The best camera phone will let you take fantastic pictures without you needing to be a photography pro - but with so many different handsets boasting decked-out phone cameras, it's hard to know what the real best is.
At TechRadar we test smartphone cameras extensively, taking pictures in the various modes and from the different lenses and sensors any device may have. This helps us work out how each camera fares in the real world, so we've made this list of the best camera phones to help you choose which is best for you.
The specs and capabilities of a camera on a phone are important, after all, but they don't tell (or shoot) the whole picture - post-processing and image optimization can vary quite a bit by phone, and this can be instrumental in taking a good picture. In addition things like the availability of microSD slots, video quality and modes, and big shortcomings in the phone like poor battery life, can affect how good a phone is for photography.
So to help you, we've compiled this list of the best camera phones, that we've tested extensively, to help you when it comes to choosing your next camera phone.
Want to know more about dual-cameras? Check out our video above.
The Huawei P40 Pro is the best camera phone you can buy for under $1,000 / £900 it’s that simple. In fact, for a certain type of photographer - one who values a telephoto camera - it’s just the best camera phone around, period.
Recommending it comes with its own set of caveats given the Huawei/Google situation though. That’s why despite its extensive list of stellar features, you definitely need to read our P40 Pro review before picking one up. Irrespective of its software limitations though, its camera will knock your socks off.
The P40 Pro’s Leica-branded imaging system is spearheaded by a brand new 50MP sensor, which uses RYYB (red yellow yellow blue) sub-pixel formation, like the 40MP P30 Pro before it. Huawei claims this makes its cameras better able to handle dark scenes like a champion, and we can attest to the fact the P40 Pro absolutely can.
The main camera’s lens is a pretty standard f/1.9 aperture on paper, but with a huge sensor size (for a smartphone) and OIS, combined with Huawei’s mighty electronic image stabilisation, it’s still a low light star. This phone can pretty much see in the dark, even in automatic mode - something no other non-Huawei phones can do.
There’s also a 40MP f/1.8 ultra-wide camera, a 12MP telephoto camera that’s capable of 5x optical zoom or 50x digital zoom, and a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for creating bokeh effects.
Photos taken on the P40 Pro are high on detail and low on noise. Unlike Samsung, Huawei’s photos don’t look overly sharpened, and while they aren’t as natural and neutral as those taken on the Oppo Find X2 Pro, many will prefer Huawei’s comparatively punchy style.
As far as zoom goes, while the P40 Pro may not get quite as close as the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the phone costs a lot less, and more importantly, delivers more consistent image quality across its cameras.
The rest of the phone’s hardware is top-tier, it looks a treat and has plenty of power, so if (and only if) you’re comfortable with the Google-free software experience, the P40 Pro packs plenty to love.
Read more: Huawei P40 Pro review
The iPhone 11 Pro doesn’t just feature the best smartphone camera Apple’s ever made, it’s also the best camera phone money can buy for a certain type of user. It’s reliable - you take a shot and it’s likely going to be a good one, even in middling light. Dynamic range is strong, and with three cameras, it’s versatile too.
The primary camera features a 26mm focal length, perfect for grabbing everyday snaps. The ultra-wide camera takes a step back so you don’t have to, getting more in the frame with its 13mm focal length. As for the telephoto camera, as with the iPhone XS, it zooms into your subject with a 52mm focal length - perfect for portraits.
While there’s no manual mode and the 12MP resolution is meagre on paper compared to some of the competition, results still impress, and Apple has introduced a new night mode which can hold the shutter open for incredible low light photography.
This can’t beat the Astrophotography feature on the Pixels when steadied on a surface or a tripod, but handheld, it’s up there with the best of them.
Add to the mix a beautifully consistent color and tonal profile across all three cameras, and if you’re an Apple fan looking for a camera champ, this is as good as it gets.
Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review
The Pixel 4 is probably the most mixed bag in our list; on the one hand, it’s a fantastic camera phone with capabilities even DSLR users can only dream of, made possible by the almost 5-minute long-exposure Astrophotography mode. On the other hand, however, it’s a pricey flagship with poor battery life and no ultra-wide camera.
If you’re thinking about picking one up, therefore, we’d urge you to go for the Pixel 4 XL if you hope to make it through a full day as this bigger Pixel 4 lasts that bit longer.
Both phones have the same excellent dual-camera, and it’s a corker. Despite its main sensor being just 12.2MP, similar to the iPhone 11 Pro, it grabs beautifully balanced pictures almost every time.
