The best camera phone is one that takes fantastic photos, obviously, but there's more than that - the photography experience has to be easy for all kinds of users, and the device needs to offer extra features that aren't available on the majority of mobiles.
Everyone's idea of the 'best photo' is different - some people prefer naturalistic-looking snaps while others like super-saturated images; some prefer wide vistas and landscapes to be the subjects of the shots, others like close-up or zoomed-in shots.
For this list, we've got a variety of top camera phones from all the big mobile brands (and some of the smaller ones too) to ensure all beats are covered. So whether you want an easy point-and-shoot experience, or want to spend ages angling a close-up snap of your food, there's something here for you.
To judge each phone in our guide below, we've looked at its hardware, including its camera sensors and lenses, as well as the software it uses, such as useful modes and AI scene optimisation. Price wasn't a consideration, because top specs require top prices, but have got a guide to the budget camera phones, which will be useful for people who find the devices below too pricey. Remember, however expensive your device is, you'll still want these smartphone photography tips to make the most out of your phone.
If you’re a fan of Apple’s smartphones, we’ve got a guide on the best iPhones for photography which you should check out – the list you're looking at now covers both Apple and Android smartphones, with top camera phones from both sides.
If you want to capture high-res, great-looking videos, or amazing-looking photos with great colour and contrast (or information for subsequent editing), we’ve got you covered here (and in our best cameras guide if you want a more specialised piece of kit). Going off track? Try one of the best trail cameras to capture wildlife at its best.
The best camera phones available now
Samsung's latest top-end phone is a super-powerful mobile, both in the camera department and in most aspects of its feature set.
On paper, it has the same camera collection as the S21 Ultra (which previously held top spot), but a selection of new modes, as well as the upgraded specs in other areas, make it a preferable choice for photographers.
The big new addition to this phone is the S Pen stylus - this has a range of uses, but when it comes to photography, it can be used as a remote shutter which is particularly useful for taking snaps of yourself without having to set a timer.
But all around this is a great camera phone that won't let you down, no matter what you're snapping.
Apple's iPhone 13 family was launched in late 2021, and the Pro and Pro Max handsets are the top siblings in the line. Sure, they're not huge upgrades over the iPhone 12 devices, but some of the biggest upgrades are in the camera software department.
The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro beat out their predecessors with a new macro mode which lets you take detailed pictures of close-up objects like food, bugs or plants. There are also improvements to videography with Cinematic Video, and you can now focus pull while capturing film, which will be really useful for people trying to shoot movies on their phone.
One other change to the iPhone 13 Pro devices might appeal to the artist in you: now you can finally buy iPhones with 1TB internal storage, so you can now capture many more pictures or hours of film without running out of space.
That's all on top of the iOS mobile you know and love (or don't love, in the case of Android fans) with a powerful processor, good-looking screen and okayish battery life.
First things first - the Mate 40 Pro has one tragic flaw, and it’s a deal breaker for most people. Thanks to the Google trade ban in the US, you can’t access Google’s own app store. Huawei’s store is still playing catch up, and you’re likely to be frustrated with certain apps not working, even if you can easily download them online.
Having said that, the Mate 40 Pro is still the best cameraphone in the world, offering the best overall complete package. Both regular and ultra-wide angle shots look superb in both well-lit and dark conditions, while the 5x optical zoom performs remarkably well even in lower light too. Focusing is fast and snappy, and the front-facing selfie camera also cram in larger groups, thanks to its wide angle lens.
Throw in super-stabilised video with impressive HDR for good measure, and you have a smartphone with a camera that’s capable of excelling at any task you care to throw at it. If you care about photography more than anything else, this is the current smartphone to beat.
If we’re talking about hardware alone, then the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has everything it takes to be the best camera phone on our list. It’s got the largest camera sensor ever seen on a smartphone, creeping up to the 1-inch sensor size seen on pro-grade compact cameras. The result of such a large sensor is photos with beautifully shallow depth of field. Of the three cameras around the back, each is around 50MP in resolution, so whether you’re zooming or going ultra-wide, you won’t need to compromise on photo quality.
It isn’t just the camera sensors that are exceptional on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. On the phone’s hefty rear camera bump around the back, there’s a second screen so you can take selfies and group shots with the best camera on the handset.
What’s the price you pay for such fantastic photography capabilities you might be wondering? Well, the phone isn’t exactly affordable, costing £1,199 (around $1,670). In addition to its imposing price is an imposing physique; the Mi 11 Ultra weighs 234g, making it one of the heaviest smartphones currently on the market.
While you get plenty of power for the price (and weight) of the phone, not to mention stacks of storage and one of the best screens to ever grace a smartphone, the Mi 11 Ultra does have a few niggles. It gets very warm when gaming on it – bordering on too hot to handle if graphics settings are ramped all the way up. In turn, this pricey camera champ is really a phone for someone happy to invest a bit of time (and money) getting to grips with its nuances. Once you do, you’ll get some class-leading photos, but if you’re after an easy life, or just really like wearing skinny jeans, you’d be better off with another camera phone.
After a few years of uninspiring smartphones, the Google Pixel 6 Pro marked the tech giant's return to the camera powerhouse club.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a huge sensor on its main camera, which takes in light better than sensors on most other devices, as well as a powerful telephoto and ultra-wide camera - this trio is somewhat of a dream team.
Joining the party is Google's software, which is what made Pixel phones great camera devices in the first place. Not only is AI scene optimization fantastic at tweaking your picture to look great, but there are some extra software tools - the biggest one is Magic Eraser, which can edit out background people in otherwise-clean shots.
While the lack of expandable storage and a limited battery life might limit the Google Pixel 6 Pro's functionality as a versatile camera phone a tiny bit, the actual photo-taking power is wonderful.
