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The Best Camera for Pictures of Kids

Updated on September 15, 2014

You Need a Fast Camera for Pictures of Kids

The other day someone asked me, "What's the best camera for pictures of kids?" As a mom and avid photographer, I've taken plenty of photos of kids, so I didn't have to think about the answer - the best camera for pictures of kids is a digital SLR, or DSLR. They're fast, they're flexible, and they're easier to use than ever before.

With a DSLR, you won't miss those once-in-a-lifetime photos because your kids are moving too fast for your camera. There are many DSLRs on the market in a wide variety of prices, so if you're looking for the best camera for taking pictures of kids, this page will show you some of the best DSLRs for parents and explain why these are the best cameras for photos of kids. And if you're not quite ready to tackle a DSLR, don't like the size or can't afford one, I'll provide some cheaper alternatives, too.

(Photo by Lisa Howard)

Why is a DSLR the Best Camera for Pictures of Kids? - When they're moving, speed matters

Not that long ago, to get a good photo with a 35mm SLR camera, you needed to be able to focus quickly and have some knowledge of f-stops, depth of field, shutter speeds and other topics photographers love to discuss. But with today's auto focus cameras that come with a variety of programmed modes, you can get great photos even if you don't know about dynamic range or apertures. They're as easy to operate as a point-and-shoot camera, but they give you the speed, quality and versatility of a professional camera if you want to learn more.

They're perfect cameras for parents. The biggest reason? Because kids move!

While DSLRs offer many features you won't find in other types of digital cameras, the two main benefits for parents are the lack of shutter lag (the time between when you press the button and when the camera takes the photo) and the ability to shoot continuously (taking multiple photos per second). If you've ever missed the perfect shot of your child blowing out the birthday candles or kicking the winning goal because too much time lapsed between pressing the button and recording the shot, you'll understand why DSLRs are the best cameras for pictures of kids.

Take a look at the photos here.

3 Reasons to Select a DSLR

With a typical point-and-shoot camera, you might click the shutter button when he was first jumping off the rock. But by the time the camera actually took the photo, you might end up something similar to the last shot, the photo of him landing in the water. With a DSLR, you can capture multiple images quickly so you don't miss that shot. Later, you can look through the photos and decide which ones to keep. If you have kids in sports, you need a DSLR to capture the best shots.

Three Reasons to Choose a DSLR for Taking Pictures of Kids

1. Fast power-up and shutter response

When you turn on a DSLR, it's ready almost instantly, and when you press the shutter button, it responds with virtually no shutter lag. In other words, there's no lapse between the time you press the button and the time the camera takes the picture, so you can capture those once-in-a-lifetime shots that you might miss with a compact camera. The zoom feature on a DSLR is also faster than that on a point-and-shoot.

2. Multiple frames per second

Many compact cameras make you wait while they processes each shot, meaning that you can't take images quickly one after another. With many of today's DSLRs, you can shoot 4-8 frames per second.

3. More versatility with lenses

The most popular DSLRs offer a wide range of zoom lenses, so you can get just the right focal length for each photo. That means you can use macro lenses to get extreme close ups, ultra-wide angle lenses to capture the ultimate landscape shots or super telephoto lenses to capture action in the distance.

4. Better quality photos

The number one reason to buy a DSLR, whether you have kids or not, is the image quality. Digital SLR cameras take better photos. Why? Because they have larger image sensors. These sensors are responsible for capturing light and turning it into an electronic signal. Compact cameras have to cram many pixels onto tiny sensors, meaning the pixels can't capture as much light and are more likely to cause "noise" or make your image look "grainy." Imagine going to an overcast beach and trying to use reflective umbrellas to get a tan. Which would work better - 15 tiny umbrellas or 15 large umbrellas? DSLR cameras work better because they have larger sensors to absorb and translate light, meaning better image quality for you.

So what's the best camera for pictures of kids? It's without a doubt a DSLR. But the choice of brand and model is up to your personal preference and budget. If you're interested in exploring a new DSLR, below are some of the bestselling and top-rated digital SLRs to help you get started. And for those who aren't quite ready to tackle a DSLR, I've also included a couple of compact cameras that are great for taking photos of kids.

You may also want to check my article on Popular Entry-Level DSLR Cameras for Beginners.

(Images by Lisa Howard)

A Popular Compact Digital SLR - Canon SL1

Great for taking photos of kids

If you're not sure which DSLR is right for you, it's often helpful to see what others like. As of this writing, the Canon SL1 is getting good reviews on Amazon, particularly for its compact size, price and video capabilities. It's the world's smallest and lightest DSLR, and it's cheaper than Canon's entry-level T5i.

This is a great camera for pictures of kids, particularly since It's capable of shooting 4.0 frames per second and full HD video, so you won't miss any of the action. It also has a 9-point auto focus system to help you get sharp pictures. Plus, the small size makes it easier to pack than a regular DSLR.

