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What is the Best Camera Phone? (Top 14 Picks 2021)

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Smartphones have become an essential tool for everyday life. With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram, smartphone cameras constantly evolve to meet users’ demands. From humble beginnings of pixellated images shot on flip phones, phone cameras can now boast DSLR-level quality.

Portable, reliable, and with refined user interfaces, smartphone cameras are the perfect tool for photography on the go. Smartphones can capture almost anything, from selfies to telephoto and wide-angle shots.

For most people, their smartphone camera is the only camera they own. But with so many options to choose from and constant upgrades, it can be hard to keep track of which smartphone has the best camera.

To help you find the best camera phone, here’s our list of the best smartphones you can buy in 2021.

taking a photo of colourful street art of a cat using a smartphone

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What Is the Best Smartphone Camera in 2021?

When choosing the best camera phone, you need to keep in mind several important features. The size of the sensor, resolution, the phone’s display, and focal lengths are the key factors to help decide which is the best smartphone camera for you.

1. iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • Rear cameras: 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.4), 12MP (wide, f/1.6), 12MP (telephoto, f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 12MP (TrueDepth camera, f/2.2)
  • Dimensions: 78.1 x 160.8 x 7.4 mm
  • Weight: 228 g
  • Price: $1,340.00

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is our pick for the best phone camera for photography. This offering from Apple has multiple innovative camera features that put it above its competitors.

The primary camera of the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a massive sensor that can capture crisp, bright shots. This new sensor also helps to capture fine details in landscape photography and macro images.

Moreover, the main lens can let in more light due to its new f/1.6 aperture. This feature, together with the larger sensor, allows taking great shots in low-light conditions.

The main camera also has an ultra-wide lens with an f/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max also holds a 2.5x telephoto zoom lens, an upgrade from its previous 2x optical zoom.

It also offers a night mode enabled by a LiDAR Scanner and a portrait mode with advanced bokeh and depth control. These features are great for those who enjoy shooting portraits.

The camera includes a sensor-shift image stabilisation system. This system was previously only available on DSLR cameras. This technology improves photo quality and also brings some great results when filming.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is a versatile and high-end option if you’re looking for the best phone camera on the market.

2. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera phone

  • Rear cameras: 108MP (wide, f/1.8), 10MP (f/2.4), 10MP (f/4.9), 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 40MP
  • Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight: 227 g
  • Price: $999.99

For those who look for an Android alternative to iOS, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a great option. Of all Samsung phones, this one has the best camera quality.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with five cameras powered by a high-resolution sensor. Two of them telephoto cameras and one 12MP ultra-wide camera.

This Samsung Galaxy has a 10x optical zoom and a 30x digital zoom which goes up to 100x. So if you like taking photos of athletes on the field or animals in the wild from a distance, this is the right phone for you!

The 6.8-inch HD screen is one of the best smartphone displays you can buy.

This smartphone also supports the S Pen, which is a nice gadget and offers creative potential.

Finally, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a great 40MP front-facing camera with two zoom modes. This is one of the best phone cameras for selfie enthusiasts.

3. OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro

  • Rear cameras: 48MP (f/1.8), 8MP (telephoto, f/2.4), 50MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 2MP (depth, f/2.4)
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm
  • Weight: 197 g
  • Price: $954.49

Our next recommendation for the best camera phone is the OnePlus 9 Pro. This phone is one of the best Android smartphones due to its features and quality.

The main 48MP camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro produces sharp images with bright colours. It also tends to brighten shadows. This automatically helps to make brightness corrections when shooting.

The camera features 12-bit RAW, compared to 10-bit RAW used on most smartphones. This feature allows smoother exposure and colour adjustments. This is a great option if you like processing your pictures and want maximum control when adjusting.

In addition, the OnePlus 9 Pro includes a 50MP ultra-wide camera, a telephoto camera with 3.3x zoom, and a monochrome camera.

The OnePlus 9 Pro comes in third after the Apple and Samsung flagship models.

4. iPhone 12 Pro

iPhone 12 Pro

  • Rear cameras: 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.4), 12MP (wide, f/1.6), 12MP (telephoto, f/2)
  • Front camera: 12MP (TrueDepth camera, f/2.2)
  • Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm
  • Weight: 189 g
  • Price: $989.00

Packing much of the punch of the iPhone 12 Pro Max without the price tag! This iPhone features a triple camera system with 12MP sensors in every lens.

