If you think you want the best camera phone, you've got to ask yourself a few vital questions: what's your budget? What types of photos do you take? And what's your technical knowledge like? Each of those really dictates what kind of camera phone you need to buy.
Humans have endlessly different tastes, so it's great that there are options for everyone. Whether you like natural-looking photos or saturated snaps, there's a camera phone out there for you - and we're here to help you find it.
We've tested all the big camera phones from the top mobile brands, taking them for photoshoots at day, at night, in the sun, wind and rain, and taking snaps of people, food, pets and wider areas to get to grips with their strengths and weaknesses.
To judge each phone in our guide below, we've looked at its hardware, including its camera sensors and lenses, as well as the software it uses, such as useful modes and AI scene optimisation. Price wasn't a consideration, because top specs require top prices, but have got a guide to the budget camera phones, which will be useful for people who find the devices below too pricey. Remember, however expensive your device is, you'll still want these smartphone photography tips to make the most out of your phone.
If you’re a fan of Apple’s smartphones, we’ve got a guide on the best iPhones for photography which you should check out – the list you're looking at now covers both Apple and Android smartphones, with top camera phones from both sides.
If you want to capture high-res, great-looking videos, or amazing-looking photos with great colour and contrast (or information for subsequent editing), we’ve got you covered here (and in our guides to the best cameras and best point-and-shoot cameras if you want a more specialised piece of kit). Going off track? Try one of the best trail cameras to capture wildlife at its best.
The best camera phones available now
Samsung's latest top-end phone is a super-powerful mobile, both in the camera department and in most aspects of its feature set.
On paper, it has the same camera collection as the S21 Ultra (which previously held top spot), but a selection of new modes, as well as the upgraded specs in other areas, make it a preferable choice for photographers.
We found the Galaxy great for mobile photography for one easily-definable reason: its versatility. Whether we wanted to take a wide shot of a big view, needed to jump in close for an amazing-looking portrait shot, or wanted to travel far into the distance for a zoom shot, we could rely on the Galaxy to provide.
While Samsung doesn't offer as many camera modes as some other phone brands, what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Samsung's Portrait mode is second to none, and Single Take is incredibly useful for taking a great snap as it lets the AI decide on the top shots.
The big new addition to this phone is the S Pen stylus - this has a range of uses, but when it comes to photography, it can be used as a remote shutter which is particularly useful for taking snaps of yourself without having to set a timer.
But all around this is a great camera phone that won't let you down, no matter what you're snapping. If you need more convincing then read our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.
Apple's iPhone 13 family was launched in late 2021, and the Pro and Pro Max handsets are the top siblings in the line. Sure, they're not huge upgrades over the iPhone 12 devices, but some of the biggest upgrades are in the camera software department.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro beat out their predecessors with a new macro mode which lets you take detailed pictures of close-up objects like food, bugs or plants. There are also improvements to videography with Cinematic Video, and you can now focus pull while capturing film, which will be really useful for people trying to shoot movies on their phone.
We found the iPhone 13 Pro great for photography because of its ease of use - we could easily just point the phone at a subject and rely on the AI to know what we needed. We didn't have to spend ages fiddling with the settings or jumping between modes to take a great shot.
Apple's Night Mode is also fantastic, lapping rivals when it comes to low-light photography or snaps at night. Android phones are getting closer and closer to Apple for night photography but still haven't beaten it out.
One other change to the iPhone 13 Pro devices might appeal to the artist in you: now you can finally buy iPhones with 1TB internal storage, so you can now capture many more pictures or hours of film without running out of space.
That's all on top of the iOS mobile you know and love (or don't love, if you're an Android fan) with a powerful processor, good-looking screen and okayish battery life.
First things first - the Mate 40 Pro has one tragic flaw, and it’s a deal breaker for most people. Thanks to the Google trade ban in the US, you can’t access Google’s own app store. Huawei’s store is still playing catch up, and you’re likely to be frustrated with certain apps not working, even if you can easily download them online.
Having said that, the Mate 40 Pro is still one of the best camera phones in the world, offering the complete package. Both regular and ultra-wide angle shots look superb in both well-lit and dark conditions, while the 5x optical zoom performs remarkably well even in lower light too. Focusing is fast and snappy, and the front-facing selfie camera also cram in larger groups, thanks to its wide angle lens.
Throw in super-stabilized video with impressive HDR for good measure, and you have a smartphone with a camera that’s capable of excelling at any task you care to throw at it.
We loved the way the Mate 40 Pro picked up colors, with dramatic sunsets and vibrant food dishes standing out when captured on the phone. Low-light shooting is great too, whether you're snapping people or objects.
