What’s the best camera phone? Our roundup of the best camera phones should help you to make the right choice. Whether it’s the Pixel 3 from Google or the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, we’ve tested them all in a variety of conditions.
“How good is the camera?” is likely to be one of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself before you take the plunge and buy a new smartphone. And with good reason; you don’t want to be stuck with a duff snapper for 24 months.
How we test smartphone cameras
Putting a smartphone’s camera through its paces is a significant part of the review process here at Trusted Reviews, and each model listed below is top-class not only for taking photos but for the overall photography experience they offer.
But what makes a good phone camera? Well, it certainly isn’t just megapixel count – in fact, 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, be it 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 depending on your requirements.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- Great display
- Very fast charging
- Battery life is fantastic
- Clever extras, such as in-display fingerprint and reverse wireless charging
- Huawei’s software remains a weakness
Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro is the pinnacle of smartphone camera hardware excellence. The company has ditched the monochrome sensor that its previous flagships used, instead opting for an ultra-wide lens in its place.
The Mate 20 Pro sports an impressive Leica-branded triple camera arrangement, consisting of a 40-megapixel primary RGB sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, a 27mm lens and hybrid autofocus. It’s supported by a 20-megapixel 16mm ultra-wide angle snapper and an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor with up to 5x hybrid lossless zoom and OIS, not to mention the phone packs a wealth of AI smarts to help enhance picture quality even further based on scene and setting.
- Read our Huawei Mate 20 Pro review
Google Pixel 3 & Pixel 3 XL
- Fantastic, colourful display
- The best camera on any phone
- Slick version of Android
- Much-improved design over last year’s Pixels
- Scratches easily
- Some software bugs with the notch
- Battery life not as good as similarly sized rivals
If Huawei’s camera hardware is at the top of its game in the smartphone space, Google’s machine learning and computational photography talents give the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL the edge in the image processing department.
Both phones feature the same single 12.2-megapixel main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, 28mm lens, 1.4µm pixels, OIS and dual pixel PDAF (phase detection autofocus). In fact, the setup essentially reads the same as last year’s Pixels, which makes the improvements to image processing that Google has implemented this time around all the more important.
These phone’s excellent auto-HDR shooting is unrivalled when it comes to capturing detail, colour and a broad dynamic range in images, but new modes like Night Sight redefine what’s capable in the realm of low-light smartphone photography too. There’s also the matter of the Pixel’s dual front-facing cameras, which offer a secondary ultra-wide sensor so you can fit more in-frame without losing out on quality.
Huawei P20 Pro
- Stunning design
- Fantastic tri-camera
- Plenty of storage and RAM
- EMUI interface has come a long way
- There are faster phones
- No wireless charging
Until the Mate 20 Pro popped up on the scene, the Huawei P20 Pro was arguably one of the finest smartphones for photography from the last year. With that in mind, it’s still superb, with a similarly versatile triple-camera array that offers 5x hybrid zoom, eye-popping HDR photography, intelligent low-light shooting and a gamut of creative capture modes that you won’t find on other manufacturers’ handsets.
- Read our Huawei P20 Pro review
iPhone XS & iPhone XS Max
- Top-notch performance
- Phenomenal cameras
- Outstanding display
- Attractive design
- Hard to spot some of Apple’s improvements
- Starting price is far too high
- No fast charger in-box
- Scratches easily
Apple’s Smart HDR photography is nothing short of astounding and both the iPhone XS and XS Max have it. Similarly to the previous year’s iPhone X, these phones pack a pair of 12-megapixel sensors, both with OIS.
The main sensor sports a 26mm focal length and an f/1.8 aperture while the secondary lens features a narrower f/2.4 aperture and a 52mm focal length – this gives the XS and the XS Max 2x lossless optical zoom. You can also expect the best low light performance of any iPhone and thanks to the front-facing sensor Animoji and Memoji support.
