Back to School: Cool Cameras for Capturing Campus Life

Back to School: Cool Cameras for Capturing Campus Life


Today’s college dorm rooms have come a long way from the days when cash-poor students traditionally decorated with plastic-crate bookcases and thrift-store furniture. And hand-me-down electronics were the norm. Now, it’s all about the technology, and college kids are deep into consumer electronics and the totally connected lifestyle.

This is the time of year when your customers are compiling a CE shopping list for their university-bound offspring—and the perfect time to remind them there’s nothing better for capturing and preserving college antics and milestones than today’s high-tech cameras.

To help steer your customers in the right direction, we’ve selected some of our favorite gear for both the novice picture taker and the budding professional.

GoPro Hero+ LCD
POV (point-of-view) action cams are perfect for recording campus life, and GoPro is the undisputed leader. GoPro’s Hero4 Black is formidable, but we chose their newest model for its price point and ease of use. The Hero+ LCD captures Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps and 8MP photos via GoPro’s first touch display. The LCD enables shot framing and access to control settings, including the all-new in-camera video-trimming feature.

The cam is built into a waterproof housing, making it waterproof to 131 feet, so no worries about spills and dunks. Students will appreciate its “HiLight” tagging feature, which lets them mark key moments while recording and during playback so they can easily find them later. Then, using the video-trimming function, they can create short clips for sharing without a computer.

Other features include: built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to sync with a GoPro app-enabled smartphone/tablet for camera control and shot preview, plus sharing to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other sites; the ability to power on and record automatically with the press of a button using QuikCapture; two hours of recording per charge; and a microSD slot. $299.99.

Nikon Coolpix P900
If capturing the big play from the bleachers is important, Nikon’s Coolpix P900 is the choice for extreme distance shooting. Its spectacular 83x optical zoom, 24–2,000mm equivalent Nikkor glass lens also uses 166x dynamic fine zoom. With unrivaled zoom power in a P&S, it offers a 16MP CMOS sensor and functions for capturing images and Full HD video from afar. Plus, with Nikon Snapbridge, photos can be sent to a smartphone/tablet via built-in Wi-Fi/NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity.

Whether shooting above a crowd or from the stands, students can frame subjects using the built-in electronic viewfinder with an eye sensor or the vari-angle 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD. A snap-back zoom button lets them frame subjects when shooting super-telephoto shots, while the side zoom control button’s position helps combat shake.

Other features include: 7-fps bursts; command and mode dials to adjust settings one-handed; the highest level of shake compensation in a Coolpix (5 stops); creative effects; a zoom microphone function for clear distance recording; and built-in GPS with POI (points of interest) to geotag and view where images were taken on a map. $599.95.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4
To handle the bumps and knocks of adventures on and off campus, the TG-4 is built to withstand 220 pounds of pressure and survive a 7-foot drop. It’s also waterproof to 50 feet, operates down to 14ºF and is dustproof. GPS records landmark information, and an eCompass provides barometric pressure, altitude and water depth as it displays direction.

Performance features include RAW capture, macro capabilities, underwater modes, a nighttime live composite mode and AF target selection. With a scratch-resistant coating, its fast 25–100mm f/2.0 lens is engineered to produce images with reduced blur, particularly when capturing fast action or shooting in low light.

Another student-friendly feature is its variable macro system with microscope mode that captures subjects 1cm away. The lens magnifies subjects to 44.5x, and to ensure clear shots, focus-stacking mode captures eight shots while shifting the focus from foreground to background, then merges them into one photo with maximum depth of field.

Using the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi and the Olympus Image Share app, students can sync it with smartphones and tablets to upload to social networks and control the camera remotely. $329.99.

Lomo’Instant Boston Edition
Okay, this isn’t high tech; the Lomo’Instant is an analog camera, but instant photography is hot among the younger and the creative sets. In fact, the Lomographic Society International was founded by students. Lomography started as an art movement through which students put on photo exhibits, and the movement developed into a commercial enterprise. Since 1995, Lomography has created quite a niche by producing its own analog cameras, films and accessories.

The Lomo’Instant is a perfectly sized instant camera to take anywhere and share in the moment. It can shoot unlimited multiple exposure instants, so students can artistically combine shots. The line comes in trendy colors, including the new Havana edition coated in aquamarine. Most Lomo’Instant cameras come with a set of color gels and three creative lenses that attach to the built-in 27mm, wide-angle lens: a 170º fisheye; a 35mm-equivalent portrait; and a close-up lens with a 10–15cm close focusing distance. The kit also includes the Lomo’Instant Splitzer for multiple image slicing.

Auto flash mode lets students take instant photos with flash at the touch of a button; a sensor detects the brightness and the light meter automatically gives off the right amount of flash. They can switch to the two manual shooting modes to open experimental possibilities. Flash on manual mode is for shooting indoors, and users can switch between N for normal daytime shots and B shutter for long exposures. With the B setting, users can create light-streaked photos by holding the shutter open for as long as they like. For long exposures at night, there’s flash off manual mode. The Lomo’Instant works with Fujifilm Instax Mini film. $169.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i
For the more serious student photographer, the stylish Rebel T6i DSLR offers significant advances for Canon’s entry-level series. The T6i is engineered to capture high-quality photos and Full HD videos that are easy to share—and it has an affordable price. An upgraded 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor is paired with its advanced Digic 6 processor and hybrid autofocus system with 19 cross-type AF sensors. The combo delivers faster, more accurate autofocus with action subjects during movie recording and live view.

