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6 October 2020

Best camera phones

Smartphone cameras are becoming better every generation and they're showing no signs of stopping. We've rounded up some of the very best camera phones.
Iphone 11 pro max advice 489062
Jake Massey

Smartphone cameras have become powerful enough to take shots that look professional, a technological innovation that has broken down the barriers of photography and made it accessible to far more people. 

Camera quality is now a major consideration for phone buyers who want to take crisp, dynamic photographs and video footage. The rise of photo-sharing apps and cloud storage has also meant that you can store thousands of photos taken on a tiny device, and share them instantly with friends, family and followers. 

We've taken a look at the best smartphone cameras, and shared some tips on what to look out for and how to make the most of yours. 

Camera phones for 2020

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Best Buy

The iPhone 11 Pro Max is one of the most expensive smartphones. At first glance the 11 Pro Max's display and size don't seem much different than its predecessor, the XS Max. Do camera and processor improvements make it a worthy upgrade? We sent the iPhone 11 Pro Max to our lab to find out whether it's worth your money.

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The final instalment in Samsung's Galaxy S10 series, the S10 5G is 5G ready and takes the S10's specs to a new level, with a massive 6.7-inch display and an incredible six cameras. But for more than £1,000, you'll certainly be paying for the privilege. Is it worth it? We've tested the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to help you make that decision.

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Not found what you're looking for? Take a look at our mobile phone reviews.

Choosing a camera phone

If you want your smartphone to have a great camera, there are two key things to take into account. 

1. Sensor size

Smartphones are limited in sensor size because the devices are so small, but sizes up to 1 inch are now available and these can provide quality to rival some standalone compact cameras. This is the main determining factor of image quality in any camera. 

2. Number of megapixels

High-end camera phones such as the iPhone 11 Pro Max have 12 megapixels, which is enough to take great-quality photos. If you want to shoot video, check the video resolution too. Some cameras are now able to record 4K ultra-high-definition video. 

Other things to look out for include:

  • Lenses Some phones offer an array of lenses, including wide and telephoto lenses.
  • Settings Modes such as portrait, slow-mo and time-lapse offer unique ways of capturing media without requiring editing afterwards.
  • Selfie features If you're a frequent self-shooter, remember that the front cameras are usually lower quality than rear ones. This is because they have a more limited purpose. If this matters to you, then remember to check the specs of the front-facing camera too.

Can a smartphone replace a proper camera?

The advantages of phone cameras lie in their ease of use and accessibility. Most of us don't carry around DSLRs or compact cameras on a daily basis, but our phones are often in our pockets, ready to use, and smartphone cameras are improving all the time.  

However, camera phones don't have many of the features of standalone cameras, coming with smaller sensors and limited lens options. 

Check our compact camera reviews for devices that will deliver more features while still being easy to pop in a bag, or for the ability to take truly sensational shots, head to our DSLR and mirrorless camera reviews

Smartphone photography tips

Not all phone camera features are widely known, so we’ve collated some photography tips to help you make the most of your smartphone's camera.

Use the volume button to take shots

If you’re trying to take a selfie at arm's reach and can't quite get the angle to tap the screen, you may end up with a blurry shot or one that won't quite capture your best side.  

One solution is to use the volume buttons to control the shutter. This works on most Androids and iPhones, so give it a try when you’re struggling to take the perfect selfie

Try burst mode

With most smartphone cameras, you can activate infinite burst mode by keeping your finger on the shutter button until you've taken your fill, after which the photos will appear in your album gallery as a photo stack or a list of photos that look very similar. This is a very helpful feature – you’ll never miss a shot and you can pick the best one from a range of photos. 

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are exceptions to the rule, as pressing down the shutter button will take a video. Instead, press and immediately drag the shutter button to the left for portrait orientation photos, or drag it up for landscape phones.

Take stills while recording video 

When shooting video, if you find yourself in a particularly photo-worthy moment it’s likely you will miss the chance to snap the photo. However, when recording video, just press the shutter button on screen to take a photo. The video will continue to record, with the snapshot saved, too.

Use the wide-angle lens

Some of the newest smartphones have multiple lenses, including ultra-wide-angle lenses. These lenses are great for taking pictures of landscapes and landmarks as they'll get more of the scene into one image than most cameras, although we found some can distort the picture slightly. 

Try out 'professional' modes

Bokeh is the effect you'll see if you use a wide aperture on a professional camera. This is when the foreground is in focus and the background is blurred. Often this creates an artistic effect with out-of-focus points of light, known as bokeh. 

Most new smartphones have a mode which simulates a wide aperture. On the iPhone it will be called portrait mode, on Android it's known as live focus, and with Huawei you can use both portrait mode and aperture mode to take these professional-looking shots. 

For photography advice that's smartphone-friendly, check out our guide on how to shoot and edit photos like a pro

View all Compact cameras