Best camera phones for photography in 2024 – Amateur Photographer

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The title of best camera phone is more and more hotly contested every year. With major manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Google constantly competing to outdo each other with better features, higher resolutions and sharper lenses, there’s plenty of choice out there for the discerning smartphone photographer. Plus, with other manufacturers like Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Honor also in the mix, there are lots of affordable choices for the budget-conscious buyer, too.
At AP, we take smartphone reviewing as seriously as we do testing the best mirrorless cameras – after all, more images are shot on smartphones than any other device, by a significant margin. We look at image quality, video quality, handling, durability, battery life, ease of use, and more. If you want to know more about our testing criteria and what to look for in a smartphone, you can scroll to the bottom of this page where we’ve put together an explainer on how to choose a camera phone.
So, let’s get stuck into the best camera phones you can buy and don’t forget to download one of the best editing apps for smartphones.
If you want to cut right to it, here’s a quick-reference list of the best camera phones our team recommends, along with links to get the best prices:
Read on to learn more about each of these phones, including key specs and the results of our review team’s testing…
At a glance:
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra replaces S23 Ultra as Samsung’s flagship model. Even though the main camera has the same headline-grabbing 200MP sensor that uses pixel-binning technology just like its predecessor, the telephoto camera has been upgraded to a new 50MP 5x telephoto zoom from the previous 10MP 10x telephoto seen on the S22/S23 ultra.
A new generation of AI technology is introduced with the S24 series, utilised during image capture and said to improve night photography, noise performance, zoom quality and HDR imaging among others. AI is also relevant in the new on-device and cloud-based editing features like its new Reflection removal tool.
The S24 Ultra records video up to 8K 30fps, and with AI can also be used to create slow-motion videos by generating interim frames in a video, letting you create slow-motion videos after you record them.
In our full review, we said:  “Samsung are incrementally improving the cameras and features available, but can’t really be seen as especially cutting edge when looking at the wider market”. However, we concluded, “If you want the best camera phone out there, from a mainstream brand, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is without doubt, one of the best camera phones currently available.”
If you’d like one of the newest Samsung phones, but don’t want to spend top dollar, then the Samsung Galaxy S23 offers a compelling option, but with three rear cameras, is considerably cheaper.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review to see what this smartphone is cable of.
At a glance:
While it’s not the biggest iPhone on the block – that being the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which you’ll meet further down this page – the iPhone 15 Pro offers a balanced set of features that make it realistically the best option for most users. It’s no great jump from the previous year’s iPhone 14 Pro, but the iPhone 15 Pro makes several clever useability upgrades that improve the experience for the smartphone photographer and videographer.
For instance, portrait mode can now kick in automatically when the smart facial recognition system detects a human subject (or a pet subject, for that matter). What’s more, an image can also be turned into a portrait post-capture. Video shooters get new Log profiles, which allows for much more flexibility when it comes to colour-grading footage. And, joy of joys, Apple has finally relented on the port and given us the widely used USB-C connection, rather than just its proprietary Lightning port. At last!
In our full review, we said: “If you already own an iPhone 14 Pro, the improvements are relatively marginal,” but we ultimately concluded that “Apple has produced another excellent device.” Neither this model nor its bigger Pro Max cousin has quite done enough to dethrone the Samsung Galaxy S23, the current king of the hill when it comes to smartphone imaging.
However, this is a credible effort and an excellent camera phone nonetheless. If you prefer the Apple way of doing things and want a fantastic smartphone for taking pictures, here it is.
Read our full iPhone 15 Pro review, as well as our comparison piece on the iPhone 15 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro to learn more about this excellent camera phone.
At a glance:
While Google’s Pixel smartphones may not get quite the same level of press as the flagship phones from the likes of Apple and Samsung, the Pixel phones have quietly been building up a rep among those in the know as some of the best camera phones photographers can buy. The Pixel 8 Pro is the latest flagship – it’s the best Google phone you can buy, and makes a case for itself as one of the best camera phones, full-stop.
