What’s the best camera phone to buy?
Not ready to upgrade yet? We’ll be testing the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus soon, so check back to see if they make the cut. Also expect to see the Pixel 4, Huawei Mate 30 and OnePlus 7T arrive later in the year.
“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 buying a new smartphone. And with good reason; you don’t want to be stuck with a duff snapper for 24 months. Here’s our list of the top 10 – you can read our full verdict below:
- Best for versatility: Huawei P30 Pro
- Best image processing: Google Pixel 3 / Pixel 3 XL
- Best for video: iPhone XS / XS Max
- Best display: Galaxy S10 Plus
- Best for tech: Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
- Best value for Android: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Best value for iOS: iPhone XR
- Best for features: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
- Best on a budget: Google Pixel 3a / Pixel 3a XL
- Best for ease of use: OnePlus 7 Pro
- Best for affordability: Google Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL
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.
Related: Best Mobile Phone Deals
1. Huawei P30 Pro
Best for versatility
- Fantastic photos
- Multiple cameras and lenses
- Battery life is fantastic
- Clever extras, such as in-display fingerprint and reverse wireless charging
- Huawei’s software remains a weakness
The Huawei P30 Pro is the most multi-talented, versatile camera phone around and knocks the Google Pixel 3 off its perch as our new number one for smartphone snapping. 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, nighttime 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.
The standout feature, though, 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
2. Google Pixel 3 & Pixel 3 XL
Best image processing and low light
- 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.
Related: Pixel 3 Lite
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.
3. iPhone XS & iPhone XS Max
Best for video
- 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.
4. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Best for versatility
- 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.
- What’s 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’s 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 (region depending), 8GB RAM and a glorious 6.4-inch quad-HD+ display.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
5. Oppo Reno 10x Zoom
- Fantastic triple camera
- Impressive battery life
- Great performance
- ColorOS is still awkward
- No wireless charging
- No water resistance
Oppo may be 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 by 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, but for the most part 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 events of US government’s Huawei Android Ban clear up, you might feel safer dropping cash on the Reno compared to the P30 Pro.
- Read our Oppo Reno 10x Zoom review
6. Xiaomi Mi 9
Best value 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 setup 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 an option too.
That 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 XS if you’re mainly looking for a video shooter, but otherwise this is an excellent camera phone for the price.
7. iPhone XR
Best value 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 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?
8. 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.
Related: Sony Xperia XZ4
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.
With the Galaxy Note 10 change this? We’ll have to wait and see.
- Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review
9. Google Pixel 3a & Pixel 3a XL
Best 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 aspect, including its 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 hundreds of pounds more affordable than the standard Pixel 3, whilst 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 to the same imaging processing that their pricier siblings make use of too. 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
10. OnePlus 7 Pro
Best 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 duo of new 2019 flagships share in an excellent 48-megapixel primary camera, however, the beefier OnePlus 7 Pro supplements this 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, but on top of that, this is also the closest a OnePlus phone’s camera setup has come to challenging the category leaders.
While the OnePlus 7 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’ camera app and the unique feature set that lies within, are incredibly easy to access and bend to your needs.
- Read our OnePlus 7 Pro review
11. Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL
The affordable Pixel 3 alternative
- 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.
Still not sure? Check out our guides to the following: