Which is the best camera phone to buy?
With 2019 coming to a close, now is a great time to gaze upon the fantastic array of camera phones we’ve seen this year. This has been the year that zooming has jumped to the next level, multi-camera sensor arrays have become common and even budget phones have gained the ability to snap excellent pictures.
We’ve reviewed a load of phones this year and, whether it’s a budget option or a flagship, the camera is a very important aspect. We put each phone through a tough camera review process and you can see the results of this below.
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Below you’ll find a quick overview of everything in this list, or you can continue reading for a more in-depth look at each phone. We’ve also got full reviews of each phone, so that’s your best bet if you want the full picture samples.
- Best phone camera: iPhone 11 Pro
- Best phone camera for video: iPhone 11
- Best phone camera for detail: Google Pixel 4
- Best phone camera for night shooting: Huawei P30 Pro
- Best budget phone camera: Google Pixel 3a/ Google Pixel 3a XL
- Best big phone camera: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
- Best phone camera display: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
- Best phone camera for tech: Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
- Best value phone camera for Android: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Best value phone camera for iOS: iPhone XR
- Best phone camera for ease: OnePlus 7 Pro
How we choose the best smartphone camera
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 also for the overall photography experience it offers.
- So 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, 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 by putting them through a number of real world tests, for example low light, portrait, landscape, how well it handles light and dark conditions, and compare between models. You’ll find a dedicated page for each phone’s camera in the reviews listed below.
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1. iPhone 11 Pro
Best camera phone for versatility and video
- A lovely, supremely bright display
- One of the best camera systems on any phone
- There’s a quick charger in the box
- Design hasn’t changed much and the notch remains annoying
- 64GB still the base storage option
- The iPhone 11 is, for most people, a better pick
Glitzier, flashier and far pricier than the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, along with its larger iPhone 11 Pro Max sibling, sits atop Apple’s 2019 phone line. It also happens to be our favourite smartphone camera right now thanks to a great mixture of pure photo quality and sheer versatility.
Apple has seriously improved its photographic output with the iPhone 11 Pro (and with the iPhone 11 in many ways). The iPhone 11 Pro packs three distinct 12-megapixel cameras, which, for the first time in an Apple device, includes an ultra-wide-angle lens (13mm equivalent, f/2.4). You also get a standard lens (26mm, f/1.8) and a 2x telephoto lens (52mm, with an improved maximum aperture of f/2.0).
The video recording, audio and super-bright XDR display are all tremendous, and the iPhone 11 Pro is also an absolute performance beast, with the new A13 Bionic chipset helping put it up there with the fastest phones we have reviewed. This is also the first 5.8-inch iPhone that doesn’t feel hamstrung by a battery that needs constant attention to get it through a full day.
Downsides include the meagre amounts of base storage, the speed of the refresh display and Apple’s resistance to fully embracing USB-C. The idea of being able to charge the MacBook Pro, iPad Pro and iPhone 11 Pro with the same block and charger just makes so much sense.
The iPhone 11 Pro offers many improvements on its predecessor but there are still areas that Apple could have pushed forward in, especially as it has now decided to call these phones Pro. 5G was never going to happen, but would have been nice anyway; some sort of TouchID-enabled fingerprint sensor inside the display and the rumoured reverse wireless charging that could have juiced up a pair of AirPods would also have been welcome features.
- Read our iPhone 11 Pro review
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2. iPhone 11
An excellent camera phone with strong battery life at a great price
- Great camera
- Long-lasting battery
- Really nice colour options
- Surprisingly excellent value for an Apple phone
- A screen resolution bump would have been nice
- Still no fast charger in the box
You could think of it as an iPhone XRS: it takes the previous phone, keeps the design virtually unchanged and alters the internals. There are now two cameras on the back, for example, and the same A13 chipset you’ll find in the Pro model. What seems most surprising is that the iPhone 11 starts off cheaper than the outgoing model: £729/$699 for the 64GB base as opposed to £749/$749. This could be the best value iPhone yet.
The 11’s size is the best out of any iPhone. There’s more screen to play with than on the 11 Pro, but the phone doesn’t feel overly bulky and heavy. In terms of battery life, the iPhone 11 is a really long-lasting phone that we found went slightly further than its predecessor on a single charge.
The new rear cameras are also excellent. The iPhone 11 is a lot more affordable than the Pro models, but boasts exactly the same wide-angle 12-megapixel optical image stabilised (OIS) main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and the same 12-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera (f/2.4).
The only thing you’re missing out on is the telephoto, 2x optical zoomed camera that sits on the Pro. However, if you’d take ultra-wide angle over zoomed, you might well see this as a fair trade, and it’s hard to see any differences when comparing photos from the Pro and the 11.
The 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD falls below the competition, however, in terms of resolution and it would have been nice to see the 1792 x 828 panel upgraded to a 1080p version.
Also less than impressive is the 5w charger you’ll find in the box. Not including a fast charger is clearly a cost-cutting measure and it remains a real downer against this phone. The included charger has always felt slow and that feeling is even more obvious now that the iPhone 11 Pro models come with an 18w charger.
