The best budget camera phones in 2022

The best budget camera phones offer great specs at affordable prices
(Image credit: d3sign via Getty Images)

The best budget camera phones are plentiful, but choosing the right one can be tricky. What balance between price and features do you want to make, in this hyper-competitive market segment? We test all the new mobiles as they hit the market and can help you find the best low-cost camera handset.

The busy market for affordable photography phones means that lots of companies are competing to make the best ones, and that's all good news. We're seeing phones with great low-light potential, features that we normally only see in premium devices, and handsets with loads of rear cameras.

Sure, you're going to get compromises with all these phones – if you want to avoid that, you'll have to our list of the best camera phones (opens in new tab) money can buy instead. We rarely see phones on this list with telephoto (or zoom) lenses, and often handsets are packed with superfluous 2MP cameras that only flesh out the specs list. But we've worked around this to find the phones on this list.

The following ten phones will be great for photography given how much you're paying, though. We've drawn the line for 'budget' at $500 / £450, but our choices hit a few different price points within that range, to ensure that you're covered no matter how much you have to spend.

We've tested all these phones, and have found them useful for photography – if you're interested, here's how we test (opens in new tab) devices. Once you've got your budget camera phone, don't forget to check out our top smartphone photography tips (opens in new tab) to help push your images to the next level. And if you're not so fussed about the 'phone' part of a camera phone, check out our guide to the best cameras (opens in new tab), which includes several budget options.

If it's an iPhone you're after, don't miss our round up of the best Apple Black Friday deals live blog, which has details of all the best iPhone offers as they happen. 

The best budget camera phones in 2022

Why you can trust Creative Bloq Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Google Pixel 6a front and rear views: best budget camera phonescb badge

(Image credit: Google)

01. Google Pixel 6a

Google's newest budget phone

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 12.2MP (wide, f/1.7) + 12MP (ultrawide, f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (wide, f/2.0)

Reasons to buy

+
Generously sized OLED display
+
Clever photo processing tech

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two rear cameras
-
Battery not great

Google has returned to stake a claim for the budget smartphone crown with its Pixel 6a smartphone, a low-cost alternative to the flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. This phone may cost less than $500, but it's well specced, equipped as it is with the same Tensor chipset that powers the bigger phones.

Camera-wise it's pretty decent – there are only two cameras in its rear array, rather than the three that are common in smartphones nowadays, but Google's real strength is in software rather than hardware. Accordingly, the Pixel 6a is stuffed with clever little processing tricks which means photos taken with the phone have comparable punch and vibrancy to those shot with phones that cost twice as much. It's nice to see an OLED display on a phone this cheap, too. 

OnePlus Nord 2Tcb badge

(Image credit: OnePlus)
(opens in new tab)

02. OnePlus Nord 2T

A fantastic OnePlus phone

Specifications

Sold in: UK
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera: 50MP (wide, f/1.9) + 8MP (ultrawide, 120-degree, f/2.3) + 2MP (depth, f/2.2)
Front camera: 32MP (wide, f/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Great main camera
+
Really fast to charge

Reasons to avoid

-
Few improvements from predecessor
-
No IP rating

The OnePlus Nord 2T is a one-year-later revision of the Nord 2, which used to take this spot on the list, bringing a few modest upgrades here and there (and a slight price reduction in some areas) to justify its existence.

The cameras are unchanged from the Nord 2, but as we said, that used to be high on this list. On the OnePlus Nord 2T you're getting the same 50MP Sony IMX766 main sensor which, as you'll know if you've read the Realme 9 Pro Plus' entry higher on this list, is fantastic for low-light settings.

Rounding out the camera array are an 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth sensor, which will be useful for some, but a key aspect of this phone is its AI which seems to bump up the colors on photos more than other phones' AI optimization tools do.

Beyond the cameras, this is a well-rounded mid-range phone with a fairly powerful processor, good-looking screen and really fast charging, though it's not a huge upgrade over its predecessor.

best budget camera phones: Pixel 6

(Image credit: Google)

03. Google Pixel 6

A great all-round Android camera phone handset

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 50MP (wide, f/1.85) + 12MP (ultrawide, f/2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)

Reasons to buy

+
Natural, reliable photo processing
+
50MP main camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Larger than Google Pixel 5
-
Ultra-wide lens has fixed-focus

This Pixel 6 may cost less than $500, but it's well specced for photography – with bigger sensors than the Pixel 5 to help you capture 150% more light. Around the back of the Pixel 6 is a 50MP 1/1.31 sensor, featuring 1.2-micron pixels, omnidirectional phase-detection autofocus, laser autofocus, and OIS. The secondary camera on the Pixel 6’s black camera surround is ultra-wide, which features a fixed focus lens and 12MP resolution. 

Although there are only two cameras here, Google's 'computational photography' software modes will ensure decent photos in many situations. Modes include Astrophotography, Night Sight, Panorama, Photosphere, and Motion. Video-wise, you can capture footage at 4K resolution, 60fps, and the default UI supports easy switching between Bluetooth and on-device microphones, which is very handy if you're interested in content creation.

