A smartphone is a ready and capable tool for street photography. For one, it’s a camera you always have about you for opportunist shots. Subtle and unobtrusive, they don’t draw too much attention – but what’s more, the recent improvements in smartphone camera tech mean that you can capture so much sharper and more dynamic street shots than ever.

With so many great options out there, choosing a smartphone is highly subjective. The iPhone is consistently one of the most popular, with the latest equipped with absolutely superb camera setups – as we found in our review of the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

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 simplifying your gear down to your smartphone can be a great way to give it a go and get out of your comfort zone – not too uncomfortably! 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

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

Amateur Photographer verdict

An excellent camera set-up, though improvements over its predecessor are more for usability than for image quality.
  • 3x lens system
  • 48MP main lens, 24MP default output and zooming options
  • USB-C charging
  • High price
  • Camera improvements are subtle

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 $1,299 / £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 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 S24 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras – here you can see the periscope lens for the 5x telephoto camera. Photo JW/AP

Amateur Photographer verdict

The S24 Ultra is an incredible all-round camera-phone, and amongst the best camera phones, and smartphones, out there, but it’s not perfect.
  • Improved image quality (slightly)
  • Massively improved screen
  • 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:

  • 4 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide, two telephoto
  • 5x telephoto camera has 10x Super AI / Multi-frame / Super Resolution 
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, High resolution mode, raw shooting available
  • From $1299 / £1249 (256GB) 

This phone’s big marketing selling point, just like its predecessor, is its 200MP main sensor. Do you need that? Probably not – but it gives 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 a host of shooting options. The new Ultra gained “AI ProVisual engine” which is said to improve night photography, noise performance, zoom quality, colour reproduction as well and HDR imaging. It has an extensive list of AI photography features, including Portrait effect, Background blur, Remaster photo and Reflection removal.

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 S23 Ultra model, or downgrade to the S22, which has much of the same set-up, and a smaller, more manageable screen size.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review

OnePlus 12

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

Amateur Photographer verdict

A well-performing model with improvements in cameras, giving excellent image quality across various conditions.
  • Good value flagship
  • Pro mode
  • Hasselblad portrait modes
  • Fairly short telephoto lens
  • Raw shooting only in Pro mode, can’t shoot JPEGs simultaneously
  • Selfie camera fixed focus only

OnePlus 12 at a glance:

  • 3 cameras, comprising ultra-wide, wide and “portrait” short telephoto
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, macro and raw format available
  • From $799 / £849 (256GB)

The OnePlus 12 is the latest triple-lens array flagship from OnePlus with high-end specs. As it is not one of the “big three” you won’t be paying a premium price, but that said the OnePlus 12 is not cheap, starting at around £800 it sits at the upper end of mid-range price point.

Equipped with a competent three-module camera setup that provides a solid basis for street photography, it’s something of a portrait specialist; 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 12 delivered 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 the promises around this can sound like marketing jargon at times, the punchy colours continue to impress – even if noticeably inconsistent when swapping between lenses, a shortcoming already present in the OnePlus 11 that the company failed to remedy.

Read our full OnePlus 12 review.

Sony Xperia 1 V 

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

Amateur Photographer verdict

Pro mode and 30 fps shooting will help you capture that decisive moment without a hitch. However the flagship price can be a deterring factor for some.
  • Good manual control
  • RAW shooting
  • Takes Micro SD card
  • 30 fps
  • No proper portrait mode
  • No macro mode
  • Pricey

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 $1,198 / £1,155

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 lacks in some basics for its price; but does have features that could attract 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 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

Amateur Photographer verdict

The lack of Pro mode may put some off but other features like astrophoto mode, motion blur and real tone for portraits as well as its overall good performance from all cameras compensate for this
  • 5x telephoto camera
  • Macro mode
  • Good value
  • No manual mode
  • HDR can’t be turned off unless you shoot RAW

At a glance:

  • 3 x lenses, comprising ultra-wide, wide and telephoto
  • Android
  • Portrait, Night, Motion, raw shooting available. No manual mode
  • From $960 / £760

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 plenty 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 there is 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

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

Amateur Photographer verdict

The Oppo Reno8 Pro proves that you don’t need a flagship smartphone to get a decent camera. Its main camera in particular delivers good results across a range of shooting conditions
  • Good all-rounder
  • More affordable
  • No telephoto lens
  • No RAW shooting

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 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 for more advanced 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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