Comparing the Vtech Kidizoom with the ELC Digi-Cool Children's Camera
For my son's third birthday last week we decided to buy him a child's camera. I had seen them about and was instantly reminded of the numerous times he has begged to use my own digital camera. I have let him take many photos with it in the past, but had to monitor him constantly because of the fear of it getting dropped and broken (and it has been dropped, let's make no mistake about that, although it fortunately survived).
Providing him with his own camera, especially designed for young children, seemed like an excellent idea. I researched the options and read a huge amount of reviews before making a choice. I had in my mind that I would probably opt for the Vtech Kidizoom, as my online research pointed to this camera having received the better reviews. However, during a shopping trip I saw the Digi-Cool camera on offer in the Early Learning Centre - it was half price as of March 2011. This camera usually retails at around the same price as the Kidizoom, so I thought it was worth investigating. My online research had not included the Digi-Cool, possibly because I had not considered looking on the ELC website.
Although the Digi-Cool usually retails at a similar price to the Vtech Kidizoom, it does not have as many features. A helpful staff member in the ELC brought over a Digi-Cool from behind the counter, which is used for demonstration purposes (and also for staff members to take a lot of photos of one another, as I discovered when looking back at stored images!). She left it with me to have a play around with - my young son was actually with me at the time so he was also able to try it out. Although I was not intending for him to be present in the choosing of his own gift, I actually found this quite useful as I could observe whether or not he could manage the functions independently. Anyway, very young children do not easily connect a bit of shop browsing with the actual purchase of a gift. As it turned out, my son learned extremely quickly how to take photos using the Digi-Cool (it took him about ten seconds). Three is definitely not too young an age to introduce your child to simple photography.
I say simple, because neither of these cameras will live up to the image quality you will expect from your own 'grown-up' camera. If you choose to purchase either the Digi-Cool or the Kidizoom, you will need to step away from the idea of the perfect photo, otherwise you will be disappointed. The Kidizoom takes 2.0 megapixel photos, and as I was researching the cameras in-store the ELC staff member could not confirm the megapixels on the Digi-Cool (the information was not included on the packaging). Up until a week or so ago, the information on the ELC website regarding the Digi-Cool also did not confirm megapixels - however, it now seems to have been updated and claims .3 megapixels (and no longer appears to be on sale).
With both cameras, images do often come out blurry and grainy. However, these cameras are supposed to be fun - they are, in essence, toys, not high-tech gadgets. The key selling points of both cameras are that they are very difficult to break when dropped, and they are easy to use. Both cameras have received excellent customer feedback.
My son took several photos of the inside of the ELC shop using the Digi-Cool, with me on most of them. The photos certainly had a lot of room for improvement. However, when I used the camera myself, the images were much better - the main reason for this was that I was able to hold the camera still more easily. Having since used the Kidizoom as well, I can verify that this is an issue that both cameras have in common. With both the Digi-Cool and the Vtech, shutter speeds are slow. You need to be able to hold the camera as still as possible and then wait for a couple of seconds after pressing the button, before moving. The 'waiting' part is what my son struggled with most. He can hold it still enough to take a photo, but whips it away the instant he has pressed the button down. Still, he had fun using the Digi-Cool and was happy enough with the results. You have to realise, young children do not have the same critical perception and standards of an adult. If they can recognise the subject on the screen then they are satisfied.
Dual Viewfinder on Kidizoom, none on Digi-Cool
One point of difference between the Digi-Cool and the Kidizoom is that the Kidizoom has dual viewfinders to look through, whereas the Digi-Cool only has the screen. The helpful staff member in the ELC explained to me that the viewfinder is a good selling point for the Kidizoom, because children often find it easier to have something to actually look through when aiming the camera. The staff member was not particularly attempting to push either camera as the ELC sells both, although they did not have a Kidizoom available for demonstration purposes (it was apparently stolen by a customer).
I have since discovered that my son may not be the norm when it comes to the viewfinder - he actually seems to prefer looking at the screen. I believe this may be because he has observed the way in which I take photos, and also because I have often allowed him to use my camera and that was how I taught him. Old habits die hard, and all that.
Special Effects and Games
Both of the cameras in question have photo editing functions for special effects. You can place frames around your pictures, add silly moustaches and create an underwater scene on the Kidizoom, plus a whole lot more. On the Digi-Cool, similar features are available. The photo editing provides some humorous entertainment for children.
The Kidizoom has five simple games, whereas the Digi-Cool only has two. From a personal point of view, however, I do not consider the number of games to be a strong feature in my decision-making. In fact, I would have been perfectly happy if neither of them had any games at all. I wanted to purchase a camera for my three year old, but what I do not want is him sitting on the sofa becoming absorbed by electronic games. That might happen in the future - I have a ten year old son as well, so have first-hand experience of the ease in which boys are sucked in by computer games. My three year old is far too young for that, and I hope to avoid it for as long as possible. In fact, although he did end up receiving his very own camera for his third birthday, he is still blissfully unaware of the existence of the games.
