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We’re at a point where the best camera phone can deliver better results than the classic photo camera most of us own! Its cameras give us the ability to take fantastic photos and videos in almost any scenario.
On a technical level, the best camera phones pack more pixels than compact cameras and boast 8K video capabilities that traditional photo cameras don’t have yet. However, they can’t beat the best DSLRs or the best mirrorless cameras.
The best camera phones combine good lenses and solid sensors with intricate software algorithms that rely on math to extract the best light, color, and detail possible from each scene.
All this to say that there’s more that matters in a camera phone than a good lens and a sensor with many megapixels.
Even more important is the wide aperture (f/1.8 or less,) and image stabilization, both optical and electronic (OIS or EIS). In addition the pixel and sensor size are just as important – they determine image quality – and the bigger the better. Extras such as a secondary camera for Portrait mode and a good selfie camera are also important to most users.
In addition to the specs and features of the camera, there are also a number of other aspects you’ll want to consider. For example, buying a smartphone with huge storage capacity, or one that has a microSD card slot, will be extremely useful if you shoot a lot of 4K video.
In order to help you decide, we have compiled this list of the best camera phones. And don’t worry, this list doesn’t include only the latest $1,000 flagships.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro & Pro Max: the best point-and-shoot camera phone
The iPhone 11 Pro (Check on Amazon) and Pro Max (Check on Amazon) not only have the best cameras Apple has ever developed, but they are also the best camera phones for most users. They are extremely consistent and reliable: you take a shot and it will probably be good, just like that, even in mediocre lighting conditions. Their dynamic range is great and with three cameras they now boast excellent versatility.
The main camera has a focal length of 26mm, making it perfect for everyday snapshots. The ultra-wide camera allows you to take a step back without moving physically, framing a field twice as wide compared to the standard lens, thanks to its 13mm focal length. The telephoto lens can zoom in twice as much, again compared to the standard lens, thanks to its 52mm focal length, and is ideal for portraits.
Apple has also introduced a new night mode that can maintain the shutter open for incredible low-light photography. Add to all this the beautiful colors, consistent across all cameras, and you are looking at a camera phone champion.
If you’re already an Apple fan then the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are a no brainer.
Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL: Android alternative
But their real ace in the hole is obviously the cameras. Yes, you heard right, cameraS since they come with a dual rear module, with a 12.2-megapixel main sensor and a 16-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x zoom. Color uniformity is unparalleled as always, regardless of the sensor. In addition, they now offer an 8x hybrid “Super Res” zoom which is as effective as pure optical zoom.
The HDR is on par with the competition: it produces somewhat dull colors, but also more realistic.
The Night mode is once again spectacular letting us literally “see” in the dark.
The Portrait mode with the single 8-megapixel selfie camera is still as effective as it was on the Pixel 3 (Check on Amazon.com) and offers a perfect bokeh effect.
The Pixel 4 is also the only smartphone that can use HDR in combination with Portrait Mode.
The only thing that is keeping them behind is their poor autonomy and that makes them less attractive than the Huawei P30 Pro (Check on Amazon.com).
Apple iPhone 11: budget alternative
The iPhone 11 (Check on Amazon) also features Apple’s new night mode. Used in low light conditions it will produce excellent night photos.
Another area where all iPhones excel is video recording. All iPhone 11s can capture video with a 4K resolution and up to 60 frames per second – and they can switch seamlessly between all their lenses.
If you want a simple point and shoot camera phone that can capture high-quality footage easily then choose an iPhone 11.
Read more: Apple iPhone 11 review: redefining limits
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: the best
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Check on Amazon) isn’t just the phone with the best camera in the Galaxy line-up, it’s the phone with the most impressive camera, yet. Instead of focusing on computational photography, the S20 Ultra is betting everything on megapixels. There are 108 of those in the main camera, 60 in the telephoto lens, and 12 in the ultra-wide one. The same pattern continues to the front, where you’ll find a 40-megapixel selfie camera.
But hardware alone isn’t gonna cut it in 2020, and Samsung has gifted this phone with some new software tricks. The main feature is called Space Zoom: a 100x hybrid zoom! Yes, it sounds more impressive than it is, after all, the telephoto lens features an optical zoom of “just” about 10x. The 100x zoom is a combination of optical and digital zoom, hence the term “hybrid”. That said, the S20 Ultra’s zoom is better than anything else out there.
