Picking the best camera phone is a tougher challenge than it ever has been. And, as more and more major manufacturers release more advanced camera phones, it’s only going to get harder for us. Better for you, though, as the prospective smartphone snapper – with options at various price points from Apple, Samsung, Google, Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Honor you are utterly spoiled for choice. There are better features, higher resolutions and sharper lenses, as well as options at budget prices. Aren’t you lucky?

At AP, we take reviewing smartphones as seriously as we do testing the best mirrorless cameras – after all, far more images are now shot on smartphones than anything else. We look at image quality, video quality, handling, durability, battery life, ease of use, and more. To know more about our testing criteria and what to look for in a smartphone camera, we’ve put together an explainer on how to choose one at the bottom of this page.

The acceleration of progress in smartphone cameras has raised the question of whether they can replicate the quality of digital cameras. Ultimately, with their interchangeable lenses, larger sensors, and raw imaging capability, the answer is: not yet. Some genres and shooting situations, such as portrait photography, are certainly better served by a camera than a smartphone. For most users looking for something for day-to-day photography though, the best smartphone cameras will achieve all that they need. See our smartphone camera photo of the week for inspiration.

So, let’s get stuck into the best camera phones you can buy and don’t forget to download one of the best editing apps for smartphones.

The best camera phones: our quick list

If you want to cut right to it, here’s a quick-reference list of the top rated camera phones our team recommends, along with links to get the best prices:

  • Best Samsung camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra: Buy now
  • Best Apple camera phone: iPhone 15 Pro: Buy now
  • Best Google camera phone: Google Pixel 8 Pro: Buy now
  • Best iPhone with long zoom: iPhone 15 Pro Max: Buy now
  • Best Honor camera phone: Honor Magic 6 Pro: Buy now
  • Best Xiaomi camera phone: Xiaomi 14 Ultra: Buy now
  • Best for close-ups: Vivo 100 Pro
  • Best iPhone 14: Apple iPhone 14 Pro: Buy now
  • Best small flagship Samsung: Samsung Galaxy S24: Buy Now
  • Second best Google Phone: Google Pixel 8: Buy now
  • Second best Samsung Phone: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Buy Now
  • Best camera phone for under $500 / £500: Google Pixel 7: Buy now
  • Best looking camera phone: OPPO Find X5 Pro: Buy now
  • Best second hand Samsung camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G: Buy now
  • Best second hand iPhone for photos: Apple iPhone 13 Pro: Buy now

Read on to learn more about each of these phones, including key specs and the results of our review team’s testing…

Best Samsung camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras. Photo JW

Amateur Photographer verdict

Simply put the best Android camera phone on the market right now
  • Improved image quality (slightly)
  • Massively improved screen (reduced reflection and improved scratch resistance)
  • Added AI features
  • Reflection removal particularly useful
  • Macro mode lags behind others
  • Shutter lag really hurts for fast moving subjects
  • 45W charging is looking slow

At a glance:

  • 200MP f/1.7 main camera, with OIS, 1/1.3inch, 23mm
  • 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera (0.6x), 13mm
  • 10MP f/2.4 3x telephoto camera, with OIS, 69mm
  • 50MP f/3.4 5x telephoto camera, with OIS, 115mm
  • 12MP f/2.2 PDAF selfie camera (same on all S24 models)
  • 8K 30fps video, 4K 120/60/30fps
  • From $1299 / £1084 (256GB)

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra succeeds S23 Ultra as Samsung’s flagship model. Its main camera has the same headline-grabbing 200MP sensor that uses pixel-binning technology as its predecessor. However, the telephoto camera has been upgraded to a new 50MP 5x telephoto zoom from the previous 10MP 10x telephoto seen on the S22/S23 ultra.

A new generation of AI technology is introduced with the S24 series, utilised during image capture and said to improve night photography, noise performance, zoom quality and HDR imaging among others. AI is also relevant in the new on-device and cloud-based editing features like its new Reflection removal tool.

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra can give some really impressive 10x zoom photos. Photo Joshua Waller
Galaxy S24 Ultra · f/3.4 · 1/169s · 18.6mm · ISO32

The S24 Ultra records video up to 8K 30fps, and with AI can also be used to create slow-motion videos by generating interim frames in a video, letting you create slow-motion videos after you record them.

Following our full review, we noted the incremental improvements to the cameras and features in Samsung smartphones, but that they remain behind the big competition. We did conclude, though, that the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best camera phones currently available in the mainstream, and we stick by that.

