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Which smartphone has the best camera? The market is saturated with mobile devices with very good dual, triple or even quadruple-camera modules, with a focal aperture that allows for tons of light in low light situations, with incredible bokeh effects in portrait modes or with pre, during and post-capture artificial intelligence processing.
There are 4 things to keep in mind when choosing the best camera phone:
Ignore the number of megapixels
We are tired of repeating it. The amount of megapixels is not a decisive factor when determining whether one camera is better than another. What you should focus on is the size of the megapixels. The larger they are, the more light they capture and the better photos will get in low light conditions. This is also why most high-end devices take 12MP photos (although they use a 40+MP sensor).
The smaller the focal aperture, the lower the noise in low light conditions. To ensure this, look for a camera with a focal aperture smaller than f/2.0. Even better try to find a smartphone with an adaptive sensor that can change between two focal apertures depending on the situation.
Optical and digital image stabilization
When recording videos or taking photos at night, a good amount of OIS will eliminate any shaking from the end result. A device without this function will perform very poorly at night or when you shoot a video.
Low light photography is the deciding factor between a good and a bad camera module. Nowadays, we can find solid mid-rangers that can take great photos even at night. Without a doubt, this is a key feature that you must take into account when choosing a camera phone.
To help you decide, we have found the best phone cameras of 2019, and this is the list:
Google Pixel 3 / 3XL: best smart camera
The Pixel 3 () and Pixel 3 XL () use the same single-lens camera. With Google’s “Computational Photography” technology and the Visual Core chip, both devices produce great photos and videos.
Their 12.2MP main sensor is the Sony IMX363. There is no laser focus (like on the Pixel 2) but the dual pixel phase detection is cleverly used and the normal autofocus is very fast nevertheless.
The Google Pixel is equipped with stunning features like the Super Res Zoom, Night Sight, and Top Shot:
- Super Res Zoom allows the sensor to intelligently create pixels for better pictures.
- Night Sight works the same way but in low light photography.
- Top Shot automatically selects the best photo in a series of shots and removes those in which you have your eyes closed, for example.
In good lighting, the details are clear, white balance is excellent and thanks to the HDR+ the dynamic range is striking.
Despite the presence of a single sensor on the back, portraits are very good, the blurred backgrounds and the isolation of the subject from the background is usually accurate.
On the other hand, despite all its advanced technologies, Pixel 3 is lagging behind its competitors in terms of versatility. It cannot compete with Apple’s or Samsung’s flagship models in 2x zoom photos and it certainly cannot compete with the 5x optical zoom lens on the Huawei P30 Pro ().
And if you want to enjoy a wide-angle photo, you have to use the dual front-facing camera. Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have dual 8 megapixels sensors, that capture beautiful selfies.
It also captures good 4K video footage, up to 30 fps, and it has great stabilization that works in any resolution. Sadly there is no 4K at 60 fps and Google still hasn’t improved its slow-motion feature. It is limited at 120fps at 1080p and 240fps at 720p.
The icing on the take is that with the Pixel 3, you get free and unlimited storage on Google Photos, and it stores all your photos and videos in original resolution.
Samsung Galaxy S10+: best triple camera
The camera of the S10+ () 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 () 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 (). 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.
Huawei P30 Pro: best camera on the market
Thanks to its versatility, Huawei occupies the leading position in the world of smartphone photography.
Compared to the Huawei P20 Pro, the P30 Pro () 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 gets the first place on our podium.
Apple iPhone XS / XS Max: for iOS lovers
Apple has also upgraded its cameras for its XS () and XS Max (Check on Amazon.com) devices by incorporating stunning software technologies rather than updating the hardware.
Sensor configuration remains identical to that on the iPhone X (), dual 12MP cameras at the rear (wide-angle and telephoto lens) and a TrueDepth 7MP camera sensor at the front, which also embeds a 3D scanning system for Depth detection and Face ID.
The field of view of the iPhone XS is more extensive than that of its predecessor and Smart HDR is now activated by default. It instantly combines several images to produce one with a beautiful dynamic range. It enhances lighter tones and highlights the details in the shadows.
The photos taken with the iPhone XS are amazingly stable, and it can shoot at 4K and 60 fps no problem whatsoever. Focus, white balance, cool tones, and exposure are accurate and its saturation is more pronounced.
Apple also improved the Portrait mode found on previous models and the results are excellent. It also proves that you do not always need a really big sensor (lots of megapixels) to capture great shots.
The Lightning effects have also been improved, and the Bokeh effect should be almost perfect. The Portrait Lighting mode offers five highlighting effects: natural, studio, outline, scene, and mono scene.
There are no real changes in Slow Motion where you can choose between 240 or 120 frames per second at 1080p.
Compared to its main rivals, the XS does not convince us of low light photography. It doesn’t have a dedicated Night mode or smart technology to stabilize long-exposure shots.
The Photo Camera app is the best there is, super intuitive and easy to use.
Even if Apple lost the title of the best camera phone, both iPhone XS and XS Max are excellent devices that shoot beautiful photos in almost all conditions.
Read more: Apple iPhone XS review
Google Pixel 3A: best budget camera
The latest addition in our list is the Google Pixel 3A (). 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 (). 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 () buy the Pixel 3A, you won’t regret it.
Xiaomi Mi 9: best price
Xiaomi tried to catch up with Huawei for a long time. It is quite possible that this moment has finally arrived since today the Mi 9 () deserves its place among the big (Apple, Samsung).
The triple camera module on the back is a big first for Xiaomi. It uses a similar configuration to that of the Galaxy S10 (): a 16MP wide-angle lens and a 12MP 2x zoom telephoto one.
The big difference is the 48MP Sony IMX586 Quad-Bayer main sensor, the same one found on the Honor View 20.
At the front, we find a 20MP sensor with Beauty mode. It captures a lot of detail and does not disappoint in Portrait mode since it manages to isolate the subject from the background.
Light exposure is optimal, colors seem natural and white balance is faithful. And thanks to the high-resolution sensor, the noise is better managed, especially in low light conditions.
The other highlight of the Mi 9 is its video quality. It shoots at 1080p and 30fps by default, but it can go up to 4K at 60 fps. The best Mode according to us is 4K at 30 fps which provides excellent results with smooth and detailed images. The autofocus performance is exemplary and the exposure shifts are very fluid. The stereo sound is also pretty good but the iPhone XS () has a better dynamic range.
The camera app is similar to that of the iPhone, and thus very intuitive. It offers various modes, but the Night one is not very good when it is really dark. In short, it cannot compete with the P30 Pro () or the Pixel 3 ().
Overall, the pictures of the Mi 9 are very impressive and its price is much more attractive than that of its competitors.
Read more: Xiaomi Mi9 review: a flagship for everyone
The OnePlus 7 Pro () couldn’t be the best smartphone of 2019 without an excellent camera. OnePlus’ flagship model comes with a triple camera module that consists of a 48MP RGB sensor (f/1.6), an 8MP (f/2.4) telephoto lens and a 16MP ultra-wide angle sensor (f/2.2).
This model’s highlight is the 16MP pop-up selfie cam. As a result, the smartphone not only looks amazing with its all-screen design, but it also captures excellent quality pictures.
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