You’ll also find the excellent Single Take function, which pulls stills, GIFs and other shareable images from a single 10-second video. Existing features, such as Night mode, have also seen some improvement.
All in all, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the best camera phone if money is no concern.
Huawei P40 Pro: best value
The successor to the fantastic P30 Pro (Check on Amazon) is an amazing camera phone. Sadly we can’t recommend it like its predecessor. The US government has ordered Google to revoke Huawei’s Android license. Therefore Huawei phones cannot use Google services.
That said, the Huawei P40 Pro (Check on Amazon) is one of the best camera phones around. It sports a quad-camera rear module and a dual selfie camera module.
The main camera sports a 50-megapixel sensor that captures excellent photos no matter the lighting conditions. Then there’s the 5x periscope zoom: zoomed photos have never looked so sharp. Add to the mix an ultra-wide lens, as well as a depth sensor for good measure, and you have a really versatile camera module, capable of giving Apple’s and Google’s camera phones a run for their money.
Add to this the competent selfie camera with a ToF (Time of Flight) sensor for great portraits and it’s hard to find a fault in the P40 Pro’s photo department.
Video footage is also among the best we’ve ever seen from a smartphone. Ultimately, though, the lack of Google services leaves this phone with a severe handicap, and this is why we still consider the Huawei P30 Pro a better buy.
Oppo Reno 10x Zoom: a valid alternative
The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom (Check on Amazon.com) is a true flagship and a hell of a camera phone. It has a periscope lens (similar to the two Huawei devices above), which grants it a five times optical zoom.
The Oppo Reno 10x Zoom also sports a quad-camera array and the possibility of recording 4K videos at 60 frames per second.
It offers great versatility and a decent Night mode, but it cannot beat the two Huawei devices in overall quality.
Google Pixel 3a: the most affordable
The latest addition in our list is the Google Pixel 3a (Check on Amazon.com). It is simply amazing finding such photo quality at this price range.
Google did cut some corners in order to drop the price (the device is made of plastic and has generous frames) but it didn’t touch the photographic sector that is almost the same one you find on Google’s premium devices.
The 3a is equipped with the same 12MP sensor as the Pixel 3 (Check on Amazon.com). And although it doesn’t have the Visual Core chip (for HDR+), it still provides an almost unfathomable photo quality.
With an aperture of f/1.8, it manages to capture a stunning level of detail especially if you consider the price. And in low light photography, it is capable of eliminating almost all electronic noise without using extreme smoothing and thus producing an unrealistic picture.
It is also equipped with a dual front camera. One is standard while the other has a wide-angle lens for group selfies. Again, the result is amazing for a smartphone in this price range.
It can also record a satisfactory 4K video at 30 fps.
If you want a camera phone and can spend (Check on Amazon.com) buy the Pixel 3a, you won’t regret it.
Samsung Galaxy S20+: best Android camera phone
You don’t have to pay (Check on Amazon) for the Galaxy S20 Ultra in order to get the best Android camera phone. The Galaxy S20+ costs less (Check on Amazon), and even if it doesn’t boast the Ultra’s 108-megapixel main sensor or the Space Zoom feature, it can still produce better shots than any other Android phone, and on par with those of the iPhone 11 Pro (Check on Amazon) and Pro Max (Check on Amazon).
If it’s the image quality you really want, that’s what you get with the Samsung Galaxy S20+. The main sensor might measure just 12-megapixels, but produces colorful, well-composed shots that surpass those of Google’s Pixel phones and their dynamic range is also top-notch. Autofocus works pretty well too, even for macros, and nighttime or low-light shots aren’t a problem for this beast.
And if you need to zoom in to capture more detail, the 64-megapixel telephoto’s lossless 3x zoom beats that of all other smartphones.
The 12-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens and a Time of Flight (ToF) sensor complete the rear quad camera module.
The Samsung Galaxy S20+ is a must buy phone if you love Android and want the very best.