This camera also comes with a night mode which performs well in low-light situations.

The iPhone 12 Pro comes with some other great features, such as the Apple ProRAW format. This feature allows users to work with photography effects on RAW files, maintaining the quality of the photo.

Another great feature you will find in the iPhone 12 Pro is LiDAR depth sensing. This new sensor adds depth scanning to the photos and helps to improve the night portrait mode.

If you don’t mind a smaller screen and a lower optical and digital zoom range than the Pro Max model, the iPhone 12 Pro is a great option.

5. Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 camera phone

  • Rear cameras: 12.2MP (wide angle, f/1.7), 16MP (ultra-wide angle, f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 8MP (f/2, 24mm)
  • Dimensions: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0 mm
  • Weight: 151 g
  • Price: $699.00

The Google Pixel 5 has one of the best cameras on an Android phone. It only comes with two rear cameras, but their quality and performance are impressive.

This phone is great for portrait shots. Google’s software is designed to easily make brightness and colour adjustments or add special background effects.

It’s hard to take a bad picture with the Pixel 5! This smartphone is one of the best camera phones you can buy if you like to shoot once and immediately share the picture. Pixel cameras are highly adaptable and will deliver good results at the first shot.

This camera also features 4K video recording at 60fps.

The Google Pixel 5 also comes with a 6-inch screen, water resistance, and wireless charging.

6. Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

  • Rear cameras: 108MP (wide, f/1.7), 12MP (telephoto, f/2.0), 5MP (telephoto, f/2.0) 20MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 2MP (macro, f/2.4)
  • Front camera: 13MP
  • Dimensions: 157.8 x 74.2 x 9.7 mm
  • Weight: 208 g
  • Price: $640.00

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 features a main 108MP sensor, which is huge! You will struggle to find a resolution like this on other smartphones and even in DSLRs or mirrorless cameras.

The Mi Note 10 uses quad-pixel technology, which combines four pixels into one. This innovative technology helps to create better photos in the night or low light conditions. As a result, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 main camera delivers full-frame images with great colour balance and exposure.

The Xiaomi Mi Note 10 keeps colours true to life. But it also comes with an AI option that can make colours pop and sharpen an image.

7. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra camera phone

  • Rear cameras: 108MP (f/1.8), 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 12MP (telephoto, f/3)
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Dimensions: 164.8 x 77.2 x 8.1 mm
  • Weight: 208 g
  • Price: $949.99

If you are into telephoto photography, this is the perfect camera phone for you.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has an excellent zoom lens. Its 12MP cameras offer 5x optical zoom and 50x digital zooms.

This camera phone features a laser auto-focus sensor. This feature enables faster and more accurate autofocusing.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is also a good option for those who are looking to shoot video. The Pro Video mode lets you shoot in 8K resolution, easily crop any frame from a video, and save it as a high-resolution image.

8. iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 mini

  • Rear cameras: 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.4), 12MP (wide, f/1.6)
  • Front camera: 12MP (TrueDepth camera, f/2.2)
  • Dimensions: 131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4 mm
  • Weight: 135 g
  • Price: $699.00

The iPhone 12 mini is the smallest yet best-value Apple phone in the last couple of years. It delivers premium power and some innovative features from the flagship Pro Max model, like the night mode.

All iPhone 12 mini cameras can record 4K video at 60 fps or 30 fps with Dolby Vision.

The iPhone mini has a good HDR, which helps achieve richer colours than most phones when shooting in a backlight scenario.

This iPhone is the best camera phone for those who don’t like huge devices. This iPhone makes it easy to take photos and shoot videos one-handed.

If you want to go for an iPhone on a limited budget, the iPhone 12 mini is your best choice.

9. Sony Xperia 1 II

Sony Xperia 1 II

  • Rear cameras: 12MP (wide, f/1.7), 12MP (telephoto, f/2.4), 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
  • Dimensions:166 × 72 × 7,9 mm
  • Weight: 181 g
  • Price: $808.79

The Sony Xperia 1 II is a great phone for videographers or users who enjoy shooting high-resolution videos.

This new camera phone can shoot at an extremely high 4K resolution and up to a 21:9 cinema-like aspect ratio.

The Xperia offers total manual control and shoots at up to 60 fps. Moreover, it delivers excellent results thanks to its optical and electronic stabilisation features. It also has an innovative 3D sensor for focus and low light shooting.