The Pixel 4s also introduce a handy exposure control when taking a shot, so you can boost shadows separately to overall brightness, ensuring detail pops even in darker spots and can stay tapered in highlights.
When the light drops, get the phone on a steady surface, point it at the sky, and it will engage its acclaimed Astrophotography mode, capturing night skies, stars and even galaxies on a clear night.
Despite this win though, one notable omission on the new Pixels is an ultra-wide camera, so if you know you’ll want to capture GoPro-style super-wide shots, you might want to look at any other phone in our best camera phone list.
Read our full Google Pixel 4 review
There’s a huge amount going on with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s camera setup. For starters, you’ve got over 200 megapixels across the front and rear cameras, then there are those smart new shooting modes to talk about; and finally - there’s that huge zoom - 100x ‘Space Zoom’. Marketing jargon? Absolutely, but irrespective, the S20 Ultra’s camera is a telephoto champion.
It all starts with a 108MP primary camera sensor - the same as the one on the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. This time around, it’s combined with a 48MP optical zoom camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera and a time-of-flight sensor around the back, which gathers depth information for the blurry background, sharp foreground Live Focus stills and video.
The Ultra’s zoom really is best-in-class when compared to other camera phones on the market. It uses a roughly 5x optical zoom with a high-resolution sensor to create virtually lossless 10x zoom images. Packing a fun Single take mode, the whole S20-range is social media-ready, capturing a range of photos and videos simultaneously so you can snap once, then decide later. They’re also all 8K-ready, shooting the highest resolution footage on the block.
Why isn’t the S20 Ultra higher in our list? It’s night mode can’t topple the best out there, and Samsung’s processing is aggressive; so photos can look a touch too punchy. That said, this is still a stellar camera phone with an excellent zoom.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review
OnePlus has stepped up its game when it comes to smartphone cameras, bringing the new OnePlus 8 Pro closer than ever to the best of the rest thanks to the fact it’s powered by Sony’s new 12-bit IMX689 sensor. With a large 1/1.4” size and 1.12-micron pixels, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s main camera can capture stunning bokeh and clear as day photos, even in middling light.
It isn’t just the sensor that’s specced out on the new OnePlus’s main snapper - thanks to phase detection autofocus and laser autofocus, not to mention OIS, it locks on quickly and keeps things steady across photography and video.
Unlike periscope zoom cameras, the OnePlus 8 Pro can’t compete when it comes to getting up close and personal to subjects from a distance. That said, its 8MP, f/2.4, telephoto camera packs a 3x optical zoom and OIS, so betters the iPhone 11 Pro’s max focal length.
The real boon when it comes to improvements on the OnePlus 8 Pro has got to be that 48 MP, GoPro-esque ultra-wide camera though. With a huge pixel count for an ultra-wide, an open f/2.2 aperture to let in plenty of light and a, 14mm (116°) angle of view, it gets plenty in frame and grabs more resolution than virtually any other ultra-wide camera around.
Finally, OnePlus’s 12MP color filter camera. This bizarre addition captures a twisted take on reality, giving standard colors a neon, almost metalic screen-printed finish.
Just like the OnePlus 7 Pro before it, video can be captured with a Super Stable video mode at up to Full HD, or in standard mode at up to 4K resolution. Is it the best camera phone you can buy? It’s definitely up there - but it can’t stack up to some other flagships. That said, as a package, it could be the best value across-the-board flagship around.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
On many levels, we’re bigger fans of the S20 Plus than the Ultra. It costs cost less, and pack a much more manageable footprint. Even though they don’t have a “100x Space Zoom” or a 108MP main camera, they still take better snaps than last year’s S10 family.
The main camera across both the S20 and S20 Plus sports a traditional 12MP resolution, combined with a wide open f/1.8 and a 26mm focal length - pretty standard for a flagship. With 1.8µm sized pixels, the S20s won’t be winning any big-pixel awards, but thanks to Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS, they still nail it nine times out of 10, even in dimly lit scenes.
The 64MP telephoto camera may sound tantalizing - all that resolution combined with all that zoom. But, the ‘3x zoom’ these phones pack isn’t the whole picture. The S20’s 64MP sensor combines with a 29mm focal length - just 3mm greater than that of the 26mm main camera. The way it achieve a 3x zoom, however, is by cropping into the sensor, to achieve a 3x Hybrid Zoom. In turn, the phones can’t stack up to the periscope cameras on-test.