This phone retains a similar triple-lens setup to its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro. You’ve got the tried-and-tested combination of a wide lens, an ultrawide lens and a telephoto lens. Google has improved the maximum aperture on the telephoto lens this time around, expanding it to f/2.8, so low-light performance has been kicked up a notch. There’s also now a “Pro” mode for those who like to take manual control of exposure settings. However, the headline is that Google has gone all-in on AI, with powerful features like “Best Take” and “Magic Editor” that let you do futuristic, postmodern things like swap out faces in group shots.
We said in our review: “Using a combination of excellent hardware and advanced software, the Pixel 8 Pro takes what the company has already done with its existing models and improved it even further to make it extremely impressive.”
“It produces excellent images in a wide range of conditions, and there’s been a noticeable jump in image quality from its predecessor – something that is often harder to spot from the likes of Apple and Samsung, where each new version seems to be a lot more gentle.”
Read our Google Pixel 8 Pro review to find out why we gave this camera phone the full five stars. See how it fares against one of its biggest rivals in our Google Pixel 8 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro Max camera comparison.
At a glance:
While we feel that the iPhone 15 Pro provides what will probably be the best balance for most users, if you have a bit more cash to spend or prefer a larger phone, the iPhone 15 Pro Max could be the better choice. The display is a glorious 6.7” Super Retina XDR OLED, with a resolution of 2556 x 1179 pixels, at 460ppi and 120Hz – however that isn’t the only difference between the Pro Max and the Pro. You see, where the iPhone 15 Pro has to make to with a 3x optical zoom lens, the iPhone 15 Pro Max ups this to a 5x optical zoom lens, providing better telephoto reach.
Elsewhere, the iPhone 15 Pro Max includes many of the same improvements as the 15 Pro – which is all to the good. So once again we’ve got USB-C charging rather than just Lightning, as well as an effective resolution of 24MP (double that of previous generations). Image quality is excellent across the board; it’s only when you start pushing the limits of the digital zoom that quality starts to suffer.
In our review, we concluded, “From a photographic point of view, there’s little to argue with Apple’s claims that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the best iPhone yet.
“However… the upgrades here are relatively gentle. Whether you want them or not likely comes down to personal preference and taste, and what exactly you’re willing to pay for.”
Read our iPhone 15 Pro Max review, and check out our comparison piece on iPhone 15 Pro Max vs iPhone 14 Pro/Max: Should you upgrade to get 5x zoom?
At a glance:
While the Honor Magic 5 Pro isn’t exactly cheap, its specs put it well on par with contemporary flagships such as the iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung S23 Ultra. It has a triple-array of 50MP cameras – the 13mm ultra-wide, the 23mm wide and the 90mm telephoto all shoot with the same high resolution, so there’s no compromise to quality when switching between focal lengths. There’s also one of those headline-grabbing 100x digital zoom modes like we’ve seen on the S23 Ultra – though here, as there, it’s more a gimmick than something you’d actually use for serious photography.
Otherwise, the Honor Magic 5 Pro puts in a good showing for pretty much everything a modern user asks of a camera phone. Photo quality is consistently good in a variety of conditions, with a capable Night Mode kicking in when the light gets low. While the 100x digital zoom is not up to much, the 10x and 30x options produce credible results, giving you more shooting flexibility at distance. There’s a handy Super Macro mode for getting in close, and you can toggle High-Resolution mode to use all 50 of those megapixels when you want to. The Portrait Mode is a little over-processed – we felt that images looked a little fake around hair outlines, with rival phones producing much better results. But overall, the Honor Magic 5 Pro is consistently impressive.
There’s not much to criticise here. The video resolution tops out at 4K rather than 8K as is becoming commonplace, but in all honesty this is not something that will matter to most users. More significant may be the lack of an advanced stabilisation mode. The Honor Magic 5 Pro produces good-looking video, but if it’s a vlogging phone you seek, there are better choices out there.
Read our Honor Magic 5 Pro review.
At a glance:
There’s an awful lot to like about the Xiaomi 13 Pro. It’s packed with a good range of features, including a one-inch main sensor, putting it ahead of most rivals. Just like the Honor Magic 5 Pro, you can shoot using all three lenses in 50MP mode. Video performs pretty well and it has a slew of options including slow motion (up to 1920fps), night video, video pro mode and a tracking mode.
