The best budget camera phones in 2024

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The top three best budget camera phones on our list.

(Image credit: Future)

Jump to the quick list↴
1. Overall: Google Pixel 7a
2. Affordable: Realme C35
3. Premium: Honor 50
4. Mid-range: Samsung Galaxy A53
5. Nightography: OnePlus Nord 2T
6. Best megapixel: Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro
7. Best display: Google Pixel 6a
8. Reliable: Apple iPhone SE (2022)
9. Best value: Oppo Find X3 Lite
10. Compact:  Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G
FAQs

The best budget camera phones are surprisingly reliable, with great low-light capabilities and high-resolution camera units. So despite them being less premium-oriented and more stripped down, you'll still be able to capture excellent photos and videos and make use of popular apps. These phones are commonly priced at around the $500/£450 mark but can sit just outside of this price range too. 

Our experts have plenty of experience in testing camera phones, and we've also taken into account hands-on reviews by our sister sites at Future Publishing, plus customer reviews and value for money. So you can rest assured that these phones are up to scratch and make an informed decision on which one to buy. 

Check out our guide to the best camera phones overall if money is no object, and see our top smartphone photography tips to transform your images to the next level. Alternatively, if you're an Apple fan then take a look at our picks of the best iPhones for photography plus the best iOS camera apps

The quick list

Don't have much time? Here are our top 3 choices for the best budget camera phones on the market right now, but we recommend you see our full list to make a truly informed choice.  

The best budget camera phones 

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The best budget camera phone overall

Product shot of Google Pixel 7a, one of the best budget camera phonesCB

(Image credit: Google)

01. Google Pixel 7a

The best budget camera phone overall

Specifications

Sold in: US & UK
Storage: 128GB
Rear camera: 64MP (wide, f/1.9) + 12MP (ultrawide, f/2.2)
Front camera: 13MP (wide, f/2.2)

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful and responsible display
+
Impressive camera for the price
+
Includes Magic Eraser photo editing

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery could be better

Released this May, the Google Pixel 7a is Google's latest entry into the budget smartphone space. It's a low-cost alternative to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, but with an RRP below $500 / £500. Despite its low cost, the Pixel 7a is well-specced, with the same Tensor chipset that powers the bigger Pixel phones. 

As for photos, there are only two cameras in its rear array, rather than the three as are common in smartphones nowadays. But Google's real strength is in software rather than hardware. The Google Pixel 7a 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. 

Whilst raw photos may seem lower quality, the phone will work magic using AI processing tech to really make them pop. Google's Magic Eraser tech is also present, so you'll be able to edit out unwanted objects or people from your photos for absolutely flawless shots. 

Opting for the Pixel 7a over the Pixel 6 (number  4 on our list) will mean a smaller (albeit still generous) 5.9-inch OLED and slightly weaker battery life. But the Pixel 7a stands out for its top-tier photo processing and editing software, which proves you don't have to spend a lot for a quality camera phone.

The most affordable budget camera phone

Product shot of Realme C35, one of the best budget camera phones

(Image credit: Realme)

02. 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

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.

The most premium budget camera phone

Product shot of Honor 50, one of the best budget camera phones

(Image credit: Honor)

03. Honor 50

A low-cost camera phone that's great for selfies

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.

The best mid-range budget camera phone

Product shot of Samsung Galaxy A53, one of the best budget camera phones

(Image credit: Samsung)

04. Samsung Galaxy A53

The best budget camera phone from Samsung

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 really surprised us here, giving its budget-friendly Galaxy A53 phone 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. On the flip side, it's 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.

The best budget camera phone for low-light

Product shot of OnePlus Nord 2T, one of the best budget camera phonescb badge

(Image credit: OnePlus)

05. OnePlus Nord 2T

The best budget camera phone for night shots

Specifications

Sold in: US & 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
+
Excellent low-light photography

Reasons to avoid

-
Few improvements from predecessor
-
No IP rating

OnePlus isn't the best known name in tech, but the Nord 2T is a very lovely camera phone. Its rear camera boasts a 50MP Sony IMX766 main sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth sensor. 

