large image

Trusted Reviews is supported by its audience. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Best camera phones 2021: 11 stunning smartphone cameras

Trusted Reviews rates and ranks the top smartphones to give our definitive verdict on which phone has the best camera for you.

The camera is one of the most important parts of a modern smartphone and if you’re about to pay flagship prices, you’ll likely expect a handset capable of taking great photos in return.

There are plenty of excellent camera phones to choose from at the moment, covering a variety of budgets and varying features. Some focus on zoom, while others hope to offer best in class video recording. Here at Trusted Reviews, we’ve reviewed all the best camera phones to help you to choose a handset that’s right for you.

We test each camera in several real-world scenarios – for example, low light, portrait, landscape, light and dark conditions – and then compare the results. You’ll find a dedicated section for each phone’s camera, including sample images, in each of the reviews we reference and link to in this guide.

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.

If you’d prefer a more general look at which phone to buy, our Best Phone, Best Android Phone and Best iPhone guides will point you in the right direction.

How we test

Learn more about how we test mobile phones

Every phone we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, screen accuracy, battery life, performance and camera prowess.

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how much battery it loses per hour streaming video.

We also make sure to use every phone we review as our primary handset for at least 4 days to ensure our review is as accurate as possible. You can see a more detailed breakdown of our testing methodology in our how we test phones guide.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best camera phone for versatility
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Great screen thanks to WQHD+ and 120Hz
  • Much-improved design with an attractive finish
  • Far more versatile camera than the iPhone 12 Pro Max


  • Expensive, with many cheaper phones offering the same features
  • Big and heavy
  • No charger included

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of our favourite smartphones on the market for a variety of reasons, one of those being the incredibly versatile camera. 

The quad setup includes a 108MP (f/1.8) wide angle sensor, a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide angle sensor, a 10MP (f/2.4) 3x zoom sensor and a 10MP (f/4.9) 10x zoom sensor. The phone also packs a 40MP selfie camera on the front and can capture video footage in up to 8K at 24fps. 

The main lens produces 12MP images by default, but you can easily switch to 108MP if you’re happy to sacrifice some storage. The 108MP sensor produces detailed, natural-looking images with a soft bokeh effect that blurs the background to highlight the subject. 

While the camera still has that colourful, Insta-friendly, Samsung quality, the colours have been toned down a bit compared with previous generations. There’s even an option on the front camera to shoot a more natural image. 

Other key features on this S21 Ultra include the fast Exynos 2100 processor, stunning WQHD+/120Hz display and plenty of storage and RAM. If you’re happy to drop over £1000 on your next phone, this is a fantastic pick.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Huawei does it again
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Great screen
  • Excellent camera system
  • Loud, expansive speakers


  • No Google services
  • Can get warm when gaming
  • Ultra-wide camera could be wider
  • Not available easily in the USA

Huawei has been producing some of the best camera phones for years now, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see the Huawei Mate 40 Pro sitting high up on this list.

On the back of the Mate 40 Pro you’ve got a number of cameras. At the helm is a 50-megapixel f/1.9 camera. The sensor identical to the one included with the excellent Huawei P40 Pro Plus. Alongside it sits a P40 Pro-a-like 12-megapixel f/3.4 5x zoom periscope camera, and a 20-megapixel f/1.8 ultra-wide.

Snaps shot on the Mate 40 Pro definitely exhibit similar characteristics to the typical Leica look (you’ll see the brand’s logo on the camera module). In our review, we said images are “warm, rich and zingy, without looking mottled and over-processed like some photos taken on Samsung phones”. Dynamic range is strong even in backlit scenes, and challenging subjects such as black cats and glass surfaces look textured and realistic. The low-light performance continues this theme too, with very good results during testing.

