Camera guide for parents: Which DSLR is best for taking photos of children?

My driving instructor never once showed up in a Lamborghini. Although the idea of whizzing round the streets in a high-performance, luxurious sports car sounds appealing, in reality I know I would have found it very challenging to handle and would have been terrified of breaking it. And driving it round a town where you have to stick to 30mph, the Lamborghini would have been more than a little surplus to requirements.

It’s worth bearing in mind the image of learning to drive in a Lamborghini when you’re looking for your first DSLR.  Many people advise you to get the highest-specification you can afford, but I think as a beginner, when it comes to choosing a DSLR you can actually make life harder for yourself if you choose an advanced model. They tend to be bulkier and heavier, the sheer number of options and preferences can be overwhelming  and real overkill for someone starting out (don’t get me started on autofocus systems). To top it all off, they cost more money to buy (and it doesn’t end there – many advanced models need more expensive lenses and accessories.

If you look at the DSLR range offered by the major brands, the most basic models cover all the requirements that a parent photographer needs and more. The entry-level models coming out now are brilliant – with features and quality that you only found in top-notch pro cameras a few years back – with the added advantage of being easier to use.  So you can rest assured that you don’t need to look further than the entry-level models (unless you have cash to spare, or you’re an aspiring pro..and even then I would advise learning on a basic model first!)

Parent-Friendly DSLRs – Our Recommended Buys

DSLRs for Beginners:

Nikon D3300

Nikon’s latest entry-level SLR has some really impressive features and performs extremely well. For parents who like to shoot in natural light indoors, it handles low light really well, and the image quality is high thanks to the quality CMOS sensor, Nikon’s latest processor and 24 megapixel resolution. It has a very high frame rate for an entry-level camera of 5 shots per second, and this combined with the accurate 11-point focussing system should mean that you can keep up with your energetic children. Designed for people starting out with DSLR photography, the compact body is lightweight and the menus and button layout are designed for ease of use. We really like the new retractable kit lens which takes up far less room in your bag than older kit lenses. It also shoots HD video, so no need to lug a separate camcorder around.

Like this but want to spend less?

Look out for Nikon’s older entry-level model which can be picked up at really good prices. The Nikon D3200 has a slower frame rate (4fps instead of 5), a slightly older processor and the image quality is not quite so good in low-light, but as a beginner you are unlikely to notice the difference.

Canon EOS 1200D

Canon’s latest entry-level model performs really well and delivers great image quality, particularly when teamed with a good-quality lens like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 prime. The low-light performance, 3 fps frame rate, image resolution and autofocus is a little less impressive than the Nikon D3300, but it costs a fair bit less and the specification is more than enough to keep a new photographer happy for a year or two. It also offers HD video and a special ‘feature guide’ in-built learning tool.

Like this but want to spend less?

Take a look at the older entry-level Canon EOS 1100D. It may be four years old with fewer megapixels (12 as opposed to 18), but both models have the same processor, there’s not much difference in the autofocus performance and both offer 3 frames per second. There’s also a movie mode (although not HD). I own one and love it – it’s lightweight and easy to use, and it produces some exceptional photos if you know how to use it properly. You can pick these up new at bargain prices, and I promise you won’t outgrow it very quickly.

DSLRs for ‘advanced beginners’:

Nikon D5300

If you want to spend a little more on a camera with more advanced features, the Nikon 5300 is a good choice. Offering a high-resolution 24-megapixels (handy if you want to make very large prints) and Nikon’s latest whizzy processor. It has an impressive 39 focus points and a high frame rate of 5 per second, so it will perform brilliantly when you’re photographing fast-moving children. It doesn’t have the magnesium alloy body or weather sealing you get with many more expensive models, but you do get a lot of features for your money. We like the large fold-out LCD screen and the fact that the polycarbonate body keeps it nice and light to carry around.

Like this but want to spend less?

You could take a look at the older Nikon D5200 model which is a little heavier, a little slower, and doesn’t quite have the same image quality in low light. However, it does have an articulated screen, a movie mode and the same sophisticated focussing system. For an even more low-cost option, the lower-spec Nikon D5100 is also worth taking seriously. It may not be quite as sophisticated as the latest model, but it is still a brilliant camera which should be more than adequate for a parent photographer starting out.

Canon EOS 100D

This is the smallest, lightest DSLR on the market (weighing only 380g), so is a great choice for anyone worried about carrying a bulky camera around. It has a really useful touchscreen LCD and performs really well in low light (with an ISO of up to 12,800). Despite its small size, the buttons and controls are well laid out and it is intuitive and easy to use. You shouldn’t ever miss the moment with this camera. Boasting a high 4fps frame rate, it is a quick and responsive with a fast start up time and it doesn’t suffer from shutter lag. The video mode uses Canon’s highly praised high speed autofocus.

Canon EOS 700D

Canon EOS 700D

This model has good low-light performance and its 18-megapixel resolution should be more than enough for the needs of a beginner or intermediate photographer. It focusses quickly and accurately in video mode as well as for stills (in fact it is considered by many to be the best entry-level camera for video). We like the large fold-out LCD monitor and the easy to use interface, including Canon’s in-built ‘feature guide’ learning tool.

Like this but want to spend less?

The Canon 650D is almost identical to the 700D, but despite this you can pick it up at a cheaper price if you shop around.

Pentax K-500

For an entry-level camera, the Pentax K-500 certainly packs a punch. It has an impressive spec: 16 megapixel resolution, brilliant low-light performance, a quick start up and minimal shutter lag, and a lightning-fast burst rate of six frames per second. Whereas the Nikon and Canon cameras featured here have cheaper pentamirror viewfinders, the Pentax has a more sophisticated and costly pentaprism viewfinder. The pentamirrors on the other models only display 95% of the frame, the K-500 shows 100% of the view (something usually only found on more expensive models). The K-500 also has in-built image stabilisation to help prevent image blur at low shutter speeds. An added benefit is it is compatible with all Pentax k-mount lenses, so you can use older second hand lenses (as Nikon and Canon mount lenses are the most popular, there are more bargains to be had with old Pentax lenses!)

Like this but want more?

The Pentax K-50 has an identical spec to the K-500 but with a couple of added extras. It has a weather resistant body which keeps out dust too, and it is available in 120 different colour combinations so you can really make your camera your own.