Digital camera gifts for kids (Holiday Gift Guide)

There's nothing like a digital camera to put a smile on a kid's face. Here are some cool camera gifts to keep in mind as you hit the shops this weekend.
Written by Janice Chen, Inactive

What kid doesn't like to take (and look at) digital photos? In today's world of instant gratification via LCD viewers and cheap digital camera parts, there are lots of ways to satisfy the snap-happy wonder of childhood. Here's a list of sure-fire winners for under the tree, menorah, kinara, Festivus pole, what have you, for this holiday season. [To find more child friendly digital-camera ideas, also check out my list of Top digital cameras for kids under $110 from this summer.]

Vtech Kidizoom Camera

This is the 2011 refresh of my favorite digital camera for preschoolers. Like previous models, including the higher-end Kidizoom Plus that I included in my 2010 Back to School kids' camera guide (which sells for $20 more), the current Vtech Kidizoom has the features I've long admired in the Kidizoom line: rugged construction, a two-eye viewfinder, color LCD, video capability, playback on TV, and on-camera games and special photo effects. Resolution is only 1.3 megapixels (higher than last year's Kidizoom, but lower than the Kidizoom Plus), but it hardly makes a difference since image quality was never the strong suit of this, or other kids cameras for that matter. The new Kidizoom also features video recording with sound and 128MB of internal memory (which can store over 1,000 photos). Three built-in games are one of the things that sets the Kidizoom line apart -- last year's model only came with two games, while the Plus model comes with five. The Kidizoom line of cameras is perfect for kids from about 3 years of age to 8 and comes in orange or pink. If you can spring for the extra $20, the Plus model is a bit better--mainly due to the extra games, but the regular Kidizoom model is a winner as well. Best for: Ages 3 - 8 years Suggested Retail Price: $39.99

Disney AppClix

One of the only things I don't love about my iPad 2 is how annoying it is to get a decent snapshot onto it. Not only is the built-in camera lame and unwieldy to shoot with, but it's also a hassle to download images from an external camera (unless you get one of these). The brand-new Disney AppClix (a joint effort from Disney and Sakar International) is a cool little 7.1-megapixel camera with a pop-out connector that plugs into the iPad's dock connector and lets you download images directly off the camera onto your iPad (with iOS 5.0 or above). The camera has a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, offers a 4x digital zoom, and comes with a 32MB Micro SD memory card. There's a tiny 1.5-inch preview screen on the back of the camera, but the real fun starts when you connect the camera to an iPad. Downloaded photos appear in your iPad's camera roll, but for even more amusement, you can download the Disney Pix app from the iTunes app store. Kids will have a blast adding Disney-themed frames and stickers to photos. Besides adding a Disney character into a photo, for example, you can add silly hair pieces, mouse ears, sunglasses and other items to dress up your photo. There's also a freehand airbrush tool and you can add text as well, and saved projects can easily be shared by emailing directly from within the app. With a list price of $79.99, it isn't cheap, but at least the Disney Pix app is free. There are three versions of the camera: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Phineas & Ferb, and they're currently being sold at Walmart, B&H Photo and Video, and Toys R Us. Best for: Ages 6 - 10 years Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

Nintendo 3DS

Following on the mad popularity of the Nintendo DS line of handheld gaming devices (including last year's Nintendo DSi XL), game maker Nintendo has taken things to another dimension with the Nintendo 3DS. The 3DS (which is a smaller device like the original DS and DSi) adds stereo cameras that enable it to shoot 3D images and display them on its new 3D screen without requiring special 3D glasses. Fainthearted gamer that I am, I actually found the 3D view to be a bit intense and dizzying, so I'm glad there's a 3D Depth Slider that lets you adjust (and even turn off) the 3D effects. Like the rest of the DS line, the 3DS includes two displays, the main 3D display (which is slightly larger than the display on the original DSi) and the smaller touchscreen display. There are now three cameras on the device: The inward-facing camera for self portraits and two outward-facing cameras that allow you to snap 3D photos and shoot 3D video. The 3DS's Graffiti tool even lets you add stamps and drawings on top of photos that show up in 3D. The 3DS also comes preloaded with an awesome new Face Raiders game that lets you use the cameras to take photos of your and other faces and insert them as flying targets in the game itself. Using the new built-in gyroscopic and motion sensors, the game allows you to search for and aim at the targets simply by moving the device around. But the most exciting addition to take advantage of the 3D cameras is the new "Augmented Reality" AR Games application.  By using the 3DS cameras to scan one of six bundled AR Cards, you can activate game and character content that appear three-dimensionally on a surface in your real-world scene (be it your desk, kitchen table, living room carpet, or whatever) when you look through the 3D screen. In addition to preloaded AR Game content, you'll be able to use the AR Cards and features in current and future Nintendo DS games. Best for: Ages 7 and up Suggested Retail Price: $169.99

SpyNet Video Watch with Night Vision

This spy gadget masquerading as a children's toy not only lets you snap still images and video (with sound), but it also lets you do so in complete darkness, using infrared night-vision technology. TheSpyNet Video watch (available at ThinkGeek, my favorite online shop for gadgety gifts) works as a real digital watch -- with the expected time, alarm, timer, and stop watch modes -- but also lets you surreptitiously snap photos (in regular or time-lapse mode) and videos with a hidden camera lens, using the watch-face LCD as a preview screen. To go even deeper under cover, you can also shoot while the watch face shows the normal time, or even add an optional Snake-Cam ($24.99), that lets you record pictures and videos around corners while viewing the live images on your watch screen. The watch even works as a web cam for your Windows-based PC, and connects to your computer via a USB connection (which also charges the watch). Downloadable spy apps let you receive missions from "the Chief" and upload images and video. Best for: Ages 7 and up Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

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