Which is the best camera phone to buy? Here are the finest choices
Camera phones have changed a lot over the last decade. These days, it isn’t uncommon to find one, two, three or even four sensors packed into your smartphone, leaving many hobbyist photographers reaching for their pocket before splashing out on a separate compact or mirrorless camera.
There are plenty of camera phones to choose from too, covering a huge variety of budgets. Here at Trusted Reviews, we’ve tried and tested all the best camera phones to help you to choose which one is right for you.
A good camera is an important factor when buying a phone. After all, this is how you’re capturing your memories (and no one wants blurry, poor quality memories). We’ve reviewed countless handsets over the past year, from cutting-edge flagships to the best budget snappers, and sorted through them all to bring you only the most feed-worthy camera phones.
See below for a quick roundup of our favourite camera phones of 2020, or scroll down further to discover more about each device, including pros, cons, other stand out features and links to our comprehensive reviews with sample images from each of our top picks.
- Best Huawei camera: Huawei P40 Pro Plus
- Best phone camera: iPhone 12 Pro
- Best big phone camera: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
- Best phone camera for video: iPhone 12
- Best for stills: Pixel 5
- Best phone camera for zooming: Oppo Find X2 Pro
- Best Android camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
- Best budget phone camera: Google Pixel 4a
- Best phone for ultra-wide shots: OnePlus 8 Pro
1. Huawei P40 Pro Plus
Best camera phone zooming
- A fantastic, versatile camera system
- Premium design and screen
- Top-tier specs and storage
- Very expensive
- No Google support
- Mono speakers
The Huawei P40 Pro Plus is among the most multi-talented camera phones around. You get the best zoom available on any phone, a handy 18mm ultra wide-angle lens, and a main f/1.9 23mm lens that’s backed up by a 50-megapixel sensor.
It trumps Google’s Night Sight mode in dark scenes by stacking several images in a longer exposure. This is limited to scenes where there’s no movement or bright lights, though, and in more common low-light scenarios such as concerts, bars and night-time cityscapes, performance doesn’t stand out quite as much.
The zoom on the P40 Pro Plus is unmatched, easily giving crisper images than the Oppo Find X2 Pro and S20 Ultra. It’s a great all-rounder for daylight shooting and it generally handles scenes with mixed lighting well.
- Read our Huawei P40 Pro Plus review
2. iPhone 12 Pro
Best camera phone for versatility and video
- Great new design
- LiDAR helps with low-light
- Reliable pictures in all situations
- Lacks the zoom skills of other devices
The iPhone 12 Pro sits at the top of Apple’s current smartphone lineup, until the iPhone 12 Pro Max comes along later. The Pro camera’s combination of fantastic photo quality and impressive versatility makes it our top choice when it comes to smartphone snappers.
It’s glitzier, flashier and more expensive than the iPhone 12 but, for many, the extra skills of the camera setup is seriously worth considering. Apple seriously improved its photographic output with the iPhone 11 series, and the 12 series takes that a step forward again.
The iPhone 12 Pro is kitted with three 12-megapixel cameras, including an ultra-wide angle lens. You also get a new faster wide lens (26mm, f/1.6) and a 2x telephoto lens. There’s also a LiDAR sensor for aiding low-light focusing.
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Nothing is lacking with the new HDR Dolby Vision video recording, audio and super-bright XDR display. All are tremendous, and the iPhone 12 Pro is also an absolute performance beast. The A14 chipset is the fastest we’ve used and it brings 5G to an iPhone for the first time.
We’d have liked a fast refresh display, a screen without a notch and for some killer zoom skills. However, the 12 Pro remains one of the most reliable camera phones around.
Related: Which iPhones will get iOS 14?
- Read our iPhone 12 Pro review
3. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Best camera phone for fans of big phones
- Bronze colour is really nice, and adds a matte finish
- S Pen even more responsive than ever
- Really good triple camera
- The best looking phone around
- Battery life, on Exynos version, isn’t good
- Screen resolution limits are annoying
Samsung’s second phone to sport the “Ultra” moniker matches its predecessor in both its lavishness and price tag. However, what it does bring to the table is a more refined take on the camera setup, including ditching the 100x Space Zoom.