If you’d like one of the newest Samsung phones, but don’t want to spend top dollar, then the Samsung Galaxy S24 offers a compelling option, but with three rear cameras, is considerably cheaper.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review to see what this smartphone is cable of.

Best Apple camera phone: iPhone 15 Pro

The iPhone 15 Pro uses a titanium chassis and a glass back. Picture credit: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

Apple’s best device so far, but most of it’s improvements come down to usability rather than a big leap in image quality
  • Improved shooting modes for photo and video
  • Tough and well-built
  • USB-C port
  • Fairly minor upgrade over iPhone 14 Pro

At a glance:

  • 48MP wide camera, f/1.78 aperture, 24mm equivalent
  • 12MP ultrawide camera, f/2.2 aperture, 13mm equivalent
  • 12MP 3x telephoto camera, f/2.8 aperture, 77mm equivalent
  • 6.1” Super Retina XDR OLED screen
  • iOS 17
  • Price: from $1,149 / £1,266

While not the biggest iPhone on the block – that being the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which you’ll meet further down this page – the iPhone 15 Pro offers a balanced set of features that make it realistically the best option for most users. It’s no great jump from the previous year’s iPhone 14 Pro, but the iPhone 15 Pro makes several clever usability upgrades that improve the experience for the smartphone photographer and videographer. The 15 Pro has one of the best iPhone cameras up to date.

For instance, portrait mode can now kick in automatically when the smart facial recognition system detects a human subject (or a pet, for that matter). What’s more, an image can also be turned into a portrait post-capture. Video shooters get new Log profiles, which allows for much more flexibility when it comes to colour-grading footage. And Apple has finally relented on the port and given us the widely used USB-C connection, rather than its proprietary Lightning port. At last!

The iPhone 15 Pro once again displays great image quality. Picture credit: Amy Davies

In our full review, we concluded that the improvements to the iPhone15 over the iPhone 14 Pro are relatively marginal, and that it was another excellent device. Neither this model nor its bigger Pro Max cousin has quite done enough to dethrone the Samsung Galaxy S23, the current king of the hill when it comes to smartphone imaging.

However, this is a credible effort and an excellent camera phone nonetheless. If you prefer the Apple way of doing things and want a fantastic smartphone for taking pictures, here it is.

Read our full iPhone 15 Pro review, as well as our comparison piece on the iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro to learn more about this excellent camera phone.

Best Google camera phone: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro: Photo: Amy Davies.

Amateur Photographer verdict

Excellent hardware and advanced software, the Pixel 8 Pro takes what the company has already done with its existing models and improved it even further.
  • Three high-resolution sensors
  • Computational magic makes images pop
  • Pro control option
  • Price hike from previous model
  • No 1TB storage option

At a glance:

  • Triple camera setup
  • 14mm, 25mm, 113mm equivalent
  • Android operating system
  • 30x Super Res Zoom
  • 10.5MP f/2.2 selfie camera with autofocus
  • Price: $999-$1179 / £999-£1179

While Google’s Pixel smartphones don’t get the same level of press as the flagship phones from Apple and Samsung, the Pixel phones have quietly been building a reputation among those in the know as some of the best camera phones money can buy. The Pixel 8 Pro is the latest flagship – it’s the best Google phone on sale and makes a case for itself as one of the best camera phones, full-stop.

This phone retains a similar triple-lens setup to its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro. There’s the tried-and-tested trio of a wide lens, an ultrawide, and a telephoto. Google has improved the maximum aperture on the telephoto lens this time around, expanding it to f/2.8, so low-light performance has been kicked up a notch. There’s also now a “Pro” mode for those who like to take manual control of exposure settings.

However, the headline is that Google has gone all-in on AI, with powerful features like “Best Take” and “Magic Editor” that let you do futuristic, postmodern things like swap out faces in group shots.

The Pixel 8 Pro’s “Night Sight” mode produces excellent results. Photo credit: Amy Davies

Our original review found the combination of excellent hardware and advanced software further improves the Pixel 8 Pro over previous models in the range. We reckon it is one of the best smartphone cameras around.

Producing excellent images in a wide range of conditions, there’s been a noticeable jump in image quality from its predecessor – something that is often harder to spot from the likes of Apple and Samsung, where advances are generally more subtle.

Read our Google Pixel 8 Pro review to find out why we gave this camera phone the full five stars. See how it fares against one of its biggest rivals in our Google Pixel 8 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro Max camera comparison.

