Here at Expert Reviews, we test hundreds of smartphones every year. Testing the entire gamut, from pricey flagships to the budget handsets you buy out of necessity, we rigorously test a huge range of smartphone cameras. We’ve snapped test shots with every single phone that comes through our doors, so we know which phones have the best cameras for your Instagram vanity shots.
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If you’re keen on taking pictures or video with your phone, or you simply want to know that you’ve got a smartphone that’s great for taking holiday snaps, then you’re in the right place. Below, you’ll find our regularly curated list of the best phone cameras on the market, and a helpful camera buying guide – so you know exactly what to look for when you’re perusing the aisles.
Update: Apple unveils iPhone 11 lineup
It’s that time of year again when Apple shows off its next-gen smartphones. While we haven’t had the opportunity to fully test the iPhone 11 lineup just yet, we anticipate an update to our list of the best phone cameras in the very near future, with at least one of the new models kicking the iPhone Xs and Xs Max out of the list (you can’t buy them anymore).
If you’re interested to find out more about Apple’s new trio of iPhones, you can read our rundown of everything you need to know.
How to buy the best phone camera for you
Megapixels aren’t everything
The first thing you need to be wary of is that megapixels aren’t everything. Pop into Carphone Warehouse and you’ll see the megapixel count listed next to the phone, but that isn’t the de facto indication of whether a smartphone’s camera is any good or not. Higher megapixels might look like a bonus, but it largely boils down to the tech inside.
Aperture is key
The thing you need to look out for? Aperture. A number listed with an f/ in front of it might look a little confusing at first glance, but it says a lot about the camera you’re holding. An f/1.4 aperture is wider than an aperture of f/2.0 for instance, which means that the camera will let in a lot more light and thus, greater potential for detail.
Don’t forget pixel and sensor size
Pixel and sensor size is just as important as that f-number. In short, the size of each individual pixel (measured in um) determines the quality of the image. Unlike aperture, bigger is better when it comes to pixel and sensor size. Got a big camera sensor? More information can be gathered, accruing better dynamic range and reduced visual noise, while a bigger pixel size lets more light in, performing better in low-light.
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Best phone camera 2019
1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus: The best phone camera yet
Price: £899 l Buy now from Amazon
Superficially, the Galaxy S10 Plus’ camera offering hasn’t changed much since last year’s phone. It’s equipped with an identical 12-megapixel unit with dual-aperture (f/1.5 or f/2.4) and a 12-megapixel f/2.4 2x zoom camera. those are exactly the same specifications as before, but what’s new here is an ultra-wide 16-megapixel unit, with a field of view equivalent to a 12mm full frame lens.
What this means is that not only does the Galaxy S10 Plus continue its predecessor’s camera successes, but it also adds a little bit more shooting versatility. The dual-aperture camera remains as impressive as ever, capable of capturing some truly stunning images in low-light conditions. What’s more is that the Galaxy S10 Plus’ video hardware has been upgraded, and is now capable of capturing HDR10+ clips with improved dynamic range.
So essentially, what you’re getting with the Galaxy S10 Plus is the very pinnacle of camera photography. It might be superseded rather quickly as 2019 continues on, but as it stands there’s simply nothing better for your Instagram shots.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review for more details
Key specs – Rear camera: 12-megapixel, 12-megapixel (2x telephoto), 16-megapixel (wide-angle); Aperture: f/1.5; Stabilisation: optical; Video resolution: 2160p at 60fps; Front camera: 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel
2. Huawei P30 Pro: A truly four-some camera setup
Price: £899 l Buy now from Amazon
The US government has ordered Google to revoke Huawei’s Android licence. At this time, we think it’s wise to steer clear of the Chinese manufacturer, at least until the future of the company is clearer.
Huawei’s P30 Pro has a rather unusual quadruple-camera arrangement. The optically-stabilised 40-megapixel RGB camera is capable of capturing images with greater dynamic range than ever before, with less visual noise. This works with a – frankly rather excellent – 20-megapixel wide-angle lens, which shoots at the full-frame camera equivalent focal length of 16mm, which means you can shoot large groups of people from up close without using panorama mode.
The third camera – an 8-megapixel 3x telephoto lens (80mm equivalent focal length) – merely adds optical zoom. Notably, the fourth lens is just a depth-sensing unit, but what’s most impressive is that the P30 Pro is capable of capturing images at a maximum 102,400 ISO sensitivity.