If you’re updating an older iPhone then you’ll notice the vast array of improvements to camera, battery life and overall design straight away. This is a great buy that’ll hopefully perform comfortably for a number of years.
- Read our iPhone 11 review
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3. Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4 XL
Best for detail
- Photos are truly excellent with lovely detail and contrast
- Telephoto camera adds some extra versatility
- 1080p video looks great
- Phone is very well designed
- No ultra wide camera leaves it lacking compared to some of the rivals
- No 4K60fps video
- Battery life on both versions isn’t very good
Google’s Pixel series has always been about the camera and the latest model (the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL) retains the crown as being one of the best phones on the market when it comes to snapping pictures. The addition of a secondary telephoto lens for zooming in a bit further and helping with portrait snaps only improves the overall package.
Photos from the Pixel 4 are truly excellent, keeping that distinctive contrasty look we’ve come to expect from a Google phone. Colours pop without having a lurid finish and the amount of detail – for a 12-megapixel – is matched only by the iPhone 11.
We do bemoan the lack of versatility that comes without the third, ultra wide lens though and with pretty much every other flagship packing one it’s a clear omission here. There’s also no 4K recording at 60fps – something you’ll find on most other flagships.
While the camera is truly excellent, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both suffer from uneven battery life that falls well short of the rivals.
4. Huawei P30 Pro
Best camera phone for night shooting
- Fantastic photos
- Multiple cameras and lenses
- Battery life is excellent
- Clever extras, such as in-display fingerprint and reverse wireless charging
- Huawei’s software remains a weakness
The Huawei P30 Pro is one of the most multi-talented, versatile camera phones around. You get the best zoom available on any phone, a handy new 16mm wide-angle lens, and a main f/1.6 28mm lens that’s backed up by a 40-megapixel sensor.
In extremely dark scenes, it trumps the Google Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode, by either cranking up the ISO (in normal photo mode) or 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 (concerts, bars, night-time cityscapes) its performance doesn’t stand out quite as much.
For typical daylight shooting, the P30 Pro is a great all-rounder. It mostly handles scenes with mixed lighting well, despite sometimes clipping highlights in brighter areas, while the depth sensor helps it serve up the best virtual bokeh we’ve seen. Whether you’re shooting a flower in super-macro mode or a face in Portrait mode, it’ll reliably blur details both in front and behind your subject.
As well as night shooting, its other standout feature is its zoom. Its periscope lens uses what’s known as folded optics to squeeze a 125mm lens with image stabilisation into the P30 Pro’s 8.4mm-thick body. While it’s not technically a zoom (there are no moving lens elements, so zooming between 24mm-125mm focal lengths involves some cropping), the images it produces from that extreme end of the range are the best you can get from a phone. Its hybrid 10x zoom is also decent, though the results from its 50x zoom are mostly unusable.
- Read our Huawei P30 Pro review
5. Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL
Best camera phone on a budget
- There’s a headphone jack
- Flagship-quality camera
- Fantastic display
- Great size
- No Qi charging or water resistance
- Can feel slow in certain activities
- Screen is a little dim
The name alone should give you a clue as to why this phone is on the list. The Pixel 3 is an undeniably fantastic phone but it’s also a true flagship in every respect, including price. The 3a series looks to offer the same user experience and make the same proposition as the standard model, for a lot less.
At £400, the Pixel 3a isn’t exactly cheap but it’s certainly several hundred pounds more affordable than the standard Pixel 3, while also retaining one of its principal features – its camera.
The 3a (and larger 3a XL) employ the same 12.2-megapixel primary snapper as the Pixel 3 line, paired with the same imaging processing used in their pricier siblings. As such, you can expect a phenomenal camera experience at a price that doesn’t make your bank balance sweat anywhere near as much.
The Pixel 3a series also retains Pixel-specific shooting features like Night Sight and the only real disparity in the camera department is the absence of the Pixel Visual Core, which results in slower camera performance and image processing.
Related: Best mid-range phones
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Best camera phone for fans of big phones
- Fantastic size for a Note phone
- The S Pen remains great
- Very powerful, and cameras are versatile
- Camera isn’t quite as good as other rivals
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a great phone and the display is clearly its standout feature. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus appears to be a slightly remodelled Galaxy S10, complete with an S Pen, and that’s no bad thing – the S10 is one of the best Android phones around. It would, however, also have been nice to see Samsung push forward in areas where the S10 has fallen behind some of the competition; the camera is a good example.
The rear cameras are similar to the ones on the S10 and while you can capture excellent snaps here thanks to the three sensors on the back, the phone lacks the dynamic range and night shooting of the iPhone 11 or Pixel 4. Still, video recording is excellent.
The display here is, as previously mentioned, great. At 6.8 inches it’s big and bright, with serious punch and detail. The display now runs to the edges of the phone’s front, granting it an impressive 90.9% screen-to-body ratio. What’s more, the single Infinity-O hole-punch camera is now centrally aligned at the top of the screen, and therefore less intrusive than the S10’s solo-sensor effort.
