Hot shots: the best smartphones for photography in 2024

Can a smartphone really take professional-looking photos? Absolutely. So hold still and we'll put you in the picture.

several of the best smartphones for photography

by Chris Duffill |
Updated on

As mobile phones become increasingly powerful, advances in camera technology have produced some of the best smartphones for photography we've ever seen. As the best smartphones evolve, some have multiple lenses for different types of photographs - from main cameras at 200 megapixels with HDR, to dedicated selfie, macro and ultra-wide lenses. Many of these even compete with the features included in some high-end DSLR cameras.

For many, a high-quality camera on a phone is a key feature, rather than a luxury. Many of us want to take photos we can hang on the wall, or at least look great on social media. And there's plenty that goes into making a smartphone camera great. From periscope lenses and large light sensors to powerful processing software, the leaps forward in recent years mean a smartphone camera is often all anyone needs.

But cutting-edge smartphones for photography normally come with a premium price tag. Although you can find great cameras on some phones for less than £200, they just can’t match the best. But with so many smartphones on the market, which devices deserve your focus?

Best smartphones for photography in 2024 at a glance:

• Best overall smartphone for photography: Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max - View on Amazon
• Best budget smartphone for photography: Google Pixel 8A - View on Amazon
• Best Samsung smartphone for photography: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra - View on Amazon
• Best Google smartphone for photography: Google Pixel 8 Pro - View on Amazon

If you want to capture crisp photos that you’d otherwise need an expensive camera to take, look no further. Let's zoom in and focus on finding the best smartphone for photography with our expert recommendations, up next.

Best smartphones for photography 2024

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best smartphone for photography overall

Sometimes our experts have something of a dilemma when selecting the best products. This is almost the same model as the iPhone 15 Pro, but bigger and with a few upgrades over the smaller version.  

In our full review of the earlier model - the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max - we were blown away by that amazing pro camera system. There's not a huge leap being made here, with much the same lens and resolution options as its predecessor, including some optical zooming. However, the 6.7" Super Retina XDR screen makes reviewing those 48MP shots an absolute joy, and now it's packaged into a titanium body. The A17 Pro chip adds one more core to the GPU over the 14 Pro Max. 

And of course you have that 12MP Ultrawide lens, and the 12MP 2x Telephoto; plus, Portrait mode, Depth Control, Portrait Lighting, Smart HDR 4, and 4K Dolby Vision HDR video up to 60 fps. The 5X optical zoom gives this the edge over the 3X optical zoom on the regular iPhone 15 Pro, alongside an enhanced 6-axis stabiliser to help keep the camera steady.

Again, the iPhone 15 Pro is IP68 splash, water, and dust Resistant - so you'll be confident in taking this out into the wild for your photography projects in no time. At this price, though, you will definitely want to invest in one of the best phone cases you can find.

Pros

  • Brilliant main camera resolution with support for RAW shooting
  • Lots of manual controls and a huge screen to enjoy it all on
  • Sturdy Apple build and OS with USB-C support for power and external devices

Cons

  • Get it if you want the latest model - but not a huge difference from the iPhone 14 Pro
  • Large (of course) but you'll need something special to carry it in.

Best budget smartphone for photography

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 8a. Featuring a dual rear camera system, the main camera is a seriously impressive 64MP wide lens. The second ultra-wide lens is 13 MP, as is the front camera. So, you'll be able to capture sharp details at resolutions normally found on professional gear. The image processing software is what makes this really shine, with advanced features like low light enhancement, fixing blur and more. A Magic Eraser feature will even let you remove distractions from the background of your shots. 

Okay, so there may not be multiple lenses or a wide selection of features, unlike some of the other models here. But less is more with a budget smartphone, and all the money has gone where you need it the most: the main camera.  

The Google Pixel 8a is competing with other smartphones on camera quality that are over twice its price, which is why we think it's the best budget-smartphone for photography by quite a good margin. And Google promises seven years of security and software updates as well, more than almost any other phone manufacturer.

Pros

  • Google build and design alone makes this one of the best cameras for under £500
  • Ultra-responsive and smooth to use thanks to the OLED screen and Tensor G3 processor
  • Seven years of software support from Google

Cons

  • Uses the same camera array as the Pixel 7a

Best Samsung smartphone for photography

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra best Android smartphoneSamsung

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is the best phone Samsung has ever made. And in photography terms, it’s an absolute superstar. There are four cameras on the back of the phone - the 200MP main shooter is accompanied by a 12MP ultrawide and a 10MP telephoto lens. There’s also a new 50MP zoom periscope camera, which improves the telephoto capabilities of the device. It’s a seriously impressive camera array, built to be useful in almost any situation. Low light, zoom, or macro, this phone can do it all. 

It’s helped in no small part by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, and the 12GB of RAM under the hood that make this a powerful and responsive handset. The post-processing software also uses AI to try and produce the best images possible. Samsung also offers a wide range of photo modes, including Portrait, Night, and Food, to try to produce the most suitable colour balance for the type of subject you are capturing. 

And there’s more. A beautiful 6.8-inch QLED display has a 120Hz refresh rate, great for gaming, watching movies, and looking at all those photos you just took. It’s an extremely well-balanced package, and a worthy alternative if you don’t want to use an iPhone.

Pros

  • The stunning 200MP wide camera plus telephoto lens gives you lots of options for your photos
  • Beautiful QLED display is perfect for gaming and watching films
  • Powerful processor makes this a powerhouse

Cons

  • It's really big, which may be offputting for some

Best Google smartphone for photography

Our experts have been spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the best smartphone for photography, and honestly, the Pixel 8 Pro, alongside the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, could easily have claimed the top spot. 

The Pixel 8 Pro offers the sort of specs you’d expect from one of the best Android smartphones - 12GB of RAM, a Tensor G3 chip, and a beautiful 6.7-inch display that’s arguably superior to that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max. In camera terms, it has a 50MP main camera, supported by a 48MP telephoto lens, and a 48MP ultrawide shooter. It includes Pro Controls, which allow you to adjust shutter speed and focus, much like you would find on a DSLR camera. The aperture is large to let plenty of light in, ensuring that this phone can deliver outstanding photos.  

But it’s the processing software that makes this phone shine. As well as automatically adjusting images to improve colour and brightness, the Magic Editor tool allows you a huge amount of control over how your photo looks. This includes features such as Magic Eraser and Best Take, among others. We’d say the Pixel series currently offers the best AI-aid for getting the most from your photos. But it’s an excellent all-round device.

Pros

  • Some of the best photo processing software currently available
  • AI features are useful for screening calls and spam texts
  • Longevity thanks to seven years of software updates

Cons

  • Design hasn't changed for several years now

Best smartphone for photography for portraits

OnePlus 12 best Android smartphoneOnePlus

OnePlus once again collaborated with Hasselblad to produce the cameras on the OnePlus 12. And the result is one of the best cameras on the market, that’s particularly strong when it comes to portrait photography. 

We’ll start with the basics: sharing the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, the OnePlus 12 comes with either 12GB or 16GB of RAM, and either 256GB or 512GB of storage. The large 6.82-inch display has a 120Hz refresh rate, making it beautiful to watch movies or play games on. It also offers superb battery life and supports super-fast charging.  

The OnePlus 12 offers a 50MP main camera, a 48MP ultrawide, and a 64MP telephoto lens on the back, us a 32MP selfie camera. It lacks the zoom capabilities of the very best smartphones, and it can take a bit more effort to get good macro images than on other devices. But Hasselblad’s expertise has been used to enhance the image processing, trying to recreate traditional Hasselblad-type photos. The results are particularly strong for portrait photography – so if that’s what you mainly capture, this is a phone to look at.

