Digital imaging technology is so inexpensive that toy makers are putting it into kid gadgets that actually function something like their grownup counterparts. Take digital cameras for example. Kid-targeted models from brands such as Fisher-Price, Lego, and Crayola (all are available to subscribers) offer flash, among other features, and let you download images to your computer for editing and sharing
But you'd never mistake these toys for regular digital point-and-shoot cameras. For one, they have tiny LCD screens—little more than an inch in size—and their zoom capability is digital, which reduces image quality as it magnifies. Also, most don’t accept removable memory cards; you store photos using onboard memory, which ranges from 32 to 128MB, or several hundred low-resolution photos. They're generally less expensive than adult cameras, though, with most costing about $35.
They're generally larger, too, with big buttons that better suit small and inexperienced fingers. They come in bright, kid-friendly colors, and some include kid-only features: The Disney Pix Jr. (available to subscribers), for example, lets you add cartoon characters to your photos. And they emit loud sound effects when you turn them on and off (and, alas, only one—the VTech Kidizoom, which is available to subscribers—has a volume control).
But how well do they serve the needs of kids? To find out, we selected five widely available kid cameras and put them through their paces in our test labs. We also got the opinions of 30 kids ages 5 to 12. And we compared the kid cameras to a low-priced adult camera.
No camera was without its fans or detractors among the kids. And the kid cameras got at best middling scores in our lab tests. Predictably, these are not gadgets to buy for their picture-taking performance.
Still, we found three models that we think are especially worthy choices—one for younger (3-7) kids and two, including the adult camera, for older (7 and up) shutterbugs. And some of the others might also be worth considering, at least for some kids.