It’s tough to work out the best camera phone on the market – there are so many smartphones to try out, so how on earth will you be able to work out which has the best snapper on the back?
[Update: we’ve updated our best camera phones list we the best smartphone snappers of 2018. ]
The good news for you is that TechRadar tests them all thoroughly, putting them through their photography paces in all manner of lighting conditions and scenarios to help you work out which phone will give the right pictures for you.
Before choosing, it’s worth thinking about what you want from a camera phone. Do you want something that’s great at taking outdoor snaps and aren’t bothered if it’s good in low light? Is a great quick pic with friends more important than a really powerful sensor that takes amazing shots when you put the effort in?
It’s also worth thinking about battery size and screen quality – if you’re going to be heading out all day and doing longer photography sessions, you’ll need a battery that can keep up.
And if you’re mostly going to look at your photos on the phone, then a phone with OLED screen technology can really make your snaps pop – but if it’s social media, or even printing out your photos, that’s your plan then you’ve got a wider array of options.
We’ve listed all that information below, along with some of our top test snaps so you can make the right decision when it comes to choosing your next camera phone.
1. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
The Galaxy S9 Plus is the best camera phone around
Release date: March 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.5-2.4, f/2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm | Battery size: 3,500mAh | Storage: 64/128/256GB + microSD
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the best camera phone right now, fusing an excellent all-round smartphone experience with a highly accomplished photography offering.
Round the back you get two cameras, with the main 12MP sensor joined by a secondary 12MP sensor directly below it.
It’s the main sensor which is rather special though, as it has a world’s-first-on-a-phone f/1.5 aperture, meaning that it performs fantastically well in low light.
That’s not all this sensor has up its sleeve though, as it also features Samsung’s new Dual Aperture Technology, allowing it to move from f/1.5 (for low light) to f/2.4 (reduces overexposure in bright scenes).
The S9 Plus pulls in 28% more light with 30% less noise compared to the S8 Plus, and has the benefit of Samsung adding DRAM to its image sensor stack, allowing photos to be made up of a composite of 12 frames instead of 3 frames.
Meanwhile the second camera allows you to take bokeh-rich photos, with parts of the image blurred while other parts are in focus.
You can also record slow motion video at 240fps (in 1080p) and super slow motion at 960fps (in 720p).
This is all wrapped up into an easy-to-use camera app with an automatic mode which takes care of most of the technological trickery, meaning all you have to do is point and shoot for a great snap.
Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus photo samples
2. Huawei P20 Pro
A very, very close runner up to the best camera phone crown
Release date: April 2018 | Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP | Front camera: 24MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8, f/1.6, f/2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection and laser | Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8mm | Battery size: 4,000mAh | Storage: 128GB
There are days when the Huawei P20 Pro can be considered the best Android phone on the market, but it places second as the Galaxy S9 Plus offers up a more consistant all-round shooting experience.
Take nothing away from the P20 Pro though, this is still a top camera phone.
Its party piece is the triple camera setup on its rear. Yes, that’s right, three cameras, with a combined megapixel count of a staggering 68MP. Chuck the 24MP front facing camera into the mix as well and the phone has a total count of 92MP.
Megapixels only get you so far, but the good news here is that the Huawei P20 Pro backs up its MP count with a strong suit of camera features.
The main 40MP camera is backed up by a 20MP black and white sensor that helps with image processing, including decreasing noise and improving dynamic range – although as default the P20 Pro shoots at 10MP.
The third rear camera has a 3x ‘zoom’ lens and an 8MP sensor, letting you zoom into a scene without using digital zoom – which means there’s very little decrease in image quality when used.
Read our full review: Huawei P20 Pro
Huawei P20 Pro photo samples
3. Google Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL
A couple of the best camera phones you can buy
Release date: October 2017 | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 | Autofocus type: Phase detection and laser | Weight: 143g / 175g | Dimensions: 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8mm / 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm | Battery size: 2,700mAh / 3,520mAh | Storage: 64/128GB
The Google Pixel 2 duo have decent sensors on the back, but amazing software processing – and both cameras are identical.