Best iPhone with long zoom: iPhone 15 Pro Max

iPhone 15 Pro Max in Natural Titanium. Picture credit: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

Its zoom capability and next generation portrait mod sets it apart from from the competition, although the updates from its predecessor are fairly gentle.
  • 5x zoom lens
  • Gorgeous display quality
  • USB-C connection
  • Maybe too large for some users
  • High price, and fairly incremental upgrade from predecessor

At a glance:

  • 48MP wide camera, f/1.78 aperture, 24mm equivalent
  • 12MP ultrawide camera, f/2.2 aperture, 13mm equivalent
  • 12MP 5x telephoto camera, f/2.8 aperture, 120mm equivalent
  • 6.7” Super Retina XDR OLED screen
  • iOS 17
  • Price: $1299/£1199

While we feel that the iPhone 15 Pro provides the best balance for most users, if you have a bit more cash to spend or prefer a larger phone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max could be the better choice. The display is a glorious 6.7” Super Retina XDR OLED, with a resolution of 2556 x 1179 pixels, at 460ppi and 120Hz – however that isn’t the only difference between the Pro Max and the Pro. You see, where the iPhone 15 Pro has to make to with a 3x optical zoom lens, the iPhone 15 Pro Max ups this to a 5x optical zoom lens, providing better telephoto reach.

Elsewhere, the iPhone 15 Pro Max includes many of the same improvements as the 15 Pro – which is all to the good. So once again we’ve got USB-C charging rather than just Lightning, as well as an effective resolution of 24MP (double that of previous generations). Image quality is excellent across the board; it’s only when you start pushing the limits of the digital zoom that quality starts to suffer.

iPhone 15 Pro Max at its 5x zoom – its maximum optically. Image: Amy Davies

Apple claimed upon its release that the iPhone 15 Pro Max was the best iPhone yet. So one would hope. Our original reaction to testing its cameras broadly agrees with that view, although its upgrades are relatively gentle. Some will be matters of personal preference and taste; and perhaps what else you need from a phone beyond its cameras.

In short, the best iPhone camera is the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with its advantages over the iPhone 15 Pro as described. This in turn is a moderate improvement on the iPhone 14 Pro. You get the idea!

Read our iPhone 15 Pro Max review, and check out our comparison piece on iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro/Max: Should you upgrade to get 5x zoom?

Best Honor camera phone: Honor Magic 6 Pro

The Honor Magic 6 Pro in black. Image: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

The Honor Magic 6 Pro manages to undercut the big flagships on price while still delivering a superb photographic experience. We came away seriously impressed.
  • Three high-res sensors
  • Brilliant value for money
  • Stunning display
  • 100x digital zoom is a gimmick
  • Not available in all territories
  • Only one storage size option

At a glance:

  • Triple camera system – two 50MP, one 180MP
  • 13mm, 23mm, 68mm equivalent
  • Magic OS 8.0, based on Android 15
  • 4K video
  • Price: $1390 / £1099 

Honor has been creating good-value smartphones for some time now, and the Magic 6 Pro is a refinement of a formula that already impressed us in previous iterations. While it’s not what anyone would call cheap, it delivers premium image and video quality that can stand shoulder to shoulder with some much more expensive rivals. Whereas the previous Magic 5 Pro had three 50MP sensors, this new version ups the ante by converting one to a 180MP sensor, sat behind a 2.5x periscope lens. While you’re unlikely to be shooting many 180MP images, it gives you a great deal of latitude for cropping and digital zooming.

In testing, we found that the Honor Magic 6 Pro would deliver consistently excellent results in a variety of shooting situations. The best results, as is typical, come from the main camera, but the ultra-wide and the telephoto zoom also put in a good shift, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed by any of them. The zoom works well in its 5x and 10x settings – but the 100x zoom that’s proudly printed on the side is quite simply a gimmick. There’s just no reason to bother with it, save curiosity.

The best results can be seen from the Honor Magic 6 Pro’s 1x lens. Image: Amy Davies 
BVL-N49 · f/2 · 1/830s · 6.83mm · ISO50

In use, this handset consistently impresses. Its 6.8-inch display delivers terrific brightness, and the various camera modes like Macro and Portrait deliver exactly the kind of results you hope for and expect. The 4K 60p video looks good and benefits from the ability to switch between lenses. Sure, there’s no 8K, but it’s a tiny percentage of users who are realistically going to be bothered about this.

Read our Honor Magic 6 Pro review.

