The best camera phone 2024: top mobiles for photography

Best camera phones hero image
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

The best camera phones of 2024 return to a focus on quality, after years of 10X zoom and annual spec boosts. Even though Samsung and Google are focused on using AI to edit photos after you take them, the best camera phones still produce great images that don't need editing. 

Our favorite camera phone, the Galaxy S24 Ultra, is so versatile it's like carrying the best cameras with a whole bag full of lenses. If that's too pricey, we've just added a new budget favorite, the Pixel 8a, which takes photos that look a lot like the images we get from the Pixel 8 Pro.

Of course we're not forgetting about Apple and the best iPhones. The iPhone 15 Pro Max offers a new level of quality and zoom range for Apple. It can't quite match Samsung for versatility in lenses and photo modes, but it's coming closer this year. 

If you favor selfies and portrait shots, check out the OnePlus 12. Then read more about our favorite smartphone cameras below, but check back soon because we expect this will be an exciting year ahead filled with amazing smartphone photography.

Editor's Note

• The Xiaomi 14 Ultra is a contender, with caveats
• Available in the UK, but not US or AUS
• Incredible specs, but hard to buy

Update: May 2024. We have the Xiaomi 14 Ultra in our hands in the UK TechRadar offices, and it's an impressive camera phone. It has three 50MP sensors, including a large one-inch main sensor. It has 5X zoom like the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but it pairs that zoom lens with a larger sensor, and it achieves a wider aperture on the zoom than its competition. Unfortunately, because it's not available worldwide, we won't be including Xiaomi 14 Ultra on our Best Camera Phone list, but look out for our full review coming soon. 

Philip Berne
Philip Berne

The best camera phone 2024

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)

1. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

The best overall phone

Specifications

Release date: January 2024
Weight: 232g
Dimensions: 162.3 x 79.0 x 8.6mm
OS; Expected Upgrades: Android 14 / One UI 6; 7 years of upgrades
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: QHD+
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Mobile Platform for Galaxy
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Battery: 5,000mAh
Rear camera: 200MP (wide) + 12MP (ultra-wide) + 10MP (telephoto with 3x optical zoom) + 50MP (telephoto with 5x optical zoom)
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance and features
+
Better cameras than ever before

Reasons to avoid

-
AI features can be useless at worst
-
Big, heavy, and more expensive

Galaxy S24 Ultra camera samples

The Galaxy S24 Ultra retains the Ultra title as our best camera phone for its versatility, but Samsung has also taken strides to improve image quality all around, making this phone a great choice for every photo situation. Photos from the Galaxy S24 Ultra look more natural than images we've taken with past Samsung phones, and even the iPhone 15 Pro could look cold and lifeless by comparison. 

The 200MP main sensor is still around, and this time it's been greatly improved with better color and more dynamic range than before. The blurry background in photos looks more natural than digitized, and the camera was very consistent in its results. 

Of course, the big question is whether the 5X zoom camera on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a downgrade from the 10X zoom on the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While you might not see as many fine details on images from the newest Ultra, the photos are still much better all around. Noise is greatly reduced, and color is improved, which makes most images just look better, even though the zoom isn't looking as far. 

Samsung phones excel in their shooting modes and options, and there are plenty of great choices on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Food mode will make your food look delicious and not insipid, and Portrait mode does a great job blurring the background behind your subject. 

Overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the camera I reach for most often when I need to make every shot count, and I'm not sure what sort of shooting I'll be doing. It can handle everything, just like it's predecessor, and it delivers more consistent results than any competitor.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review

iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
The best iPhone camera phone

Specifications

Release date: September 2023
Weight: 221g
Dimensions: 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.25mm
OS: iOS 17
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 2796 x 1290 pixels
CPU: A17 Pro
RAM: 8GB (unofficial)
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: 4,422mAh (unofficial)
Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 12MP (ultra-wide) + 12MP (telephoto with 5x optical zoom)
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous albeit subtle redesign
+
Excellent photography

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier baseline (but more storage)
-
Charging should be faster

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max camera samples

Apple has finally embraced zoom, with periscope technology that folds lenses and mirrors to give us real, 5X optical zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Unfortunately, the iPhone 15 Pro got left behind with less range, but that makes the iPhone 15 Pro Max the easier choice if you want the best iPhone camera, hands-down.

The big iPhone 15 Pro Max doesn't just get superior zoom range, it also uses a 6-axis stabilizer, which can move in any direction to keep the camera steady while you're taking photos or shooting video. It makes a big difference, especially when you zoom in all the way.

For every type of photography, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a great improvement over past iPhone cameras, and it holds its own against any other smartphone you can buy. For video recording, the iPhone 15 Pro Max truly excels. It has dynamic range and a level of detail and quality that are unparalleled, especially when you are recording in Apple's ProRes format at the highest resolution and frame rate.

It may not be quite as versatile as Samsung's overstuffed Galaxy S23 Ultra, and Apple doesn't give us all the fun shooting modes in which Samsung indulges, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a high quality, reliable camera that can shoot great photos and amazing video in any situation.

Read our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review

Google Pixel 8 Pro back in porcelain in front of animal print

(Image credit: Future / Philip Berne)
The best camera with AI

Specifications

Release date: October 2023
Weight: 213g
Dimensions: 162.6 x 76.5 x 8.8mm
OS: Android 14
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: 1344 x 2992
CPU: Google Tensor G3
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Battery: 5,050mAh
Rear camera: 50MP + 48MP + 48MP
Front camera: 10.5MP

Reasons to buy

+
Great, refreshed Pixel design
+
Useful AI supported features
+
Amazing 7-years of software updates

Reasons to avoid

-
Buried features within Android UX
-
Some AI features creepy & impersonal
-
Camera doesn't beat iPhone 15 Pro without help

Google Pixel 8 Pro camera samples