The Best Camera Phones

If you’re looking for the best camera phone then you’ve got a lot of candidates, from the iPhone 12 range to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and beyond, as photography is an area that smartphone makers keep improving on in the hope of standing out.

From more lenses to more megapixels, improved software, better zoom, greater low light performance and more, it seems as if almost every high-profile phone has something camera related to shout about.

But some smartphones are a lot better for photography than others, and some are also a lot better or worse than their specs list might suggest. That’s where we come in, as at TechRadar we test smartphone cameras extensively, taking pictures in the various modes and from the different lenses and sensors any device may have.

This helps us work out how each camera fares in the real world, and we’ve used that knowledge to make this list of the best camera phones.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

The best iPhone camera around

Weight: 228g

Dimensions:160.8mm x 78.1mm x 7.4mm

OS: iOS 14

Screen size: 6.7-inch

Resolution: 1284 x 2778

CPU: A14 Bionic

RAM: 6GB

Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB

Battery: UnknownRear

camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MPFront camera: 12MP

REASONS TO BUY

+Long battery life+Powerful rear camera

REASONS TO AVOID

-Feels too large-Very, very expensive

The iPhone 12 Pro Max isn’t the best smartphone, but it is very close to being the best camera phone. It includes a 12MP f/1.6 main snapper, a 12MP f/2.2 telephoto one (with 2.5x optical zoom), a 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide one, and even a LiDAR scanner, which enables Night Mode portraits.

In fact night – and low light in general – is something the iPhone 12 Pro Max has far less issue with than most smartphones, thanks in part to a large sensor that can take in a lot of light. Night Mode is also usable with both the main and ultra-wide sensor, so you’re not limited in the types of photos you can take at night.

Smart HDR 3 meanwhile is a new feature for the range which combines multiple exposures to create the best picture possible – which is something that can benefit your shots no matter what the light is like.

The onboard editing options are great too, and with Dolby Vision supported for videos it’s not just stills that the iPhone 12 Pro Max excels at.

All in all it’s an excellent setup, with every lens performing well. This is only a slightly better camera phone than the iPhone 12 Pro, but it still has the edge, making it the best iPhone for photography.

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Huawei Mate 40 Pro

The best camera phone money can buy

SPECIFICATIONS

Release date: November 2020

Weight: 212g

Dimensions: 162.9 x 75.5 x 9.1

mmOS: Android 10

Screen size: 6.76-inch

CPU: Kirin 9000 5G

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 256/512GB

Battery: 4,400mAh

Rear camera: 50MP + 12MP + 20MPFront camera: 13MP

REASONS TO BUY

+Great camera+Excellent design

REASONS TO AVOID

-Limited apps-Expensive

You might be surprised to see the Huawei Mate 40 Pro here – after all, it’s a phone that we only gave 3.5 stars to, and it’s nowhere near our best smartphone list. But the reason we can’t rank it higher in general is everything to do with its limited app situation (due to not having access to the Google Play Store) and nothing to do with its cameras.

In fact, its cameras are exceptional. It has a 50MP f/1.9 main camera, a 12MP f/3.4 periscope one (with 5x optical zoom), and a 20MP f/1.8 ultra-wide one.

While that’s not quite as many lenses as some rivals, it’s got all the most important kinds accounted for, and they all perform very well.

From portrait shots to wide landscapes, zoomed photos, and close up subjects, we found in our review that the Huawei Mate 40 Pro could cope brilliantly with just about every kind of photo. It even does a great job in low-light conditions.

And while our focus is the rear snappers, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro also has a decent setup on the front, with a 13MP f/2.4 camera joined by a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for sensing depth.

There are loads of photography modes and tools available on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro as well, from a light painting feature to a dedicated moon photography mode.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

A great camera phone with an excellent zoom lens

SPECIFICATIONS

Release date: August 2020

Weight: 208g

Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1mm

OS: Android 10

Screen size: 6.9-inch

Resolution: 1440 x 3088

CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus / Exynos 990

RAM: 12GBStorage: 128/256/512GB

Battery: 4,500mAhRear camera: 108MP, 12MP, 12MPFront camera: 10MP

REASONS TO BUY

+Useful S Pen features+Great-looking screen

REASONS TO AVOID

-Slow charging-Ultra-expensive

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a high-spec camera, but it’s the telephoto camera that really stands out. This is a 12MP f/3.0 snapper with 5x optical zoom and 50x digital zoom.

Both of those specs are impressive, and while the S20 Ultra offers 100x digital zoom, that was little more than a gimmick, with the Note 20 Ultra actually bettering that snapper thanks to a wider aperture and larger pixels.

And while the telephoto camera is the highlight, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s 108MP f/1.8 main camera and 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one also perform well.

The Note 20 Ultra’s camera is also incredibly easy and fun to use, and it benefits from extras like 8K video and Single Take mode, which takes a bunch of photos and videos at the same time using the various lenses and modes, to increase the chance of you capturing something good.

Low-light photos aren’t quite as detailed as some of the competition, such as the iPhone 12 Pro Max, but otherwise this is an exceptional camera setup.

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