Best Xiaomi camera phone: Xiaomi 14 Ultra

The four lenses of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. Image credit: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

One of the best performing smart phones on the market with an impressive array of cameras that deliver excellent image quality, however this comes at a flagship price
  • 1inch main sensor
  • Four 50MP cameras
  • Raw shooting and pro mode
  • Photography kit available
  • High price
  • Selfie camera doesn’t have AF
  • Not available in every market

At a glance:

  • Quad 50MP camera system and Leica lenses
  • 12mm, 23mm, 75mm, 120mm equivalent
  • Android 14 operating system
  • 8K video
  • Price: £1299

There’s an awful lot to like about the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. It’s packed with a great range of features, including a one-inch main sensor, putting it ahead of most rivals. It even lets you set the aperture on the main camera, something you rarely find outside of DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. You can shoot using all four lenses in 50MP mode. Video performs pretty well and it has a slew of options including slow motion, night video, video pro mode and a tracking mode.

An image shot with the Xiaomi Ultra 1x lens. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2 · 1/1486s · 8.72mm · ISO50

While the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is not cheap, it fares well when compared to competing flagship models. It is also likely to drop in price more quickly – on the second-hand market too – compared with the likes of the bigger name (at least in certain markets) Samsung and Apple phones. Keep an eye out for an emerging gap in prices.

Our review found it to be an extremely capable smartphone which produces excellent results in a wide variety of different shooting scenarios, with some impressive close-up performance as well. In our opinion, it even gives the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra a run for it’s money, which is saying a lot!

Read our Xiaomi 14 Ultra review.

Best value for close-up photography: Vivo X100 Pro

Vivo X100 Pro. Photo Joshua Waller / AP

Amateur Photographer verdict

The X100 Pro has an exceptional set of rear cameras. If the Vivo X100 Pro had a selfie camera with auto-focus, this would be the perfect camera phone
  • Amazing telephoto close-up performance
  • Impressive main camera
  • Array of Zeiss shooting features
  • Great battery life
  • Limited availability, not available worldwide
  • Selfie camera is fixed focus
  • Colours can be a bit over the top

At a glance:

  • 50MP f/1.75 main camera with 1inch sensor, OIS, 23mm, AF 
  • 50MP f/2.0 ultra-wide-angle camera, 15mm, AF
  • 50MP f/2.5 4.3x telephoto camera, with close focus, 100mm, OIS, AF
  • 32MP f/2.0 selfie camera, fixed focus
  • 8K 30fps, 4K 60/30fps, 1080p 240fps video 
  • 6.78inch AMOLED screen with 3000nits 
  • Android 14 
  • Priced at €1199 (EURO) or INR 89999 (in India) but Limited availability in UK £780-£900

This flagship smartphone by Vivo comes with an impressive triple set of cameras created in collaboration with Zeiss. All cameras are equipped with a 50MP sensor with auto-focus and OIS (optical image stabilisation), and the 4.3x periscope camera gives macro features these specs make the Vivo X100 a formidable competition for the well-known flagships.

The main camera 23mm, f/1.75 features a lens that’s made up of 1 glass and 7 plastic elements. It delivers consistently great results with plenty of detail, excellent colour reproduction, and reliable exposure. Moreover, the dynamic range is impressive with HDR automatically turning on when needed. The Zeiss APO floating telephoto camera 100mm f/2.5 is a periscope design, and it gives you amazing looking close-up photos, even in poor lighting, with plenty of detail. It is also backed by a 50MP sensor, in a smaller but still competent half-inch size. Even though the last ultra-wide-angle 15mm, f/2 camera doesn’t come with Zeiss branding it still provides nice results, with good colour and exposure, as well as good levels of detail.

vivo X100 Pro · f/2.5 · 1/129s · 16.57mm · ISO50

In use, the Vivo X100 Pro proved a highly capable camera phone that more than justified its flagship price tag. The larger sensor on the main camera means the high-ISO performance is excellent, making the phone immensely capable in low light. We noted in our review that the selfie camera is a little weak and lacks autofocus. It’s also worth noting that this phone is currently only available in some territories. If you can get hold of one though, it’s an amazing performer with highly capable cameras.

Read our full Vivo X100 Pro review.

Best Small Samsung flagship: Samsung Galaxy S24/S24+

Samsung Galaxy S24. Image credit: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

If you prefer a cheaper and slightly smaller phone, but don’t want to compromise too much on specs the S24 or 24+ could be a great choice. A solid all rounder, even without a dedicated macro mode.
  • High resolution main camera
  • AF Selfie camera
  • 8K video
  • No macro mode 
  • Lower resolution ultrawide and telephoto camera
  • Fairly high price

Samsung Galaxy S24

Samsung Galaxy S24+

If your budget is a bit tighter but you still want to get most of the S24 Ultra specs, the S24 or the S24+ is an ideal choice. The biggest differences from the S24 Ultra are the lack of headline grabbing 200MP super-high resolution main sensor, no dedicated macro mode, and only three lenses instead of four. But in reality both are very capable and well performing camera phones.