The aim here is to capture better-looking shots in low-light conditions, and it works rather well. No matter the lighting conditions, the P30 Pro’s triple cameras are perfectly capable of capturing intricate details such as wispy cloud layers, far off brickwork and puddle reflections with ease – this is a wonderfully versatile smartphone camera setup, albeit with a sky-high asking price.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review for more details
Key specs – Rear camera: 40-megapixel, 20-megapixel (wide-angle), 8-megapixel (3x telephoto zoom), ToF (Time of Flight) sensor; Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: optical; Video resolution: 2160p at 30fps; Front camera: 32-megapixel
3. iPhone Xs and Xs Max: Best for video
Price: £999 l Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
Apple’s iPhone Xs is the most expensive phone on the list – and the priciest phone ever released for that matter – but it does a mighty fine job of taking reliable photos and crisp, steady 4K video at 60fps.
The X has two cameras on the rear, both 12 megapixels, both using Sony sensors. One is a wide-angle camera, the other a 2x telephoto lens. The key difference between this and last year’s iPhone X is that the sensor for the main camera now has larger pixels (up from 1.22um to 1.4um here), which enhances its abilities in low and poor light – and video – with the software having to work less hard to produce cleaner, sharper images.
While still image quality is excellent – with the Xs building on Apple’s excellent portrait mode – the best thing is the iPhone Xs’ video capabilities. Capturing footage at 4K resolution at a maximum framerate of 60fps, no other smartphone’s video efforts come close when it comes to this level of quality. It’s absurdly expensive, but that’s the sky-high price you pay for excellent-quality video on-the-go.
Read our full iPhone Xs review for more details
Buy iPhone X now
Key specs – Rear camera: 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (2x telephoto zoom); Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: optical; Video resolution: 2160p at 60fps; Front camera: 7-megapixel
4. Google Pixel 3: Best for portrait shots
Price: £739 l Buy now from Carphone Warehouse
Just missing out on the podium, the Pixel 3’s camera is still remarkable. Featuring an almost identical 12-megapixel rear snapper to the previous Google phone, the Pixel 2’s wide f/1.8 aperture sensor features both optical and electronic image stabilisation for seriously stable shots.
The Pixel 3’s wide aperture is well suited for low-light photography and in good light, the Pixel 3 produced pictures with superb dynamic range and colour saturation, while the white balance was nice and accurate. And with Google improving the performance of its HDR+ processing algorithms, it’s quicker to capture images as well.
The Pixel really does set a brand new smartphone photography benchmark, distancing itself even further from its predecessor, but what truly makes this phone stand out is its portrait mode capabilities. Whether you use the front- or rear-facing camera, every portrait shot is captured beautifully, with nicely-blurred backgrounds and crisp, definable edges around the subject. The Pixel 3 offers the best camera for your Instagram vanity shots.
Read our full Google Pixel 3 review for more details
Buy Google Pixel 3 now
Key specs – Rear camera: 12.2-megapixel; Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: optical; Video resolution: 4K at 30fps; Front camera: Dual 8-megapixel
5. OnePlus 6T: The best mid-range camera
Price: £499 l Buy now from Amazon
The One Plus 6T’s rear snapper incorporates one 16-megapixel, f/1.7 main camera and another, 20-megapixel f/1.7 camera right beside it. Both work hand in hand to produce fantastic-quality snaps and some of the best we’ve seen on a device at this price.
Just like with the iPhone 8 Plus, the 20-megapixel camera helps with producing an iPhone-like Bokeh effect on portrait shots. The quality is great, and although it’s not right up there with the Galaxy S9, it’s very impressive for the money.
Read our full OnePlus 6T review for more details
Key specs – Rear camera: 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel; Aperture: f/1.7; Stabilisation: optical; Video resolution: 2160p at 60fps; Front camera: 16-megapixel
6. Motorola Moto G7: The best camera on a budget
Price: £240 l Buy now from Amazon
The cheapest option on this list, Motorola’s Moto G7 offers the best smartphone camera for close to £200. The Moto G7’s dual-camera arrangement, with a 12-megapixel f/1.8 lens and 5-megapixel f/2.2 depth sensor, captured an abundance of detail, with stunningly sharp image definition.
Outdoors, colours were wonderfully accurate picking up plenty of detail in neighbouring brickwork. It’s even a decent performer indoors too, with visual noise kept to a minimum. Pick up the Moto G6 if you don’t want to spend too much.
Read our full Motorola Moto G7 review for more details
Key specs – Rear camera: 12-megapixel (RGB) 20-megapixel (depth); Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: no; Video resolution: 4K at 30fps; Front camera: 8-megapixel