What is the best budget camera phone you can buy? One question, lots to consider. For starters, what constitutes a good budget camera phone? Is the defining factor great value for money? Or, are we talking about the very best cameras around under a certain price tag? What about the rest of the phone – if it’s a bit of a dud when it comes to speed and battery, but has a great camera, should it still be on our list?
In our opinion, a budget phone can climb up to the £399/$499 mark. We know, that’s not bargain basement pricing, but when you’re paying way over £1,000/$1,200 for a new iPhone, it's still comparatively affordable. If you need something cheaper - we also cover smartphones that cost under £200, like the excellent Redmi Note 8T, which could be the very best value phone you can buy right now, so there should be something on this list for everyone. For those with endless budgets, our round-up of the absolute best camera phones will be more for you.
Our priority with this list is to cut through the noise. Smartphone camera tech is confusing, and is developing at lightning fast pace. 2020 is the year huge pixel counts land on budget devices. Many of the phones in our list, like the Nokia 7.2, feature Sony's 48MP sensor. This squashes four pixels into one, producing 12MP images with richer tones and better low light performance – though the additional cameras around the back of each phone will be different.
Right now, we think the best budget camera phone is the simple Google Pixel 3A, with its no-fuss single camera setup. While it doesn't offer the zoom phones like the Oppo Reno 2, for example, it manages to do the basics very well indeed.
Below you can find our full run down of the best budget camera phones for 2020, so whether you're a film maker on a budget, a photographer on the go or someone who just wants to take stunning snaps without leaving a huge dent in your finances, this is the place to find your next phone.
The best budget camera phones you can buy
01. Google Pixel 3A
Best point and shoot
Release: May 2019 | Screen size: 5.6-inches | Screen type: OLED | Resolution: 1080 x 2220 pixels | Sharpness: 441 pixels-per-inch | Certification: Asahi Dragontrail Glass | : | Dimensions: 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm | Weight: 147g | Rear camera: 12MP (wide + OIS) | Front camera: 8MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 1080p, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: No | Battery: 3000mAh
Google’s expensive flagship, the Pixel 4 hits the mark with its camera, but falls short in several other critical areas. Meanwhile, the more affordable Pixel 3A is an across-the-board midrange champ, with a virtually identical camera to the pricier Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, a punchy OLED screen and a sleek, simple design.
It also features a great point and shoot camera with a range of practical modes that get the best from any situation. Take the phone’s Night Sight feature; this takes a series of shots, composites them and makes the Pixel 3A a fantastic low light performer, helping this sub £300 can see in the dark and stand out from the crowd. The phone’s Full HD video capture also looks good, and unlike some of the competition, photos and videos the Pixel 3A grabs have a beautifully balanced finish to them, not overly saturated or too high in contrast.
The rest of the phone is respectable too, with 64GB storage, stock Android 10 - the latest version of Google's mobile OS, and a nippy processor that should zip through everyday tasks relatively quickly. While this isn’t a gaming champ or a spec beast, therefore, it’s an across the board decent phone and a winner on the camera front.
02. Redmi Note 8T
Best on a budget
Release: November 2019 | Screen size: 6.3-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 409 pixels-per-inch | Certification: Gorilla Glass 5 | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6 mm | Weight: 200g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 13MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
You may not have heard of Redmi, but don't let that put you off the Note 8T. The Redmi brand is owned by Chinese smartphone giant, Xiaomi, so it’s anything but a small unknown entity. As for the phone itself, this incredibly affordable device manages to cram a suite of relatively top-tier features into what could be the best value smartphone you can buy.
Starting with that camera, and while most sub-£200 phones have one, maybe two snappers around the back, the Note 8T sports no less than four. These include a primary 48MP sensor for shots loaded with detail. There's also an ultra-wide camera for expansive landscapes, a macro camera for close-up photos, and if you dip into the settings, you’ll find a tonne of shooting modes.
As for the rest of the phone, its glass front and back join forces with a big 6.3-inch, sharp screen for an almost iPhone 11 Pro Max sized footprint. With premium Gorilla Glass 5, it’s scratch resistant too. There’s also a big 4000mAh battery inside that will last a full day, and thanks to the 64GB storage and an SD card slot to bump that capacity, there’s very little to complain about when it comes to the Redmi Note 8T.
03. Honor 20 Pro
Best budget camera phone for versatility
Release: May 2019 | Screen size: 6.3-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 413 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front and back, metal frame | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6 mm | Weight: 128g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 16MP (ultra-wide) + 8MP (telephoto) + 2MP (macro) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: No | Battery: 4000mAh
While it isn’t available in the US, the excellent Honor 20 costs just £399 in the UK despite its flagship power and quad-camera setup. The phone’s primary 48MP sensor is the same as the one found in the pricier OnePlus 7T Pro and Oppo Reno 10x zoom, it packs more zoom than an iPhone 11 Pro and it even features a 2MP dedicated macro camera.