Battery life is great and it charges up very quickly thanks to a 66w charger. You’ve got a great 6.76-inch 90Hz display too and the very capable Kirin 9000 chipset. Of course, the biggest issue here is the lack of Google services. There’s no Google Play store on the Mate 40 Pro so that means no access to common apps like Google Pay, YouTube and Gmail. The lack of support for the underlying Google services also means some other apps won’t work too, like Uber. Which is why we only recommend it to buyers that place camera performance as their top priority when picking a phone.

Reviewer: Basil Kronfli
Full review: Huawei Mate 40 Pro review

iPhone 12 Pro Max

The biggest iPhones takes some amazing photos
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Striking new design
  • Excellent quality screen
  • One of the best phone cameras going
  • Actual multi-day battery life


  • Flat design doesn’t suit the size as much as the 12 Pro
  • Camera only marginally stronger than other iPhone 12 models
  • Lacks a high refresh-rate screen

If you want the very best iPhone 12 camera experience then go for the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It has a larger sensor than the smaller Pro model for taking better and quicker low-light snaps. In addition, the extra optical zoom (2.5x as opposed to 2x) provides a bit more creative freedom, even if the zoom can’t match the P40 Pro and Note 20 Ultra.

We wouldn’t say the pictures are always night-and-day improvements over the 12 Pro (or even the 12); however, you can get much better snaps here if you’re shooting active subjects.

There are benefits that comes from having a larger phone, too. Battery life is improved and the 6.7-inch display is ideal for editing snaps and using as a big viewfinder.

Everything else is the same as the iPhone 12 Pro, which you can read about below.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 12 Pro Max review

iPhone 12 Pro

Best camera phone for versatility and video
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • A very welcome redesign
  • Reliable cameras in all situations
  • Accurate HDR display
  • Great size


  • High refresh rate screen feels sorely missed on the Pro model
  • Pro Max bags the bigger camera upgrades

The iPhone 12 Pro sits just below the Pro Max in Apple’s current smartphone lineup. 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 make it 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 that lets you fit a lot more into your landscape shots. You also get a new faster wide lens (26mm, f/1.6) and a 2x telephoto lens for getting close. A LiDAR sensor aids low-light focusing and you’ll notice this if you’re big into taking pictures in the dark.

Nothing is lacking with the new HDR Dolby Vision video recording either, capturing much brighter, more colourful footage. 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.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 12 Pro review

Oppo Find X3 Pro

Another reliable camera system from Oppo
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Thin and light for a 6.7-inch phone
  • Adaptive 120Hz display is gorgeous and highly customisable
  • Oppo’s software has seen huge improvements


  • Battery life not as good as the Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • Loses the periscope zoom skills of the Find X2 Pro
  • Vibration motor is terrible

We were very impressed with the camera on the Oppo Find X2 Pro and it’s no surprise the follow-up is another excellent camera phone. The Oppo Find X3 Pro boasts an atypical 50MP wide camera with a 50MP ultra wide. Both use the new Sony IMX 766 sensor for optimal quality across the board.

The duo of ‘main’ sensors are both great. During testing they consistently captured reliable pictures in all conditions. Images are beautifully vibrant and colourful, with distortion on the ultra wide kept very much to a minimum. There are certainly some similarities in the colour tuning to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with an emphasis on punchy greens and reds.

The main sensors are more than capable of shooting in lower-light situations too, with a multi-exposure night mode for when light is really at a minimum. Pictures we took in near darkness came out bright and with plenty of detail.

Along with these two great cameras, you’ve also got a decent 13MP telephoto camera for zoomed shots and a 3MP microscope lens for 60x magnification. The latter is little more than a gimmick, but a clever and fun one, while the zoom is a bit of a disappointment when compared to the outgoing X2 Pro. Oddly, the older phone proved capable of better results while zooming during testing.

Oppo used a periscope lens last time around to offer far superior zoom and that’s been ditched here, likely to keep the phone slimmer.

