Starting your kids on their own creative journey – action cameras under $100
Is it just me who sees their electronic devices go missing all the time now? It’s one thing to let the kids have a play on your trusty old smartphone around the house but when it comes to heading to the pool or the beach…… or heaven forbid wanting to touch my GOOD camera….
Long gone are the days of having a film developed at the end of your vacation. Our kids come from a generation of here and now and not just wanting to be a part of the memories but capturing it themselves, being a part of the creative process and seeing the results IMMEDIATELY!!
Now that the Globetrotters are budding helpers on our blog (we’re even featuring some of their snaps now!) it’s come time they need their own gear. While I’m not quite ready to gift upon them a GoPro – despite their instistence – we have found some fabulous budget-friendly alternatives to get them started on their photographic journey.
This post is part of our best family travel products series. Why not also check out our guide to the best travel cushion for kids, or see our favourite fun & educational travel gifts
What are you looking for in a kids action camera?
Helping you break down the jargon a bit what you should be looking for when purchasing your child an action cam (ie how independently can they operate the device and how much like ‘the real thing’ do they want versus having fun and playing with effects).
Breakability – let’s be honest accidents DO happen – all our products mentioned here have a sturdy design for kids. You may want to check though whether they come with a protective case for transporting, a wrist strap or flotation device
Waterproof – always check if it’s the device itself that’s waterproof or do you need to pay extra for the casing
Still image or video – we have selected models that let you take both still images and video recordings – this is really what sets them apart as “action cameras” as supposed to an ordinary kids camera
Image quality – generally speaking, the higher the number the better!
For still images, this is measured in megapixels (MP) and for video fps (frames per second). If they want to print photos or use for more than just replaying video back to themselves, this is important to consider and where cheaper doesn’t = better.
“4K” most commonly associated with “action cameras” is extremely high resolution (HD is 720p/1080p -4K essentially gives a 4x sharper image) – Still confused? read this.
Memory – how many photos can it take? All cameras mentioned here use an SD or microSD card but the one that comes with the product may only be small, eg 256MB or up to 8GB. You may be able to add up to 32GB or 64GB with an extra SD card (check sizing)
Battery life – its all fun and games until you’re back at you’re accommodation and ALL OF YOU want to charge your devices at once…. Are batteries rechargeable or will you need to pack spares?
Age appropriate – Look for simplicity of the buttons, size of playback screen; can they add effects as they’re going or is this ‘post-production’? If an extra app or desktop program is needed do you have it? Are images transferred by wifi or a USB cord and will you get these items in the box?
OK now you’re familiar with the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what you can expect from each of these kids action cameras.
VTech Kidizoom Spin and Smile Camera
Our living room has been decorated with VTech toys for years! So it comes as no surprise they’re a market leader in technology for your slightly older kids too. This is our favourite action cam for its simplicity of use and very modest pricing (Between $30-$40 depending on stockist). It is mostly for having fun this one rather than serious footage with it’s focus on still images with effects but can also record.
The techie bits you need to know:
- Twisting lens and 4x digital zoom
- Built-in flash
- 2.2″ colour screen
- 2-megapixel digital camera
- Voice recording feature with 5 different voice changing effects, movie taking, stop frame animation
- 256 MB built-in memory (Expandable with extra microSD card)
- Automatic shut-off after 3 minutes without operation in Camera or Movie modes to preserve battery life.
- Includes 1 wrist strap and 1 USB cable
- 4 AA batteries included for demo, install new batteries
- Available in blue and pink
- Intended for ages 3 to 8 years
VTech Kidizoom Action Cam
We’re starting to get a little more seriously into our action shots now with this one, the focus here is on your video; in the water or on your bike or skateboard perhaps. You can still have some fun with effects and the rechargeable battery has a decent life.