Looks-wise, the Honor 20 Pro is a stunner, particularly in its Icelandic Frost colour, which features a purlesque gradient finish around the back, a very iPhone-esque buffed metal frame and an ergonomic side-mounted fingerprint scanner.
Combined with Android, and in turn, excellent app support, a high-resolution 32MP punch-hole selfie camera and fantastic all-day battery life, not to mention tonnes of storage, the Honor 20 Pro is both an incredible value camera phone and a beauty to look at.
04. Oppo Reno 2
Best for design
Release: December 2019 | Screen size: 6.5-inches | Screen type: AMOLED | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 pixels | Sharpness: 401 pixels-per-inch | Design: Gorilla Glass 6 front and back, metal frame | Dimensions: 160 x 74.3 x 9.5 mm | Weight: 189g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 13MP (telephoto) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
Symmetrical design, curved scratch proof glass around the back and an all-screen front make sure the Oppo Reno 2 feels sleek and refined. The phone’s pop-up ‘shark fin’ camera adds to the unique style, and the Luminous Black, Ocean Blue, or Sunset Pink colour options all look premium.
Loaded up with no less than four cameras, the main sensor is Sony’s tried and tested 48MP resolution module. It features a wide open aperture of f/1.7, so lets plenty of light in, and is matched with a 13MP 2x zoom camera, an 8MP ultra-wide camera, as well as a depth sensor, which enables more accurate background defocus than most.
Not short of standout features, the Reno 2 sports a smart super-steady action camera video mode for those moments when you need a bit of extra stabilisation. There’s also plenty of storage – 128GB, not to mention a microSD card slot, and with a 4000mAh battery, it really is one of the best premium midranger around, across the board.
05. Huawei Nova 5T
Best for compact phone lovers
Release: August 2019 | Screen size: 6.26-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 396 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front and back, metal frame | Dimensions: 154.3 x 74 x 7.8 mm | Weight: 174g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 16MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: Full HD, 30fps | Storage: 128GB | Memory card slot: No | Battery: 3750mAh
In a world in which a 6.26-inch smartphone is ‘compact’, the Nova 5T strikes a fantastic balance of pocketable and powerful. It’s a sleek looking slice of phone, with sleek rounded sides, a metal frame and a flat back. The punch hole selfie camera makes for a full screen experience with small bezels, while the 5T’s bright, punchy display shows off pictures and videos with panache.
Loaded up with no less than four cameras around the front and back, there’s a total of 100MP on the Nova 5T’s sensors. Huawei’s phone also features amongst the best night mode found on any affordable smartphone, with exposure times extending to in excess of ten seconds. Steady the 5T on a surface and it can pull out detail even in the dead of night.
With a Kirin 980 processor, there’s ample power inside to zip through 4K videos, play advanced 3D games and swipe and tap through multiple applications without the phone breaking a sweat. The 128GB storage inside is plenty for files, photos, movies and more, and thanks to an ample 3370mAh of power, its fast charging battery comfortably lasts a full day.
06. Motorola G8 Power
Best for battery life
Release: February 2020 | Screen size: 6.4-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 399 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front, plastic back | Dimensions: 156 x 75.8 x 9.6 mm | Weight: 197g | Rear camera: 16MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 8MP (telephoto) + 2MP (macro) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: Full HD, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 5000mAh
The Motorola G8 Power is a phone that lasts and lasts, despite the fact it costs a fraction of the price of popular flagships like the iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro. It’s got a punch hole camera and a Full HD screen for an immersive experience; and thanks to its nano-coated splash-proof design and 6000 series aluminium, it’s nice and hardy too.
As for the cameras, the G8 Power is remarkably comprehensive when it comes to focal lengths. Its main camera is 16MP and has AI scene recognition as well as a wide open f/1.7 aperture. Meanwhile, there are two 8MP cameras, one with 118-degree angle, and the other with a 2x zoom. Additionally, the phone’s 2MP macro camera can take shots as close as 2.5cm away from a subject, perfect for textures, insects and other such intricately detailed objects.
With competent midrange specs, Motorola has charged up the Power with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor coupled with an ample 64GB storage - all decent for the phone’s price. Running Android 10, you get excellent app support as well, and a clean, stock looking interface.
07. Honor 9X
Big screened budget smartphone
Release: October 2019 | Screen size: 6.59-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 391 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front, plastic back | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6 mm | Weight: 200g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 1080p, 60fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
If you’re looking for the biggest screen available for the smallest price, you can stop now. The attention grabbing Honor 9X has a huge, 6.59-inch display with almost no bezel - all made possible by that pop-up camera. This leaves the Honor 9X notch and punch hole free, despite it being one of the most affordable options on-test.
The 9X isn’t just a big screen though. The triple camera combines a high-resolution primary sensor with a GoPro-style ultra-wide 8MP secondary cam. Add to the mix a 2MP depth sensor, and whether you’re taking portrait shots with beautifully spangled bokeh, or firing up aperture mode photos, which let you change the focus point after the beat, it punches way above its weight.