Zoom and Flash
Both the Digi-Cool and the Kidizoom have built-in, automatic flash. This enables children to take photos indoors, where the light is not as good. The flash is adequate for a young children's camera, although sometimes images do not come out clearly and are rather white-washed. Sometimes they come out fine, so it can be a bit hit and miss.
Both the Digi-Cool and the Kidizoom have a zoom facility - the Kidizoom is not optical zoom as comes with more expensive cameras, but digital zoom. I assume this is also true for the Digi-Cool which is advertised as 2x zoom. You can zoom in on the subject matter before taking a photo, although this can make the picture more pixilated and therefore more grainy in appearance. However, you just have to remember that these are cameras designed for young children and in the end, as long as the child is happy then the parents should be too. I tested out the Kidizoom using the zoom feature on a tea cup, zooming in as far as possible. Actually, the quality between the two pics on this occasion was negligible.
We Chose the Kidizoom, Due to the Video Feature
After a lot of thought, I eventually chose the Vtech Kidizoom over the Digi-Cool for my son, although I very nearly went the other way especially since the Digi-Cool was on offer. I did not choose the Kidizoom because I particularly believe it to be better quality - I actually think the overall quality of the two cameras are fairly similar when it comes to taking photos. However, the Kidizoom has the additional video feature, enabling a child to produce small movies - my son has just begun to use this feature and it is good fun. It is actually easier for him to produce better quality images on the video as opposed to the camera. This is probably because the video camera is not affected by his instinct to whip the Kidizoom away after pressing the shutter, as he does when he is taking photos. We have some fun and silly movies of him and his brother messing around indoors - the sound is quite good and clear as well.
As far as still images go, he has enthusiastically taken many photos around the house, but still hasn't quite grasped the notion of waiting after pressing the button so we do have a lot of blurry images. Sometimes he does a great shot, though, and the image is fairly clear, even if the subject is hovering somewhere on the side with the top of their head omitted! Better control is something I feel he will learn in time - at the time of writing, our Kidizoom is only five days old.
Over the past few days I have tested out my son's Kidizoom several times. It is perfectly able to take photos which are of satisfactory quality for a child, although they will not meet up to adult expectations. Some of the photos are quite good if the camera is held still, and the subjects - people, animals and toys - are perfectly recognisable. We have yet to upload any of the images onto the PC, but we often look back at the photos already taken. My older son has mastered the special effects - they are fun for children and quite entertaining. My younger son hasn't really started using these yet.
The Kidizoom can also accommodate an SD memory card, which enables your child to take a vastly increased amount of photos before having to upload them onto the PC. That is a good feature, however it did not have much influence over my decision as the Digi-Cool can take 400 photos before uploading becomes necessary.
Child's Camera or 'Grown Up Camera?
If you have a child very much older than my three year old son, you might want to consider a cheap 'grown up' digital camera. My eldest child received such a gadget for his sixth birthday, and still has it in one piece nearly five years on. At the time, I knew nothing about either the Kidizoom or the Digi-Cool (probably neither existed). In my opinion, these cameras are best for the very young. Older children of around six plus will certainly be able to use a more professional camera and should understand the need to take care not to drop it (although they will have to go without the fun special effects). These days, it is possible to buy a good quality camera for little more than the price of the cameras under review - resolution will be better and the overall image results will be more satisfactory. However, for children of three or four, then digital cameras specifically designed for the younger market are an excellent choice - rest assured, the camera will be dropped. And talking about dropping, my eldest son told me he saw an advert on TV demonstrating how the Kidizoom can be thrown downstairs with no ill effects. I didn't see this myself and so cannot guarantee its accuracy - and no, we haven't thrown ours down the stairs to check.
Happy with Purchase
I am very pleased that I chose to purchase the Vtech Kidizoom for my son's third birthday. In fact, I am growing happier with it each day as we learn new features and try out different things. My son has a lot of photos already - most were taken at home and some in the park. A lot of the photos are of the floor, or quite blurry, or of the cat's tail minus her head, but on the contrary some are quite good. To make the photos better, he needs to learn to hold the camera still for a short while after taking the photo as it is usually the slow shutter speed that causes the blurriness. However, the beauty of a kid's digital camera is that is blurry photos are easily deleted and you can simply try again. My son loves his Kidizoom, and gets rather protective when his brother tries to hoard it. We have yet to upload any photos onto the PC, so I cannot yet comment on this aspect.
I have little doubt that my son would also have been delighted to receive the Digi-Cool - it is a bright and attractive camera, unisex, simple to use and very suitable for young chidlren. Most features on the Digi-Cool are very similar to the Kidizoom, and as I mentioned, the swaying factor for me was the video camera.