A smartphone can be a hugely capable tool for street photography. For one, it’s the camera you always have on you, so it’ll always be there when a shooting opportunity presents itself. It’s also subtle and unobtrusive, meaning you shouldn’t draw too much attention to yourself with one – but what’s more, the improvements in smartphone camera tech in recent years mean that you can capture sharper and more dynamic street shots than you could with previous generations.

As there are plenty of great options out there, which smartphone you pick is partly a matter of personal preference. The iPhone is consistently one of the most popular, with eh latest iPhone 15 Pro and IpHone 15 Pro Max equipped with absolutely superb camera setups, as we found in our full reviews. However, Samsung’s sublime Galaxy phones enjoy a similar-sized market share, and you shouldn’t count out budget-friendly competition from the likes of Oppo, OnePlus, Google and more.

So, based on the findings of our review team, we’ve put together this quick guide to the smartphones for street photography that we reckon offer real value for money. Street photography can be daunting, but by simplifying your gear down to your smartphone it can be a great way to give it a go and get out of your comfort zone. Check out this buyer’s guide for the best camera phones for photography.

The best smartphone for street photography – our quick list

Want to get right to it? Here’s a quick list of the phones we’ve picked for street photography, along with links to get the best prices:

Read on to learn more about each of these phones, including our review team’s verdict on each one…

Apple iPhone 15 Pro

iPhone 15 Pro in hand

The iPhone 15 Pro is the smaller of the two iPhone 15 Pro models. Picture credit: Amy Davies

At a glance:

  • 3 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide and telephoto
  • iOS
  • Portrait Mode, Night Mode, macro mode, raw shooting available. No manual mode
  • From $999 / £999

While the top-end iPhone 15 Pro Max benefits from headline upgrades like the 5x optical telephoto zoom lens, we reckon the balanced iPhone 15 Pro is likely going to be the better choice for street photographers – not least because it’s more affordable. With its new Action button, the iPhone 15 Pro can be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice, and the consistently excellent iPhone camera system is better than ever (if not exactly a huge leap from the iPhone 14 Pro). New to this model is the ability for the Portrait mode to kick in automatically when it recognises a human subject, and even to be retroactively added to images post-capture. All this gives you more latitude for using shallow depth of field in your street photography.

Colours in images across all three cameras (24mm, 13mm and 77mm equivalent) are punchy and consistent. When using the main camera, you have the option to shoot in 24MP, rather than binning all the way down to 12MP (the actual sensor resolution is 48MP), and the Night mode is as capable as ever. The body design is nice and tough as well, with the “Ceramic Shield” that made its debut on the iPhone 14, and has proven itself to be impressively scratch-resistant.

Read our iPhone 15 Pro review.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra photo modes, Photo: Amy Davies

At a glance:

  • 4 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide, two telephotos
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, High resolution mode, raw shooting available
  • From $1,683 / £1,249

The big marketing selling point of this phone is its 200MP sensor. Do you need that? Probably not – but it does give you some flexible options when it comes to cropping and shooting with digital zoom.

Unlike all of the other smartphones mentioned here, it has four different lenses too, while the comprehensive native camera app offers up a host of shooting options. As well as a standard shooting mode, there’s also Portrait, Night and a Pro mode which gives you the option to record raw format files.

Night shooting performance is good, and you can also blend the Night and Portrait modes which might make for good low-light street photography. That said, the best results are generally from the main lens in good light, just as with most other smartphones.

The big downside of this phone is, of course, it’s very high asking price. If you’re tempted by it but don’t quite have the cash, then you could take a look at last year’s S22 Ultra model, or downgrade to the S23, which has much of the same set-up, and a smaller, more manageable screen size.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review

OnePlus 11

OnePlus 11 in hand showing cameras

OnePlus 11 in hand showing cameras. Image credit: Amy Davies

At a glance:

  • 3 lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide and “portrait” short telephoto
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, macro and raw format available
  • From $589 / £729

The OnePlus 11 is the latest flagship from OnePlus, dropping the ‘Pro’ moniker from previous models. OnePlus has long specialised in mid-range phones that perform well for their price, and the OnePlus 11 is no different, equipped with a competent three-module camera setup that provides a solid basis for street photography. It’s something of a portrait specialist, with one module being a fairly short telephoto equivalent 48mm lens, with dedicated portrait modes built in. As many street photographers favour a 50mm lens, this makes it an attractive option.

