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’re now in 2018, which means our best camera phones listed below will be looking nervously over their shoulders at the new launches set for this year. We’re not far away from the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus launch at the end of February, and Sony, LG, HTC and Huawei will all likely follow soon after. ]
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 Note 8
The best smartphone camera around
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: 64GB
Samsung’s best camera x2
Awesome Infinity Display
Battery life held back
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera is the best 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.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 photo samples
2. 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: 64GB / 256GB
Rim scuffs easily
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 stabilisation, 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 on the market, but the iPhone X is easily the best Apple’s ever created and is very close to the top.
iPhone X photo samples
3. 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
Great enthusiast camera
No headphone jack
EMUI not for everyone
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is another step forward for a brand looking to really focus on its photography performance.
The Mate 10 Pro doesn’t necessarily have the best “auto” performance compared to other 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 the Mate 10 Pro will 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.
Huawei Mate 10 Pro photo samples
4. Samsung Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8 Plus
A slightly cheaper, but 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
Plus is expensive
Biometric scanner is poorly placed
The Samsung Galaxy S8 pair are amongst the best phones on the market, helped ably by their excellent cameras.
They might only be single sensors, which means portrait mode isn’t easily achieved (and the reason they’re not top of this list) but if you don’t care about that, then we’d recommend these phones.
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 great, great camera phones – definitely check them out.
Samsung Galaxy S8 photo samples
5. LG V30+
A great alternative choice with strong snapping abilities
Release date: September 2017 | Rear camera: Dual 16MP and 13MP | Front camera: 5MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.6 and f/1.9 | Autofocus type: Phase detection and laser | Weight: 158g | Dimensions: 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm | Battery size: 3,300mAh | Storage: 64GB
Great OLED display
Selfies could be better
The LG V30+ is a camera that takes the best of LG’s sensors and puts them to good use – it’s at its best when things get dimmer. Not in true low light, but if there’s a little bit of illumination the V30+ really comes into its own, taking sharp and swift snaps when you need them.
The 16MP sensor is the main affair here, and when you just want to take a quick snap it works well. On top of that, the second sensor is a wider-angle affair, so you can get in more of the image you’re trying to snap.
We also really like how LG has worked to explain the more complex settings to you, allowing you to learn how to use the professional mode and get more out of your smartphone photography.
The selfie camera isn’t quite up to the same standard – a shame when last year’s V20 was so competent – but overall, this is a great snapper attached to a top phone.
LG V30+ photo samples
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