer is how responsible is this 12 year old daredevil kid? That can be a starting point for the type of camera you select.
Is he the one that wants to learn the manual aspects or is it you who want him to learn those aspects? Is this for a class or fun for him? Sort those kinds of questions out first.
Then I would start at the lowest cost you can find for a camera and go digital..You can check with a good camera shop and maybe find a second hand camera...but beware there are lenses etc that can be had and changing lenses is something that must be done carefully. Personally I shoot with Nikons ( I have several and professional level cameras) but my cousin a professional, shoots with Canon and both are very good. I would not get the most expensive one at the outset. Our daughter got her son a Nikon D80 a few years ago for her son and he did not take care of it, ended up using hers and he broke that one too..
Good tip on the light meter. Somewhere I have an old one that I used as a kid. It’s probably time to dig into a few old boxes and see if it still works. That might even be something to show him while I’m still in research mode.
You read my mind. We’re homeschoolers and photography, including the tie-ins to art and physics, are part of what we’re studying this spring/summer. I think I’ve found a good class at a local camera store, although I may have to talk them into holding it for just my kids or drive an our to another one of their locations, but that’s another story...
Great site for all kinds of info from a very experienced guy who’s good at cutting through the fog.
I bought both my kids Kodak digitals. My daughter went on a trip and took over 400 pics along with a number of videos. Getting a kid a film camera is buying them into a dying technology and they like the ability to do video which they post on You tube to impress their peers. Us old geezers might well prefer film but the future is digital. The things to look for are the time it actually takes the camera to take a picture and by all means go for the rechargeable from USB rather than disposable batteries. If you absolutely must have an old style camera check out yard sales I sold my Nikon with several lenses speed winder and case for $35 for the nostalgia factor and buy them a digital too but do not go overboard the idea is to get them to carry and use it and if it is too high dollar the temptation is to leave it home where it will be safe.
Thanks. I’ll take a look.
I’m glad you’re homeschooling! That’s awesome!!
A class at a camera store will help- and maybe you can talk them into holding a class JUST for kids? Not only your kids, but other kids, too? Also, if you have an art store nearby, maybe they have something, too.
Thanks for the link.
Adorama Cameras --> point and click
I second Ken Rockwell as a resource.
I started in photography sixty years ago.
After a while, he will figure out what he likes to shoot (landscape, portraits, street life, urban landscape, photojournal, sports nature, etc.) although it's best to be well-rounded. After he understands the manual function of a camera, you could consider getting him point-and-click but he might be unsatisfied by that.
There are a number of photography sites that feature great art. In the initial stages, you may want to show him these sites to see what's possible and maybe take him to an art gallery that features photography so he can see the breadth of what's out there. Here are a few online photographers I like:
Nowadays, you can't be a good photographer without learning Photoshop. Photoshop Elements is an inexpensive piece of software, comapred to the whole Adobe suite of creativity. Lots of places to learn how to use it, in addition to classes at community colleges or certified trainers. Good luck and have fun!
Grab one of your old digitals.... scroll through the menu... set the beebers to stune... you will be all set
This is the route to go - G9 -
here is a good place for info -http://www.dpreview.com/
Ebay or Craigs list Canon G series. Else - a cheaper older digital Rebel. I’d rather have a G series - unless my plan was to start building lens collection - then Rebel.
If you can get a G9 for $150 - full speed ahead. if not - G7. But - if you can go to $200 - G9 is a better camera.
In fact - one of the sweeter little old cameras I have is a G3.
Study the series a bit - in my opinion - up to G7 is a bit weak because you can only go iso 400.
BUT - they have that sweet F2.0 lens.
I would go G9 - because there is so much you can do nowadays with high iso (G9 goes to 3200) - that it is worth giving up a bit on that F2.0 ( F2.8 for G9).
The only camera to ever have - the Canon 5D. (Unless you can afford 5D-II).
A free download from iTunes to
an iPhone, iPad or Ipod touch => Light meter.
A free download from iTunes to
an iPhone, iPad or Ipod touch => Light meter.
I dropped mine on the pavement once. I thought that would be the end of it, but it survived with a few scratches.
oh - one more thing - to learn - ABSOLUTELY digital -
You get immediate feedback. You can IMMEDIATELY - see the difference between depth of field at F2.0 and 4.0. You can see - should i unerexpose 1 stop? Set flash to underexpose 1 stop? 2 stops?
Can I hand hold at 1/15th?
With digital - I can set Iso to 3200, underexpose 2 stops, no flash, and have a dark picture of a kid reading a book, or blowing out birthday cake candles, or etc. Similarly - I can shut that flash down to -2 stops - and not blow everybodies faces out of the photos.
If I underexpose too far - I see the results in 1 second - twist a dial - and shoot at maybe -2/3rds of a stop.
If I get it all screwed up (of hand camera to wife) - I set camera on “green dot”.
I’m sure there are similar Nikons - but to me - they aren’t similar. For instance - they aren’t quite as good as G series, and they don’t have a real equivalent of 5D (excpet for $1000 more).
My nine year old will be learning on my Z712-IS. It's shaped like a DSLR, is smaller in size and has full manual modes. And, they are virtually indestructible. I had to leave on out in the rain to lose only half of its functions.
Looks like I need to put cracking my android to the top of my list.
That’s certainly a good recommendation for the Kodak Z-series. Virtually indestructible is high on the list if it’s going to be his to use for snapshots.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.