Cameras in smartphones have come a long way in recent years, with a number of features that have greatly improved the quality of images produced by smartphones, including optical image stabilisation (OIS), larger sensors, bright lenses, and even optical zoom making them even better for photography.
The photographic capabilities of smartphones has become such a massive selling feature, that many premium smartphones now support shooting "raw" images, so you can take complete control over image processing.
Some of the weaknesses of small sensor cameras have also been removed by the use of "computational photography" - for example Auto HDR, combines images for improved dynamic range, "Bokeh mode" produces DSLR-like images with blurred backgrounds for portraits, and multi-shot night modes offer better low-light shots, with reduced noise.
Here we highlight some of the best camera phones we've reviewed, up until now, and what makes them unique so you can make a more informed purchase next time you upgrade / buy a new smartphone. You'll also find more in-depth comments on each of the smartphones featured in our list over in reviews.
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1. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus features an ultra bright f/1.5 - f/2.4 aperture lens, and the S9 Plus has a second telephoto camera. Both feature a 12-megapixel sensor and optical image stabilisation (OIS), and the front selfie camera is an 8mp f/1.7 camera with Auto Focus (AF), which is still quite rare. The screen is an impressive 6.2inch Quad HD+ screen that dominates the front of the phone, whilst maintaining a similar size to other phones with 5.5 or 6inch screens. The phone can capture high-speed video at 960fps, 4K video at 60fps as well as 9-megapixel stills when in video mode. It's dustproof and waterproof to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 mins. With the ability to expand the memory with a microSD card and tough Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the screen and back on the phone, it's ideal for those who love to get out and about and take lots of images, no matter the weather. It operates at a very impressive speed and you can use the volume control as a shutter button. ISO speeds from ISO50 to ISO1250 can be used, and using the manual mode you can shoot raw images.
Camera features at a glance: 12mp, f/1.5-2.4 lens, 26mm equivalent, telephoto f/2.4 lens, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K 60fps video, 8mp selfie camera with AF, MicroSD slot, raw.
2. Google Pixel 3 / 3 XL
The Google Pixel 3 (and 3 XL) may only have one rear camera but they make up for it by providing some of the best camera software available. This offers a number of intelligent shooting modes that combine a number of shots (often without you even being able to notice any kind of delay). The features include Super-Res technology to give 2x zoom with improved detail. There's a very impressive Night Sight mode, which can give excellent low-light shots. There's a Bokeh effect / portrait shooting mode for portraits, and Auto HDR improves the dynamic range in shots. High-speed continuous shooting may not be new, but the "Top Shot" feature makes it easy to get the best shot, and it all happens quickly, easily, and for the most part automatically.
The Pixel 3 also features dual 8mp front cameras, with an ultra-wide angle, and a wide-angle to let you get more people in to group shots. Available in two sizes, as the Google Pixel 3 with a 5.5inch screen or the Google Pixel 3 XL with a 6.3inch screen and larger battery. Like other premium smartphones, the Pixel 3 is waterproof.
Camera features at a glance: 12mp, f/1.8 lens, 26mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K 30fps video, dual 8mp selfie cameras (ultra-wide and wide-angle), raw.
3. Samsung Galaxy S8
The Samsung Galaxy S8 uses the same, already excellent, camera as the S7, with a 12-megapixel rear camera with dual pixel technology and a bright f/1.7 aperture, and improves the phone with an upgraded 8mp selfie camera with Auto Focus (AF). The screen is an impressive 5.8inch Quad HD+ screen that dominates the front of the phone, whilst maintaining the same compact size as the previous phone! The phone can capture 4K video as well as 9-megapixel stills when in video mode. It's dustproof and waterproof to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 mins. With the ability to expand the memory with a microSD card and tough Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the screen and back on the phone, it's ideal for those who love to get out and about and take lots of images, no matter the weather. It operates at a very impressive speed and you can use the volume control as a shutter button. ISO speeds from ISO50 to ISO800 are selectable in manual mode.
Camera features at a glance: 12mp, f/1.7 lens, 26mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K video recording, MicroSD slot, raw.