Pros

  • OnePlus fast charging is hugely impressive
  • Powerful processor makes this a great all-round device
  • Camera is particularly good for portrait photos

Cons

  • Splashproof, rather than waterproof

Best smartphone for photography for beginners

Amazon iPhone 15 (128 GB)Amazon / Apple
Price: £699.00

www.johnlewis.com

If you’re looking for a good quality camera in a phone that’s easy to use and doesn’t cost as much as the ultra-premium models, then the iPhone 15 may be just right. The RRP is from £799 - that’s around £200 less than an iPhone 15 Pro, and £400 less than an iPhone 15 Pro Max. You’re potentially saving a packet but still getting a very capable iPhone, albeit with fewer bells and whistles than on its ‘Pro’ counterparts. 

It’s a smaller device, with a 6.1-inch Retina XDR display that’s lovely to look at. The smaller size will certainly appeal to anyone who prefers to use their phone one-handed or fit it easily in a pocket. It also has 6GB of RAM and uses Apple’s A16 Bionic chip – the same one used on the iPhone 14 Pro. It’s more than fast enough for most daily uses. It also benefits from replacing the Lightning cable with a USB-C port, alongside the rest of the iPhone 15 range.  

The iPhone 15 has a dual-camera system on the back – a 48MP main lens, and a 12MP ultrawide, plus a 2X optical zoom. This doesn’t compete with the best telephoto cameras and is one of the most notable differences between this handset and the Pro variants. The main camera now takes 24MP images instead of the 12MP found on earlier models, instantly providing better images than before. Apple’s photo-processing technology is also very good, and even allows you to edit what you focus on after a photo has been taken.  

Is it the best camera? No. But, if you want good photos without a lot of work, the iPhone 15 is currently one of the best options out there.

Pros

  • Smaller and lighter than many of the phones on this list
  • iOS is exceptionally user-friendly
  • Cheaper than the 'Pro' versions of the iPhone 15

Cons

  • 60Hz screen refresh rate is disappointing compared to rivals

Best low light smartphone for photography

Huawei P60 ProHuawei
Price: $1190.00

Huawei cameras have been among the best on any smartphone for years. And the P60 Pro continues in that vein, offering superb all-round photography performance – but it’s particularly strong in low-light conditions. One of the reasons for this is the Ultra Lighting main camera, which has an adjustable aperture, to capture as much light as possible when it gets dark. Even more impressively, this aperture allows zoomed-in images to still look great in low light, which isn’t always the case. 

But it’s equally good in other conditions, too. Boasting a 48MP main camera, a 48MP telephoto camera and a 13MP ultrawide lens. The periscope camera offers a 3.5X optical zoom, and up to 100X digital zoom – although the quality does dip the more you zoom in beyond 3.5X. 

This phone is a true flagship beyond the camera. With 8GB or 12GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB or storage, it matches many of the other devices on this list. The 6.67-inch display is sharp and clear, although not quite as impressive as the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

While this is an impressive phone, it’s undeniably hampered by the fact that it misses a lot of Google software. This means no Gmail, Google Maps, or the Google Play store. Instead, you’ll need to download apps from third-party stores, which is potentially less secure. It also lacks 5G. These issues make it much harder to recommend, but the camera is superb.

Pros

  • Superb all-round camera performance
  • All-day battery life
  • Slick design

Cons

  • Doesn't allow access to Google apps or Play Store
  • Older chipset is disappointing

Best foldable smartphone for photography

Google Pixel FoldGoogle
Price: $2195.00

If a great camera is your primary concern, then a foldable phone potentially isn’t the best choice. Most of the money goes into screen technology. But if you want the best camera you can get on a foldable phone, we think the Google Pixel Fold just edges it.  