A Popular Nikon DSLR - Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200 is another great choice for pictures of kids

Nikon is one of the top-selling brands of camera in the world and is known for its excellent quality. There is a good-natured rivalry between Nikon and Canon users, as most professional photographers use one of these brands, and they can be quite strident in their preference for one or the other. But BOTH will give you outstanding photos of your kids. The 24.2 megapixel Nikon D3200 can capture 4.0 frames per second or switch to video mode and capture HD video, making it a great option for parents.

Canon EOS 7D - For me, this is the best camera for pictures of kids

The EOS 7D is a semi-pro DSLR from Canon that has been out awhile, so it's not as pricey as newer models such as the 6D. This is the camera I now use for photos of my kids, as well as everything else. At 8 frames per second, it's much faster than my old camera (the Canon EOS T1i, which is the camera that took the shots shown on this page), and one of my favorite things about the 7D is that it's weatherproof. So if you're out and about with your kids, you don't need to worry about them splashing water or kicking up dust on the camera. That's a big bonus for parents!

The best camera for pictures of kids is a DSLR. But if you'd like some other options, take a look at the recommendations below.

Another Option for Taking Photos of Kids - Super zoom camera gets you closer to the action

Another camera I recently purchased and am quickly learning to love is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200. This is a compact camera that doesn't have all the compelling features of a DSLR, but what it does have an amazing 24x zoom lens (25 - 600mm equivalent) with a fast f2.8 aperture across the entire zoom range. To get that kind of focal length for a DSLR, you'd have to spend $10k or more for the lens alone. This camera is currently available for under $600, making it an attractive alternative.

It's an excellent choice for anyone looking for a camera that can help them get closer photos of kids on a distant football field, softball diamond, soccer field, etc. I wouldn't recommend it in place of a DSLR for all the reasons I mentioned above, but as far as super zoom compacts go, this is one of the best options on the market right now.

Photos from the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 - See how close you can get with 24x optical zoom

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here's a close-up photo of my son taken with the Panasonic FZ200 at 24x optical zoom (600mm equivalent). Click the photo below to see what happens when I zoom all the way out.Here's another photo of my son taken from the same distance as the previous photo. This was also taken with the Panasonic FZ200, but for this image I zoomed all the way out (25mm equivalent).
Here's a close-up photo of my son taken with the Panasonic FZ200 at 24x optical zoom (600mm equivalent). Click the photo below to see what happens when I zoom all the way out.
Here's a close-up photo of my son taken with the Panasonic FZ200 at 24x optical zoom (600mm equivalent). Click the photo below to see what happens when I zoom all the way out.
Here's another photo of my son taken from the same distance as the previous photo. This was also taken with the Panasonic FZ200, but for this image I zoomed all the way out (25mm equivalent).
Here's another photo of my son taken from the same distance as the previous photo. This was also taken with the Panasonic FZ200, but for this image I zoomed all the way out (25mm equivalent).
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Image Stabilized Zoom 25mm Wide-Angle Lens and 1080p Full-HD Video (Black) (OLD MODEL)
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Image Stabilized Zoom 25mm Wide-Angle Lens and 1080p Full-HD Video (Black) (OLD MODEL)

Product features:

- 12.1 MP

- 20x Optical Zoom

- 1080 Full HD video in stereo sound

- Smart AUTO with 58 predefined shooting situations


- 3-inch TFT color LCD


A Good Choice for Parents on a Budget - A bestselling compact camera

I'm a firm believer that the best camera for any type of photos is a DSLR, but a reader recently commented that she was disappointed to see that all of the cameras I suggested above were out of her price range. So I set out to find a compact camera under $300 to recommend to parents. And here it is - the Canon PowerShot SX260.

This camera gives parents a lot of options with features such as 20x optical zoom (for getting closer to the action), face recognition (for sharp portraits), high-speed burst mode (for capturing action), multiple scene modes (for helping you capture perfect night shots, portraits, etc.), multi-shot self-timer (for jumping in the photo with your kids) and more. If you need a budget camera, this is a great choice. But don't just take my word for it - as of this writing, it has a 4.4- out of 5-star rating on Amazon with nearly 700 reviews.

What Do You Think is the Best Camera for Pictures of Kids? - Please share your reviews and comments

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    • peri1991 profile image

      Peri Abdurrahman 3 years ago from Indonesia

      Great post. I agree to your point that say dSLR is great option for picture of kids. Kids are so active means it needs the best camera to take the moments.

    • AnonymousC831 profile image

      AnonymousC831 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Great lens.

    • trevorjb1406 profile image

      trevorjb1406 4 years ago

      A nice lens and especially like the underwater part as I used to dive a lot and had a specialist camera and lighting. Great fun, if you can remain neutrally buoyant!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      So glad to see a point-shoot under $300 on the list. Sorry I missed it the first time around!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      thanks for the info - are there any point/shoot models that you'd recommend for speed? I have a canon which takes great action shots, but lags in between

    • profile image

      chat2vishakha 4 years ago

      Nice post.I like all the pictures.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Anything by Leica is awesome. :-) But if you want something for pictures of kids, you might want to check out the Leica V-Lux4 because it has 24x optical zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture, so you can get good shots from a distance.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Do you have any recommendations for Leica?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @LisaDH: Thanks a million, you are very informative. Be bless!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: The J1 is a great camera. In fact, I may need to rewrite this article now that mirrorless ILCs are getting better and more popular all the time. :-) The nice thing about ILCs like the JI is that they've got larger sensors and interchangeable lenses like a DSLR, but smaller bodies like a compact. It would be a great choice for photos of kids.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm interested in purchasing the Nikon1 J1 camera.. I have an active 11month old and want to take great shoots of her including portraits would this be a good option for us?

