Action Cameras

smartphone cameras for excellent photographs

If you’re after the best camera phone, you’re not alone. Snapping up one of the best smartphones for photography is something that more of us are doing, as the camera remains one of the most important features — along with battery life — for most people. Thankfully, with each upcoming phone upgrade, comes a whole range of new camera specs and features.

The trouble is, there are thousands of handsets out there from budget to super-premium, and every entry on our best smartphones list promises to provide a great camera experience. The reality, of course, is that not all smartphones are made equal, especially when it comes to camera performance. In fact, with so many similar handsets out there, a smartphone’s camera is one of the main differentiating factors between them.

With all that said, we’ve rounded up some of the best top-tier smartphone cameras for photography currently available, based on years of expertise. If you’re after the best cameraphone, look no further than this lot…

What are the best camera phones?

Before we crack on with the full list, here’s a look at our four top choices:

The best camera phones you can buy today:

1. Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra specs
Screen 6.8in, 3200×1440 AMOLED w/ 1-120Hz LTPO adaptive refresh, 2600 nits
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 For Galaxy
Memory 12GB RAM
Cameras 200MP, f/1.7 main w/ Quad pixel AF, OIS +
50MP, f/3.4 periscope zoom w/ dual pixel AF, OIS, 5x optical zoom +
10MP, f/2.4 zoom w/ dual pixel AF, OIS, 3x optical zoom +
12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide rear

12MP, f/2.2 front w. dual pixel AF

Storage 256GB/512GB/1TB on-board
Operating system ANdroid 14 w/ OneUI 6.1
Battery 5000mAh w/ 45W wired, 15W wireless charging
Dimensions 162x79x8.6mm, 232g

With a 50MP main snapper, 10MP telephoto and 12MP ultrawide, the Galaxy S24’s cameras are effectively now three years old. The lead camera keeps its f/1.8 aperture lens, dual pixel autofocus tech and optical image stabilisation; the 3x optical zoom telephoto tops out at f/2.4, with PDAF and OIS; and the ultrawide sticks with f/2.2 glass. The exact same setup first appeared on the Galaxy S22.

Samsung claims the S24 Ultra’s shooting experience is unique thanks to an imaging NPU (neural processing unit) — and our review confirms it. This is the best Samsung smartphone camera experience to date, and one of the best money can currently buy.

It’s almost a given that shots in both bright and dark conditions are excellent, with the combination of Samsung’s software and hardware managing to turn day into night with apparent ease. Where the S24 Ultra really stands out though, is its sheer flexibility, thanks to that incredibly generous 10x optical zoom, made possible by its periscope camera setup. It’s so good, in fact, that we even managed to capture a detailed shot of the moon at 85x zoom, which is a feat no other smartphone on this list can come close to matching.

Its superb all-around performance, coupled with extra tricks like an amazing zoom, places the S24 Ultra among the best smartphones for photography in any situation.

2. Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro specs
Screen 6.7in, 2992×1344 OLED w/ 1-120Hz, HDR10+
CPU Google Tensor G3 nine-core
Memory 12GB RAM
Cameras 50MP, f/1.7 w/ multi-directional PDAF, laser AF, OIS
48MP, f/2.8 telelphoto w/ 5x optical zoom, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
48MP, f/2.0 ultrawide w/ dual pixel PDAF
10.5MP, f/2.2 front w/ autofocus
Storage 128/256/512GB, 1TB (US only)
Operating system Android 14
Battery 5050mAh
Dimensions 163x77x8.8mm, 213g

Google hasn’t quite given up all pretences of the Pro-grade Pixel being an ‘affordable’ flagship, but the Pixel 8 Pro’s price hike certainly pushes it further into premium territory than ever before. It brings suitably high-end styling, an exceptionally bright OLED display and a Tensor G3 processor that promises on-device generational AI wallpapers (among other machine-learning skills).

It’s the rear camera trio that continues to set the Pixel 8 Pro apart, though. The 50MP main sensor takes astonishingly clean and detailed snaps in almost all lighting conditions, the ultrawide lens has improved macro focusing abilities for extreme close-ups, and the 48MP telephoto uses a periscope lens to deliver genuinely impressive 5x optical zoom. Add in the AI-assisted Best Take and Magic Editor tools, which let you swap faces and move subjects around the frame after you’ve tapped the shutter button, and there’s little else like it on the market right now.

3. Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max specs
Colours Natural Titanium/Blue Titanium/White Titanium/Black Titanium
Display 6.7in 2796×1290 OLED HDR at 460ppi
Processor A17 Pro
Storage 256GB/512GB/1TB
OS iOS 17
Cameras 48MP ƒ/1.78 main, 12MP ƒ/2.2 ultra wide, 12MP ƒ/2.8 telephoto (5× optical zoom in) rear; 12MP ƒ/1.9 front
Battery 4,441 mAh (est.)
Dimensions 76.7×159.9×8.25mm (3.02×6.29×0.32in)
Weight 221g (7.81oz)
Connectivity USB-C (supports charging, DisplayPort, and USB 3)

Apple’s iPhone cameras have been top-notch for years, and the iPhone 15 Pro Max is no exception, bringing with it a couple of key improvements that make it one of the best smartphone cameras in the world right now. A triple-camera affair made up of wide, ultrawide, and telephoto lenses, it has the show-stealing 48MP seen on last year’s top-tier model. The result is even clearer images with accurate colours and lighting, with an improvement in low-light photography to boot.