Both S24 and S24+ features an identical camera set-up, with a 12MP Ultra-wide camera, a 50MP main Wide camera, 10MP Telephoto, and 12MP Front Selfie camera, and Android 14 operating system.

There’s no macro mode, which is disappointing at this price point, but you can still get some good close-up type shots. Image credit: Amy Davies

The only difference between these two flagships are their size. Both have a smaller body than the S24 Ultra, however the Samsung S24+ measures 158.5 x 75.9 x 7.7mm and features a 6.7″ Dynamic AMOLED screen which is not far off from the S24 Ultra’s 6.8″size. If you want to go for a smaller version opt for the Samsung Galaxy S24 with 6.2″ screen, it sits more comfortably in the hand, however its smaller size means smaller battery too.

Best iPhone 14: Apple iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 14 Pro. Credit: Amy Davies.

Amateur Photographer verdict

Produces bright, vibrant and well-detailed images, the 48MP sensor performs well in low-light, and the 10 x digital zoom is a welcome addition.
  • Very good Night mode
  • New 48MP sensor delivers flexibility
  • 4K 60p video
  • Easy to use
  • Not quite as versatile as S22 Pro
  • Not a huge jump from 13 Pro
  • Relatively expensive

At a glance:

  • Quad-camera setup
  • 3x and 2x telephoto cameras
  • iOS operating system
  • Two sizes: Pro and Pro Max
  • Price: from $999 / £1,099

The iPhone 14 Pro is a commendable – if somewhat iterative – upgrade to Apple’s flagship smartphone. If you want the best Apple smartphone for photographers, this is definitely it.

With a new 48MP sensor as part of its camera array, the iPhone 14 Pro reliably produces excellent images, and specialist modes like Macro and Portrait help out the user in various different shooting situations. It’s already pricey, though if you have the budget you can go for the larger iPhone 14 Pro Max. This model has an identical camera array, just a larger display.

The iPhone 14 Pro’s Macro mode kicks in automatically when you get close to a subject. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

When it came out, we liked a lot about the iPhone 14 Pro, and it undeniably produces some excellent imagery. In truth, it was a small turn in evolution from the iPhone 13 Pro before it. Only those with a 12 Pro or older would find a leap to the 14 Pro worthy of the outlay.

Read our Apple iPhone 14 Pro review to find out more.

Second best Google Phone: Google Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8. Photo Joshua Waller / AP

Amateur Photographer verdict

It is competitively priced and delivers consistently good looking photos, with excellent exposure, good detail, and pleasing colour reproduction.
  • Improved ultra-wide module with AF and Macro mode
  • Clever computational features
  • Images have consistently punchy colours
  • No Manual mode
  • No AF on the selfie camera

At a glance:

  • Dual camera setup
  • AI powered computational photography features
  • 4K 60fps video from rear and front cameras
  • Uses Android operating system
  • Price: $699 / £699

The Google Pixel 8 is a compelling option for those who want to take advantage of Google’s latest AI bells and whistles, but don’t want to pay a four-figure price for a top-end flagship smartphone. Using a dual main camera setup, with a wide lens and an ultra-wide, the Pixel 8 consistently delivers impressive images. Like the Pixel 8 Pro, it offers the latest AI magic like Magic Editor and Best Take, and it also gains a Macro Mode, which the Pixel 7 didn’t have.

In use, the Pixel 8 is intuitive and versatile. You can shoot long exposures, night images and astro photographs by flicking between modes, and the 4K 60p video looks great. While there’s no telephoto module, the Digital Zoom does surprisingly well, and if you try to keep it to 2x you’ll consistently get good-looking results. All modes consistently deliver images with great, punchy colours that aren’t oversaturated. The selfie camera produces attractive results, though it does lack autofocus.

The Google Pixel 8’s hybrid zoom produces good results – this was shot at 2x zoom. Photo credit: Joshua Waller

The Google Pixel 8 is an excellent camera phone with some very impressive photography features. Even without using these features, the cameras produce some beautiful images with excellent exposure, good detail, and pleasing colour reproduction.

The advanced photographic features and consistently good results from this phone make it a real contender to Samsung and Apple. It’s also priced competitively, and gives other phones a serious challenge.

Read our Google Pixel 8 review to learn more about this impressive camera phone.