- Great battery life
- XS features for less money
- Fantastic performance
- Very capable camera
- No fast charger included
- Will be too large for some
The ‘affordable’ 2018 iPhone actually shares a whole host of functionality with its more premium siblings, including the superb Apple A12 Bionic processor and its primary 12-megapixel camera. While it doesn’t boast the secondary sensors and thus lossless zoom of this year’s ‘S’ models, it still competes in practically every other way, ranging from raw image fidelity to video recording versatility.
Apple’s even gone so far as to implement Portrait Mode despite the XR’s single rear sensor, and the images it produces make it a tempting choice for iOS fans who don’t want to pay upwards of £1000/$1000 to enjoy such features. Having Animoji, Memoji and Portrait Mode as part of the phone’s front-facing camera setup is all appreciated too.
- Read our iPhone XR review
Related: What’s the best iPhone?
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Battery lasts the day, comfortably
- Fantastic, huge display with no notch
- S Pen remains unique
- Samsung’s software has a number of handy features
- The overall design of the S9 Plus is better
- Bixby button is an annoyance
Offering an updated take on the dual sensor setup that we first saw on the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus during the first half of 2018, the Note 9 packs in 2x lossless zoom, a portrait mode and a physical aperture that can automatically switch from f/2.4 out to f/1.5 in low light scenarios.
The Note does a great job of capturing detail and takes natural but well expose low-light imagery. What’s more, you can enjoy a wealth of pre-loaded filters, powerful editing tools and thanks to this phablet’s new Bluetooth connected S Pen stylus, you can trigger the shutter by using it as a remote control.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro
- Customisable software
- Eye-catching design
- Excellent camera
- Nice screen
- Poorly optimised performance
- Underwhelming battery life
- No wireless charging
- Big notch
Relative newcomer to a number of global markets including the UK, Chinese tech giant Xiaomi is making a splash with its enhanced flagship, the Mi 8 Pro. Not only is the phone eye-catching in its own right, but it also takes some superb photos, far better than the £499 price would have you believe.
Another dual 12-megapixel setup with 2x lossless zoom plus AI scene recognition and enhancement, the Mi 8 Pro is great at reading what it is you’re trying to capture to adjust settings accordingly. It demonstrates impressive dynamic range and natural looking image stability when you film in Full HD at up to 240fps or 4K at up to 30fps.
- Read our Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro review
Related: Best mid-range phones
- New fingerprint sensor feels cutting-edge
- Up-to-date, versatile OS
- Fast Charge is still great
- Sleek, premium design
- Great performance
- Great battery life
- Camera’s Nightscape mode needs work
- Another headphone jack bites the dust
- Fingerprint sensor needs refinement
- Poor audio capabilities
A great alternative to the Xiaomi, the OnePlus 6T boasts a respectable pair of primary cameras, fronted by a 16-megapixel sensor with a pleasingly-wide f/1.7 aperture, OIS and PDAF. Not for lossless zoom but for gaining added detail and depth data, it’s accompanied by a 20-megapixel sensor as well.
After some tweaks made to OnePlus’ camera profile between the 6T and its predecessor, the OnePlus 6, the phone takes some excellent HDR imagery and offers 480fps slow-motion video capture. It also sports a pleasing Portrait Mode and the 16-megapixel front camera sits within one of the most attractive and least obtrusive display notches out there.
- Read our OnePlus 6T review
Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL
- Truly amazing camera
- The best version of Android
- Nice display
- Boring design
- Huge bezel
A single 12.2-megapixel main sensor toting an f/1.8 aperture, 28mm lens, 1.4µm pixels, OIS and dual pixel PDAF – everything you get on 2018’s Pixel phones also features on the back of both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
That’s a great start but these devices also benefit from Google’s machine learning-powered smarts, not to mention some new features, like the mind-blowing Night Sight, which have trickled down from the Pixel 3 series to grace the company’s previous handsets too. With a lowered price tag, this might be one of the best bargains in the smartphone photography space right now.
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