Galaxy Note 20 Ultra brings a camera setup that features a 108-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto and 12-megapixel ultrawide. The combo produces strong results that our review called “a huge improvement over the S20 Ultra.” The setup tones down Space Zoom to just 50x while using a 5x optical zoom alongside it.
Aside from the camera, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is sporting a whole lot more tricks – from a gorgeous and gargantuan 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate 6.9-inch OLED display to strong performance from the Exynos 990 (even if we here in the UK lose out on the better Snapdragon 865+ option).
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
4. iPhone 12
The most reliable camera phone
- Great still photos
- new HDR skills
- Excellent video
- Lacks real zoom
While the iPhone 12 Pro and the Pro Max are far more focussed on the cameras, the iPhone 12 still impresses and benefits from a number of new features.
The main wide 12MP camera now has an f/1.6 lens and it performs far better in low light situations when compared to older iPhones, with nicer colours and exposure. The Smart HDR feature has been improved and the Deep Fusion AI tech ensures photos are sharp. There are fewer upgrades to the ultra wide camera, however you can now use the dedicated low-light mode while shooting with this secondary sensor.
The lack of a zoom lens does mean that this isn’t an ideal set-up if you want to get closer to subjects, and there are far better choices on this list if zoom is an important feature for you.
Video has been upgraded though and you can shoot Dolby Vision HDR footage at 4K 30fps (60fps on the Pro).
Other features include an OLED screen (still with a notch and at 60Hz), the fast A14 chipset, 5G and support for MagSafe accessories.
- Read our iPhone 12 review
5. Google Pixel 5
The best phone camera for stills
- Great still photos
- Improved video
- Smooth 90Hz screen
- Bland design
- No real zoom
The Pixel 5 doesn’t push the Pixel camera to new heights like we might have been expecting, however offering it at a lower price means more people can enjoy this excellent shooter.
That’s not to say the camera isn’t any different to the Pixel 5. There’s now an ultrawide, rather than a zoom, secondary sensor which is probably the right decisions. Video capture has been improved with support for 4K60 and portrait lighting features given you more control over your portraits.
Where the Pixel 5 falls down to the, albeit pricier, competition is the zoom. The zoom here is completely software-based and while the results are fine, they pale compared to a phone a proper zoom lens.
Other features include a 90Hz screen, 4000mAh battery, 5G and a metal body.
- Read our full Pixel 5 review
6. Oppo Find X2 Pro
An excellent all-round smartphone camera
- Lots of storage
- Punchy screen
- Excellent zoom
The Oppo Find X2 Pro beats both the S20 Plus and the iPhone 11 Pro when it comes to zoom thanks to the periscope lens and 13-megapixel sensor. It also outguns them with its resolution, with the phone’s primary camera featuring Sony’s new 12-bit IMX689 sensor with a large 1/1.4” size and 1.12-micron pixels and a 50-megapixel sensor. There’s a 48-megapixel ultrawide here, too.
On the front you’ll find a 32-megapixel selfie camera. The Snapdragon 865 makes for a seriously fast phone, while the 120Hz QHD+ OLED is a joy to watch media on. Battery life is excellent and the ridiculously fast 65w charging makes up for the lack of Qi wireless charging.
- Read our full Oppo X2 Pro review
7. Google Pixel 4a
Best camera phone on a budget
- Great camera
- Refreshingly small size for an Android phone
- The promise of fast updates
- Nice, sharp OLED screen
- You’ll find competition with far larger spec sheets and feature lists
- Some mild performance and touch latency hiccups
- As well as being a Pro, the small screen might put some off
One of the stand out features of the Pixel 3a was its camera and Google has made sure to bring its expertise to the next version. Pixel 4a packs in a single 12-megapixel f/1.7 sensor that dominates many camera phones sporting more than double the amount of camera on the back. Image processing power and low-light shooting make the Pixel 4a a contender in the camera department with even the most premium phones, while managed to come in at a sub-£400 price point.