4. Huawei Mate 10 Pro
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is Huawei's top of the range flagship smartphone, not only does it feature dual Leica f/1.6 cameras with colour and black and white sensors, but also features a top of the range processor, that includes a "Neural Processing Unit" designed to speed up "Artificial Intelligence" (AI), for both smartphone and camera features. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is a large smartphone, thanks to a 6inch screen, and it's set up with a 12mp f/1.6 colour camera, and a 20mp f/1.6 black and white camera, both lenses equivalent to 27mm in 35mm terms. The main 12mp colour camera features optical image stabilisation, and there is prominent Leica branding next to the cameras on the back, as well as a Dual LED flash. The camera can record 4K (UHD) video, as well as high-speed video at 120fps at FullHD resolution.
If you're looking for a large smartphone, with an emphasis on the camera(s) included, then the Mate 10 Pro certainly offers a complete package.
Camera features at a glance: Dual cameras 12mp colour, 20mp black and white, f/1.6 lenses, 27mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K video recording, MicroSD slot, raw.
5. Google Pixel 2 XL
The Google Pixel 2 XL ticks all the boxes for a flagship smartphone, with a large 18:9 screen, waterproof body and optical image stabilisation. It also makes up for the lack of a second camera by producing some excellent images. It's a shame there's no headphone socket, and we'd like to see more manual control in the default camera app, as settings for the ISO speed and raw shooting would be useful, without having to download other apps. Saying that, for most people, the Google Pixel 2 XL will be a great camera as it's easy to use and produces great results.
Overall, the Google Pixel 2 XL delivers impressive portrait shots and images with high levels of detail, thanks to clever technology.
Camera features at a glance: 12mp f/1.8 camera, 1.4um pixels, OIS, Dual pixel autofocus, dual LED flash, HDR+ shooting, 4K/FullHD Video, water and dust resistant.
6. OnePlus 6
The OnePlus 6 smartphone can be described as an affordable flagship that has premium features at a not so eye-watering price. Image quality is excellent, the camera app gets the 'thumbs-up' and the red version is particularly stylish. We think the OnePlus 6 smartphone is an excellent buy!
The OnePlus6 is a reasonably priced smartphone with specs that make it fit right at home alongside the likes of premium Samsung, Apple and Sony devices. Yes, it doesn't have the kerb appeal an iPhone does but a sensible person can push this to one side and be impressed by what the OnePlus 6 has to offer them.
The main camera performs really well and we really like the camera app which is really intuitive and easy to use. It's a shame the second rear camera doesn't give a longer focal length or something a bit different like a black and white camera (as Huawei do) but with how well the lenses that are built in perform, it's not really a complaint, more of an 'it would be nice'.
The screen size is excellent and viewing isn't a problem and the phone looks smart, particularly the red version which is definitely eye-catching.
There's no microSD slot which is surprising for an Android phone, there's no official IP rating (so don't get it too wet) and there's a lack of stereo speakers but apart from that, we think the OnePlus 6 smartphone is an excellent buy.
Camera features at a glance: Dual 16mp and 20mp f/1.7 lenses, 27.22mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) & Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS), 4K video recording.
7. Apple iPhone X
The Apple iPhone X marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone and the iPhone X's camera which builds on the dual camera of the iPhone 7 Plus, but features updated cameras, with both the wide-angle (28mm equivalent) and telephoto (56mm equivalent) lenses now featuring Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), a brighter aperture for the telephoto lens (f/2.4 instead of f/2.8), and a larger sensor. Both dual cameras feature 12-megapixels, same as the iPhone 8 Plus, and the wide-angle lens features an f/1.8 aperture.
The front 'selfie' camera has 7-megapixels as well as an aperture of f/2.2 and you can use Portrait Mode to create 'bokeh' in the background of your self-portraits.
Some other features worth mentioning include the 5.8" super retina HD screen which is surrounded by a smaller bezel so the smartphone remains a reasonable size, a water and dust resistant design and those who capture video can now do so in 4K up to 60fps. As with previous iPhone models, there's no headphone socket.
The iPhone X is unmistakably a premium smartphone that's built well, feels solid and looks really great.
Camera features at a glance: Dual 12mp wide-angle and telephoto lenses, f/1.8 & f/2.4, 28mm and 56mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K video recording.