The design remains the best of any Android phone, the functionality of the S Pen offers something you can’t get elsewhere, and its slightly smaller form factor is also a plus.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review
7. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Best camera phone display
- Great performance
- Nice tri-camera arrangement
- The best display on any phone
- One UI still lacks the style of other Android skins
Samsung’s latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, packs three cameras on the back and another two on the front. If you love having a versatile camera in your pocket then this could very well be the one to plump for.
Headlining the camera array is a 12-megapixel main sensor, which, like the older S9, can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture depending on the kind of light you are shooting in. While most pictures are very detailed and colourful, you certainly get more contrast and dynamic range from the Pixel 3 or even iPhone XS.
Related: what is the best Samsung phone?
Those other two rear sensors comprise of a 16-megapixel ultrawide that’s great for cramming loads of stuff into shot and a 12-megapixel 2x tele for getting closer to the subject. Of course, there are also plenty of additional modes, including the now super-common Live Focus for adding extra depth of field.
A new stabilisation mode improves the video – which can be shot up to 4K60fps – and the second camera on the front lets you add depth effects to your selfies. There’s a fully-featured Pro mode here, too.
Camera aside, you’ve got the top-drawer internals of a 2019 flagship: latest Qualcomm or Exynos chipset (depending on region), 8GB RAM and a glorious 6.4in quad-HD+ display.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
8. Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
Most cutting-edge camera phone
- Fantastic triple camera
- Impressive battery life
- Great performance
- ColorOS is still awkward
- No wireless charging
- No water resistance
Oppo is a relatively new player in the UK but it has plenty of experience in making appealing and successful devices in its home market of China. As such, it’s coming in strong for 2019 with its latest flagship, the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom.
The Reno crams in nearly every major desirable feature that you could ask for but, as you might have guessed from that awkward name, the main focus is the phone’s impressive triple camera arrangement – a 48-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle snapper and a periscopic 13-megapixel telephoto effort that offers up to 5x optical zoom and up to 60x digital.
It’s as though Oppo designed the 10x Zoom to directly compete with the Huawei P30 Pro’s class-leading optics and, for the most part, it does.
Shots captured on the Reno adopt a more natural, warmer finish compared to the P30 Pro, and mainly keep pace. Comparatively speaking, its low-light credentials aren’t as strong as on Huawei’s flagship but they’re not far off.
What’s more, until the US government’s Huawei Android ban is resolved, you might feel safer dropping cash on the Reno as opposed to the P30 Pro.
- Read our Oppo Reno 10x Zoom review
9. Xiaomi Mi 9
Best value camera phone for Android
- Excellent, versatile tri-camera
- 2x optical zoom
- Ultra-wide-angle option
- Shoots 4K at 60fps
- Occasionally temperamental fingerprint sensor
- MIUI Android skin not for everyone
The Xiaomi Mi 9 offers incredible value for money and one of the main reasons is its camera – a triple-camera set-up with a 48-megapixel f/1.75 main snapper is the kind of thing you’d have only found on a high-end flagship until recently, but now it’s on a sub-£500 handset.
It’s not just about specs and big numbers, either – the cameras all perform well and together give you great shooting versatility. Pixel binning means that main 48-megapixel camera takes 12-megapixel snaps by default, with that extra resolution going towards noise reduction and stabilisation. If you want to use the cropping potential of that 48-megapixel sensor, though, that’s also an option.
The camera is flanked by a 12-megapixel telephoto sensor that gives you 2x lossless optical zoom (this is also the lens surrounded by that holographic ‘halo ring’) and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor for architectural shots.
Low-light shooting falls a little short of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and we’d still go for the iPhone 11 if you’re mainly looking for a video shooter, but otherwise this is an excellent camera phone for the price.
10. iPhone XR
Best value camera phone for iOS
- 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 consequently the lossless zoom of this year’s S models, it still competes in practically every other way, 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 set-up is appreciated, too.
- Read our iPhone XR review
Related: What’s the best iPhone?
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11. OnePlus 7T Pro
Best camera phone for ease of use
- Oxygen OS user experience
- Stunning 90Hz HDR display
- Top-notch performance
- Great battery life
- No wireless charging
- No water resistance
- Large and unwieldy
OnePlus’s second 2019 flagship features an excellent 48-megapixel primary camera along with a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera.
Collectively this makes for the most versatile shooting experience that any OnePlus phone has ever been able to offer and, on top of that, this is also the closest a OnePlus phone’s camera set-up has come to challenging the category leaders.
While the OnePlus 7T Pro’s camera was a little rocky when it started out, an attentive engineering team and frequent updates have swiftly brought the phone’s photographic experience up to snuff. What’s more, their work doesn’t just affect image quality – OnePlus’s camera app and the unique feature set that lies within are incredibly easy to access and bend to your needs.
- Read our OnePlus 7T Pro review
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