Remember when phones had one camera? Well, now they have five. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra was for a time the best Android camera phone, and even now it's a great choice.
The phenomenal power of the four-camera array on the rear has to be seen to be believed. The main sensor is a 108MP model that gives you immense digital zooming and cropping ability, with a new autofocus system that fixes the sharpness issues with the S20 Ultra. It is ably backed up by two 10MP telephoto sensors and a 12MP ultra-wide. This gives you amazing shooting flexibility for a smartphone, and a frankly scary ability to capture shots at a distance. The 40MP selfie camera, completing the quintet, also acquits itself well.
Features elsewhere across the board are predictably great. The S21 Ultra boasts a top-notch processor, a water-resistant body and wireless charging. It can connect to a monitor and double up as a desktop experience using Samsung’s big-screen interface DeX, and supports Samsung’s S Pen for drawing and note-taking.
There’s not much to criticise. It’s expensive, of course, but if you’re going to go after the biggest Android manufacturer’s brand-new flagship phone, you’d hardly expect anything else. If you want the best camera phone, this is it. Read more in our detailed Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
No one could argue with you for saying that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is one of the best camera phones ever made, With a 12MP f1.6 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto camera that can achieve a 2.5x optical zoom and a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide camera, it’s absolutely bristling with imaging technology. The iPhone 12 Pro is the same, but with a smaller body.
Sure, the newer iPhone 13 Pro models beat out their older relatives, but only by a small amount - sure, the improved optical zoom, new macro mode and bigger sensors of the new phones are nice, but the older phones aren't far behind.
Low-light shooting has always been a problem for smartphones, as their size and shape prohibits the use of really large sensors that you’d find in cameras, which hurts the dynamic range of images. The iPhone 12 Pro has a larger sensor than most, meaning it’s streets ahead of the majority of smartphones in terms of low-light capability. What’s more, it has a LiDAR scanner that improves its Night Mode portraits by improving the depth sensing in low light. Apple has also added HDR3, which combines multiple exposures for the best possible image. This can be used in any lighting conditions, again potentially giving you a little extra oomph in low light.
Editing images on an iPhone is easy as anything, and the video has been improved with Dolby Vision too. The iPhone 12 Pro phones are a stunning achievement.
Read more in our in-depth Apple iPhone 12 Pro review.
There’s no shortage of camera phones that do the same thing, but OPPO’s flagship Find X3 Pro has a unique party trick – its 3MP Microlens camera. Capable of up to 25x optical magnification (60x digital), the camera is nothing short of a microscope on the back of the phone. Matched with a ring light to illuminate the detail within the detail, the Find X3 Pro’s the only option for fans of tiny textures looking to snap at a granular level, picking up much more than a human eye can make out.
The rest of the camera phone also competes head-on with the best out there. The Find X3 Pro sports the same premium 50MP Sony sensor across both its wide and ultra-wide cameras. By not using lower-quality sensors for the secondary camera, the phone maintains a high level of detail and colour accuracy across more situations. Also of note, it also captures 10-bit content, showcasing a billion colours, whether taking photos or recording videos.
What’s also noteworthy is the OPPO Find X3 Pro’s design. This is a unique-looking smartphone with its smooth camera bump that elegantly rises while most phones protrude clumsily. Beneath its elegant glass and metal exterior, the phone also sports flagship internals like a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 256GB storage, and 12GB RAM, making for a super-premium experience, with only one key shortcoming – zoom range, which is why it hasn’t placed higher in our camera phone countdown.
Loaded up with a 48MP main camera featuring a custom Sony sensor, the tuning applied to photos taken on the OnePlus 9 Pro is a huge improvement over previous OnePlus phones, especially in challenging lighting. In fact, we’d go so far as to call it one of the best cameras around, especially if you’re not a fan of editing your snaps. Take a photo, and eight times out of 10, it’s Instagram-ready.
The special sensor is capable of capturing super-high framerate 4K footage at up to 120 frames per second – something many pro-grade cameras can’t do. And add to the mix an ultra-high-resolution ultra-wide camera, which captures expansive landscapes at 50MP resolution, and shoots close-up pictures thanks to autofocus (something seldom seen on ultra-wide cameras), and imaging is definitely one of the 9 Pro's fortés.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is also the first flagship from the Chinese phone maker to feature Hasselblad camera tuning, in addition to elements within the Pro mode that mimic the legendary camera icon's interface.
The phone’s specs are flagship across-the-board too, with Snapdragon 888-power matched with 8GB RAM, and a stunning Dynamic AMOLED screen matched with a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and punchy visuals.
Also mightily impressive is the OnePlus 9 Pro's charging speeds. It powers up in around 30 minutes thanks to lightning-fast 65W charging. Even wirelessly, the 9 Pro charges quickly when matched with the official Warp Charge 50 Wireless Charger, and with a 4,500 mAh battery, you should get a full day out of it without any issues.
The fact the OnePlus 9 Pro’s price undercuts most flagships out there is yet another boon for the phone, placing it higher in our ranking than any OnePlus before it.
Realme isn't a company which often gets onto 'best camera phone' lists, generally due to its lack of top-end smartphones, but the GT 2 Pro is its first top-end phone and it wins Realme a low place on this list.
The phone's 50MP main and ultra-wide cameras are great, but the real reason the phone is on this list is its 40x magnification microscope camera, which rivals the one on the Oppo higher on this list, but it zooms even further.
This is a great phone for a few other reasons too - it charges quickly, its screen looks great, and it's very powerful. Plus, it's one of the most affordable mobiles on this list, making it a great alternative to the big flashy phones from the bigger brands.