As smartphones evolve, the technology behind them has got both better, and smaller. Nowadays, even the camera features are competing with some of the higher-ranged DSLR cameras, with some phones having multiple lenses, each with different purposes, from portrait, ultra-wide lens to the ability to zoom to ranges you’d never have guessed before.
While some users consider the benefits of having a high-quality camera on their phone just an additional benefit, there are many of us who want the ability to take the best photos that can live in a wooden frame in our hallways, or to grasp travel memories to share on their latest Instagram post.
If you prioritise a phone's ability to capture crisp photos that you’d otherwise need an expensive camera to take, look no further. Here is a guide focusing on the best smartphone for great photography.
Best camera phones
1. Apple iPhone 11 Pro
If there was ever a smartphone to have DSLR manufacturers in nervous sweats, it's this one. The Apple 11 Pro is a remarkable smartphone with remarkable camera specifications. On the rear, there are three 12MP cameras – a 13mm ultra-wide lens which provides a 120-degree field of view, a 26mm wide lens with optical image stabilisation and 100% focus pixels, and a 52mm Telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom. This varied array of lenses makes the 11 Pro ideal for taking shots in all environments, be they awkward confined interiors, or vast sweeping landscapes. The device will capture pictures and video (60fps standard, 120fps slo-mo) in 4K quality with a smart high dynamic range. The iOS 13's night mode is extremely welcome and, frankly, bafflingly good – it's an immensely powerful feature that captures incredible detail in low and dark lightening. The 12MP front-facing camera is no less impressive, offering portrait modes, smart HDR and 4K recording. All of these features are given the chance to shine, thanks to the 5.8-inch retina display OLED screen which lets you see your shots flawlessly. The fact this device can be slipped into your pocket and easily deployed to capture professional standard images is a truly marvellous thing.
2. Google Pixel 4A
If you're on the hunt for a reliable, affordable phone that can still capture great images, look no further than the new Google Pixel 4a. Featuring a single 12.2-megapixel camera and is capable of capturing sharp details on any pictures. In contrast, there may not be multiple lenses or a wide selection of features, unlike some of the other models. Like a film camera, the basics are there to capture a clean photo; it's up to you to turn it into something extraordinary using your creativity and initiative. The Google Pixel 4a is competing with other smartphones on camera quality that are twice and three times its price, which is why we think the Google Pixel 4a is the best budget-smartphone for photography.From £54 at EE**From £17 at** Mobiles.co.uk**From £30 at** Vodafone
3. Sony Xperia 5
Perfect for on the go, the Sony Xperia 5 is smaller in size than competitors with its 6.1" Full HD+ Cinema Wide display, and you can restore 50% of the battery in life in just 30 minutes. Now to the camera features; With the common three cameras on the back of the device, this includes the 12MP with a wide lens w OIS - F1.6 - 26mm, a 12MP tele w.OIS - F2.4 - 52mm [f], and a 12MP, super-wide - F2.4 - 16mm [f]. With the ability to autofocus up to 10fps, you can ensure a smooth transition when shooting snaps on the go. The Xperia 5 can also shoot 4K HDR with 30fps, or FULL HD 1080p with both 30fps and 60fps. Dolby Atmos audio has impressed many users, bringing every penny-dropping sound to your ears in incredible detail.From £29.99 at Carphone Warehouse**From £39 at** Vodafone
4. Huawei P40 Pro 5G
The Huawei P40 Pro 5G lets you snap perfect selfies with a remarkable 32MP selfie camera. The phone's back is home to the Ultra Vision Leica Quad Rear Camera, which features a 50MP wide-angle lens, 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens, and an 8MP telephoto lens so that you can work with your landscape. Ideal for zooming in for a shot or trying to fit a family photo in front of a scenic backdrop. Not to mention the fourth lens, being a 3D sensing camera. Common to the smartphones included in this guide, the P40 Pro also shoots videos in 4K. View all the photos you take on the 6.58" Full HD+ OLED display, and store those memories on the Huawei App Gallery that comes pre-installed on the phone. With 256 GB internal storage, you have a large chunk of space on the hard drive to store before having to move them onto a separate hard drive onto the cloud. Plus, the 4200 mAh battery means you won't always need to recharge.From £47 at Carphone Warehouse**From £55 at** Vodafone**From £47 at** EE
5. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G has a 6.9" Wide QHD+ Super AMOLED display, which is ideal for previewing your images on the larger side of screens. While we're beginning to see a trend of many smartphone models housing three cameras on the back, the Galaxy S20 goes above and beyond, taking it to four cameras. This includes a 109MP, 48MP, 12MP, and a VGA rear camera. Incredibly capable of handling low light environments, there are no boundaries to stop you from being a professional mobile photographer. The Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G has numerous features to work with: AR Emoji, Food, Hyperlapse, Live Focus, Live Focus Video, Panorama, Photo, Pro, Slow Motion, Super slow-mo, Night, Video, Pro Video, and Single Take.From £84 at Carphone Warehouse**From £33.31 at** Samsung**From £79 at EE**
6. Google Pixel 3
Google, or the Overlords of the Internet, have a vested interest in the smartphone market with the Pixel 3. The latest version is an anomaly on this list, since it only houses a single camera. That said, it takes advantage of AI to bolster the ability of this humble 12MP Dual-Pixel lens. While the resolution is humble, it's the Skynet-rivalling machine-learning that really shines here. Like Huawei, Google will work out the parts of your scene and apply the best settings and tweaks in real-time, leading to some of the best photos we've ever seen from a phone. Sadly, the feature list seems to be a bit on the short side compared to its rivals, though you'll still get the basics, such as blurring backgrounds and adjusting depth of field. However, the real gem in the crown has to be Night Sight. This enhances images shot in low-light, and makes a huge difference when capturing photos in dim conditions. As you'd expect, there's 4K video here at 30fps, as well as 1080p at 120fps and HD 720p at 240fps. You even get image stabilisation and dual pixel autofocus for a brilliant all-round experience.
7. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Boasting a triple AI Leica camera system, the Mate 20 Pro helped to drive more innovation than ever in the smartphone camera market. The main workhorse is a 40MP RBG lens, while an 8MP telephoto lens offers a 3x optical zoom and a 20MP Leica Ultra-Wide-Angle lens lets you capture more of your scene. AI-Painting recognises more than 1500 scenarios in 25 categories, and adjusts your shots for the best results, while the Night mode stacks multiple shots to bring an unprecedented amount of detail out of your scene. It also boasts portrait and aperture modes to help blur the background and smooth the skin. Finally, you can shoot in the Pro mode, allowing you to alter your settings, and even shoot in RAW. It's capable of capturing 4K video at 30fps, or 1080p Full HD at 120fps slow motion. It also boasts AI Stabilisation, which creates silky smooth footage – a huge bonus! You can even use the AI Cinema mode to add real-time filters to your video. It's probably not going to get you noticed by David Fincher, but they're fun to play around with. To top it all off, you also get a huge 4000mAh battery – almost enough to film an entire short movie… probably.
8. Huawei P30 Pro
Usurping the Mate 20 Pro as the flagship Huawei, the P30 is packed with a wealth of impressive features to make it stand out of the crowd. You get a triple Leica designed camera, once more, with an added twist. As well as the 40MP Super Sensing camera and 20MP Ultra-Wide-Angle lens, you also get an 8MP telephoto zoom that provides 5x optical and 10x lossless digital zoom, and a TOF (Time of Flight) camera, that bounces infrared light across the scene to create a depth map – perfect for precision background blurring and depth of field effects. You still have the great modes, such as Night, Portrait and Pro, but there's now a brand-new Moon mode. This pairs a 50x digital zoom, with machine learning to capture images of the moon. We're not saying it's as good as a 600mm telephoto zoom lens on a DSLR, but it's an interesting inclusion. Instead of the main 40MP being RGB, it can now see RYYB. This apparently leads to a 40% increase in visible light, making for superior night time shots. In terms of video, there's 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps and, finally, 720p produces 240fps. You do get the great image stabilisation though, and the footage looks great.
9. iPhone XS
Of course, we have to include Apple on this list. The company is second in the rankings, behind only Samsung. However, while it's very capable, it doesn't quite achieve the brilliant specs of its rivals. You get a dual-camera system, boasting a 12MP wide-angle f/1.8 and 12MP telephoto f/2.8 that provides a 2x optical zoom, or 10x digital. You won't find any dedicated night modes, though the portrait mode has been given a subtle upgrade since the last release. It utilises a smarter AI algorithm to detect edges when blurring out the background. You can even alter the depth-of-field after taking the shot, which is a great feature. Apple also includes a Portrait Lighting mode, which allows you to render artificial studio lighting in your shot, choosing from five different looks. You may find this fun, but we wouldn't say it threatens high-end fashion studios just yet. Apple has also included Smart HDR, which aims to bring out the greatest dynamic range of your shot. It's a nice touch, and boosts the vibrancy in most scenes for more appealing photos. For video, you'll find 4K at 60fps, or 1080p Full HD at 120 and 240fps. You have Cinematic video stabilisation, though only in 1080p and below – no 4K.
10. Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung are currently the largest manufacturers of smartphones, so you'd hope they have a few tricks up the photographic sleeves. The S10 features a triple camera design, including a 12MP telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom, 12MP wide-angle lens and 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens. It also boasts a dual-aperture design, with both f/2.4 and f/1.8, which helps to bolster low-light performance. You will also find a Scene Optimiser that recognises up to 30 popular subjects, and adjust settings and results to get the best from each. If you're just starting out, you'll love the Best Shot feature, which gives you an artificial horizon line, to ensure you get straight shots. This actually analyses Samsung's 100 million strong picture library, and applies some smart machine learning to aid in your composition. As with the others in test there's a portrait mode, though here it's called live Focus. You can use this to isolate your subject and apply effects to the background, such as adding creative bokeh, blur or colour popping. For videographers, the obligatory 4K at 30fps is here, though you can also film at a super slowmo 240fps in 1080p, or a whopping 960fps in 720p. You can also take advantage of HDR10+ for expanded dynamic range, while Super Steady offers impressive video stabilisation – a big win!