Along with the stellar camera, you’ll be getting the sleek Pixel Launcher, for a clean-yet-functional Android experience as well as speedy updates guaranteed for three years.
Despite the low-low price, Google has managed to whack a pleasing screen onto Pixel 4a. The OLED display offers sharp images, even without a 90Hz refresh rate. The 5.8-inch OLED sits nicely in a basic but still good quality feeling plastic body that comes in a size that harkens back to a more one-handed friendly past.
Before you settle on the 4a, however, it might be worth noting that Google recently announced a 5G version of our favourite budget-friendly camera phone. While the camera part seems relatively unchanged next to its non-5G counterpart, the phone comes packed with the same Snapdragon 765G processor as the flagship Pixel 5 and a larger 6.2-inch display. It’s a little pricier than the regular 4a, but if you want the latest processor and a bigger screen, as well as the obvious benefit of 5G, this is a great low-priced camera phone to consider. Of course, we can’t recommend the 4a 5G until we test it out for ourselves, but this could be one to hold out for.
- Read our Google Pixel 4a review
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8. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus
The best Android camera phone you can buy right now
- Nice design
- Great screen
- Strong performance
- Good battery
- Ugly UI
- 8K video recording is pointless
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus rocks a total of four rear camera sensors, including a 12-megapixel main camera, a 64-megapixel telephoto sensor, a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and a 0.3-megapixel depth sensor.
It’s a set-up that offers a lot of versatility, and thankfully Samsung has dialled down post-processing so images look more realistic and less overdone (though portrait shots were sometimes overly smooth). Autofocus was very useful and accurate too.
While the processor was generally excellent with every that we threw at it, – one exception was the recording of 8K video recording; but frankly, this is an endeavour that we wouldn’t recommend anyway given that it’s capped at 30fps and even causes the phone to noticeably heat up.
The only real photographic disadvantage compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is that zoom is less powerful, but we didn’t find that to be a major loss by any means.
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review
9. OnePlus 8 Pro
Best camera phone for ease of use
- Excellent wide camera
- Sharp details
- Steady video
- The camera isn’t industry-leading
- Pointless colour filter camera
- Low-light isn’t up there with the best
The cameras on OnePlus phones have come a long way in a few years, and the photographic capabilities on the OnePlus 8 Pro are up there with some of the best. Shots from the main 48MP camera are sharp and colourful, while the 48MP ultra-wide is one of the best around.
This is a £799/$899 phone, so there are sacrifices. There’s no impressive zoom here, just a standard 3x 8MP sensor, and the ‘fourth’ camera is merely a colour filter sensor that does very little. Elsewhere the camera is capable of 4K video at 60fps, and there’s a 16MP camera in a small cutout on the front.
Once your photos are snapped, you can view them on the stunning 6.78-inch OLED 120Hz panel. It has full support for HDR and 10-bit colour, a QHD+ resolution and some motion smoothing skills.
There’s 5G onboard, a Snapdragon 865 keeping everything running and a 4510mAh battery.
- Read our OnePlus 8 Pro review
How we choose the best smartphone camera
Putting a smartphone’s camera through its paces is a significant part of the review process at Trusted Reviews and each model listed below is top class, for images and overall photography experience.
- What makes a good phone camera? It isn’t just megapixel count the majority of the devices in this list don’t feature more than 12 megapixels.
- More important are a wide aperture (around f/1.8 or lower), and image stabilisation, whether optical or electronic (OIS or EIS). Other aspects such as a secondary lens for portrait photos and an impressive selfie camera will be more or less important to you, depending on your requirements.
- We test each camera in several real-world scenarios, for example, low light, portrait, landscape, light and dark conditions, and then we compare models. You’ll find a dedicated page for each phone’s camera in the reviews below.