It's not the most advanced Pixel model, but it's very aggressively priced for what you actually get. The design – which comes in three bold colours – is striking, too.

best budget camera phone: Moto G200

(Image credit: Motorola)

04. Moto G200

Motorola's best G-series phone for photography

Specifications

Sold in: UK
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Rear camera: 108MP (wide, f/1.9) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree, f/2.2) + 2MP (depth, f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP (wide, f/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
High-res main camera
+
Very powerful phone

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge size
-
Slow to charge

Members of Moto's affordable G series of smartphones haven't always deserved a place on lists with 'best camera phone' in the title, but in 2021, that started to change, and the Moto G200 is the best example of this.

The phone has three rear cameras including a super-high-res main snapper, but its real power comes from the AI scene optimization, as Motorola's software has been coming on leaps and bounds in that department. Low-light photography is good for a budget phone, and selfies look vibrant too.

As budget phones go, this is a solid all-arounder, and in our tests we found it performed admirably across the board. It's great as a 'jack of all trades', though it doesn't stand out in any particular department like the Realme or OnePlus do. Some may find the phone too big to be comfortable to use, and that's a valid criticism, but if you're on a budget, this is the best Moto mobile for you.

Samsung Galaxy A53

(Image credit: Samsung)

05. Samsung Galaxy A53

The best budget camera phone for Apple fans

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera: 64MP (wide, f/1.8) + 12MP (ultrawide, 123-degree, f/2.2) + 5MP (macro, f/2.4) + 5MP (depth, f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (wide, f/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive camera collection
+
Good-looking screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow to use
-
Battery life isn't great

Samsung has done the unlikely in giving the Galaxy A53 four rear cameras that you wouldn't turn your nose up at - none of these are filler lenses like we see on many cameras.

The 64MP main camera takes great pictures, with the 12MP ultra-wide, 5MP depth-sensing and 5MP macro cameras all helping out in a pinch, but the star of the show is the software. Samsung's entire range of modes, including Food for adding focus and saturation to shots, or Single Take if you don't know what kind of picture would be best for the subject, are all present and accounted for.

This really is a great camera phone for the price, though it's lower on this list because that cost is a little higher than some of the other mobiles we've listed here.

It's also a good-looking phone with a solid display, though it's quite sluggish to use thanks to a weak chipset. Either way, Samsung phones are often solid, and the A53 is proof of that.

Apple iPhone SE 2022 review

(Image credit: Future)
The best budget camera phone for Apple fans

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 64-256GB
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful chip and 5G 
+
Great camera for the price

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively short battery life
-
Only one lens

Apple's iPhone SE (2022) is a great value camera phone. The phone combines good performance with water-resistance and wireless charging – all flagship features. The design looks very familiar from older iPhones, but we found performance to be on-point, when we reviewed it. 

The camera only has the one lens on the back, but the single 12MP snapper can grab high-resolution, portrait mode photos and even shoots 4K video. Of course, you don't get all of the features of the iPhone 13, like Night mode or Dolby Vision HDR and Cinematic Mode for video, but you do get the vital tools that make the pictures better, including Portrait Mode for people. Photos don't have the vibrant colours and dynamic range of as those on the iPhone 13 Pro, but they do have a lot of detail. Add to the mix the fact it starts from just $399/£409, and Apple’s officially beating many Android smartphones at the game they normally dominate – value for money.

Front and rear views of Realme C35 budget smartphone

(Image credit: Realme)

07. Realme C35

A budget phone packing a powerful camera

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 64GB, 128GB
Rear camera: 50MP (wide, f/1.8) + 2MP (macro, f/2.4) + 0.3MP (depth sensor, f/2.8)
Front camera: 8MP (wide, f/2.0)

Reasons to buy

+
High-resolution display
+
Impressive 50MP camera

Reasons to avoid

-
600nit display brightness
-
No ultra-wide lens

One of 2022's most tempting budget smartphones, the Realme C35 packs in a 50MP main camera that uses Sony's IMX766 sensor, which crops up in quite a few smartphones with higher price tags than this one. The rest of the camera array is nothing to write home about, with no ultra-wide array, but still, in most conditions you'll get imagery with this camera that punches well above the phone's weight.

Across the board, this phone does a good job at its price point. The battery life is excellent, and you can easily get a good couple of days of use out of the phone before needing to charge, which is not something you can say for more expensive smartphones. Having a Full HD display is welcome too, as it makes watching Netflix or YouTube on the phone a much better experience. Some might quibble the maximum brightness of 600 nits, and it's definitely not ideal, but once again, is the kind of trade-off you'd expect to make at this price.

best budget camera phone: Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

08. Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

A slim phone with commendable camera chops

Specifications

Sold in: UK
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera: 64MP (wide, f/1.8) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree, f/2.2) + 5MP (macro, f/2.4)
Front camera: 20MP (wide, f/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
Good-looking design
+
Capable camera array

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is only okay
-
Software is iffy

This isn't Xiaomi's first entry in this list of the best budget camera phones, and it won't be its last either. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G takes some of the key features from the Mi 11 and cuts some corners - and lots of the body - to make a smaller, cheaper phone.