The rest of the phone impresses, just like the camera. There’s a lovely 6.7-inch 1440p OLED display with HDR support and high levels of brightness. Inside you’ve got a Snapdragon 888 chipset with 5G, 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. Keeping the phone going in a 4500mAh battery that charges up via 65w charging.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Oppo Find X3 Pro review

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Best camera phone for fans of big phones
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Bronze colour is really nice, and adds a matte finish
  • S Pen even more responsive than ever
  • Really good triple camera


  • 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 that was panned on the S20 Ultra.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra brings a camera setup that features a 108-megapixel main sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto and 12-megapixel ultra-wide. The combo produces strong results that in our review we described as “a huge improvement over the S20 Ultra.” The setup tones down Space Zoom to just 50x, while using a 5x optical zoom alongside it. Still, the zoom skills here are far superior to that of the iPhone 12 series and Pixel 5, only losing out to the Huawei P40 Pro.

Aside from the camera, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra comes sporting many 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). 

As we mentioned in the intro to this guide, Samsung has now launched its Galaxy S21 and S21 Ultra. Like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra packs a 108-megapixel main sensor and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens. The S21 Ultra also includes two telephoto lenses for 100x Space Zoom. The S21 camera is better, but the Note remains good. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

Apple iPhone 12

The most reliable camera phone
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Fantastic new design
  • Very reliable cameras
  • Execptional performance


  • Screen lacks some of the benefits you’ll find elswhere
  • The notch remains annoying

While the iPhone 12 Pro and the Pro Max are far more focused on the cameras, the iPhone 12 continues to impress, benefitting from a number of new features.

The main 12-megapixel wide-angle camera now has an f/1.6 lens, ensuring it performs far better in low light compared to older iPhones, capturing images with better colours and exposure. The Smart HDR feature has been improved and the Deep Fusion AI tech ensures photos are sharp – you’ll notice this especially in photos that include items of texture, such as a woollen jumper or a jaggedy rock. 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 setup if you want to get closer to subjects, and there are far better choices on this list if zoom is a priority for you.

Video has been upgraded, however, and you can shoot Dolby Vision HDR footage at 4K 30fps (60fps on the Pro). HDR video is far brighter, more colourful and just generally more appealing visually, even if it can cause some compatibility issues with older TVs. 

Other features include an OLED screen (still with a notch and at 60Hz, rather than the faster 120Hz found on the Note 20 Ultra), the fast A14 chipset, 5G and support for MagSafe accessories. 

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: iPhone 12 review

Google Pixel 5

The best phone camera for stills
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Typically fantastic Pixel camera
  • Improved video recording features
  • Far better battery life than Pixel 4
  • Small design is refreshing
  • The price is great


  • Design a little bland
  • An XL version would have been a nice option
  • Cameras lack the versatility of some rivals
  • No face unlock

The Pixel 5 doesn’t push the Pixel camera to new heights like we were expecting. However, offering the device 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 4. There’s now an ultra-wide – rather than a zoom – secondary sensor, which is probably the right decision since it lets you take far better landscape shots. Video has been improved with support for smoother 4K 60fps capture, and portrait lighting features offer up greater control when editing.

Where the Pixel 5 falls down next to the, albeit pricier, competition is the zoom. The zoom here is completely software-based and while the results are fine, they pale in comparison to models carrying a proper zoom lens such as the Note 20 Ultra or P40 Pro. 

Other features include a 90Hz screen, 4000mAh battery, 5G and a metal body.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Pixel 5 review

Google Pixel 4a

Best camera phone on a budget
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Great camera
  • Refreshingly small size for an Android phone
  • The promise of fast updates
  • Nice, sharp OLED screen
  • Affordable


  • 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 managing to come in at a sub-£400 price point.

Of course, the biggest issue for some will be the lack of any secondary sensors. This is the only phone on this list to eschew an ultra-wide or telephoto camera completely.

Along with the stellar camera you also get the sleek Pixel Launcher, for a clean-yet-functional Android experience, as well as speedy updates guaranteed for three years.