Samsung Galaxy S10+: a valid alternative
The camera of the S10+ (Check on Amazon.com) is different from that of its predecessor, the S9+. To improve the versatility of the already great 12MP main sensor and 12MP telephoto lens, Samsung added a third 16MP wide-angle sensor.
The main camera is basically identical to that of the Galaxy S9 (Check on Amazon.com) with a variable aperture of f/1.5 and f /2.4. The telephoto lens is also similar, with a 2x zoom and optical stabilization. The 2x zoom works well, but it lacks precision.
As for the photos taken with the ultra-wide-angle lens, they lack detail, which is expected, however, they are sharp as the rest.
The white balance is quite reliable, granting bright colors in almost every lighting condition except total darkness.
The selfie camera dual module (10MP and 8MP) has a standard and a wide-angle lens similar to the one on the Pixel 3 (Check on Amazon.com). The 10MP secondary lens is used for depth detection and it manages to improve considerably the bokeh effect.
Several Live Focus effects are also available (Blur, Rotate, Zoom, and Colorpoint) and make portrait photos more convincing than those taken with other phones.
When shooting video, the S10+ offers excellent 4K stabilization, unless you want to record at 60 frames per second. Samsung also offers an option to record video up to 4K at 30fps using HDR10+, thus allowing for better contrast and more beautiful colors.
Its only flaw is the absence of a Night mode.
Overall, the S10+ has one of the best and more versatile cameras on the market.
OnePlus 8 Pro: best camera phone for ease of use
OnePlus improved the camera module of the new OnePlus 8 Pro (Check on Amazon) and crept closer to other flagships thanks to Sony’s new 12-bit IMX689 sensor. This sensor has a size of 1/1.4 and large pixels (1.12 microns). The 48MP main camera shoots crisp and colorful stills, and it’s also capable of capturing stunning bokeh photos even in mediocre lighting conditions. As for the ultra-wide camera, also 48MP, it’s probably the best one you can find on a phone.
In addition, thanks to the phase-detection laser autofocus and optical image stabilization (OIS), the OnePlus 8 Pro is blazing fast to act and produces consistent results across both photos and videos.
On the other hand, when it comes to shooting from afar, it cannot compete with flagships that are equipped with a periscope zoom lens. That said, its telephoto lens (8MP, f/2.4) includes a 3x optical zoom and optical image stabilization (OIS), thus it has a better maximum focal length than the iPhone 11 Pro (Check on Amazon) and on par with the Samsung Galaxy S20 (Check on Amazon) and S20+ (Check on Amazon) (its main competitors).
The real advantage of the OnePlus 8 Pro is definitely its 48MP ultra-wide camera, which is much like a GoPro. Boasting a huge number of pixels, an f/2.2 aperture that lets in a ton of light, and a viewing angle of 14mm (116°), it can squeeze more information into one frame than any other ultra-wide camera around.
The “fourth” camera is a 12MP color filter sensor that we honestly don’t know what it’s for. Finally, there’s also a 16MP selfie camera sitting in a small hole punch notch on the front.
Videos can be captured in “Super Stable” mode up to Full HD resolutions or in standard mode up to 4K resolution.
Is this the best camera phone? It is definitely one of the best. That said, as a whole, this is probably the best camera phone for ease of use.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+: best business camera phone
The latest business smartphone from Samsung delivers one of the best overall performances in photo quality, especially in the Plus version. The Korean tech giant produces itself the camera sensors that go into its smartphones and thus it can use the very best ones.
Samsung still uses the dual-aperture (from f/1.5 to f/2.4) “smart” sensor introduced with the Samsung Galaxy S9 (Check on Amazon.com). This time around in a quad-camera array that also features an ultra-wide lens (for landscape and architectural photography), a telephoto lens (for high-quality zoom), and a ToF (Time of Flight) depth sensor that delivers excellent results with Portrait Mode.
In terms of software, Samsung has surpassed the Huawei P30 Pro (Check on Amazon.com) with a less aggressive image processing. Samsung also shows no weaknesses in videos and selfies. It cannot match the zoom of the Huawei P30 Pro, but that’s not a dealbreaker for most users.
Samsung’s camera UI is incredibly comprehensive, with a Pro mode that can keep the shutter open for over 30 seconds, as well as an improved Night mode, which can compete (but not beat) the handsets from Huawei and Google.
