Choosing the best camera phone takes a little bit of research. Although most savvy smartphone users have an opinion on what phone has the best camera, the one you should eventually buy is the one that's right for you.
Loads of phones are great for taking pictures, different models have different strengths. Some of them come with impressive cameras that deliver sharp, beautiful, artifact-free images; others utilize incredible image processing technology that enhance every image you take. And, these days, it's usually the top-of-the-line flagships that come with the most feature-filled camera system. However, that also doesn't mean that less expensive models are rubbish at taking quality images.
In addition, different manufacturers prioritize different parts of the smartphone photography experience. If you look at our list of the best Samsung phones, you'll find models with fantastic hardware and some cool software modes, while our ranking of the best iPhones has handsets with incredibly AI optimization. If you're looking for unique lenses and sensors that you won't find elsewhere, our guide to the best Huawei phone is best for you.
So, when it comes to choosing the most ideal smartphone with a camera, it's more a matter of personal preference and needs. You might prefer natural-looking images over overly-processed photos. You might only need one camera instead of three. Do you even need one with the best image stabilization if you hardly take photos in low light?
Here at TechRadar, we test every single smartphone that's worth your time and money, and our testing process involves loads of photography. So we know what these devices are like for selfies, night photography and zoom shots, and we've played with all the unique modes they offer.
To help you choose, we gathered the best camera phones we've used - the ones that are easy to use and produce great results. We've also considered different budgets and needs, as well as included older flagships that still deliver impressive results but for less the price. Take a look at the best camera phones below.
The best camera phone 2022
The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are stunning camera phones, each packing a 12MP f/1.5 main sensor with big 1.9µm pixels, a 12MP f/1.8 ultra-wide, and a 12MP f/2.8 telephoto, with 3x optical zoom. They both have the same cameras, and their key difference is the phone screen size, which is why we've bundled them into one.
While they don’t have the lens numbers or optical zoom length of some phones on this list, their performance is sublime. And, while they lack a dedicated macro lens, they’re still competent at taking close-up photos.
Low light performance particularly impressed us in our tests, and that's something that iPhones are known for, but whatever type of shot you’re aiming for, the iPhone 13 Pro or Pro Max should be able to do it justice. Apple's smart AI optimization is also out in force here, with the company's Deep Fusion used to tweak your pictures to make them as wonderful as possible.
The new Photographic Styles feature and Cinematic mode both impress too, though we suspect they might not be massively used by most buyers. But with an improved Portrait mode, the return of ProRAW, and a great point-and-shoot experience, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are photography beasts.
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra builds on the success of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. It offers a vast array of lenses. These include two 10MP telephoto lenses: one is f/2.4 with a 36-degree field of view (FOV) and the other is f/4.9 with an 11-degree FOV. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide with a 120-degree FOV, and then there’s the 108MP main wide camera (f/1.8) with an 85-degree FOV.
With these four rear cameras, not to mention the super-high-res front one, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best handset on this list for versatility - you can jump between a wide field of view or a super-zoomed in one easily. It's not just the lenses that help here though, with the software helping out massively. Samsung has improved on optical image stabilization, digital image stabilization, and image processing. You'll notice this particularly when zooming in.
3x and 10x optical zoom looks solid and offers clear images of distant objects that enable you to crop in on details with little pixelation. However, 30x and 100x Space Zoom images are truly special compared to before, and you won't find the iPhone above to get even close to 100x.
If you like to edit your snaps, you might also appreciate the S Pen stylus, which we found to be more precise than a finger so could be really useful in image editing apps. The addition of Adaptive Pixel plus Auto-Focus Assist further help to ensure this is a remarkable camera phone.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review
Google has a habit of delivering excellent photography experiences on its phones, and the Google Pixel 6 Pro is no exception. In fact, its hardware and software have both seen huge upgrades from the Pixel 5, so much so that you should just forget its older phones if you're a photo fan.
The phone has a 50MP f/1.9 main sensor with 1.2µm pixels, and in our tests we found it capable of taking excellent photos, with good detail, and colors that were true to life. That’s joined by a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera with a 114-degree field of view, and a 48MP f/3.5 telephoto snapper which offers 4x optical zoom, both of which performed well in our tests, if not quite as well as the Samsung above.
But the Pixel 6 Pro also benefits from software that you won’t see on rival handsets, such as a Magic Eraser that can remove unwanted aspects from photos, Motion mode for long exposure shots, and Real Tone, which more accurately captures the skin tones of people of color. Using these modes, you can take incredible pictures, and that's why the handset is number three on this list. Google's reliance on software has paid off big time.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review
While Huawei's phones can be a mixed bag for general consumers, as camera phones they're terrific, and the P50 Pro continues this. The main cameras on this phone are great, with the 50MP wide snapper joining forces with the 40MP black-and-white one to capture wonderful shots - that's whether you're close or far from the subject, in well-light conditions or snapping at night, and relying on the AI optimization or not.
There's also the high-res zoom camera, and useful ultrawide snapper, to ensure you can take a range of different pictures at ease. Video recording goes up to 4K and 60fps, a combination of resolution and framerate that we don't always see in phones, and you can also shoot 4K video on some of the other lenses (other than the main one) too.
As a camera phone, this is great - photographers will love it. As an everyday mobile, you might be phased by the lack of apps (due to Google's Play Store not being available), and that might pose a problem for people who like their photo editing apps (though lots of options, including social media platforms, can be side-loaded).
So we can't rank the Huawei P50 Pro up alongside the Galaxy Ultra or iPhone Pro, because it's harder to use as a general smartphone. But when looking simply at photography, it's in the big leagues.
Read our full Huawei P50 Pro review