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Tag: Nikon COOLPIX S30

Why a Terrible Camera Can Be the Best Gift for Your Child

Behold the premature end to my son’s first camera. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” In the spirit of the British Bulldog, I decided it was time to get my boy another camera…

Behold the premature end to my son’s first camera. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” In the spirit of the British Bulldog, I decided it was time to get my boy another camera…

My four-year-old boy broke his new Nikon COOLPIX S30 family camera last month after dropping it on our driveway. He was running with great enthusiasm and holding it with one hand to take a picture of the full moon. But he stumbled and his prize possession fell…

Though this ‘tough’ camera is built to handle a reasonable fall and even survive comfortably underwater, its glass lens housing shattered on impact. Yes, the interior lens was still intact, but there were shards of glass everywhere.

As ‘Junior’ and I stood over his fallen tech, I declared it a goner.
(No, I hadn’t bought insurance on the camera, and the cost to repair it would likely be more than buying another one.)

A horrible moan befitting a small Klingon clan permeated our neighborhood, and then he shuffled upstairs.

It was a terrible loss. My son cried himself to sleep that night…

He hadn’t had his Nikon for six months but had quickly become quite a budding junior photographer with it. I bought him this particular camera for his birthday, because even though it was an older model at the time,
(The S32 was already out.)
…The S30 was priced on Amazon to move…$70!

Plus, this Nikon was the real deal.
(not some crummy toy camera)
I figured for twenty bucks more, it was worth getting him a decent piece of adult tech…

The Many Downsides to the Nikon COOLPIX S30
As good a decision as I thought I was making, I’ve got to say that the S30 is quite simply the worst camera I’ve ever purchased:

  • The pictures were barely average.
  • There was a dead pixel in the middle of the sensor.
    (So you always see a little speck in the same location of most of the pictures.)
  • The audio from its recorded videos sounds like an empty Campbell’s Soup can and string was used instead of an onboard microphone.
  • And the camera’s functionality assumed you had the smarts of a four year old.  (It was really clunky.)

But my son figured out how to use it in about 10 minutes.
And he was taking pretty cool pictures up until the unfortunate ‘moon incident.’
(He actually started taking snapshots when he was two years old using my old iPhone…)

You might be asking right about now what I was expecting out of a $70 camera when the other point and shoot cameras I own cost at least twice as much.

The irony is even though it was a terrible camera… it was perfect for my son.
He just loved it.
(And its capabilities were light years ahead of any toy camera out there.)

A Life-Changing Moment
First of all, it wasn’t an obvious decision to simply reload and hand over another adult camera for my son to use. You’ve got to wonder how long a life span any camera will have in an eager child’s little hands…

But I thought back to one of my own childhood stories, when I was a few years older than my son. I desperately wanted an audio cassette recorder, and my parents didn’t think I would remain interested in this adult tech beyond a few days. I pleaded for weeks, and eventually my mother softened.

In hindsight, it was the most important gift I ever received as a child. If, for some reason, you wanted to change the path of my entire life, all you’d have to do is jump into your time machine, go to February 1970, and make sure I never received that Sound Design cassette recorder.

My career would be very different today…
(I might be the dentist my mother always wanted.)

So I decided to get my little guy another camera for the holidays.

Where’s the Choice?
Today’s market for a cheap, durable camera is well… almost non-existent.

In the sub $100 range, I think Nikon still is it with the COOLPIX S32.
(The S30 has fallen out of the ‘new camera’ sales cycle, and the S31 is only ten bucks less on Nikon’s website.)

Panasonic also has its Lumix DMC TS25,
which you can get on Amazon for $125.

Panasonic Lumix DMC TS25Even though it looks to be a better camera than the S32, spec wise, it’s got really small buttons and a different interface, which might not be as child-friendly.

It wasn’t a slam-dunk as the better choice, and it also broke my $100 rule.
So ultimately, I sided with the devil I knew vs. the devil I didn’t.

And the S32 is two generations better than the S30. That should count for something.

But the bottom line is there’s really nothing else I’ve found that’s supposed to take a licking and keep on ticking that breaks the $100 price point…

Grandson of the COOLPIX S30… the S32!
So I bought the Nikon COOLPIX S32 at Target on Black Friday for $99.99.
(on sale from $129.95)

It should work well enough; my son will know how to use the S32, and it’s even the same color as his first one.

He will be exceptionally happy.


The S32 might even prove itself to be a big improvement over its not-so-distant ancestor. The jury is still out for me, though according to, the S32 has clear improvements.

Competition for the future COOLPIX S33?
But even if the S32 performs at a higher level, there shouldn’t be only one sub-$100 camera out there in this market segment for kids and families to use…

Where are the rest of the choices?
What ever happened to good old fashioned capitalistic competition?!
(Maybe the profit margin in this camera category is too small….)

And no, I’m not going to follow the rest of the herd and buy my lad a toy camera.  I don’t think anybody who’s bought one has ever been a happy customer.
(I’ve done the research.)

So if you’re a camera manufacturer in this already over-saturated consumer market, here’s a product pitch for you in this unexplored niche:

Junior will be turning five in half a year. So will 3,999,385 other four year olds. Please come up with a decent, tough camera at the right price that they all can use.

Because I’ll probably be needing to secure another one for my son’s next birthday!
Please hurry it up…

Buying a Camera For My Four Year Old

Surprise! My son shows me the latest picture he’s taken with my Canon Elph. I think this may be a sign it’s time for his own camera. But is he ready for the real thing?