The Pixel Fold has an excellent 5.8-inch secondary display on the cover, while the 7.6-inch main display looks fantastic. Both screens are OLED with 120Hz refresh rates. The Tensor G2 chip isn’t as advanced as the G3 chip found in the Pixel 8 series, but it’s still quite punchy, especially alongside the 12GB of RAM this phone comes with. Google also promises three years of software updates, and five years of security updates for this device. 

As you’d expect from Google, the cameras are excellent, if perhaps not quite as good as those on the Pixel 8 Pro. The three cameras on the rear consist of a 48MP main lens, a 10.8MP telephoto camera and a 10.8MP ultrawide shooter. Crucially, you get many of Google’s excellent photo editing tools, such as Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur, to help make all your photos look as good as possible.  

Foldable phones are currently a lot more expensive than more conventional handsets, and you’ll pay a premium for the design. The cameras aren’t the absolute best, but the Pixel Fold currently offers the best cameras within the foldable category.

Pros

  • Beautiful displays
  • Access to Google's excellent photo editing software
  • Some of the best cameras on a foldable device

Cons

  • Eye-wateringly expensive
  • Older G2 chipset

Best smartphone for photography for enthusiasts

If you’re already an experienced photographer who likes to tweak all the settings for every image they capture, the Xperia 1 V could be perfect for you. While most other brands try to make things as easy as possible for users, Sony really leans into the freedom it gives users to make their own choices with their photography.  

This means that anyone who wants a basic point-and-click setup where the phone does most of the heavy lifting, should probably look elsewhere. But for enthusiasts, there’s a lot to like. There is a Basic mode which offers point-and-click photography, but that’s not what this phone is built to do. Instead, the Photography Pro app allows you to alter things such as ISO, white balance, focus type, and much more.  

There are three cameras on the back: a 52MP main lens, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 12P telephoto shooter. The Xperia 1 V also has a new Exmor T sensor, which is designed to capture more light and reduce noise in any images. This enormously improves low-light performance.  

The 6.5-inch 4K OLED display is taller and narrower than most phones but looks great and is ideal for watching widescreen media. 12GB of RAM and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor mean this is a powerful, fast phone, although not quite at the front of the pack. 

In the right hands, this phone can deliver outstanding photos – provided you’re willing to put in the work. If not, we’d suggest finding an alternative.

Pros

  • 4K display is great for gaming and watching films
  • A flagship phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Camera is excellent if you know how to optimise it

Cons

  • Novices will struggle to get the best possible images

Buyer's Guide: best smartphones for photography

Close up of iPhone 14 rear camera array
©What's The Best/Steven Shaw

Don't overspend (unless you want to)

Although it may seem that only Apple iPhones or other phones over £1000 can take excellent photos, we're here to tell you that's not entirely true. Some of the best phones for less than £300 are great budget choices for smartphones for photography too. And there's plenty under £1000 in our selection above, of course.

As always, set a realistic budget and stick to it. You can sacrifice expensive features you know you won't need, pop-up selfie cameras or very large screens for example, and make sure all your money is going into the best lenses, sensors and image quality.

Focus on the main lens and sensor

The current trend for cramming as many dedicated lenses into the best smartphones for photography is quite entertaining to see. Presumably, in a few year's time, the entire rear surface of your phone will look like one of Edgar Allen Poe's nightmares. But, more lens options doesn't necessarily win the race. At the moment there's always a main lens and accompanying sensor that's much better than the others on both counts. Yes, a 12MP photo shot with the wide angle lens is good enough to make a large poster print, but your 48MP main sensor, particularly if the lens has a low F-stop, is going to blow that out of the water in terms of pixel density. So, keep your main lens and sensor needs at the forefronts of you choice and you won't regret it.

Always over-estimate how much storage you'll need

The higher the resolution of the sensor behind your lens, the better the detail of your photograph. But, of course, then file sizes become equally huge too. To avoid frequently running out of space on your phone, you'll need as much storage capacity as possible. Otherwise, you'll have to repeatedly transfer your shots onto your computer to make room for new images. Many phones come with 64GB built-in as standard, with other versions available with more. Or, again depending on your choice, of phone, you may be able to buy an inexpensive memory card and slot that straight into your smartphone for instant expansion.