As for the ultra-wide cameras on both phones, they clock in at 12 MP, with an f/2.2 aperture and a 13mm focal length. If you’ve opted for the S20 Plus, you’ll also get a time of flight sensor around the back to grab depth information. This helps blur out the background in Live Focus mode, though both phones offer respectable portrait-style shots.
As with the S20 Ultra, the S20 and S20 Plus shoot 8K video at 24fps, and 4K video at up to 60fps. They also capture HDR video too, a relatively unique feature among smartphones today.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review
Unlike the iPhone 11 Pro, the vanilla iPhone 11 misses out on a telephoto camera, instead packing an Asus ROG Phone 2-style wide + ultra-wide dual snapper around the back.
Still, we’re delighted to see the new long exposure night mode fires up when shooting in low light on this lower-cost model.
This means the iPhone 11 can see in the dark, even when you’re hand-holding the phone, and the photo quality across its primary and ultra-wide cameras is fantastic. Another area all the iPhones in our list excel is video capture; they all shoot 4K resolution video at up to 60fps, and do so across all their lenses.
With smooth transitions between lenses and iMovie on board for basic edits, if we were going to pick up a smartphone for some easy-to-use, high-quality filmmaking, it would be any of the iPhones on our list.
Read our full iPhone 11 review
The Huawei P30 Pro has got to be pretty special, given the fact it still clings onto a spot in this list despite launching at the beginning of 2019.
Its excellence comes down to its 'periscope' telephoto lens which takes astounding optically zoomed-in shots at a distance, and its fantastic low light performance, that actually bests the iPhone 11 Pro and Google Pixel 4s in automatic mode, though not always in night mode.
There were a lot of cameras to test on this phone, including four on the back: a 40MP main lens, an 8MP telephoto lens, a 20MP ultra-wide lens, and then a ToF (time-of-flight) camera to sense depth for portrait photos.
The Huawei P30 Pro camera also uses an RYYB (red yellow yellow blue) sensor instead of the industry-standard RGB (red green blue) sensor to capture more light, and it shows. The snaps we took for our review had more detail and less shadow than most of the competition, yet they didn't look completely overexposed.
It's all amazing for a smartphone, but not entirely perfect. We did notice some purple fringing in areas, and the camera software controls aren't always responsive when switching between ultra-wide, 5x zoom, 10x zoom and digital 50x zoom. But the fact that you can get insanely close to objects with a 50x zoom and also shoot at night as if all of the lights were on really sets a new bar for camera phones.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review
Xiaomi has broken the mould with its penta-camera Mi Note 10. The phone’s 108MP sensor, made by Samsung is a world-first, toppling resolution records and packing more pixels than virtually any DSLR or mirrorless cameras - let alone any smartphone.
As with all the 48MP cameras introduced in 2019, the Mi Note 10 uses quad-pixel technology, or ‘pixel binning’ to grab standard shots. This technique combines four pixels into one, so a 48MP sensor would create a 12MP image, and the 108MP sensor on the Mi Note 10 produces a 27MP image. The reason for this combining is to capture broader dynamic range and better low light performance by using information from multiple pixels to create a super pixel. If the light is right, however, you can ramp up the resolution and capture full 108MP images for jaw droppingly detailed shots - nothing else comes close to the Mi Note 10 in this respect
The main camera absolutely nails it, and in good light, beats out the competition in many respects, but the reason this megapixel-monster isn’t higher on our list is because the additional cameras can be inconsistent. While we love the fact it packs an optical 2x zoom, 5x zoom and an ultra-wide angle, as well as a dedicated macro camera, if quality if your focus, shoot with the main 108MP module most of the time.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi Note 10 review
Samsung’s smart dual-aperture main camera introduced on the Samsung Galaxy S9 is back, flipping between f/1.5 and f/2.4 without breaking a sweat. This time, on the Note 10 Plus, it’s combined with a 12mm ultra-wide camera that lets you grab wider shots than virtually any other camera phone around.
That isn’t the only addition to the Note 10 Plus - this time, there’s a time-of-flight sensor, as found on the Huawei P30 Pro, and this captures depth information for improved background defocus and bokeh when shooting in Live Focus (portrait) mode.
Samsung’s camera UI is also incredibly comprehensive, with a pro mode that can keep the shutter open for in excess of 30 seconds, as well as an improved night mode, which tries to take down the likes of Huawei and Google.
Unfortunately, this is where it drops the ball by comparison, but despite good, not sensational night shots, the Note 10 is still a seriously good camera phone, and its clever S Pen can even act as a remote shutter for the times you prop your Note on a surface and snap stepped-back group shots.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review
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