Second best Samsung Phone: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with stylus, Photo: Amy Davies

Amateur Photographer verdict

A fantastic all-rounder which copes well in a variety of different situations and comes with a well-featured native camera app
  • Fantastic all-rounder with superb image quality
  • Four lenses
  • 8K video
  • Pro shooting mode and RAW format
  • Expensive
  • Resolution jump can be hard to spot in practice
  • Space Zoom not actually that useable
  • 10x telephoto lens a bit smudgy

At a glance:

  • 200MP wide camera, 1/1.3” sensor, f/1.7 aperture
  • 12MP ultra wide camera, 1/2.55” sensor, f/2.2 aperture
  • 10MP telephoto camera, 1/3.52” sensor, f/2.4 aperture
  • 10MP telephoto camera, 1/3.52” sensor, f/4.9 aperture
  • 8K video 30fps, 4K video 60fps
  • Price: $1,683 / £1,399

With an impressive 200MP main camera sensor, which is a first for Samsung (although it’s made such large resolution sensors for other makers before). In comparison, the S22 Ultra had a 108MP device, so it’s a big leap forward.

Before getting too excited, remember that images are not output at 200MP by default, although it is possible to shoot in super high resolution mode if you really want to. Rather, the new phone makes use of pixel-binning technology so the images come in at a more practical 12.5 megapixels, with enhanced lighting and detail.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra sample photo from the ultra-wide camera, 1/684s, f/2.2, ISO50, 13mm equivalent. Amy Davies

The main camera features a f/1.7 stabilised lens, backed up by a 12MP ultra wide f/2.2 combination. Then there are two telephoto lenses, both with 10 megapixel sensors. One has 3x zoom and an f/2.4 lens, while the other offers a a 10x zoom with an f/4.9 aperture. Digital zoom goes as far as 30x or 100x if you need it (though as with the phone’s predecessor, digital zoom should only be used as a last resort). So the S23 Ultra has jumped ahead of the iPhone 14 Pro and the Google Pixel 7 Pro, which only have three lenses.

Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was so good, that we knew that the company would have to go some way to topping it. The good news is that it has done so – but less good is that you have to really examine the pictures to see the difference.

In conclusion, you could be left a little disappointed by upgrading if you expect much difference to your photography. Images directly from the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s main (200MP) sensor show more detail than last year’s S22 Ultra main (108MP) sensor. But, that’s really only obvious if you’re comparing like-for-like images shot at the same time and you zoom in closely.’

If you’d like one of the newest Samsung phones, but don’t want to spend top dollar, then the Samsung Galaxy S23 offers a compelling option, but with three rear cameras, is considerably cheaper.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review to see what this smartphone is cable of.

Best camera phone for under $500 / £500: Google Pixel 7

A closer look at the Google Pixel 7’s dual-lens module. Photo credit: Joshua Waller.

Amateur Photographer verdict

Features an excellent camera, with tons of computational photography features and a beefy battery that can go for more than 24 hours
  • Excellent 50MP main camera
  • Same launch price as Pixel 6
  • Screen looks punchy and bright
  • Night photography is fast and looks great
  • Generally fast, responsive operation
  • Selfie camera reliably produces great results
  • There is no Pro or manual mode
  • HDR can’t be turned off unless you shoot raw
  • Fixed focus selfie camera
  • No macro mode

At a glance:

  • Dual camera setup
  • Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Up to 8x “Super Res Zoom”
  • Uses Android operating system
  • Price: $594 / £526 or less

The Google Pixel 7 is a well-designed and attractively priced phone that sits firmly in the mid range. We applaud Google’s brave decision of going with a dual camera array – many smartphone makers tack on a rubbish 2MP macro camera or similar so they can say their phone has a triple-camera setup, when there’s no need for it.

The combination of a 50MP f/1.85 wide-angle camera and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens works really well for the vast majority of situations, and the digital zoom gives you an extra 2x power in a pinch (it goes up to 8x, but we don’t recommend going that far).

Amsterdam train station, 1/478s, f/1.8, ISO41, 7mm/24mm equivalent – Google Pixel 7

The main thing you might find you miss is a really good close-up mode – if you can live without that, the Google Pixel 7 offers exceptional value for money in a crowded field.

In our review we noted: “If you don’t want to spend flagship money on a smartphone and simply want an excellent camera system, then the Pixel 7 offers an excellent combination of features, for a great price. At $599 / £599 you get a great main camera, a very good ultra-wide, and a decent selfie camera. Whilst we’d love to see a macro mode, we think the computational photography features help make up for this.”

Read our full Google Pixel 7 review for full details

Best looking camera phone: OPPO Find X5 Pro

OPPO Find X5 Pro Camera Phone. Photo credit: Andy Westlake.