The techie bits you need to know:
- Features 1.4-inch color video camera LCD screen
- Can take videos, photos, stop-motion videos and time-lapse photos
- Comes with two mounts enabling you to attach to bikes, skateboards etc
- Comes with a waterproof case to take photos and videos in up to 6 feet underwater
- Includes fun photo effects, frames and filters
- Download photos and videos using micro USB cable (Included)
- Rechargeable Li-ion Polymer battery with continuous photo-taking and recording time of 2.5 hours
- MicroSD card slot with a 32GB microSD card (sold separately)
- The camera has a capacity of 240 minutes recording 640 x 480 video or 278,400 photos
- Best for 4 to 9 years old
Sold separately- the Kidizoom Action Cam Case
OurLife kids Waterproof Camera with Video Recorder
The techie bits you need to know:
- Picture Resolution: 1M ( 1280 x 960 ), 3M ( 2048 x 1536 ), 5M ( 2592 x 1944 )
- Video Resolution: HD ( 1280 x 720 ), 640 ( 640 x 480 ) 30fps
- Waterproof case reliable to 33ft (note buttons tighter with case on)
- Built-in microphone
- Includes neck strap, mounting kit for bikes and helmets
- Includes 8GB memory card (add Micro SD card up to 32GB)
- External 3.7V rechargeable lithium battery
- Power-Saving: Camera turn off automatically after 1min / 3mins / 5mins if no additional operation.
- Comes in Pink or Blue
- Best for 6 to12-year-olds
Kids Waterproof Digital Camera
Back to basics, this looks more like something us parents might be familiar with!! It’s nothing over fancy from the outside but is sturdy and certainly does the job with decent quality still images and video.
Techie stuff you need to know:
- Waterproof, dustproof and anti-fall
- Shoots up to 12MP and 720p / 30fps video
- Waterproof to a depth of 10feet
- Record HD quality video with an inbuilt recorder and speaker for playback
- Includes a self-timer
- 2″LCD screen with immediate playback
- 8x digital zoom
- Includes storage bag and wrist lanyard
- Powered by 2xAAA batteries (not included)
- Comes in black and yellow colours
- Includes an 8GB SD card; Supports up to 32GB SD (not included)
- Connects to PC with USB2
- Suitable for 5 to 12-year-olds
For preschoolers: VTech Kidizoom Camera Connect
Not as advanced as the previous two VTech models but easier controls and a bit more fun for your smaller kids who want to join in the action.
The techie stuff you need to know:
- 1.3-megapixel kids camera with 4x digital zoom
- 3 included games
- 128 MB internal memory stores up to 1000 photos (microSD slot for memory expansion)
- Comes with voice and video recording
- Includes funny stamps, borders, photos effects and voice changer
- Includes USB cable and 4 AA batteries
- Suitable for 3 to 6 years
Best Action Camera for Teens & Tweens: HD Cool
For your slightly older kids who can handle the technology but are perhaps still prone to ah, accidents! This is our top choice for a more sophisticated model that still doesn’t break the bank but comes with loads of added extras to make their own neat little videos:
- 4K high-resolution action cam 30 fps or 1080p footage at 60 fps
- 16MP image sensor for photographs
- 170-degree wide-angle lens
- Comes with a number of different mounts and other accessories
- Waterproof housing that works at depths of up to 100 feet
- 2 x 1,050mAh batteries, each of providing 90 minutes of battery life
- Download photos over wifi with app or HDMI
- 16Gb to 64GB MicroSD card supported
Got your extra equipment sorted for travel?
Not just the camera! Don’t forget your camera will need to be charged at the end of the day, photos downloaded and if you’re overseas likely different plus and even wattage conversion to make your device work – quickly check if you’re going to need any of these before you travel with a kids camera
Waterproof Smartphone Cases
If all else fails and the kids STILL want to use your smartphone, we have had no problem using a universal waterproof case. Always test them in the sink before you use them the first time, but they are a simple lock and seal then you use your iPhone as normal – not for deep sea diving, just to make your phone splash proof. The case will certainly stay put around your neck but if you’re looking at more action, don’t forget to consider a water float device especially if the kids are in charge.
The only issue we have found is that thaiPhoneiphone doesn’t actually let you snap off a photo under water. The button, therefore, should not be submerged if trying to shoot underwater, though you can start a video above water then submerge.
Do you have a kids’ favourite action camera that you think we’ve missed? Let us know what you’ve been using in the comments!
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Disclosures: We have received no compensation for reviewing any of these products, all opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links, if you make a purchase through our affiliate links there is no extra cost to you but we may earn a small commission, thank you. Please see our full disclosures here.