8. Honor View20
The Honor View20 will grab the attention of photographers with the headline '48-megapixel camera' and rightly so, it's a pretty cool thing to see in a smartphone.
It's great to have such a high-resolution sensor built in but a lot of the shooting features switch back to a 12MP image quality option, the smartphone still uses the 48MP lens, and the Sony sensor technology to capture images, combining the pixels to output images at a smaller 12MP size. This occurs when using the portrait mode, aperture mode, night mode etc.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, it's not, but with the device advertised as a 48-megapixel shooter, it would be nice to see this resolution used and available more often.
When you can shoot 48MP images, detail is excellent and you only have to compare similar shots taken with a smartphone with a smaller sensor to see the difference. Having said that, you do have to look rather closely to see how much detail the smartphone is capable of capturing in a 48MP image so is it something most will need? Perhaps not, but the option is there so why not invest in a smartphone which gives you the option to shoot in a little more detail? Even more so if it won't break the bank.
Overall, image quality is good (both 48MP and 12MP) with an accurate reproduction of colours (even in dull conditions) and the night mode is particularly impressive as you don't even need a tripod (thanks to a clever night scene mode)! Selfies look great and portraits, particularly with a bit of bokeh, are excellent.
The design is great, particularly with the cool nanolithography and the screen is a really decent size, even more so with the cutout camera rather than a top-notch taking up room.
If you're looking for a smartphone that's full of camera features and is capable of taking really good photos - have a look at this one.
Camera features at a glance: 48MP f/1.8 rear camera, 25MP f/2.0 selfie camera, super night shot, AI, 4K video, Aperture/Portrait Mode, Pro Mode, ISO 50-65536
9. Apple iPhone 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 Plus' rear camera is the same 12MP camera you find on the iPhone X and it also features the same two lenses: wide-angle (28mm equivalent) and telephoto (56mm equivalent). Optical image stabilisation is built in but it's not Dual, as you find on the iPhone X, and the telephoto lens isn't quite as bright, offering a maximum aperture of f/2.8 when it's f/2.4 on the iPhone X. Even though it's not quite as bright, low light performance should still be better than past iPhones could offer.
As well as the large sensor which Apple says has been re-engineered, there's a new image signal processor built in to improve the quality of colours and textures in images. There's also a new A11 processor, a glass back design which allows for wireless charging and the same portrait lighting modes found on the iPhone X (currently in BETA). WIth Portrait Mode, you can create 'bokeh' in the background of your portraits, adjust the lighting of the scene or 'cut' your subjects out so they appear on a black background.
The front 'selfie' camera on the iPhone 8 Plus as 7-megapixels as well as an aperture of f/2.2, retina flash and it can be used to capture video in 1080p HD.
The native camera app is still annoyingly basic and for some photographers, it just won't offer enough in the way of manual control to keep them happy. Yes, low light performance has been improved slightly but not enough to make it groundbreaking and the built-in portrait modes do give portraits a more pro feel, when used under the right conditions, but these two things alone aren't enough to compete with the likes of the Mate 10 Pro with all of its manual bells and whistles.
Other great features include the iPhone 8 Plus' water and dust resistant design, 4K video and the range of apps which are available for iOS.
Camera features at a glance: 12MP camera, f/2.8 max aperture, CMOS sensor, 28-56mm equivalent, 4K video.
10. Huawei P20 Pro
The Huawei P20 Pro is a stylish high-end smartphone and the first to feature three cameras on the back, however, the results don't necessarily live up to the hype.
On first impressions, and as long as you don't look at the photos in too much detail, the P20 Pro produces reasonable results. The ability to shoot photos with a 7-second exposure handheld when taking night photos, is quite breathtaking, as long as you don't mind the soft image that you get. If you're more serious about photography and do want to spend time editing photos or use them for something more important, then you get better images from the alternative smartphones mentioned, albeit without the same number of cameras.
Read our full verdict for a more in-depth explanation.
Camera features at a glance: Leica Triple camera: Leica f/1.6 lens for 20mp monochrome sensor, Main f/1.8 lens for 40mp (Quad Bayer) 1/1.78inch sensor (middle), Telephoto f/2.4 lens with 8mp sensor (produces 10mp images), Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), 4K video recording.
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