Amateur Photographer verdict

With its Hasselblad-branded triple-camera system and beautifully sculpted body it is an impressive performer with a well-balanced set of specs
  • Well balanced camera system
  • Good feature set
  • Fine image quality
  • Good video, especially in low light
  • Short telephoto lens
  • Super-slippery back

At a glance:

  • Android smartphone
  • Triple camera system
  • 12MP standard output
  • 4K 60p video
  • Price: $889 / £749

This high-end smartphone is equipped with a good-looking camera that performs well and takes great pictures and video. It is a Hasselblad-branded triple-camera system, which includes an ultra-wide, wide and telephoto lens. Its aesthetics feel like a mix of the Google Pixel 6 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The OPPO Find X5 uses a conventional-looking Android camera app, with a familiar set of options and includes both a fully automatic Photo mode and a Pro mode. With manual control you can tweak shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, focus and white balance.

The OPPO Find X5 Pro’s screen covers almost the entire front, with just a cut-out for the selfie camera. Photo credit: Andy Westlake.

From our review: “I was most impressed by the low-light performance, and the way the camera is capable of rendering a full range of brightness and colour even under streetlights at night. It’s not magic – if there’s not enough light for you to see anything, it won’t either – but I haven’t seen another smartphone capable of this kind of low-light video quality.”

Read our full review of the OPPO Find X5 Pro

Best second hand Samsung camera phone: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera phone.

Amateur Photographer verdict

With four lenses to choose from, it’s incredibly flexible, with excellent results produced by three out of the four, and good, usable results from the longest telephoto lens
  • Stunning display
  • Four lenses
  • 8K video
  • Pro shooting mode and raw support
  • Expensive
  • Can be unwieldy

At a glance:

  • Quad-camera rear setup
  • Two telephoto lenses
  • Uses Android operating system
  • Pro mode available with raw shooting
  • Refurbished price: $600 / £600

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was Samsung’s 2022 flagship smartphone, the one you saw on TV, YouTube, and billboard adverts worldwide, boasting an incredible 100x “Superzoom” that uses a combination of it’s 10x optical zoom telephoto lens, and digital zoom to give you a 100x view of your subject.

S22 Ultra, 1/3208s, f/2.4, ISO50, 8mm/69mm equivalent (3x telephoto)

While we weren’t so impressed by the image quality of this feature, the other cameras on offer were very good. The ultra-wide angle lens (13mm equivalent), the ultra-wide (24mm equivalent), the 3x telephoto (72mm equivalent), or the 10x telephoto (240mm equivalent), all produce fine looking images.

Images directly from the camera are very good, with vibrant and bright results produced by the standard “Photo” mode and images with good scope for editing produced by the “Pro” mode. Other shooting modes, such as Portrait and Night mode also produce good results.

Take a look at our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.

Best second hand iPhone for photos: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max

Amateur Photographer verdict

Although not dramatically different, the image quality from iPhone 13 Pro is better than that from the iPhone 12 Pro as the contrast is managed slightly better so there’s less of an ‘HDR look’ to some
  • Improved cameras with brighter lenses
  • Addition of 2cm macro mode
  • More telephoto reach
  • All cameras feature image stabilisation
  • Cinematic video mode
  • Not much reason to upgrade from iPhone 12
  • Cinematic mode isn’t always accurate with masking regions to be blurred

At a glance:

  • Triple 12MP camera setup
  • 13mm, 26mm, 77mm equivalent
  • iOS operating system
  • Two sizes: Pro and Pro Max
  • Price: $938 / £717

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro offers an improvement over the iPhone 12 Pro, with brighter lenses, a new 2cm macro mode, and more telephoto reach. All cameras feature image stabilisation, and there’s a new cinematic video mode. If you’ve wanted to shoot macros with an iPhone, or interested in video recording then there’s a lot of reasons to choose the iPhone 13 Pro.

iPhone 13 Pro camera phone sample photo. Photo credit: Angela Nicholson.

In our review we wrote: “When shooting stills, the iPhone 13 Pro does a great job of identifying the subject and focusing on it quickly even in very low light. It also manages create natural-looking shallow depth of field effects in many instances, even dealing with fuzzy subjects like fur and hair effectively in many cases.”

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review to see what the smartphone is cable of. Check out how it compares to the iPhone 14 Pro.

How to choose the best camera phone

best camera phones for photography
Photo credit: Pauline Loroy via Unsplash.