Despite the super-low price, Google has managed to whack a pleasing screen onto the 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 decent-quality plastic body, which comes in a size that harks back to a more one-handed friendly past.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Google Pixel 4a review

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

A great display, a good camera, and dependable battery life
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Best in class 120Hz AMOLED display
  • 108MP camera capable of fine things
  • Excellent stamina from 5020mAh
  • Bargain price tag


  • No 5G
  • Camera disappoints in less-than-ideal lighting

Aside from the excellent Google’s Pixel 4a, we rarely encounter cheaper phones with actually great cameras. This is where a hefty amount of a flagship phone’s development budget will tend to go, after all. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro is a worthy rival to the Pixel 4a though.
The 108MP camera on the back of this phone is quite possibly the best you’ll find for less than £300. This huge sensor uses 9-in-1 pixel binning to create 12MP images and as such the sensor is capable of taking very bright and detailed snaps. In good lighting you’ll get balanced shots with nice colours and good dynamic range.

The night mode is good too, though the lack of OIS means it’s not quite comparable to the best phones out there. Where the phone suffers most is the in-between lighting situations, where you’re past perfect daylight conditions yet Night Mode isn’t appropriate.

Other good features include a 120Hz display, 5020 mAh battery and a Snapdragon 732G chipset.

Reviewer: Jon Mundy
Full Review: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro review

Sony Xperia 1 III

One of the most interesting smartphone cameras around
rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star rating-star


  • Best in class 120Hz AMOLED display
  • 108MP camera capable of fine things
  • Excellent stamina from 5020mAh
  • Bargain price tag


  • No 5G
  • Camera disappoints in less-than-ideal lighting

Sony’s set of three rear cameras on its Xperia 1 III work in a very different way to most other phones on this list. 

Whereas the iPhone 12, Galaxy S21 series and the Pixel 5 put a lot of focus on computational algorithms to get the most from the sensors, the Xperia gives you more control. 

During testing we found the Pro apps for both photo and video let you tweak all the settings you could want and the fairly flat pictures are great as a base to edit from. Though they do lack some pop if you want to fling them straight onto social media.

The zoom camera is pretty clever, as it can between two focal lengths. The results here are fine in daylight, but not so much when it gets dark.

The rest of the phone retains a very flagship feel – and considering the price that’s really important. There’s a Snapdragon 888 inside, 12GB RAM, 4500mAh battery and a 4K 120Hz display.

Reviewer:Max Parker
Full review:Sony Xperia 1 III

We also considered…

We’ve reviewed



See all reviews


What is an optical zoom?

Optical zoom is a camera phone feature that allows you to take images of your subject from afar without allowing the quality to suffer as you might see with digital zoom.

What is a telephoto camera?

Having a telephoto lens on your phone lets you to get very close to your subject without reducing the quality of your image.

What is OIS?

OIS – or optical image stablisation – uses a gyroscope to compensate for shake, keeping your videos stable and your images crisp even in low light.

Specs Comparison

Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Rear Camera
Front Camera
Video Recording
IP rating
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Refresh Rate
Bin capacity

Trusted Reviews test data

1 hour music straming (online)
1 hour video playback (Netflix, HDR)
30 minute gaming (intensive)
30 minute gaming (light)
1 hour music streaming (offline)
Time from 0-100% charge
Time from 0-50% charge
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
3D Mark – Sling Shot Extreme
3D Mark – Wild Life

Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have 9 million users a month around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

author icon

Editorial independence

Editorial independence means being able to give an unbiased verdict about a product or company, with the avoidance of conflicts of interest. To ensure this is possible, every member of the editorial staff follows a clear code of conduct.

author icon

Professional conduct

We also expect our journalists to follow clear ethical standards in their work. Our staff members must strive for honesty and accuracy in everything they do. We follow the IPSO Editors’ code of practice to underpin these standards.