That means you can take an average picture, and instantly watch it improve before your eyes as the phone stitches together multiple images. Despite only packing a single lens, the Pixel 2 pair can both take stunning portrait shots, bringing some real definition to the mix.
The camera software isn’t always the best, with a tiny bit of lag in taking the picture (and waiting for the software to kick in) but the optical image stabilisation is a real boon.
The larger screen and longer battery life on the Pixel 2 XL will attract those looking for a more premium smartphone, but it is rather more expensive as a result.
Pixel 2 / 2 XL photo samples
4. iPhone X
Release date: October 2017 | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 7MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 and f/2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm | Battery size: 2,716mAh | Storage: 64/256GB
The iPhone X has the best camera ever seen on a device from Apple – and that’s on both the front and back.
The rear double sensor is capable of taking some stunning pictures in low light or bright scenes, capturing a lot of detail and erring on the side of natural colors.
Combined with the OLED screen, that brings a lot of vivacity to images, with the results still looking great on social media. The combination of two 12MP sensors, one being telephoto and both packing optical image stabilization, is a nice move, and you’ll find the speed of snapping desirable.
The front-facing TrueDepth camera is also very capable, bringing clear selfies and also allowing you to take blurred background snaps without using a second sensor. It’s not the best camera phone on the market, but the iPhone X is easily the best Apple’s ever created and is very close to the top.
Read our full review: iPhone X
iPhone X photo samples
5. Samsung Galaxy S9
One camera, two apertures
Release date: March 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.5-2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 163g | Dimensions: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm | Battery size: 3,000mAh | Storage: 64/128/256GB + microSD
With the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus crowned as the best camera phone around, you may be wondering how its smaller sibling is as far down as it is. The reason is that, unlike the S8 and S8 Plus which had identical cameras, this time round Samsung has given the S9 Plus more photography prowess.
The Galaxy S9 is still a top camera phone though, with its powerful 12MP rear snapper (there’s just one on the back of this phone) an advancement on the excellent sensor found on its predecessor.
Samsung has improved the camera’s low-light capabilities on the Galaxy S9 with an industry leading f/1.5 aperture, and it’s added super slo-mo, 960fps video recording to the mix as well.
The camera is even smarter though as, like the S9 Plus, it boasts Samsung’s Dual-Aperture Technology, allowing it to automatically switch between f/1.5 in low-light settings, to f/2.4 in bright scenes.
The result? An easy to use camera, with an auto mode which, nine times out of ten, delivers a great photo with very little effort.
Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy S9
Samsung Galaxy S9 photo samples
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 8
A strong dual-camera offering
Release date: September 2017 | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 and f/2.4 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 195g | Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm | Battery size: 3,300mAh | Storage: 64/128/256GB + microSD
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is one of the best camera phones we’ve tested for a number of reasons: firstly, because the dual sensors are impressive and powerful.
The blurred background, the telephoto lens, the speed of snapping – these are all the things we’re looking for on a top-end smartphone.
The longer battery life and the improved screen mean you’ll be able to keep taking photos over a longer time, and enjoy them with more vivid colors too.
The thing that we love about Samsung phones is that nearly every snap you take comes out looking clear and crisp, even in low light, which is what you want from an expensive phone… and the Note 8 certainly is.
Samsung has put so many modes on here, but also made the automatic settings incredibly easy to use.
Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 photo samples
7. LG G7 ThinQ
The only wide-angle dual-camera around
Release date: May 2018 | Rear camera: 16MP + 16MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: No | Rear camera aperture: f/1.6, f/1.9 | Autofocus type: Phase detection and laser | Weight: 162g | Dimensions: 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9mm | Battery size: 3,000mAh | Storage: 128GB + microSD
The LG G7 ThinQ isn’t the only camera phone on this list to pack more than one snapper on its rear, but it uses the two sensors it does have in a different way to everyone else.
