Which camera phone is best?

Smartphone manufacturers have been in constant competition to make their camera phone technology stand out from the rest. It’s reached a point where cameras are the top-selling point of a company’s phone. Understandably, it’s much easier to carry a smartphone than a digital camera, and the advancement of smartphones has equipped us with digital camera quality inside of our phones. The Samsung Note 20 Ultra has a 50 times digital zoom, allowing you to shoot images from afar, making it a top choice.

What to know before you buy a camera phone


Megapixels help to determine the quality of a camera, with more megapixels meaning better quality. However, many other factors contribute to the quality of a camera phone, including sensor size, autofocus and more. Some smartphones with only a 12 MP camera can take better pictures than a 48 MP because the sensor and lens quality are better.


A camera’s sensor takes in light through the lens and transforms it into an image. The larger the sensor, the more light it can take in at a time. Larger sensors sustain image quality in various lighting conditions, especially in low-lighting, where images tend to be less detailed. Smartphones don’t have sensors as big as DSLR or mirrorless cameras, but phones tend to have a “night mode” feature to help take pictures in low-light settings.


In the earlier years of smartphones, there was only one camera lens that could take pictures. Most phones nowadays have multiple camera lenses, where each of the lenses will have a specific type of picture it takes. A standard multi-lens setup consists of the main lens, a wide-angle lens to capture larger subjects and a telephoto lens specializing in portrait shots and getting closer images of distant subjects. While many budget-priced phones have great lenses, the more expensive smartphones tend to have better overall multi-lens setups.  

What to look for in a quality camera phone

Low-light mode

Low-light mode is also known as night mode or night sight. Without using flash, the phone can take quality photos at night and in other low-light conditions.


The aperture is the opening on the camera that controls how much light comes through the lens. Wider apertures allow in more light, which is ideal for settings that don’t have proper lighting. Smaller apertures are helpful in bright settings such as a sunny day. Aperture is measured in f-stops or f-numbers, where the lower the number, the wider the aperture.

Forward-facing camera

Forward-facing cameras are perfect for when you want to take a selfie, which is why they’re commonly referred to as the selfie camera. Some phones have quality rear cameras, but the selfie camera won’t be as good, so if you tend to use your selfie camera the most, look for a phone that has a good selfie camera. Selfie cameras tend to use a lot more post-production effects, whereas certain phones provide more of a natural image than others.

How much can you expect to spend on a camera phone?

If you don’t care about camera quality, inexpensive camera phones range from $50 to $300, where mid-priced phones can take solid pictures and cost $300-$700. High-end phones cost $700-$1,500, and this is where you’ll find phones that take near-professional quality photos.

Camera phone FAQ

What’s the difference between optical and digital zoom?

A. Optical zoom happens by the lens physically adjusting the distance between the camera sensor and the subject. Digital zoom uses camera software to enlarge the center of the image and crop away the edges. Optical zoom does not affect the image quality, while digital zoom can distort the image.

What can you do to protect the lenses on your phone?

A. Smartphone camera lenses are durable and built to withstand minor drops and scratches, so you don’t have to worry about exposing your lens. Keeping your phone away from sharp objects in your pocket or bag such as keys is helpful. Occasionally clean your lens with a soft microfiber cloth. If you want extra protection on your camera lens, there are third-party camera lens covers that you can purchase.

Do phones have built-in image filters in their camera apps?

A. Image filters are commonly used on social media platforms, but most camera apps have built-in image filters from which you can choose.

What’s the best camera phone to buy?

Top camera phone

Samsung Note 20 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

What you need to know: This versatile phone features a 108MP primary camera, which is more megapixels than most phones on the market have.

What you’ll love: The Note’s S Pen can be used as a remote to shoot photos without having to hold the phone. There is a five-times optical zoom and 50-times digital zoom feature that doesn’t lose quality up to 10 times.

What you should consider: Taking photos in portrait mode may overly smooth the subject’s skin.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top camera phone for the money

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5

What you need to know: It only uses two camera lenses but utilizes software to take excellent photos.

What you’ll love: The Pixel’s Night Sight takes excellent photos in low light, and you can even use Night Sight in portrait mode. The HDR+ feature enhances color and lighting for vivid shots.

What you should consider: The Pixel 5 uses the same sensor from older models.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

What you need to know: The camera setup is exceptional in both photo and video quality.

What you’ll love: It records high-quality 4k video at 60FPS while using an extended dynamic range for amazing color depth. There’s a five-times optical zoom and 12-times digital zoom.

What you should consider: The rear camera bump sticks out more than bumps on other phones, leaving the camera lenses slightly more exposed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Ade Hennis writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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