Canon’s EOS Scene Analysis system automatically adjusts settings to produce the best results whether shooting friends, campus landscapes or sports action, and in tricky light situations. A first for the Rebel line is built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity. Images and video can be seamlessly sent to smart devices for social sharing, including Canon’s CS100 Connect Station.

Other features include: a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, vari-angle, touch-screen LCD for shooting from various perspectives; ISO settings of 100–12,800 (expandable to 25,600); a 5-fps maximum full-res burst; and built-in creative filters. With a Canon EF-S 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 STM OIS lens, $899.99.

Pentax Q-S1
For students who want DSLR functionality and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, but in a smaller camera body, there’s the mirrorless Pentax Q-S1. Panache and performance are brought together in Ricoh’s most compact interchangeable-lens system, but we like the idea that the Q-S1 comes in 40 color combinations!

The diminutive Q-S1 measures just 4.1×2.3×1.3 inches yet offers a 12.4MP, 1/1.7-inch, BSI CMOS sensor and Q processor that promise to deliver high-quality images and Full HD 1080p video recording at 30/24 fps. With a range of shooting features to make photography more enjoyable, it has a top sensitivity of ISO 12,800 and a reliable shake-reduction system for crisp imagery. Students can use the camera’s bokeh control to produce SLR-like artistic background blur effects with ease, as well as nine smart effects and 11 creative filters, applied with the turn of a dial.

Other features include: a 3-inch, 460K-dot LCD with a 170º viewing angle; 5-fps continuous shooting; RAW shooting; a quick dial; ND filter on/off; auto picture mode selection; interval mode selection; scene modes; built-in HDR; and multi-exposure mode. The Q-S1 supports optional Eyefi wireless memory cards. With 5–15mm f/2.8–4.5 Pentax 02 lens, $399.95.

Sony FDR-X1000V
Both novice and aspiring pro videographers crave the ability to capture 4K content, and the compact X1000V delivers. Sony’s most powerful POV action cam yet, the splashproof X1000V records 3,840×2,160 video at 30p (100Mbps/60Mpbs) and 8.8MP stills. It features upgraded stabilization, image quality and high-frame-rate shooting. Updated Sony Action Cam SteadyShot technology adds electronic IS that’s three times more effective at suppressing motor vibration. This means students can even capture vibration-free aerial footage using drones. It also shoots video at high frame rates of 120p in Full HD and 240p in HD for slow-motion footage.

Other tech specs include a Zeiss Tessar lens with a wide 170º field of view, a BSI Exmor R CMOS sensor, a Bionz X processor and full pixel readout technology adopted from Sony pro cameras. This allows the cam to read and process data from all of the sensor’s pixels to create smooth, detailed 4K and HD video in MP4 and XAVC S formats. And wind noise reduction minimizes wind interference with the stereo microphone. For advanced videographers, there are manual controls and setting adjustments, and loop recording is available to maximize available card space. Plus, live streaming capabilities are provided via Ustream.

 A kitted waterproof case keeps the FDR-X1000V watertight to 33 feet. $499.99.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45
This easy-to-use P&S has a wink-activated selfie function and 3-inch, 1,040K-dot, flip-up LCD that are sure to make a hit with the campus crowd. When the LCD is tilted up 180º, it triggers the self-shooting mode to take selfies to a new level. Built-in Wi-Fi links the ZS45 to a smartphone for remote control and on-the-spot mobile sharing.

Three imaging effects will give students more expressive selfies. Soft skin mode makes skin look brighter and smoother; slimming mode sharpens facial lines to make faces look slimmer; and defocusing mode keeps the subject clearly focused while gently softening the background.

Video is recorded in Full HD 1,920×1,080 60p in the AVCHD Progressive format, so fine details on even fast-moving classmates can be captured clearly. Or recording transfer-friendly MP4 video starts with the push of a button.

The pocketable camera features a 16MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor with low-light performance. Complementing the sensor is a 20x optical zoom, 24–480mm f/3.3–6.4 Lumix DC Vario lens that brings friends in close and is suited for a variety of shooting situations. Benefiting the zooming capabilities is Power OIS, which minimizes the appearance of camera shake. Other features include: 10-fps, high-speed burst shooting; filter effects and creative controls; and geotagging. $249.99.

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
Wide-format photography is perfect for large gatherings in dorms or student centers. And Fujifilm’s Instax Wide 300 instant camera is designed for immediately sharing prints at parties or of school projects—delivering vivid, high-quality prints in seconds. Its Instax Wide film takes photos that are twice as wide as Instax Mini film.

The Instax Wide 300 has a contemporary design and improved features for better handling and image composition, such as a tripod socket for rock-steady images, a real image finder and a lens ring dial with two-range focus settings.

It also features a retractable, 95mm f/14 lens and a built-in electronic flash that automatically adjusts light levels depending on the distance to the subject. Users can select fill flash when shooting friends in a backlight scene, while a lighten-darken exposure compensation control adds high-key and low-key effects. A close-up lens adapter for 15.5-inch macro shooting is included, and the Wide 300 runs on four readily available AA alkaline batteries. $109.99.