Its primary rear camera is a relatively standard 16MP affair with a f/1.6 aperture that’s accomplished enough to take decent quality snaps, but it’s the second 16MP camera alongside it where things get a little more interesting.
Instead of gathering extra data to improve shots on the primary camera, or to provide bokeh-like effects, this 16MP snapper boasts a wide angle lens allowing you to cram more into every shot.
This is great when it comes to shooting landscapes or skyscrapers, and you can easily switch between the two sensors with a single tap on the screen.
Overall quality isn’t quite as impressive as the Samsungs, Pixels or Huawei above, but for those looking for something a bit different, and some serious wide-angle action, the G7 ThinQ has you covered.
Read our full review: LG G7 ThinQ
LG G7 ThinQ camera samples
8. Samsung Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8 Plus
A now cheaper, but still brilliant, cameraphone duo
Release date: April 2017 | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 155g / 173g | Dimensions: 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm / 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm | Battery size: 3,000mAh / 3,500mAh | Storage: 64GB
The Samsung Galaxy S8 pair may have been replaced by the new S9s, but their cameras are still excellent and their price tags are now lower.
They might only be single sensors, which means portrait mode isn’t easily achieved, but if you don’t care about that, then we’d recommend these phones if your budget is a little tighter.
The S8 is well-designed and fits more nicely in the hand for more comfortable photography, but the larger S8 Plus is longer-lasting and packs a more expansive screen.
The sheer range of camera settings is to be applauded here – as is an easy selfie mode – but overall, it’s the fact that a quick automatic snap always looks so good in our opinion.
These are still great camera phones – definitely check them out.
Samsung Galaxy S8 photo samples
9. iPhone 8 Plus
Most of the power of the iPhone X camera for a cheaper price
Release date: September 2017 | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 7MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 and f/2.8 | Autofocus type: Phase detection | Weight: 202g | Dimensions: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5mm | Battery size: 2,691mAh | Storage: 64GB / 256GB
The iPhone 8 Plus is only behind the iPhone X because it’s got a slight higher aperture on the second sensor, meaning low-light photography isn’t quite as good.
Apart from that, the main camera images are almost identical to those shot from the more expensive phone, and you’ll be pleased with the results time and again.
Portrait mode continues to improve and can bring some stunning results, and while the front-facing camera isn’t TrueDepth-enabled (so you can’t do blurred-background selfies) it’s still very good.
On top of that, the iPhone 8 Plus has another big advantage over the competition: you can record 4K in crisp 60 frames per second, or super slow motion video at 240 frames per second.
If you can’t quite afford the iPhone X but want a great camera from an Apple phone, this is the place to look.
Read our full review: iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 8 Plus photo samples
10. Huawei Mate 10 Pro
A fantastically versatile smartphone snapper for enthusiasts
Release date: November 2017 | Rear camera: Dual 12MP and 20MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes (on 12MP) | Rear camera aperture: f/1.6 and f/1.6 | Autofocus type: Phase detection and laser | Weight: 178g | Dimensions: 154.2 x 74.5 x 7.9mm | Battery size: 4,000mAh | Storage: 128GB
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is another step forward for a brand looking to really focus (sorry) on its photography performance.
The interesting thing is the Mate 10 Pro has the weakest performance in ‘standard’ light of all the cameras on this list – it’s a phone for the more professional user, as the name suggests.
Getting close, or using the phone in low light, will result in some great shots – and that’s a lot to do with the fact Huawei is combining monochrome and color sensors into its handset for the best mix of low-light and rich images – and the results bear out.
The Aperture Mode also allows you to fit far more into the frame, so while Mate 10 Pro isn’t the best snapper overall in a smartphone, it does reward those looking to put effort into their photos – and it’s a sensor bolted onto a really rather decent camera too, with simply sensational two-day battery life.
Read our full review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Huawei Mate 10 Pro photo samples