For those looking for minimalist aesthetics and Android customisation, this is the phone for you.

10. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus camera phone

  • Rear cameras: 12MP (wide, f/1.5), 16MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 12MP (telephoto, f/2.4)
  • Front camera: 10MP, 8MP (ToF depth-sensing camera)
  • Dimensions: 74.1 x 157.6 x 7.8 mm
  • Weight: 198 g
  • Price: $229.99

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is a good choice if you are looking for an affordable smartphone with solid features.

The S10 Plus comes with three cameras on the back and two on the front.

The main 12 MP camera takes sharp and colourful shots, delivering good lighting and an excellent focusing system.

The ultrawide sensor in the second camera is a new addition. Samsung has also implemented a zoom-out feature that enables create a fisheye effect.

The S10 Plus lacks night mode, but it automatically widens the aperture to f/1.5 in low-light conditions.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is a great Android phone if you want versatility and sharp images without breaking the bank.

11. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

  • Rear cameras: 64MP (wide, f/1.8), 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 5MP (macro, f/2.4), 5MP (depth sensor, f/2.4)
  • Front camera: 32MP (f/2.2)
  • Dimensions: 159.90 x 75.10 x 8.40 mm
  • Weight: 189 g
  • Price: $389.95

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is an affordable high-end smartphone with decent cameras and a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display.

The main 64MP camera comes with optical image stabilisation, a feature that even some more expensive phones don’t offer. And the 5MP depth sensor helps estimate the depth and provides a pleasant bokeh effect in the images.

The A52 5G delivers accurate exposure and white balance in both photos and videos. You’ll also find that colours are bright and vivid and images are sharp.

This camera phone is also water and dust resistant. This smartphone is a good option for those who love spending time outdoors and don’t want to worry about damaging an expensive phone.

12. Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

  • Rear cameras: 50MP (wide, f/1.9), 12MP (periscope telephoto, f/3.4), 20MP (ultra-wide, f/1.8)
  • Front camera: 13MP (ultra-wide, f/2.4), ToF camera sensor
  • Dimensions: 162.9 x 75.5 x 9.1 mm
  • Weight: 212 g
  • Price: $1,150.00

While it has excellent cameras, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro suffers from a hefty price tag. There are much more affordable Android options that are much kinder on the wallet.

You can be sure that you can take any type of shots with this camera phone. From landscapes, telephoto, and portraits, to low-light conditions and close up images.

Creatives would love this camera phone, as it offers plenty of photography modes from monochrome to portrait or light painting. But in our opinion, you can choose other phones that have more bang for your buck.

13. Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a 5G

  • Rear cameras: 12.2MP (wide, f/1.7), 16MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2)
  • Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
  • Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm
  • Weight: 143 g
  • Price: $579.00

The Google Pixel 4a comes with good cameras and editing tools. It only features two rear cameras, but the results are impressive.

The main camera is capable of capturing vivid colours and clear images. It delivers great results even in low-light situations, thanks to its Night Sight feature.

The Google Pixel 4a is also good at shooting video. It uses optical stabilisation and specialised software to deliver stable and smooth footage.

This phone is a good option for those who don’t want to spend too much but still have good results.

14. Nokia 5.3

Nokia 5.3

  • Rear cameras: 13MP (wide, f/1.8), 5MP (ultra-wide), 2MP (depth), 2MP (macro)
  • Front camera: 8MP (f/2.0)
  • Dimensions: 164.3 x 76.6 x 8.5 mm
  • Weight: 185 g
  • Price: $211.48

If you are looking for a good camera phone at a low price, the Nokia 5.3 is the phone for you.

Despite the low price, this camera phone comes with four lenses. The ultra-wide lens is perfect to fit a large group of people or a wider landscape into a scene.

The Nokia 5.3 comes with creative tools like night mode and portrait mode. It also features a spacious 6.55-inch display and works with the Android-10 operating system.

It features HDR and scene recognition. The first one helps to maintain detail in highlight and shadow areas.

This camera phone is functional and is good for the price. But it can’t compete with the resolution of other phones on this list.

Conclusion

There are thousands of different smartphones in the market. Try to pick a phone that fits your lifestyle and budget.

We hope our list has helped you figure out which smartphone has the best camera for you!

If you want to learn more about photography, check out our Photography for Beginners eBook.

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