The biggest improvement for the Pro Max is a new periscope telephoto lens, which provides 5x optical zoom abilities up there with the very best smartphones. Elsewhere, you’ll find Apple’s Photonic Engine which has been upgraded to work even better software magic to improve shots in mid and low-light settings.

Ultimately, this is easily the best cameraphone Apple has ever made. If you want to sacrifice a little battery life and screen size then you can also snap up the cheaper iPhone 15 Pro, which shares most of the same camera features as its Max brother – you just have to make do with a 3x zoom lens instead.

4. Google Pixel 7a

Google Pixel 7a specs
Screen 6.1in, 2400×1080 gOLED w/ 90Hz
CPU Google Tensor G2 octa-core
Memory 8GB RAM
Cameras 64MP, f/1.9 main w/ OIS + 13MP,f/2.2 ultrawide rear
13MP, f/2.2 front
Storage 128GB on-board
Operating system Android 13
Battery 4385mAh w/ 18W wired, 7.5W wireless charging
Dimensions 152x73x9.0mm, 193g

Google has taken the Pixel 7a a bit more upmarket than previous A-series models, with features borrowed wholesale from the pricier Pixel 7. Its 64MP main camera sensor is bespoke, but the pixel-binning smarts used to improve low-light shots are very much in keeping. Combined with the firm’s typically excellent software, it’s one of the best bang-for-buck photography experiences around.

Powerful algorithms squeeze the most out of dual snappers. Shots from both cameras are stuffed with detail, wonderfully exposed, with no hint of unsightly noise, and they perform well in dim conditions too. Autofocus is quick, and auto HDR does a brilliant job of exposing bright skies without losing detail in shadows. Skin tones are impressive as well, with Google using a dedicated Real Tone algorithm for more accurate results.

There’s no dedicated telephoto (aka, zoom) camera, which is to be expected at this price, but considering you still get the same software tricks found in the more expensive Pixel 7 Pro (like Magic Eraser), it’s hard to complain. Easily one of the best cameraphones around for the money you’re paying.

5. Xiaomi 13 Pro

Xiaomi 13 Pro specs
Screen 6.73in, 3200×1440 AMOLED w/ 120Hz, HDR10+/Dolby Vision/HLG
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 octa-core
Memory 12GB RAM
Cameras 50MP, 1in, f/1.9 w/ OIS + 50MP, f/2.0 telephoto w/ OIS + 50MP, f/2.2 ultrawide rear
32MP, f/2.0 front
Storage 256GB on-board
Operating system Android 13 w/ MIUI 14
Battery 4820mAh w/ 120W wired charging, 50W wireless charging, reverse charging
Dimensions 163x75x8.4mm, 229g

Xiaomi isn’t the only smartphone maker to have squeezed in a 1in camera sensor into its latest top-tier model – but it is currently the only one that will sell one globally. While Oppo and Vivo are content to stick in China, the Xiaomi 13 Pro can be picked up officially in Europe. A 1in sensor gives it impeccable bokeh, meaning all your portrait shots have dreamy depth blur, and the rest of the snappers are impressive too.

All three have 50MP pixel counts, the telephoto has a 3.2x zoom that bests both the Samsung and Apple alternatives, and the ultrawide doubles as macro lens. Leica image processing smarts also mean it takes gorgeous photos in almost all lighting. Few rivals are quite as accomplished.

It’s a fantastic phone everywhere else, with a bioceramic finish, high refresh rate OLED display, whip-crack quick Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU and a beefy battery that’ll let you keep snapping for hours (or even days) at a time. It’s a premium device, and carries a premium price, but phone photographers should see it as a price worth paying.

6. Sony Xperia 1 V

Sony Xperia 1 V specs
Screen 6.5in, 3840×1644 OLED w/ 120Hz refresh rate, 21:9 aspect ratio, HDR10+
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 octa-core
Memory 12GB RAM
Cameras 12MP, f/1.7, 24mm wide w dual pixel PDAF, OIS + 12MP, f/2.2, 16mm ultrawide w/ dual pixel PDAF + 12MP, f/2.3 85mm – f/2.8 125mm telephoto w/ dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3.5x-5.2x continuous optical zoom + 0.3MP TOF 3D rear.
12MP, f/2.0, 24m front
Storage 256GB on-board, microSD expansion
Operating system Android 12
Battery 5000mAh non-removable w/ 30W wired charging, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging
Dimensions 165x71x8.2mm, 185g

Sony might be an expensive outlier in the smartphone world, overshadowed by the plethora of iPhones and other, cheaper Android handsets, but for enthusiast photographers and videographers, its premium handsets have always offered something a little different. The flagship Xperia 1 V is no exception, with a triple rear camera setup consisting of an all-new 52MP lead sensor, backed up by twin 12MP shooters. It’s far better in low light than its predecessor, while keeping the ridiculously fast focus – making it an ideal choice for those wanting to capture crisp shots of hyperactive children and/or pets.

Even better, its zoom lens is a variable affair, letting you dial in optical zoom levels from 3.5x to 5.2x. It’s a clever trick that will massively appeal to those looking to close the distance to their subjects without disturbing them or physically getting closer.

As expected from Sony handsets, you’ll get the very best out of its cameras when using the Pro mode, tweaking settings until you reach some seriously impressive results. It’s pricey, and not one for casual users who just want to point and shoot with AI-optimised results, but if you’ve got the patience and passion, this is one of the most unique, as well as best camera phones currently available.

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