Combined with an updated Dimensity 1300 chipset, the Nord 2T especially excels in low-light photography, which means you'll be able to capture some gorgeous night shots with bold colours and crisp lines. The AI Highlight Video feature will aid in clear shots even amidst low or uneven lighting.

The front camera has a 32MP sensor, just like the flagship OnePlus 10 Pro. An AI deblurring algorithm will reduce any blur that may come from an unsteady hand so your self portraits will look stunning.

Beyond the cameras, the Nord 2T is a well-rounded mid-range phone with a fairly powerful processor, a good-looking 6.4-inch AMOLED and really fast charging. It's not a huge upgrade over its predecessor, but to be fair there wasn't much that needed changing – and now these features can be yours for even less than before.

The best megapixel budget camera phone

Best budget camera phone: Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro

(Image credit: POCO / Amazon)

06. Xiaomi Poco X5 Pro

The best 108MP budget camera phone

Specifications

Release Date: February 2023
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
RAM: 6GB / 8GB
Chip: Qualcomm SM7325 Snapdragon 778G 5G (6 nm)
Rear camera: 108 MP f/1.9 (wide), 8 MP f/2.2 (ultrawide) 2MP f/2.4 (macro)
Front camera: 16 MP f/2.4 (wide)
Camera Features : LED flash, HDR, panorama

Reasons to buy

+
Under $300
+
Shoots 4K video at 30FPS
+
Dual SIM and large storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Poco isn't a well-known brand (yet) 

The Poco X5 Pro has some impressive specs for an even more impressive price. Similarly to Xiaomi's Redmi branch of smartphones, Poco phones aren't designed to be the best in the industry but still have plenty to offer at budget prices. 

We think the fact it has a 108MP camera is where the value sits for this device, setting it apart from other contenders in this list at such a low price point. The Poco X5 Pro usually retails for around $300 / £339, but we've since seen this drop to as low as $270 / £285 on Amazon. 

This smartphone runs Android 12, with an MIUI 14 operating system, and has USB Type-C charging which is great for a budget mid-range Android phone. Unfortunate cutbacks include no NFC connectivity, but we can't have it all.  

It has a great display too, boasting a 6.7-inch AMOLED screen (1080 x 2400 pixels), with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a refresh rate of 120Hz (great for gaming). It's also available in multiple colours including Black, Blue, and a vibrant Yellow variant. 

The best big-screen budget camera phone

Product shot of Pixel 6a, one of the best budget camera phones

(Image credit: Google)

07. Google Pixel 6a

Another strong Google contender

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
+
Includes Magic Eraser photo editing

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two rear cameras
-
Battery not great

Another Google Pixel offering, this time the slightly older and smaller Pixel 6a. One of the best cheap camera phones that you can buy right now, the PIxel 6a is a great choice for creatives on a budget. 

Although this is an older offering now thanks to the release of the Google Pixel 7a, it's still a fantastic contender that deserves a place on this list. The great news is that this affordable phone is seeing frequent price cuts now that the 7a is out. In sales, we've seen it dip as low as $300/£300!

Much like the 7a, the Google Pixel 6a offers wonderful camera software that will really make your photos and video pop. This phone can record videos on the main camera in 4k, which is incredibly impressive considering the price point. However, one drawback that we frequently reported is the battery. This phone charges slowly and the battery life isn't as long-lasting as other phones.

The best reliable budget camera phone

Hand holding up the iPhone SE 2022, one of the best budget camera phonesCB endorsed

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

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 is a great value camera phone, although if we're being honest, it's not very "budget" compared with other picks in this guide, but it's definitely budget for Apple. It combines good performance with water resistance and wireless charging – all flagship features. The design looks very familiar to older iPhones, but we found performance to be on-point when we reviewed it. 