We've also got to commend the range of camera modes Huawei offers - options like Moon Photography, Spotlight Portrait, 50x Hyperzoom, incredibly slow-motion video recording and light painting all give the phone a real edge for playful or experimental photographers. We had lots of fun trying these out to take great snaps.
If we’re talking about hardware alone, then the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has everything it takes to be the best camera phone on our list. It’s got the largest camera sensor ever seen on a smartphone, creeping up to the 1-inch sensor size seen on pro-grade compact cameras. The result of such a large sensor is photos with beautifully shallow depth of field. Of the three cameras around the back, each is around 50MP in resolution, so whether you’re zooming or going ultra-wide, you won’t need to compromise on photo quality.
It isn’t just the camera sensors that are exceptional on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. On the phone’s hefty rear camera bump around the back, there’s a second screen so you can take selfies and group shots with the best camera on the handset.
What’s the price you pay for such fantastic photography capabilities you might be wondering? Well, the phone isn’t exactly affordable, costing £1,199 (around $1,670). In addition to its imposing price is an imposing physique; the Mi 11 Ultra weighs 234g, making it one of the heaviest smartphones currently on the market.
We have got to compliment the Ultra on one key thing though: reliability. We found it incredibly reliable when you're playing on its terms, and between ultra-wide and 5x zoom, you're getting great pictures with loads of detail.
After we finished the testing process with the Mi 11 Ultra, we actually stuck to using it as our go-to photography phone, because once we learnt its strengths and weaknesses, we could really play into it.
While you get plenty of power for the price (and weight) of the phone, not to mention stacks of storage and one of the best screens to ever grace a smartphone, the Mi 11 Ultra does have a few niggles. It gets very warm when gaming on it – bordering on too hot to handle if graphics settings are ramped all the way up. In turn, this pricey camera champ is really a phone for someone happy to invest a bit of time (and money) getting to grips with its nuances. Once you do, you’ll get some class-leading photos, but if you’re after an easy life, or just really like wearing skinny jeans, you’d be better off with another camera phone.
After a few years of uninspiring smartphones, the Google Pixel 6 Pro marked the tech giant's return to the camera powerhouse club.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a huge sensor on its main camera, which takes in light better than sensors on most other devices, as well as a powerful telephoto and ultra-wide camera - this trio is somewhat of a dream team.
Joining the party is Google's software, which is what made Pixel phones great camera devices in the first place. Not only is AI scene optimization fantastic at tweaking your picture to look great, but there are some extra software tools - the biggest one is Magic Eraser, which can edit out background people in otherwise-clean shots.
This is a fun feature to play around with, but from our testing, the results weren't always natural-looking.
We found the Google Pixel 6 Pro great as a point-and-shoot wonder, like the iPhone above - it was easy just to press the shutter button and rely on Google's smart AI to take a great-looking shot.
While the lack of expandable storage and a limited battery life might limit the Google Pixel 6 Pro's functionality as a versatile camera phone a tiny bit, the actual photo-taking power is wonderful.
Remember when phones had one camera? Well, now they have five. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was for a time the best Android camera phone, and even now it's a great choice.
The phenomenal power of the four-camera array on the rear has to be seen to be believed. The main sensor is a 108MP model that gives you immense digital zooming and cropping ability, with a new autofocus system that fixes the sharpness issues with the S20 Ultra. It is ably backed up by two 10MP telephoto sensors and a 12MP ultra-wide. This gives you amazing shooting flexibility for a smartphone, and a frankly scary ability to capture shots at a distance. The 40MP selfie camera, completing the quintet, also acquits itself well.
Features elsewhere across the board are predictably great. The S21 Ultra boasts a top-notch processor, a water-resistant body and wireless charging. It can connect to a monitor and double up as a desktop experience using Samsung’s big-screen interface DeX, and supports Samsung’s S Pen for drawing and note-taking.
There’s not much to criticise. It’s expensive, of course, but if you’re going to go after the biggest Android manufacturer’s brand-new flagship phone, you’d hardly expect anything else. If you want the best camera phone, this is it.
We'd recommend the Galaxy S21 Ultra most for people who don't need the top-end bells and whistles of the S22 Ultra which feels, for most purposes, pretty similar. the S21 Ultra is cheaper now since it's older, and the new model only really offers the S Pen as a serious photography tool.
Read more in our detailed Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
No one could argue with you for saying that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is one of the best camera phones ever made, With a 12MP f1.6 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto camera that can achieve a 2.5x optical zoom and a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera, it’s absolutely bristling with imaging technology. The iPhone 12 Pro is the same, but with a smaller body.