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I don't know of any DSLRs that don't have a self-timer, and the T3i definitely has it. Photographers use the self-timer feature not only to jump into photos, but also to take long exposures without creating "camera shake" cause by manually releasing the shutter.

      In regards to taking a photo with a hazy background, you could definitely do that with a T3i, but the key to doing this is the lens aperture, not the camera. When you use a large aperture (such as f/1.8 or f2/8), you decrease the depth of field, meaning fewer objects will be in focus. So if you want to blur the background, you need to use a large aperture.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Which is the best option out of Nikon D7100 and Nikon D5200 to photograph kids with? I find it hard to choose. Which lens do you recommend to use with them?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Do all of the DSLR cameras come with the ability to jump into a portrait with a self-timer? I am looking to buy the Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18mp. I also want to ensure that I could take a subject focused picture with a hazy background, such as flowers etc.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Both of these are great cameras. You can't go wrong with either one. The D7100 is newer, faster, has more focal points, has 100% viewfinder coverage and is weather-sealed. It's also bigger and more expensive. If you don't mind the size and price and just want the very best camera, go for the D7100. But if photography isn't a serious hobby for you, I'd suggest you save money and get the D5200. With 24 MP and Nikon quality, you'll get amazing photos. As for the lens, the kit lens with either model will give you good results.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Ooh, that's a tough one. The Fujifilm has the largest sensor of the three and the fastest continuous shooting mode (12 fps), and it's the newest of the three. I would normally lean toward Panasonic due to the fact that they have Leica lenses, but in this case, I might opt for the larger sensor and faster shooting speed of the Fuji camera.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I need to shoot my hyperactive kids in low light

      am torn apart bettween

      fuji x20

      olympus xz 2

      panasonic lx 7

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Summiezigg, see my recommendation above for the Canon PowerShot SX260.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @LisaDH: I'd love a follow up on this, please! Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      pluson 5 years ago

      I think a compact camera that does not allow for manual controls will be difficult to capture kids, especially when they don't like to keep still (of course you want to capture them playing and having fun which also means movements). So I guess at least a mirror-less or even a DSLR would be best. DSLRs would be able to deal with low light problems better.

      Check out my lens!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 5 years ago from Diamondhead

      Nikon has always meant quality in our family. We have several Nikon cameras

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I haven't used any of the new little ILCs (interchangeable lens camera systems), but they're certainly becoming popular. They're small, they have DSLR-size sensors, and you can use interchangeable lenses. And they're FAST! I think they'd probably be another good choice for taking photos of kids.

      I recently read a blog from a professional photographer who was heading to China with his Sony ILC and leaving behind his Nikon DSLR. He said it was just a test, but when pros start dumping their high-end DSLRs for an ILC, I think that's a pretty good endorsement.

    • jastreb profile image

      jastreb 5 years ago

      Great lens and recommendations especially for kids :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Any thoughts on the new micro 2/3? Like the Nikon j1?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Couldn't agree more that a DSLR is the way to go for speed and capturing the moment quickly. However IMO the DSLR is enormous and awful to lug around especially with kids (Toddlers in my situation). I have enough stuff to carry around lugging a DSLR is just not favorable.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      @anonymous: StacyLindy, it's harder to choose a "best" option in mid-range compact cameras, but basically you'd want to look for the same features I've highlighted above - something that is fast, works well in low light and takes high quality photos.

      Compact cameras can't focus as fast as DSLRs, but if you look for something with a "burst mode," you'll be able to take multiple frames per second once the camera has focused. This is very helpful for capturing kids in action!

      Also, look for cameras that offer features such as high ISO, fast shutter speeds and scene modes such as sports mode and portrait mode. That will help you get good shots under different circumstances.

      Finally, don't fall into the trap of thinking the camera with the most megapixels is the best. On a small sensor, 10-12 MP will offer good results.

      I will look around at the less expensive options and try to add one here that I'd consider a good alternative.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was interested info on a good camera for taking pictures of kids which lead me to this page. However, I was disappointed to find no options for those of us who do not have $500-$1500 to spend on a camera. Granted I realize that these cameras are the BEST option but surely there must be a BEST option in a $300 camera as well?

    • Zhivko Stanev profile image

      Zhivko Stanev 5 years ago from Bulgaria

      If it is good for pictures of adults, it would be good for pictures of kids, right?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Excellent reviews and recommendations for cameras for taking pictures of children in action when speed counts.....there will be smiles all around as you keep up with the action!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Canon Rules and thanks for share.


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