Kids love cameras, probably because of the combination of them being expensive, covered in buttons and something that grown-ups are always pointing at them. The VTech Kidizoom gives children the chance to have a camera of their own and might spare your shiny new Canon IXUS 200.
The Kidizoom comes in two colours, pink and blue. It is designed for kids to get a bit rough and ready with and is built to withstand a few knocks with two rubberised hand grips like bumpers on each end. The size and the tactile finish mean it is easy for little hands to grip and it is obvious how to hold it. It weighs 380g and measures 140 x 93 x 58mm at the widest parts, meaning it isn't really pocketable - if you want to take it out and about, you'll need to have a bag.
One of the problems that children have is framing a shot. They are most likely to copy what they have seen done, so if you mostly use a camera with a viewfinder, they'll press the camera against their face and press the button. If you use the display to compose your shot, they'll most likely hold the camera out and press the button, just like you do.
The Kidizoom supports both options. Live view through the display is relatively simple to use, but using a viewfinder is nigh on impossible for smaller children - holding the camera, closing one eye, and so on. Fortunately the Kidizoom has two viewfinders, so little Jonny can simply look through both, which is a more natural action and much easier to grasp.
The view through the viewfinder is a little warped, you don't see a flat image, but the viewfinders are bright and big enough to use without difficulty. The screen is a 1.8-inch colour LCD display, which lets you preview your pictures as well as play some built-in games.
The Kidizoom requires 4 AA batteries, which slot into the hand grips, two in each side. These are not supplied, so you'll have to remember to buy some. There is also an SD card slot, allowing you to expand the 16MB internal memory up to 2GB.
The back of the camera sees all the controls, with big chunky buttons ideal for little or large fingers. Operation is fairly simple, with a power button that turns the camera on and off in an instant. There is a Mini-USB port, which resides under a sliding flap, to connect to your PC to download photos (cable supplied)
Operation is simple, powering up into camera mode and ready to shoot pictures. The shutter button is prominently placed on the top and accompanied by a shutter noise when a picture is taken. Various comedy overlays can be applied at the time of shooting, so you can add bulging eyes or a pirate hat and so on.
The sensor of the Kidizoom is only 0.3-megapixels, with the images captured at 640 x 480 resolution. The results aren't fantastic once you get them out of the camera. As a fixed focus camera, it seems to get the best results at fairly close range, see the example shots of Father Christmas and De Li. A flash is included, but is not too bright and is a little slow to recharge, but it does mean you can take shots indoors.
A great deal of distortion is present around the edges of images, which take on a mottled appearance. As the distance increases the clarity and detail decrease, so you have what looks like a small painting. But then this is a toy camera, so perhaps that doesn't matter: your kids will still be able to capture images, they just won't really look that good if you want to preserve them and look back at them in the future.
Video capture is also included at a resolution of 160 x 120 pixels and a frame rate of 11fps. The results are as you'd expect, fairly jerky and low quality, but it also does audio capture, so there is potential for a great deal of fun for the kids to see and hear themselves.
Accompanying the camera is a simple editing suite which mirrors the effects you can apply in a similar in-camera edit option. Great fun for those a little older, plus a save option that lets you interpolate the image to get a larger final file at 2-megapixels (although this doesn't increase the quality).
There are three games included on the Kidizoom: tic tac toe, matching pairs and rotation, which provide some lasting interest beyond the camera functions. These are accompanied by a soundtrack, but there is no headphone socket. Fortunately the volume can be turned right down.
There is a TV out jack on the camera, allowing you to hook the Kidizoom up to the TV. This gives you a live feed from the camera, so you can play the games on the TV, view your picture or watch your movies back again. A cable is provided for this.
It would be too easy to be cynical about the Kidizoom based on the imaging results, but this is a toy camera and that should be considered. For smaller children the double viewfinder and chunky grips make it easy and fun – and it doesn’t matter if it gets dropped. Older children, however, might want to keep their images and might not be happy with the results the Kidizoom offers. (You could opt for something cheap, like a Vivitar 5399 camera with waterproof case for older kids.)
This will keep little fingers off your camera; the games will keep the kids entertained in the back of the car and the photo effects can make some funny images. The Kidizoom is a toy that will appeal to younger children, but keep your own camera to hand for those shots you want to keep.