Sure, the newer iPhone 13 Pro models beat out their older relatives, but only by a small amount - sure, the improved optical zoom, new macro mode and bigger sensors of the new phones are nice, but the older phones aren't far behind.
Low-light shooting has always been a problem for smartphones, as their size and shape prohibits the use of really large sensors that you’d find in cameras, which hurts the dynamic range of images. The iPhone 12 Pro has a larger sensor than most, meaning it’s streets ahead of the majority of smartphones in terms of low-light capability. What’s more, it has a LiDAR scanner that improves its Night Mode portraits by improving the depth sensing in low light. Apple has also added HDR3, which combines multiple exposures for the best possible image. This can be used in any lighting conditions, again potentially giving you a little extra oomph in low light.
Editing images on an iPhone is easy as anything, and the video has been improved with Dolby Vision too. The iPhone 12 Pro phones are a stunning achievement.
Read more in our in-depth Apple iPhone 12 Pro review.
The Oppo Find X5 Pro has been one of the most talked about top-end smartphones of 2022, and mostly because of its camera, thanks to help from Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad. There's a 32MB selfie on the front and three lenses on the back neatly grouped into a kind of plateau: a main 50MP with a super fast f/1.7 aperture, an ultra-wide-angle 50MP camera with f/2.2 and a 13MP telephoto lens with f/2.4. Gone is the Find X3 Pro's dedicated microscopic macro lens.
The two main lenses are fantastic with great, vivid colours and the low apertures allow fast shots. The telephoto lens is less impressive, with only a 2X zoom, which lags behind much of the competition. The new Marisilicon X neural processing unit applies AI imaging algorithms right on RAW data to improve noise reduction in low light for photos and 4K video. Meanwhile, Hasselblad's filters that can add a film-like quality to the most mundane of images.
Cameras aside, the OPPO Find X3 Pro has a unique, sleek design – its camera bump is a smooth slope rather tan a clumsy protrusion. The display is also very good and highly adjustable.
Loaded up with a 48MP main camera featuring a custom Sony sensor, the tuning applied to photos taken on the OnePlus 9 Pro is a huge improvement over previous OnePlus phones, especially in challenging lighting. In fact, we’d go so far as to call it one of the best cameras around, especially if you’re not a fan of editing your snaps. Take a photo, and eight times out of 10, it’s Instagram-ready.
The special sensor is capable of capturing super-high framerate 4K footage at up to 120 frames per second – something many pro-grade cameras can’t do. And add to the mix an ultra-high-resolution ultra-wide camera, which captures expansive landscapes at 50MP resolution, and shoots close-up pictures thanks to autofocus (something seldom seen on ultra-wide cameras), and imaging is definitely one of the 9 Pro's fortés.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is also the first flagship from the Chinese phone maker to feature Hasselblad camera tuning, in addition to elements within the Pro mode that mimic the legendary camera icon's interface.
The phone’s specs are flagship across-the-board too, with Snapdragon 888-power matched with 8GB RAM, and a stunning Dynamic AMOLED screen matched with a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and punchy visuals.
Also mightily impressive is the OnePlus 9 Pro's charging speeds. It powers up in around 30 minutes thanks to lightning-fast 65W charging. Even wirelessly, the 9 Pro charges quickly when matched with the official Warp Charge 50 Wireless Charger, and with a 4,500 mAh battery, you should get a full day out of it without any issues.
The fact the OnePlus 9 Pro’s price undercuts most flagships out there is yet another boon for the phone, placing it higher in our ranking than any OnePlus before it.
Realme isn't a company which often gets onto 'best camera phone' lists, generally due to its lack of top-end smartphones, but the GT 2 Pro is its first top-end phone and it wins Realme a low place on this list.
The phone's 50MP main and ultra-wide cameras are great, but the real reason the phone is on this list is its 40x magnification microscope camera, which rivals the one on the Oppo higher on this list, but it zooms even further.
We found Realme's mobile miraculous for how it offers impressive camera features at a much lower price than you'd expect.
The main camera is incredible for low-light photography, and would definitely give an iPhone a run for its money. It also captures loads of color and light in daylight or well-lit settings.
Plus, you've probably already read our praise for the Oppo's microscope camera, and our enthusiasm rings true here too. We had loads of fun playing about with this zoomed-in wonder.
This is a great phone for a few other reasons too - it charges quickly, its screen looks great, and it's very powerful. Plus, it's one of the most affordable mobiles on this list, making it a great alternative to the big flashy phones from the bigger brands.