- A basic HD camcorder is a good choice for under-11s
- iPhones, iPads and iPods are a great all-in-one solution
- Mirrorless/SLR cameras may suit creative teenagers
- Young filmmakers don’t need 4K (ultra high definition)
What’s the best video camera for younger filmmakers?
The easiest option is a mobile device like an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. They have better cameras than basic camcorders, and you can shoot and edit on the same device.
If you already have an iPhone, you may be better off kitting it out for filmmaking rather than buying a separate video camera. An electronic gimbal stabiliser (from around $140/£130) will let you get smooth, flowing camera movements.
If you want a ‘real’ video camera, a basic HD camcorder is a good choice for children under 11 or 12. It’ll be easier to film with, and they can learn about different lens settings. But they’ll need to copy the files to a computer for editing.
Teenagers could use a higher quality camcorder: these are better in low light, and offer more creative options.
For young people who are serious about creative filmmaking, a mirrorless camera or DSLR may be the best choice. But for filming news and events, a used semi-professional camcorder could be a better choice.
iPhones, iPads and iPods (all ages)
Apple’s mobile devices are a great option for starting with filmmaking. Children can shoot and edit on the same device, and you can get dozens of apps to extend their capabilities. They don’t have zoom lenses, but their video quality is better than low-priced camcorders.
All current Apple devices shoot 1080p Full HD video and timelapse, and all except the iPad Mini 2 can film slow motion. (The iPhone 6S and later phones can shoot ultra high definition 4k). The iPod Touch is the most affordable, followed by the iPad mini 2.
You could add an iOgrapher case: it protects the device, makes it easier to handhold, and lets you mount it on a tripod.
Camcorders for under-12s
HD camcorders are an easy way to shoot high-quality video. They’re easy to handhold and most of them feature better image stabilisation than iOS devices. Panasonic and Canon camcorders come top in reliability surveys. You don’t need Ultra HD 4K (many computers will struggle to edit it).
The Panasonic HC-V180K costs around $200 (£200). It’s small, easy-to-use, and has a good wide angle lens and optical image stabilisation. It can also shoot time-lapse and slow motion (more details on this page).
Cameras for teens
The Canon HF-R800 (not available in Europe) is hard to beat at around $250. It has slow motion, time lapse and a microphone socket. The lens doesn’t go very wide, but a filter ring lets you add a wide-angle adapter. More details on this page.
The Panasonic V770 offers a great set of features for under $550 (£400). It has a microphone socket, an accessory shoe, a filter ring, 120fps slow motion and excellent image stabilisation.
Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs
Teens who are seriously into filmmaking might prefer an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera or DSLR. They’re trickier to use than camcorders, but their images look more ‘film-like’, they’re better in low light, and you can get creative shallow focus effects.
Panasonic’s G7 costs under $600 (£500), but it can shoot 4K Ultra HD video, and 1080p slow motion. It has a microphone jack but no headphone socket. It’s mirrorless, which makes it smaller and more convenient to use than a DSLR.
You could also look at the Canon T5i/700D. On paper this DSLR is less capable than the G7, with no 4K or slow motion. And its video isn’t as sharp. But its APS-C sensor is bigger (for better shallow focus effects), there’s a much bigger choice of lenses, and many people prefer Canon colours.
Over $600 (£500)
If you’re spending over $600 (£500), you could consider a mid-range DSLR or mirrorless camera. The Panasonic G85 (G80/G81 in Europe) is more solidly built than the G7 and has a better kit lens and image stabilisation.
You could also look for a used semi-professional camcorder like the Canon XA10 or XA20. These have better controls, handling and audio than DSLR or mirrorless cameras, which makes them more suitable for news and events.