Sensors and image quality

Comparing the headline specs of camera phones can be a useful way of getting a sense of how they perform, and which ones might be better than others. Digital photography enthusiasts may gravitate towards comparing camera resolution (megapixels or MP for short), however this often doesn’t tell the whole story.

Does megapixel count matter on a camera phone?

In short, no, not really. Most smartphones will use a higher resolution sensor, whether that’s a 50MP, 64MP, 108MP or 200MP sensor, and still give you a 12 or 16MP image. Nobody wants to get 108MP or 200MP photos emailed or shared to them anyway, so no, megapixel count doesn’t really matter on a camera phone, despite what the marketing might claim. There are some benefits to higher resolution sensors, in the form of cropping and zoom, but beyond that, there are also some disadvantages.

Smartphone cameras use very small sensors, due to their physical size and shape, and this can mean a lot of image noise in high-resolution shooting. If a camera phone has a high megapixel count, it also needs a capable image processing system to ensure it’s capable of producing pleasing images. Modern phones make up for this by taking multiple shots, allowing for lower noise, and greater dynamic range, so a small sensor isn’t as much of a disadvantage as it once was.

When we talk about a smartphone’s main cameras (i.e. the rear cameras), we’re really talking about more than one, as modern smartphones use a camera array made up of multiple lens modules. This is what allows smartphones to shoot at different perspectives; generally there will be a standard wide lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens, and then sometimes a telephoto lens or a macro-lens for close-ups.

The iPhone 14 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

The different lenses use their own sensors, and as such will tend to have different megapixel counts. Some of the latest smartphones even use quad camera arrays with four modules, while other manufacturers are experimenting with optical zoom lenses, though this tech is in its early days.

Battery life

You should also consider battery life, as some phones last the day while others do not. Most flagship phones have a battery with 5000mAh which should give a good amount of longevity, however, smaller phones often have smaller batteries, so it’s something to be aware of.


The top video resolution will be of interest, as you’ll likely want at least the option to shoot 4K. You’ll also want advanced lens options and good audio recording capabilities. If you’re shooting video, battery size is particularly important, as it tends to eat away at a phone’s battery faster.

Check out the best smartphones for video if that’s your priority, but otherwise, continue reading.

iOS vs Android

iPhone vs Android: which is better for photographers?
Photo credit: Liam Shaw and Dan Smedley via Unsplash.

One big thing to think about is whether you want to use a phone that runs iOS or Android as its operating system. Both systems have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to smartphone photography, as well as general use as a smartphone.

If you already use a lot of Apple products like MacBooks then an iPhone will integrate better into your system. However, Android phones offer a lot more choice and flexibility with third-party apps. These days, Android phones from market leaders like Google and Samsung have some of the best cameras in the business.

When choosing a phone, whether Android or iOS, it’s worth checking how many years of updates you’ll get, as some phones give much longer than others, meaning better value for money for you.

You can check out our guide to iPhone vs Android: which is better for photography for a detailed comparison.

Is there a DSLR-quality camera phone??

With smartphone camera technology continually advancing, you may be justified in wondering whether they have equalled or even surpassed the quality of traditional interchangeable-lens cameras like DSLRs or mirrorless models. However, for the time being and the forseeable future, the answer is no, and this is largely to do with physical hardware limitations. A digital camera can pack in a physically larger imaging sensor, which allows it to produce images with greater dynamic range (difference betwen light and dark areas in an image) and lower noise.

Cameras also have the advantage of interchangeable lenses – being able to swap on an 85mm f/1.4 lens is always going to give you better results than a smartphone’s portrait mode. Granted, if you were to look at the two images side by side on a small phone screen the differences might not be so obvious. But the moment you try to view the image on a larger display, or even print it, the difference in quality will be immediately apparent.

Smartphones have their advantages of course – they’re convenient, they’re always online, and they’re the camera you always have on you. If you’re still not sure which is right for you, then have a look at our guide to Smartphone vs Digital Camera: Which is better?

How we test smartphones

We review smartphones from the perspective of choosing a smartphone for its photography and camera performance, so we test every phone by looking at what it offers in terms of the cameras and what features are included for photography and video, and how it performs in real world use in a variety of different shooting situations.

We test each camera on the phone, whether that’s the ultra-wide angle, the main camera, telephoto camera(s), and selfie camera, and use the phone for photography in a range of lighting conditions, including low-light, where camera phones can struggle. We also look at specialist shooting modes on offer, whether that’s the portrait modes or AI features, as well as look at how good the overall phone is, in terms of battery life, screen and build quality.

Now you know the best camera phones for photography, check out our guide to the best camera phone accessories and best camera phone tripods and mounts.

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