While the Xiaomi 13 Pro is not cheap, it fares well when compared to competing flagship models. It is also likely to drop in price more quickly – on the second-hand market too – compared with the likes of the bigger name (at least in certain markets) Samsung and Apple phones. Keep an eye out for an emerging gap in prices.
Our review summarised: “While it doesn’t quite steal the crown from the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, it’s an extremely capable smartphone which produces excellent results in a wide variety of different shooting scenarios.”
Read our Xiaomi 13 Pro review.
At a glance:
This clever smartphone by vivo sub-brand iQOO sits firmly in the mid-range, with an impressive set of cameras, especially considering the price! Equipped with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, this BMW sport branded phone also offers BMW-like operating speeds, with a high-quality AMOLED display that boasts a 144Hz refresh rate. The body of the phone is IP64 rated, meaning it’ll stand up to a rain shower and can be used without fear in difficult weather.
But of course, we’re interested in how that unusually bulbous camera array performs. The iQOO 12 boasts an impressive triple-camera setup, as is pretty common among mid-range and high-end smartphones. The main camera uses a larger-than-average 1/1.3-inch sensor with 50MP of resolution, and produces consistently clean results, especially in low light. IQOO have leaned into the phone’s low light credentials by equipping it with a number of interesting specialised astrophotography modes. Elsewhere on the array, you’ve got a 50MP ultra-wide lens, and a 64MP telephoto lens – the latter of which is notable for being compatible with the Macro mode – letting you get great close-up photos.
In use, the IQOO 12 proved a highly capable camera phone that more than justified its mid-range price tag. The larger sensor on the main camera mean the high-ISO performance is excellent, making the phone immensely capable in low light. We noted in our review that the selfie camera is a little weak, lacking autofocus and only able to shoot video in a maximum of Full HD. It’s also worth noting that this phone is currently only available in some territories. If you can get hold of one though, it’s a snappy performer with highly capable cameras. JS.
Read our full iQOO 12 review.
At a glance:
The iPhone 14 Pro is a commendable – if somewhat iterative – upgrade to Apple’s flagship smartphone. If you want the best Apple smartphone for photographers, this is definitely it.
With a new 48MP sensor as part of its camera array, the iPhone 14 Pro reliably produces excellent images, and specialist modes like Macro and Portrait help out the user in various different shooting situations. It’s already pricey, though if you have the budget you can go for the larger iPhone 14 Pro Max. This model has an identical camera array, just a larger display.
From our review: “There is a lot to like about the iPhone 14 Pro, and it undeniably produces some excellent imagery. It’s fair to say that it’s the best iPhone yet for photographers – but that’s pretty much something we say every time a new one is released.
“As good as it is, it’s not overwhelmingly exciting, and if you’ve already got an iPhone 13 Pro, there’s not a huge amount here to warrant an upgrade. If you’ve got a 12 Pro or older, it’ll be more of a leap and therefore more worthy of the outlay.”
Read our Apple iPhone 14 Pro review to find out more.
At a glance:
The Google Pixel 8 is a compelling option for those who want to take advantage of Google’s latest AI bells and whistles, but don’t want to pay a four-figure price for a top-end flagship smartphone. Using a dual main camera setup, with a wide lens and an ultra-wide, the Pixel 8 consistently delivers impressive images. Like the Pixel 8 Pro, it offers the latest AI magic like Magic Editor and Best Take, and it also gains a Macro Mode, which the Pixel 7 didn’t have.
In use, the Pixel 8 is intuitive and versatile. You can shoot long exposures, night images and astro photographs by flicking between modes, and the 4K 60p video looks great. While there’s no telephoto module, the Digital Zoom does surprisingly well, and if you try to keep it to 2x you’ll consistently get good-looking results. All modes consistently deliver images with great, punchy colours that aren’t oversaturated. The selfie camera produces attractive results, though it does lack autofocus.
In our review we noted: “The Google Pixel 8 is an excellent camera phone, and has some very impressive photography features. In fact, you don’t have to use these features, and you’re still going to get some amazing looking photos, with excellent exposure, good detail, and pleasing colour reproduction.”
