Choosing the best camera phone doesn’t get any easier! With multi-camera arrays, 48-megapixel sensors, time-of-flight depth cameras and zoom capability, camera phones are starting to rival (or beat) actual cameras.
Whether your smartphone is your camera of choice because it’s the one you have on you, or because you just want easy sharing of images captured on the go, even amongst pro photographers, there’s no shame in capitalising on the camera in your pocket anymore.
This is especially true of late, with computational photography from the likes of Google and Huawei pushing boundaries when it comes to low light shooting and dynamic range. In addition, Huawei and Oppo are even featuring 5x optical zoom, using a prism to create a periscope system, lifting the lid on versatility never seen before on smartphones.
While the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom isn’t out just yet, our top pick for the best camera phone right now is the Huawei P30 Pro, and it was the zoom that swung it for Huawei’s flagship against the Pixel 3.
Huawei, and its sub-brand, Honor are in a tough spot, with politics potentially placing their future outside China in jeopardy; however, right now, the imaging tech is exceptional across both brands’ flagships, and you can still walk into a shop and pick up a Huawei or Honor phone, so they’re in our list.
Having said that, it’s anyone’s game for the rest of 2019 and this list is ever-changing – OnePlus has climbed up to number four with its OnePlus 7 Pro, Sony has blown smartphone videography out of the water with its Xperia 1, and Asus has created a selfie lover’s dream in the Zenfone 6.
In short: it’s a brilliant time to buy a phone for its camera capabilities, and there’s very likely one on this list ideally suited to you and your camera phone needs.
And if you’re interested in other clever uses of camera tech, check out our guide to the best dash cams on the market.
1. Huawei P30 Pro
Simply the best camera phone around, despite Huawei’s tricky status
Best in class zoomSuperb low-light photographyGreat manual controlScreen is just 1080pPro mode could be better
There is a lot to love about the P30 Pro – it’s a camera phone that has it all: superb low-light photography, unbelievable zoom capabilities (5x optical) and powerful specs. It’s been given four lenses on its rear, one of which is a time-of-flight sensor. This means that its depth sensing is also fantastic. While we would have preferred a better screen and the price to be a little cheaper, this is the best camera phone around right now. As the P30 Pro is now out, we have taken the P20 Pro out of this list – if you can still get it though, it is also a superb camera phone.
2. Google Pixel 3
One of the best Android cameras – especially for low light
The original 2016 Google Pixel was a showcase for how advanced image processing could overcome the limitations of a small sensor. The Pixel 3’s 12MP, f/1.8, 28mm-equivalent camera produces images that are even sharper and more detailed than those from the Huawei P30 Pro, and Google’s image processing is slightly less aggressive than Huawei’s, leading to more natural-looking shots, especially of people. But while the Pixel 3 arguably produces the best image quality, it’s a one-trick – or rather one-camera – wonder. The single rear camera lacks the versatility of phones with multiple rear-facing cameras, and Google’s software workaround – Super Res Zoom, which combines a burst of images to produce a digitally zoomed photo – falls well short of the detail resolved by an optically zoomed image. Results at 2x zoom are usable, but go further and images resemble those shot with any old digital zoom – blurry and soft. It doesn’t even compare with the results you get from the proper telephoto cameras in the P30 Pro and Honor 20 Pro.
3. Honor 20 Pro
Almost a P30 Pro in every way except the price
The Honor 20 Pro boasts a camera spec almost as impressive as in the Huawei P30 Pro (not that surprising, as Honor is a youth-orientated sub-brand of Huawei). There are four rear-facing cameras: a 48MP primary camera boasts a huge maximum sensitivity of ISO 204,800 and a maximum aperture of f/1.4 – the largest of any camera phone to date – for incredible low light performance, even in a near pitch black room. It’s assisted by an 8MP telephoto camera that helps give the Honor 20 Pro 3x optical zoom. There’s also a 16MP ultrawide camera for a 13mm-equivalent focal length, and the final camera in the quartet is a 2MP macro camera with a minimum focus distance of just 4cm. But best of all is you can have all this for less than half the cost of an equivalent iPhone XS Max: we recon the Honor 20 Pro is the bargain camera phone of 2019
4. OnePlus 7 Pro
Great for portraits, with a great bokeh effect from its 3-camera array
The OnePlus 7’s key selling point is its all-screen fascia, made possible by its pop-up selfie camera. Having said that, its primary camera also happens to be the best to ever feature on a OnePlus phone. With a primary wide-angle camera packing a 48MP sensor, coupled with an f/1.6 lens, it grabs plenty of detail. Thanks to a 3x zoom telephoto camera, and a 13mm ultrawide camera, it also delivers versatility in spades, and with OIS across the wide and telephoto cameras, it holds things nice and steady too. We haven’t got any complaints when it comes to daylight photography, but the night mode can’t quite stack up to the Pixel 3 or Huawei P30 Pro. In addition, there’s no wireless charging or official water resistance rating, so it hasn’t quite made it to the top of the list; but with its attractive price tag and a glorious look and feel, it still manages to deliver across the board great value.
5. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
A great camera selection and decent image quality, if not quite the very best
Galaxy S-series phones have traditionally been right up there for camera quality, and the S10 Plus is no exception. It’s triple rear cameras may seem slightly lacking compared to the latest quad-camera phones, but the wide/ultrawide/telephoto combo is versatile and performs very well. Don’t be put off by the main camera sensor being ‘only’ 12MP – the 40MP and 48MP sensors in rival phones almost always record at 10MP and 12MP respectively in real-world shooting. We also like Samsung’s commitment to quality 4K video, adding new Digital Video Stabilization, along with HDR10+ support for ultra-high contrast video that looks great on a compatible TV.
6. iPhone XS
The best iPhone for photography, but it can be expensive
We don’t necessarily think the extra money spent on an iPhone XS gives a better camera experience, but it does offer you the best Apple iPhone that’s ever been made. The X was a marked change for the company and while the iPhone XS doesn’t look any different, it still offers a full screen 5.8-inch device that looks futuristic when you hold it in your hand, its camera software has been greatly enhanced. The camera is a powerful dual 12MP shooter with one sporting f/1.8 and the other f/2.4 that both pack optical image stabilization to offer some impressive shots. We found the colors to be natural, and the fact one is a telephoto sensor helps for shooting detail at a further distance than most other phones on the market. There’s a new sensor, too, with 1.4µm pixels and thanks to the new chipset it is now double the speed of its predecessor and has two new features: Smart HDR and Depth Control.
7. Sony Xperia 1
A videographer’s dream
The Sony Xperia 1 is the only choice for video pros and cinema buffs who want to get manual with their smartphone videography. It’s able to shoot footage at up to 21:9 for cinema style capture, offers full manual control and features a beautifully flat colour profile, perfect for post-processing in Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve. Thankfully, almost everything else about this phone is excellent too, with a striking 21:9, 4K HDR screen, a clean UI and a snappy chipset ensuring plenty of power under the hood. It isn’t perfect, the 3330mAh battery could be bigger and there’s no wireless charging, but if you can deal with those niggles and want the ultimate cinema experience – both from a content creation and consumption point of view, the Xperia 1 is it – read our full Xperia 1 review for more.
8. Google Pixel 3A
Computational photography on a budget
Google’s Pixel 3A is the first midrange phone from Google that features a flagship quality camera, making that coveted Pixel imaging experience that bit more accessible. With its lone 12MP sensor coupled with an f/1.8 aperture lens, it shouldn’t be anywhere near this top ten list from a specs point of view. Thanks to Google’s stellar software wizardry though, the Pixel 3A is able to take quality pictures, shot after shot. The 3A also features Night Sight, for long exposure night shooting that can turn night into day. This means when it comes to low light shooting, this midranger stacks up to smartphones like the P30 Pro and iPhone XS, which cost around double the price of the Pixel. While the 3A won’t be a gaming champ or power user’s dream phone, it’s still a great choice for anyone who wants a quality camera phone without breaking the bank.
9. Xiaomi Mi9
The affordable flagship
For the price, the Xiaomi Mi 9 is excellent. It grabs great shots in good light with respectable dynamic range and colour reproduction. With its triple camera setup, the Mi 9 features one wide, one ultra-wide and one telephoto camera, covering a lot of prime lens bases. Thanks to smart software, the phone’s camera also defocuses backgrounds nicely in portrait mode – a feature commonly associated with much pricier iPhone XS. In low light, it’s clear, this camera isn’t the best out there. The lack of OIS resulting in shorter shutter speeds, and there’s also pretty aggressive noise reduction too. Having said that, the electric image stabilisation kicks in nicely when capturing video, the phone shoots it at up to 4K 60fps, features flagship internals and great design, making it the most affordable flagship smartphone in our top ten list.
10. Asus Zenfone 6
The selfie champion
The Asus Zenfone 6 flips convention on its head, paradoxically creating a phone with both no selfie camera and the best selfie camera around. How? Its primary rear 48MP + 13MP camera array perform a mechanical switcheroo, so you capture selfies with the phone’s best snapper. This could be the ultimate vlogging and Instagram addict’s smartphone as a result, but there’s also plenty of other stuff to love here. Packing a huge 5000mAh battery, the Zenfone 6 comfortably lasts a day, and the phone also sports true flagship power, without breaking the bank. While it doesn’t feature an OLED screen, which we’d have loved to have seen, it’s edge to edge display still looks impactful. In addition, the Zenfone 6’s primary camera isn’t as good as the main camera’s of the rest of the phones in our list, but it’s still a standout camera phone thanks to its ingenuity and selfie picture quality.