We recommend 128GB as a minimum. At best, go for smartphones for photography that can support higher, possibly up to a massive 1TB, via MicroSD card.

Don't forget your charger

In the push for less electronic waste, many manufacturers are releasing their smartphones without an included mains adapter for charging. This is great for those who have compatible chargers already, but for the rest of us we need to add one to our shopping baskets.

But, if you're going to be spending some extra cash, why not upgrade to something better than the bog-standard plug with a wire on the end? Depending on your model, some of the best smartphones for photography can be charged wirelessly. You just drop them onto the wireless phone charging pad and it'll take care of the rest.

Again, dependent on your model, there's fast charging. A fast charger does exactly that - a higher wattage is passed to your device, drastically shortening charging times.

FAQ: best smartphones for photography

What’s the best smartphone for taking pictures?

Well, as we've seen with our pick of the best above - this is largely up to you and your photographic needs. In today’s market, you’ll struggle to find a smartphone that’s ‘bad’ at taking photographs. But, as always, the better the lens and the higher the number of pixels the camera can capture is normally a sign of a better smartphone for photography. The rest comes down to the specific brand's strengths when it comes to colour accuracy and general image quality.

How many megapixels is best for a smartphone camera?

We recommend anything over 24MP. At the time of writing, may of top-end smartphones are using sensors capable of capturing a gargantuan 50MP - that's better than many DLSRs produced relatively recently.

What’s the best screen resolution for a smartphone camera?

Screen resolution is how many pixels are on the screen. The higher the number of pixels, the clearer and sharper the images. If you're going to be using your smartphone for any serious photography, we recommend going for a higher screen resolution - such as 4K . For more on this in general, check out our guide to screen resolutions.

What’s the best smartphone brand?

There is a huge range of excellent budget phone brands, but they're not all equal. Of course, it's hard to pick the ultimate phone brand - because great phones come from even the most obscure brands. But there are definitely some reliable brands to look out for - Samsung, Google, Apple and Huawei in particular are fantastic phone brands worth keeping an eye on for great deals.

Can smartphones get viruses?

There's a common misconception that phones, including smartphones for photography, cannot be affected by a virus, but this is entirely false. A smartphone is just as, if not more vulnerable to viruses, malware, and especially scams. As we go about in public, phones are accessed over public Wi-Fi. If you're browsing the internet, certain webpages can install all sorts of malware in an instant; so it's best to access sites with absolute caution, be aware of what you're accessing, and perhaps use a form of VPN or anti-virus software.

Summary: Best smartphones for photography

Smartphone cameras are better than they’ve ever been. While this is great for us as consumers, the difficulty of knowing which phone is best for you has arguably never been greater. The right device will ultimately differ from person to person, but in terms of camera phones, the best iPhones, Samsung and Google devices are all going to provide consistently excellent results.

As we said earlier, the differences between the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra are negligible. All three are capable of delivering stunning images, and under certain conditions, any one may be better than another. And there’s always something new around the corner that pushes standards even higher.

If you already use Apple products, an iPhone will be instantly familiar to you, and incredibly user-friendly. Android devices allow you a lot more customisation, and different manufacturers put their own spin on the underlying operating system. Pixel phones will give you the ‘stock’ Android experience, which is generally clean and easy to navigate. Samsung has a slightly busier version of Android, but as one of the world’s most popular phone brands, it will be familiar to many.

How we chose

When creating our shortlist, we looked for devices from brands that have a proven track record for delivering high-quality images. Factors such as the aperture and sensor specifications, the number of megapixels the cameras can capture, and how good the post-processing software is, also influenced our choices.

Chris Duffill is a Tech Product Writer for What's The Best. He specialises in audiovisual, computing, and gadgets. He also writes for Yours.

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