In use, we found the OnePlus 11 would deliver consistently vibrant and high-quality images, with plenty of detail – though naturally the main wide camera module is the best. OnePlus’ partnership with Hasselblad in creating its camera systems continues in this model, and while all the promises around this do feel a bit like marketing jargon at times, the punchy colours continue to impress – even if they are noticeably inconsistent when swapping between lenses.

Read our full OnePlus 11 review.

Sony Xperia 1 V 

Sony Xperia 1V held in hand with camera open

Sony Xperia 1V held in hand with camera open. Photo credit: Amy Davies

NIKON Z 6_2 · f/8 · 1/100s · 32.5mm · ISO320

At a glance:

  • 3 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide and optical zoom lens
  • Android
  • Night, Bokeh, semi-automatic and manual modes, raw shooting available
  • From $1,398 / £1,299

While the best Sony mirrorless cameras continue to impress, the manufacturer has had markedly less success with its Xperia phones. The latest Xperia 1 V is an attempt to turn the tide and bite a bit more of the global smartphone market away from Apple and Samsung. Unfortunately, as we discovered in our full review, the Xperia 1 V is still a pretty compromised phone, but it does have a few features that could make it interesting to street photographers.

For a start, there’s the burst shooting modes, which can go up to a crisp 30fps to ensure you never miss even the most fleeting moments. Also, the telephoto module isn’t just long prime lens, but an optical zoom, delivering an equivalent focal range of 85-125mm with an f/2.3-f/2.8 aperture.The Camera Pro app offers full control of settings should you want it, and new to this model is a Night mode which kicks in automatically when light is low.

All this is great, though you do still have to contend with plenty of classically strange Sony decisions in the phone’s design and operation. For instance, the main module uses a sensor with 48 effective megapixels, which makes use of pixel binning to create 12MP images. So far so standard, but why is there no option to shoot in full-resolution (or even just higher res) for those who want to? Sony has also stuck with that 21:9 screen design, making for a tall and thin phone that won’t be to everyone’s taste.

Read our Sony Xperia 1 V review.

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Google Pixel 7 Pro camera bar, photo: Joshua Waller / AP best smartphones for street

Google Pixel 7 Pro camera bar, photo: Joshua Waller / AP

At a glance:

  • 3 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide and telephoto
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, Motion, raw shooting available. No manual mode
  • From $879 / £849

The Pixel 7 Pro is a good option for those who like the simplicity of an iPhone, but either prefer the Android interface or want to save a decent amount of cash. Compared to the top-line iPhones and Samsung S-series models, this is relatively affordable. If you want to save even more cash, look at the Pixel 7 which includes a lot of the same functionality for an even better price – you’ll be sacrificing the zoom lens though.

You don’t get a Pro mode with Pixel phones, but you do get the ability to shoot in raw format along with a range of other shooting modes such as Portrait and Night – which both put in impressive performances thanks to computational photography. We’ve also been particularly impressed by the quality of skin tones rendered by the Pixel 7 Pro, which could make it the best choice for ‘street portraits’ in our group here.

The three lenses here all put in a decent performance, with the best results from the wideangle main sensor, but the zoom lens comes in handy if you want to keep your distance.

Google Pixel 7 Pro Review

Oppo Reno8 Pro

OPPO Reno8 Pro Glazed Green lifestyle image. Image credit: OPPO best smartphones for street

The main and ultra-wide cameras are highlighted in the OPPO Reno 8 Pro’s cosmetic design. Image credit: OPPO

At a glance:

  • 2 x main lenses, comprising ultra-wide and wide
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, Pro, raw shooting available

This mid-range option is good for those photographers on a more restricted budget, but who still want a good range of options from their smartphone. Oppo is becoming ever more popular in the UK, with plenty of devices available to suit different budgets and needs. With the Reno8 Pro, you get two main lenses, one of which is a 23mm (equivalent) and is backed by a 50MP sensor.

Other useful features include its long battery life and a wide array of shooting modes, which includes a ‘pro’ mode and raw format shooting. You can also shoot in monochrome directly in the camera app.

Read our OPPO Reno8 Pro full review.

Text by Amy Davies, with contributions from Jon Stapley.

If you’re set on using a proper camera, check out our guide to the best cameras for street photography.
Find out how to use your smartphone for street photography.

Be sure to stay up to date with the latest rules and guidance on how to be street smart as a photographer.

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