There are a few missing optional extras that highlight the Honor 9X’s midrange nature. It can’t capture 4K resolution video, for example. There’s also no telephoto camera or NFC (for contactless payments). The 9X’s processor also doesn’t compete with some pricier phones like the Nova 5T or Oppo Reno 2. Still, what it does deliver - plenty of storage, a big battery and a striking look, ends up making it an incredibly easy phone to recommend for the price.
08. Motorola One Hype
Best for pixel peepers
Release: December 2019 | Screen size: 6.5-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels | Sharpness: 396 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front, plastic back | Dimensions: 161.8 x 76.6 x 8.9 mm | Weight: 210g | Rear camera: 64MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
The Motorola One Hyper is the only budget smartphone around with a sky high 64MP sensor resolution. That means the photos it takes are sharp. That high resolution around the back extends to the front, with the phone’s pop-up selfie camera sporting 32MP of detail – but don’t worry, there’s a beauty mode here too. Complete with background blur features, colour popping and video recording at up to 4K resolution, despite the fact there’s no zoom camera on the Hyper, it’s still a smashing camera phone for the price.
Before you even get to the camera though, it makes an impact, with its big, all-screen display. The phone’s zingy, holographic finish is also novel, with an air of shell suits and Xanadu about it. Unlike pricier phones, the One Hyper ships with a case and a fast charger, and if you peek under the hood, you’ll find a big, beefy battery that delivers day long power.
The Motorola One Hyper also runs a clean version of Google’s Android operating system, but with a twist, literally. Packing gesture support, twist your wrist quickly with the phone in your hand and the camera fires up. Give it a quick karate chop, and the flash light activates. All this comes together to ensure this affordable, all-screen phone ends up being incredibly charming and very capable.
09. Samsung Galaxy A51
Best for Samsung fans
Release: December 2019 | Screen size: 6.5-inches | Screen type: Super AMOLED | Resolution: 1080 x 2400 pixels | Sharpness: 405 pixels-per-inch | Design: glass front, plastic back | Dimensions: 158.5 x 73.6 x 7.9 mm | Weight: 172g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 12MP (ultra-wide) + 5MP (macro) + 5MP (depth) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 4000mAh
If you like the idea of a Samsung Galaxy S20, but aren’t a fan of the phone’s price, then the Galaxy A51 could be a great shout. It combines a big 6.5-inch screen with punchy Super AMOLED technology for inky blacks and punchy colours. Running Samsung’s custom take on Android, it works like a charm with Samsung’s smart connected gadgets, and it also sports the brand’s charming, customisable camera interface.
Flip the A51 around, and its quad-camera looks similar to that of the S20 - and it is, just without the zoom. It all starts with that main 48MP sensor which is paired with an f/2.0 lens. Alongside it, a 12MP ultra-wide camera, a 5MP macro camera and a 5MP depth sensor. The macro camera is noteworthy, given the fact it’s higher resolution than the 2MP options on most other phones, so can grab more detail as close as 4cm away from subjects.
Storage choices are plentiful, with the A51 available in a 64GB or 128GB option, and the added microSD card slot means this can be bumped up by a hefty 512GB. Additionally, the phone’s in-screen fingerprint scanner, Infinity-O hole punch selfie camera and large battery all add to the sense of premium the Galaxy A51 brings to the table
10. Nokia 7.2
Future proofed on a budget
Release: September 2019 | Screen size: 6.3-inches | Screen type: LCD | Resolution: 1080 x 2280 pixels | Sharpness: 400 pixels-per-inch | Design: Gorilla Glass 3 front and back, plastic frame | Dimensions: 159.9 x 75.2 x 8.3 mm | Weight: 180g | Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 5MP (depth) | Front camera: 20MP (wide) | Maximum video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Storage: 64GB | Memory card slot: Yes | Battery: 3500mAh
The Nokia 7.2’s frosted glass finish is instantly striking, especially in its Cyan Green colour option. Despite the price, it feels fantastic in the hand, with a solid frame, and scratch resistant screen, rich to the touch screen. At 6.3-inches, while that screen isn’t huge, it has got a bit more border than most of the phones in our list, so isn’t quite as immersive; but with its HDR 10 credentials, it’s quality is at the top of the pile.
As for those triple-cameras, the Nokia 7.2 combines a 48MP main sensor with an f/1.8 lens. There’s also an ultra-wide angle camera around the back too, along with a depth sensor. Selfie fans should take note, the front camera is a pixel-tastic 20MP resolution combined with a Zeiss lens, for some of the best self-portraits you’ll be able to grab on a non-flagship smartphone.
Also noteworthy, the Nokia 7.2 shoots 4K video, packs a respectably sized 3500mAh battery inside that will get you through a full day of regular use, and is the only phone in our list to run Android One. This version of Android is guaranteed software updates for two years, and security updates for three, leaving it nicely future-proofed despite its budget price.