This handset has the same fantastic macro camera we saw on the Mi 11 - and on the Redmi Note 10 Pro and Poco F3 on this list - and also packs a high-megapixel main camera, with an ultra-wide snapper to round out the party.

Once the cameras were pointed at the subject, we found that the Xiaomi acted pretty similarly to the Redmi listed in the top spot of this article. The handsets are from the same company so that makes sense, and they also both have telemacro lenses, but this has a lower-res main camera and a higher-res selfie one. Oh, and it's a lot smaller.

But we liked testing the Mi 11 Lite because of this small body - it was easy to pull out our pocket when we spotted a great scene, which is something we can't say about lots of the other mobiles on this list.

Beyond the cameras this is a fashionable phone, with a slim body and a range of colors to pick from. It's not got much stopping power in terms of battery life, but it'll be enough for most people.

OnePlus Nord CE 2

(Image credit: OnePlus)

09. OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G

A super-cheap high-res camera

Specifications

Sold in: UK
Rear camera: 64MP (wide, f/1.8) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree, f/2.2) + 2MP (macro, f/2.4)
Front camera: 16MP (wide, f/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Fast to charge
+
Good-looking screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Uninteresting design
-
Tops at 128GB storage

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G doesn't quite compare to the Nord 2 that places higher up on this list, but it has one massive advantage compared to that device: it's cheaper.

Sure, the 64MP camera here doesn't quite match up to the Nord 2's 50MP one, but the other cameras are roughly the same, and the two phones share the same camera app and features too.

We found the OnePlus performed about how well you'd expect given its price, except unlike some other budget phones, it didn't have any glaring flaws. We could rely on it in different situations, which is certainly something you can't say about all budget camera phones.

So if you're looking for an affordable OnePlus phone that's fully capable in the camera department, definitely check this device out.

Plus, it doesn't pull punches with its display or processor either, as it has a vibrant AMOLED screen and its processor, the Dimensity 900, is good for this price tier too.

Honor 50

(Image credit: Honor)

10. Honor 50

A low-cost 108MP camera phone

Specifications

Sold in: UK
Storage: 128GB, 256GB
Rear camera: 108MP (wide, f/1.9) + 8MP (ultra-wide, 120-degree, f/2.2) + 2MP (macro, f/2.4) + 2MP (depth, f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (wide, f/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
Great selfie camera
+
Long-lasting battery

Reasons to avoid

-
2MP cameras don't add much
-
No headphone jack

Honor's latest smartphone technically comes just under the price limit – as long as you get the 128GB version – and has a 108MP main camera as well as an 8MP ultra-wide and two 2MP auxiliary cams.

The real star of the show, though, is the 32MP selfie camera, as self-portraits look bright and colourful.

We found this great whether in standard or Portrait mode, with balanced highlights and shadows, great contrast, lovely-looking colour and realistic-looking Bokeh background blur. Even when we took night-time selfies, we found ourselves clearly detailed.

Elsewhere, we weren't as enthused by the cameras - it's not bad for photography, but about on par with other mobiles on this list. So it's really a choice for selfie fans.

Beyond that this is your standard mid-range Android phone with a medium-power processor, long-lasting battery and good-looking display – if you need a 108MP camera phone on a budget, it's a good choice, but the Redmi Note 10 Pro is better value for money.

How do I choose the best budget camera phone?

You've got three important things to consider in buying a budget camera phone - what's your budget, what do you need from the camera, and what do you need from the rest of the phone.

Firstly, budget - while this list caps off at $500 / £450, some people won't be willing to spend that much. You need to ask yourself how much you've got for the phone, and find a device that fits within this.

Next, you need to consider your photography habits and preferences. Do you want a phone that spews AI-saturated pictures, or one that takes natural-looking pictures? Do you want zoom lenses, macro cameras, or novelty extras? Check out the specs lists on each entry above to make sure your boxes are ticked on that front. Knowing your photography preferences can help you find the best phone for you.

Finally, what do you want beyond the cameras itself? A camera phone is for life, not just for the photoshoot, so think about what's important for you. Do you want a device with a large battery capacity, a big screen, fast charging, a powerful chipset for gaming, and so on? Use your normal smartphone use case to determine which phone is best for you.

The information included in each of the listings above caters to all these factors, so use our information to decide which is best for you.

Related articles:

Basil is a trained graphic designer and photography expert who geeks out over anything to do with digital imaging and sketching. Now a tech journalist and content director at a creative comms agency, he covers tech through a real-world lens, contributing to titles including Creative Bloq, Digital Camera World, Metro, T3, TechRadar and WIRED.