The camera only has one lens on the back, but the single 12MP snapper can grab high-resolution, portrait mode photos and even shoots 4K video. You don't get all of the features of the iPhone 14, 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 14 Pro either, but they do have a lot of detail. Add to that the price, and Apple’s beating many Android smartphones at the game they normally dominate: value for money. Read our iPhone SE (2022) review

The best value for money budget camera phone

Oppo Find X3 Lite

(Image credit: OPPO)

09. Oppo Find X3 Lite

A super-cheap budget phone with a reliable quad camera

Specifications

Sold in: UK/US/Europe
Storage: 128GB / 8GB RAM
Rear camera: 64MP (wide, f/1.7) + 8MP (ultrawide, 119-degree, f/2.2) + 2MP (macro, f/2.4) + 2MP (depth, f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (wide, f/2.4)

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life 
+
Reliable Android and ColorOS software
+
64MP main camera and 32MP front

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the greatest camera by Oppo compared with the FInd X5 Pro, but still great for the budget price

This offering from Oppo is a fantastic choice for those on a budget, and while it might not be equipped with the best camera compared with other options in this guide, it certainly has value for money at a price of less than £200 / $450 in the US (where it's a little harder to come by). 

If you truly want one of the best smartphone cameras and can afford to jump a few upgrades, then we'd highly recommend the Oppo Find X5 Pro as this camera is unmatched in a lot of ways and can without a doubt rival the likes of flagship Samsung and Apple releases. 

As for the Find X3, this phone can still hold its own, and again, for such a low price in the UK, there's really not much to complain about. It has a large 6.43-inch AMOLED screen and 65W fast charging, plus the night mode for shooting in the dark is pretty great too.

The smallest budget camera phone

Product shot of Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, one of the best budget camera phones

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

10. Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G

The best budget camera phone with a slim profile

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

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. Note, though, that this handset isn't available in the US.

It boasts the same fantastic macro camera we saw on the Mi 11 along with a high-megapixel main camera with an ultra-wide snapper. Once the cameras were pointed at the subject, we found that the Mi 11 Lite acted pretty similar to the Redmi, but with a much smaller form factor. It was easy for us to pull the Mi 11 Lite out of 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 colours to pick from. It's not got much staying power in terms of battery life, but it'll be enough for most people.

FAQs

How do I choose the best budget camera phone?

You've got three important things to consider in buying a budget camera phone. What do you wish to spend? What do you need from the camera? And what do you need from the rest of the phone?

While our list above caps off at $500 / £450, some people won't be willing to spend that much. So ask yourself how much money you've got to play with, and find a device that fits within this flexibility. What features do you need beyond the cameras itself? A camera phone is for daily life too, not just for the photoshoot, so think about what's important. 

Do you need a large battery capacity? A big screen? Fast charging? A powerful chipset for gaming? Think about your lifestyle to determine which smartphone is best for you. The information included in each of the listings above caters to all these factors to help you make an informed choice. 


What makes a good smartphone camera?

Consider your photography habits and preferences. Do you want a phone that will edit the images for you and apply filters? This isn't always a good thing, and some budget smartphones will spew AI-saturated pictures that are way too vibrant. You might decide that you prefer one that captures natural-looking images, or doesn't use AI at all. 

Do you need zoom lenses? Macro features for photographing bugs and flowers? How about some novelty extras? Check out the specs we've listed for each phone to make sure your boxes are ticked on that front. Knowing your preferences can help you find the best phone for you.

It's also important not to be fooled by megapixels. Some newer smartphone cameras will have a host of features including large 200-megapixel cameras. But this isn't as great as it sounds, due to a process known as pixel binning, which in simple terms means that phone sensors will group pixels together to form one singular pixel, so really 200MP is actually close to 50MP and so forth - and these aren't as sharp as full-frame camera pixels. 

Our sister site, Digital Camera World, has a helpful explainer on pixel binning for those who want to learn more. 

Once you've picked up one of the above best budget camera phones, why not check out some other creative inspiration? We have detailed guides to the best memory cards for your camera, as well as a list of the best cameras for kids

Basil Kronfli

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.


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