“It’s the advanced photographic features and consistently good photographic results from this phone that make it a real contender compared to Samsung and Apple. It’s also priced competitively, and gives other phones a serious challenge.”
Read our Google Pixel 8 review to learn more about this impressive camera phone.
At a glance:
With an impressive 200MP main camera sensor, which is a first for Samsung (although it’s made such large resolution sensors for other makers before). In comparison, the S22 Ultra had a 108 megapixel device, so it’s a big leap forward.
Before getting too excited, remember that images are not output at 200MP by default, although it is possible to shoot in super high resolution mode if you really want to. Rather, the new phone makes use of pixel-binning technology so the images come in at a more practical 12.5 megapixels, with enhanced lighting and detail.
The main camera features a f/1.7 stabilised lens, backed up by a 12MP ultra wide f/2.2 combination. Then there are two telephoto lenses, both with 10 megapixel sensors. One has 3x zoom and an f/2.4 lens, while the other offers a a 10x zoom with an f/4.9 aperture. Digital zoom goes as far as 30x or 100x if you need it (though as with the phone’s predecessor, digital zoom should only be used as a last resort). So the S23 Ultra has jumped ahead of the iPhone 14 Pro and the Google Pixel 7 Pro, which only have three lenses.
In our review, we wrote: “last year’s Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was so good, that we knew that the company would have to go some way to topping it”. The good news is that it has done so – but less good is that you have to really examine the pictures to see the difference.
In conclusion, you could be left a little disappointed by upgrading if you expect much difference to your photography… Images directly from the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s main (200MP) sensor show more detail than last year’s S22 Ultra main (108MP) sensor. But, that’s really only obvious if you’re comparing like-for-like images shot at the same time and you zoom in closely.’
If you’d like one of the newest Samsung phones, but don’t want to spend top dollar, then the Samsung Galaxy S23 offers a compelling option, but with three rear cameras, is considerably cheaper.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review to see what this smartphone is cable of.
At a glance:
The Google Pixel 7 is a well-designed and attractively priced phone that sits firmly in the mid range. We applaud Google’s brave decision of going with a dual camera array – many smartphone makers tack on a rubbish 2MP macro camera or similar so they can say their phone has a triple-camera setup, when there’s no need for it.
The combination of a 50MP f/1.85 wide-angle camera and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens works really well for the vast majority of situations, and the digital zoom gives you an extra 2x power in a pinch (it goes up to 8x, but we don’t recommend going that far).
The main thing you might find you miss is a really good close-up mode – if you can live without that, the Google Pixel 7 offers exceptional value for money in a crowded field.
In our review we noted: “If you don’t want to spend flagship money on a smartphone and simply want an excellent camera system, then the Pixel 7 offers an excellent combination of features, for a great price. At £599 you get a great main camera, a very good ultra-wide, and a decent selfie camera. Whilst we’d love to see a macro mode, we think the computational photography features help make up for this.”
Read our full Google Pixel 7 review for full details
At a glance:
This high-end smartphone is equipped with a good-looking camera that performs well and takes great pictures and video. It is a Hasselblad-branded triple-camera system, which includes an ultra-wide, wide and telephoto lens. Its aesthetics feel like a mix of the Google Pixel 6 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
The OPPO Find X5 uses a conventional-looking Android camera app, with a familiar set of options and includes both a fully automatic Photo mode and a Pro mode. With manual control you can tweak shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, focus and white balance.
From our review: “I was most impressed by the low-light performance, and the way the camera is capable of rendering a full range of brightness and colour even under streetlights at night. It’s not magic – if there’s not enough light for you to see anything, it won’t either – but I haven’t seen another smartphone capable of this kind of low-light video quality.”
Read our full review of the OPPO Find X5 Pro
At a glance:
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra was Samsung’s 2022 flagship smartphone, the one you saw on TV, YouTube, and billboard adverts worldwide, boasting an incredible 100x “Superzoom” that uses a combination of it’s 10x optical zoom telephoto lens, and digital zoom to give you a 100x view of your subject.