Add to all these goodies the convenience of controlling the camera via the included S Pen and you have an almost perfect device.
Thus, if you want one of the best camera phones currently on the market and have (Check on Amazon.com) laying around, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ will be the ideal companion for almost every situation.
Xiaomi Mi Note 10: best budget camera phone
Xiaomi aims towards greatness with this smartphone (Check on Amazon.com) which was the first to sport a 108MP camera sensor. And with 5 cameras in total, it promises beautiful photos in every situation.
The main 108MP camera is flanked by a 20MP ultra-wide-angle lens, a 2MP macro lens (2-10cm autofocus) and two telephoto lenses: a 5MP 10x hybrid zoom and a 12MP 2x optical zoom one.
The 108MP sensor uses pixel binning: it combines four pixels into one to generate a 27MP final image with great details and low noise. The macro camera is the best one we have tested so far and the telephoto lens can go up to 50x digital zoom, but the quality drops drastically and it doesn’t show the same sharpness as the Huawei P30 Pro.
Not surprisingly, the stills are breathtaking. However, you will mostly use the main camera since it’s the most efficient and accurate one. Sadly the slow app and long rendering times can ruin the photographic experience…
Xiaomi paid special attention to the Portrait mode with precise clipping and well-exploited bokeh. The subject shows an excellent degree of separation from the background thus producing a beautiful photo. Using the selfie cam (32MP), this mode is a little less impressive but still effective.
This is a well-balanced smartphone that also offers good performance and solid battery life. It does not have much to envy from flagship phones but also fails to achieve the level of excellence of a Google Pixel 4.
Huawei P30 Pro: personal favorite
Thanks to its versatility, Huawei occupies the leading position in the world of smartphone photography.
Compared to the Huawei P20 Pro, the P30 Pro (Check on Amazon.com) still goes up a notch with its 5x periscope optical zoom that is also optically stabilized. In addition to its three lenses, Huawei added a Time of Flight (depth of field) sensor to enhance portrait mode.
An 8MP sensor has also been integrated behind the periscope lens to deliver what Huawei calls a “lossless 10x zoom”.
The 40MP ultra-wide-angle lens has an aperture of f/1.6 with a focal length of 27mm. Huawei has also upgraded the P30 Pro’s front-facing camera with a 32MP lens and artificial intelligence.
Huawei has abandoned the traditional RGB (red, green, blue) sensor for an RYYB (red, yellow, yellow, blue) Super Spectrum one, that allows it to capture 40% more light and very realistic colors.
In addition to taking sharp and detailed pictures during the day, this phone is just as great at night. The Night mode on the P30 Pro has a high sensitivity, and the images have good colors even in the dark.
Finally, the P30 Pro captures really good video footage but the sound is not as convincing. And although this is the first Huawei phone to offer 4K stabilization, the implementation is quite disappointing.
The P30 Pro is not perfect, but overall and considering the versatility of its 4 sensors, its otherworldly zoom, amount of detail that can capture and its Night mode it is still our favorite.
OnePlus 7T Pro: best overall
The OnePlus 7T Pro (Check on Amazon.com) has the same camera setup as the previous OnePlus 7 Pro (Check on Amazon.com) with some slight adjustments. The module is comprised of a 48MP wide-angle main camera and an 8MP telephoto lens with 3x zoom, both optically stabilized and a 16MP ultra wide-angle lens (117°) featuring the new Super Macro mode. This mode lets you focus on an object that is just 1 inch away, which produces macro photos with an excellent level of detail.
OnePlus has also improved the software processing using the new UltraShot Engine, its in-house algorithm. In theory, this translates into better backlight management, more precise portraits, and better quality night photography.
In good lighting conditions, the OnePlus 7T Pro is on par with its predecessor, which was already among the best.
It also offers numerous shooting modes, among which we find the new Action Cam Style mode for improved stabilization. This video mode reduces the resolution at 1080p and overall image quality but is capable of shooting the most stable video footage that we have ever seen in a smartphone.
The performance in low light conditions cannot beat the phones from Huawei and Google, but all things considered, the OnePlus 7T Pro offers unequivocally the best all-around smartphone experience.
Also read: Cell Phones Buying Guide