Surprise! My son shows me the latest picture he’s taken with my Canon Elph. I think this may be a sign it’s time for his own camera. But is he ready for the real thing?

When I was seven, my mother bought me a portable cassette tape recorder for my birthday.

This gift arrived after a successful multi-month marketing campaign on my part.
I had expressed all kinds of plans for what ‘sounds’ I would be capturing with its little microphone.

Plus I wanted to launch my very own audio documentary series starring the boy Barrett. Topics would range from ‘what’s for dinner’ to exclusive interviews with the parents.

It was an ambitious plan… and a big ask on my part to begin with.
(This tech of the 70’s was not considered a ‘toy.’)

My father had his doubts, predicting the rectangular device made by Sound Design would end up back in its box, abandoned in a corner of my closet within the week.

But my mom read her parental tea leaves differently.
And it was definitely the right call…

The recorder was a home run.
For years, that tape recorder was never far from my sight.
Looking back now, it was one of the most influential gifts I ever received.

In fact, you can probably track the origins of my career back to that moment.

Thanks, Mom.

Deciding on the Right Birthday Gift
This story is never far from my heart as we approach Mother’s Day, which coincidentally falls around the same time as my son’s birthday.

Of course, I’ve been thinking about what to get him as he turns four.
Yes, we’ve already bought the new bike with training wheels.
It’s waiting, hidden in the back of the garage.
(Please don’t tell him.)

While I know we probably can’t go wrong with this iconic gift, I’ve also been trying to review his interests to triangulate another memorable gift.

Earlier this week, it hit me…

My boy has been snapping pictures with my cameras since he was two.
I was so impressed by his ‘early’ work, that I blogged about it.

But letting my then toddler run around with a grown-up camera was always a bit of a problem.
Sure my old, semi-retired iPhone 3GS was a low risk gadget for him to play with.
But I really winced whenever I saw him zipping about with my newer Canon PowerShot Elph 330.
(I’ve experienced my own woes with dropped cameras.)

Today, he’s quite adept at using the Elph. In fact, as I write this, he just sauntered by to show me a picture he took with it.

I’d call that a sign…

The solution:
Buy him his own camera!

Clearly he enjoys taking pictures, and he’s got a good eye.
He could be the next Ansel Adams.
(maybe not)

In Search of a Good Toy Camera
So a digital camera for my son it shall be!
Now of course comes the hard part-
What camera to get him?

Certainly not an ‘adult’ digital camera…
That could quickly meet an early demise after a couple of hard drops.
Perhaps something more durable and kid friendly.
(and a bit more economical)

But it should be capable of taking and exporting a decent photo…
(Because when he snaps that magic shot…
I want it to add to the ‘Lester Collection.’)

So I quickly went to work Googling for cute cameras for kids.

And here are a couple choices I found:

Kid-Friendly Digital Cameras

So they all hover around the same price tag.
The $30-$50 is reasonable, but are these ‘toy cameras’ any good?

Don’t Buy a Toy if You Want a Camera
Unfortunately, they usually get mediocre reviews due to their low picture quality.
That’s because they’re more toy than camera.
I guess what else would you expect at that price point?

And maybe that’s just fine as a starter camera/game to give to a preschooler.

But adult cameras start at around $100.
That’s really not such a big price gap….

I could certainly convince myself to spend that much on the boy Lester.
That wasn’t the problem.
But I didn’t want to waste money buying a piece of technology that wasn’t durable enough to keep up with the lifestyle of my four year old.

I needed a rugged ‘family’ camera
Shock proof. Waterproof.
Life-proof, if you will…

Nikon COOLPIX W100
Nikon seems to own this market niche right now with its COOLPIX W100.
It’s waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof from a 5.9-foot drop,
and designed to be easy to use.
(That’s code for ‘even a child can make it work.’)

There are other tough cameras out there that take better pictures, but they’re also more expensive…
(The COOLPIX W100 goes for $119.00 on Amazon Prime.)

Used and Refurbished
The used and refurbished market is one way to bring the price down.  Amazon also has renewed COOLPIX W100’s for $99.

But you’ve also got to wonder how long a refurbished family camera will last.
You don’t know how many times it’s already been run over by some family’s robotic toy dinosaur…

Predicting the Future
My verdict:
I’m going with a real camera for my boy!
A new Nikon COOLPIX W100.

Hey, I know he’s only four, but it’s his birthday!
(I guess I should prepare for an ‘onslaught’ of criticism about my four year old not being mature enough to play with a sophisticated piece of photographic tech.)

But for the extra bucks, isn’t it worth having a camera that can take a decent picture? Plus, in a pinch, I can also see an adult snapping a few shots with it.
(He has no problem borrowing my camera… why can’t we use his?)

Plus, it’s a good way to hedge against the humorous nature of
the ‘photo gods’…
Because when that perfect photo moment presents itself, you don’t want to have a toy that shoots muddy blobs as the only available device in reach.

And yes, even if it’s not the best camera out there, it’s still light years ahead of any toy camera on the market today.


Will this be the birthday present he’ll remember for the rest of his life?
Will he blog about it one day?
Or will it end up in the back of his closet within the week?

I guess all we can really do is check back in a few decades.
Then we’ll see how accurate my own tea leaves really were.

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