While we weren’t so impressed by the image quality of this feature, the other cameras on offer were very good. The ultra-wide angle lens (13mm equivalent), the ultra-wide (24mm equivalent), the 3x telephoto (72mm equivalent), or the 10x telephoto (240mm equivalent), all produce fine looking images.
We said in our review: “Images directly from the camera are very good, with vibrant and bright results produced by the standard “Photo” mode and images with good scope for editing produced by the “Pro” mode. Other shooting modes, such as Portrait and Night mode also produce good results.”
Take a look at our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.
At a glance:
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro offers an improvement over the iPhone 12 Pro, with brighter lenses, a new 2cm macro mode, and more telephoto reach. All cameras feature image stabilisation, and there’s a new cinematic video mode. If you’ve wanted to shoot macros with an iPhone, or interested in video recording then there’s a lot of reasons to choose the iPhone 13 Pro.
In our review we wrote: “When shooting stills, the iPhone 13 Pro does a great job of identifying the subject and focusing on it quickly even in very low light. It also manages create natural-looking shallow depth of field effects in many instances, even dealing with fuzzy subjects like fur and hair effectively in many cases.”
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review to see what the smartphone is cable of. Check out how it compares to the latest iPhone 14 Pro.
Comparing the headline specs of camera phones can be a useful way of getting a sense of how they perform, and which ones might be better than others. Digital photography enthusiasts may gravitate towards comparing camera resolution (megapixels or MP for short), however this often doesn’t tell the whole story.
Smartphone cameras use very small sensors, due to their physical size and shape, and this can mean a lot of image noise in high-resolution shooting. If a camera phone has a high megapixel count, it also needs a capable image processing system to ensure it’s capable of producing pleasing images.
When we talk about a smartphone’s main camera (i.e. the rear camera), we’re really talking about more than one, as modern smartphones use a camera array made up of multiple modules. This is what allows smartphones to shoot at different perspectives; generally there will be a standard wide lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens, and then sometimes a telephoto lens or a macro-lens for close-ups.
The different lenses use their own sensors, and as such will tend to have different megapixel counts. Some of the latest smartphones even use quad camera arrays with four modules, while other manufacturers are experimenting with optical zoom lenses, though this tech is in its early days.
You’ll also want to consider battery life, as some phones are much better at lasting the day than others. If you’re shooting video, this is particularly important, as it tends to eat away at a phone’s battery faster.
The top video resolution will be of interest, as you’ll likely want at least the option to shoot 4K. You’ll also want advanced lens options and good audio recording capabilities.
Check out the best smartphones for video if that’s your priority, but otherwise, continue reading.
One big thing to think about is whether you want to use a phone that runs iOS or Android as its operating system. Both systems have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to smartphone photography, as well as general use as a smartphone.
If you already use a lot of Apple products like MacBooks then an iPhone will integrate better into your system. However, Android phones offer a lot more choice and flexibility with third-party apps. These days, Android phones from market leaders like Google and Samsung have some of the best cameras in the business.
You can check out our guide to iPhone vs Android: which is better for photography for a detailed comparison.
Now you know the best camera phones for photography, check out our guide to the best camera phone accessories and best camera phone tripods and mounts.
Related reading:
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Amy is a highly experienced photography and technology journalist who has been working on AP since 2018, having been working in the industry since 2009. She is a graduate of the magazine journalism course at Cardiff University and has written for a wide range of publications and websites. As Features Editor, she is responsible for commissioning an eclectic mix of features connected to general photography, along with interviews. She is also a very experienced reviewer of cameras and associated technology, with her reviews featured on multiple sites including TechRadar, Digital Camera World, Trusted Reviews, ePhotozine, Stuff, Expert Reviews, T3, Photography Blog and more. She is also an expert on smartphone photography and smartphones generally.
February 8, 2024
Amy Davies and the AP team pick the best Canon EF lenses for DSLRs including zooms and primes and cheap options.
by Amy Davies
February 7, 2024
We help you choose the best Canon mirrorless cameras, looking at resolution, speed, build quality, lens options and value for money.
by Amy Davies
February 7, 2024
If you're planning to shoot the night skies, you'll need the best camera for astrophotography. Tim Coleman and the AP team make some picks.
by Tim Coleman
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