Product Type: Orchard toys
Newest Review: ... camera. The camera cost us £35 from Toys R Us, so we felt the price was attractive. The we discovered that this camera has a 2mp resolut... more
Member Name: cmh4135
VTech Kidizoom Plus Multimedia Digital Camera
Advantages: Intuitive, child friendly
Disadvantages: Poor picture quality and power hungry
Rather than trusting junior with your new digital SLR there are now a couple of child-friendly digital cameras that might just save you from heart failure when your child wants to take a photo. The market is led by the Vtech Kiddizoom camera and a similar offering from Fisher Price. Both appear fairly similar in terms of functionality and we plumped for the Vtech mainly due to more favourable user reports.
The camera is clearly designed for little hands. It's a chunky, robust affair, fashioned in soft-touch plastic (pink or blue). The buttons that the child needs to use are large and accessible, the bits you don't want them playing with (such as the USB connector or the batteries) are tucked away and secured. The neat package allows the child to take photos, to manipulate them on a screen (to add comical stamps) and to play a few simple games. Software that comes with the camera will allow the child to edit photos in a couple of clicks. So, is it worth it?
First things first - don't let the name of this camera fool you - whilst it might hint at a zoom function there is none, neither mechanical nor digital. In terms of image quality you'll be taking a step back in time - a paltry 0.3MP (640x480 VGA) is all that's on offer here. On the small 1.8" screen this means that junior will be able to take and see acceptable pictures but the chances are that none will be suitable for printing out at any size larger than the screen. We've not actually found this to be an issue - around 60% of photos taken on this camera never seem to make it off the unit and those that do are only ever viewed on the computer. My son doesn't seem to mind this at all. He's more interested in taking the pictures and viewing them immediately on the camera screen than he is looking back over photos taken previously.
One of the best things about this camera is that the child gets a choice as to how he wishes to see the photo that he is about to take. Of course the child can just use the screen to frame the photo. Alternatively, they can use the double optical view-finder. This is so much easier for the child than the standard single optical view-finder as there are many children who are unable to close just one eye for any period of time. The optical and digital view finders are not quite aligned but it's not a huge problem. I think it fair to say that my son will almost always use the screen to frame his pictures but we have shown him how to use the view-finder when the sun is on the screen.
Talking of the sun the screen is really not too bad in most light conditions, it certainly rivals some of the more expensive adult models!
Lighting conditions are catered for with an automatic flash function which can also be turned off - that it can be turned off is important when you have a 3 year old clicking away inches from your face when indoors!
The camera is not very good unless kept quite still for the duration of the shutter delay (although the poor images that result don't seem to bother my son) but, for those who wish to move the video mode might also prove popular. Again, quality of image is an issue and you'll not really want to view the results in any screen bigger than a large postage stamp but it's still fun. Interestingly, the sound quality in the video mode is clearer than that on our (adult) Casio and Pentax cameras.
The internal memory on the camera is sufficient for about 150 pictures or 5 minutes of video. Whilst to an adult 150 pictures sounds a lot to a toddler it is nothing and, once you've had 50 pictures of the carpet the memory is soon used up. Thankfully VTech had the foresight to allow an SD card to be used in the camera (although only up to 2MB). This is a huge boon, especially when you consider that, on the internal memory, each picture has to be deleted individually! The only downside is that the SD card slot is hidden with one of the sets of batteries behind a cover secured with a screwdriver. This makes downloading photos from the card a bit of a faff but, thankfully, the low resolution means that you don't have to do this too often. The use of the SD card also cuts down on the risk of losing pictures on the internal memory when junior forgets to tell you that the batteries have gone. A USB lead is provided to allow computer connection (but we've actually found it easier just to remove our SD card!).
The camera runs off 4 AA batteries (enclosed behind covers secured by screws). Rechargeable batteries can be used. It's a fairly power hungry device but not too bad considering. Just remember to take a spare set of batteries and a small cross-head screwdriver if you expect heavy use when out and about.
Now for the fun.
Where this camera departs from a standard cheap digicam is in the fact that there are several added extras that will appeal to children. Children can, at the touch of a button, give daddy a pirate hat and mummy a piggy nose. They can make it snow or even capture themselves in a love heart. Each of these manipulations can be done either on the camera (pre or post shot) or on the computer with the provided software.
There are 3 games provided which also seem to capture the child's attention. There's a fairly basic noughts and crosses game (played with shells and starfish) which is set at a suitable level for 3-6 year olds. There's a game of pairs which gets progressively harder as the child succeeds and then there's a rotation game which takes either a stock photo or one of your own (no choice), splits it into 4 pieces and randomly rotates them. Like the old square puzzles the task is simply to put the picture back together. This sounds easy but when your child has taken a picture of the floor, wall or ceiling it can be quite hard!
All of the functionality on the camera is quite intuitive - picture menus are used so that inability to read is not an issue. My son is able to do most things unassisted and if he goes wrong there's not a lot that he can do to "ruin" shots already taken. In that sense the camera is kiddi-proof. Mum, on the other hand, still has to ask how to view the photos or delete them!
The camera, unlike the Fisher Price model (and indeed a new Little Tikes video cam) is NOT waterproof but, to be honest, I don't see this as a huge issue.
Given the poor picture quality one might ask whether it would just be better to buy a standard cheap digicam, after all, it's pretty much impossible to get one below about 2MP these days and given the RRP of the Kiddizoom at around £50 (I paid just half that) one could certainly find a cheaper adult version. I know that I certainly considered this as a course of action having seen how well my son copes with our proper cameras. However, on reflection (and after about 6 months use), I'm glad that I opted for the kid's version. The VTech camera is very tough and withstands dropping well - the same cannot be said of an adult camera. The Kiddizoom is also far more ergonomic and the dual-optical view-finder is great for youngsters. The on-board games provide extra fun (and are great in the car). The downfall of the camera, its picture quality, is only really of concern to us adults. The kids don't seem to mind in the slightest.
My son's use of the Kiddizoom has given us a unique insight into the world of a 3 year old. He takes photos of what is important to him. We get the chance to see the world through his eyes (and it is very, very different at his height).
I would recommend this camera, even at the RRP, as it has provided (and I think will continue to provide) hours of fun. Be aware that its shortcomings are probably only important to us adults (and maybe older children); the target market of 3-7 year olds will just not be bothered!
Summary: A recommended gadget for your snap happy kids
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