8 smartphones with unusual rear cameras

8 smartphones with unusual rear cameras
Almost every smartphone nowadays has at least one photo camera, but not many feature rear cameras that make them stand out from the crowd. Most handsets have discrete cameras (so to say), which don’t interfere much with the overall design - they just blend in. So we thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the smartphones that seem to have their design centered around the camera, and not vice versa. 

Of course, an unusual camera doesn’t necessarily mean a great camera. Even so, you’ll probably agree that "great" is a good word to describe at least some of the cameras we’re presenting below. If you know any other smartphones that have unusual rear cameras, feel free to tell us about them in the comments.

In chronological order:

Altek Leo

Released in late 2010, the Altek Leo was the first Android smartphone to have a camera with optical zoom (3x). In addition to optical zoom, this camera included a 14 MP, 1/2.3" CCD sensor, plus Xenon and LED flashes, occupying a large portion of the handset’s rear side. As a smartphone, the Altek Leo wasn’t that exciting, featuring Android 2.1, a 3.2-inch display with 480 x 800 pixels, and an 800 MHz processor.

Altek Leo preview.

Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia surprised the world in February 2012, when it announced the 808 PureView, a Symbian-based smartphone with a 41 MP rear camera - the world’s first to use Nokia’s PureView technology. The handset has a huge hump on the back (almost 18 mm thick), obviously housing the camera, which includes a 1/1.2-inch sensor with Carl Zeiss optics, Xenon Flash, and LED video light.

Nokia 808 PureView review.

Nokia Lumia 1020

Released in 2013 as the 808’s successor, the Lumia 1020 also has a 41 MP PureView rear camera. Its sensor is a bit smaller (1/1.5"), though the addition of Optical Image Stabilization significantly improves night photos when compared to the 808. LED and Xenon flashes are, once again, present. The Lumia 1020 is not as bulky as the 808, and runs Windows Phone 8 (or 8.1, after an official upgrade).

Nokia Lumia 1020 review.

Oppo N1

Apart from being a giant handset (due to its 5.9-inch 1080p display), the Oppo N1 is the first Android smartphone to come with a rotating camera - this will act both as a rear camera, and a front-facing one, thanks to a swiveling mechanism that can rotate it 206 degrees around its axis. The camera itself is a 13 MP unit with dual LED flash, but we weren’t particularly impressed by it when we tested it last year.

Oppo N1 review

HTC One (M8)

HTC’s One smarthpone from 2013 introduced a relatively new type of camera with a sensor that has UltraPixels instead of Megapixels. This means that the camera uses unusually large pixels, though the images it produces are equivalent (resolution-wise) to just 4 MP. The newer HTC One (M8), which was released this year, uses the same technology, but adds a second camera to the mix - something that we haven’t seen before on other smartphones. The Duo camera of the One (M8) allows you to change the focus of your photos after you snapped them. The Windows-based variant of the One (M8) comes with the same Duo camera (since it’s identical, hardware-wise, to the Android handset).

HTC One (M8) review, HTC One (M8) for Windows review.

Samsung Galaxy K zoom

The K Zoom is the successor to last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom, thus being Samsung’s newest camera-smartphone hybrid. The rear camera of the K Zoom is a 20.7 MP one with a 1/2.3" sensor and 10x optical zoom - quite impressive (for a phone, that is). Xenon flash, plus a multitude of shooting modes and controls complete the package.

Samsung Galaxy K zoom review

HTC Butterfly 2

The Butterfly 2 takes HTC’s Duo camera experience to another level: it ditches the 4 MP UltraPixel sensor in favor of a regular 13 MP one. Thus, the Butterfly 2 can capture more detail in photos, while also letting you enjoy the Duo effects. Moreover (though this isn’t related to the camera), the Butterfly 2 is the only handset on our list that’s water-resistant (IP57-certified).

HTC Butterfly 2 review

Panasonic Lumix CM1

Panasonic’s Lumix CM1 is the latest entry in the camera-meets-smartphone arena. And what an entry! The CM1 has a 20 MP rear camera with Leica lens and a massive 1" sensor - that’s something you can’t see on any other smartphone. There’s no Xenon flash, but you’ll be able to shoot in RAW mode, and crank up the ISO to 25,600. The Panasonic Lumix CM1 runs Android KitKat, and should be available to buy starting November. Other than the promising rear camera, the device features a 4.7-inch 1080p display, 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of expandable storage space.



1. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

CM1 TAKE MY MONEY!!! Finally a Real camera phone!

9. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

i know right? but i think the samsung k zoom now looks better than i thought. i might jus get that instead n save money. plus, it has a Xenon flash, i kinda must for an Actual Camera centric phone if u ask me. mabey the Panasonic is gona have one of those Bad Ass CREE LEDs for the flash......one could hope! then id wait for the panasonic. Hey PhoneArena, do u guys kno what kinda Led is going to be powing the flash in the Panasonic Lumix CM1 ???? can you guys try n find out??? Please?? :-D

19. Damo579

Posts: 264; Member since: May 18, 2013

No xenon flash..........

22. Genza

Posts: 576; Member since: Mar 12, 2014

Are you sure you want to buy CM1? 1 inch sensor may sound very impressive, but it still not be able to provide you with the real photographic experience. With cheaper price you can get a better camera like the RX100 series or compact mirrorless cameras. If size is not an issue for you Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 could be the perfect solution for you.

23. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

The problem is I always have to have the camera with me. a phone I'll always have with me, I have an EOS M but a camera is worthless if I don't have it with me!! And I don't need a flash...

27. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

exactly!!! i love havining a lil relliable camera at the ready. if i could eliminate 1 of those things to carry id be verry happy!!! n not having a bad ass camera at ALL TIMES with you is the problem i think we'd ALL like solved. n i need the flash man, sometimes i like to film when a chick backs it up on me wants to make a lil adult movie. how am i gona get my dope stills w/out a Xenon flash?? i know im an "amature" but i like quality too!!!

32. Genza

Posts: 576; Member since: Mar 12, 2014

If you just need a camera that can always be by your side, almost all of the flagship is good enough for that. For example you can get 1020, 930 or 830. For me 1" sensor and F2.8 lens is not worth the price that could reach 900 Euros (approximately US$ 1160). And with a weight of 204g, CM1 will not be too comfortable to carry it everywhere.

26. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

but then you have to carry......*ahem*...... TWO THINGS!!!!!!! as a Man, i dont cary bags unless absloutely nessicary. all we have are our pants pockets

29. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Right now NO phone beats Panasonic CM1. I´m owner of a 808 for stils and Note 3 for the rest, but look at this ! ohttps://www.flickr.com/photos/lumix-deutschland/15057828370/sizes/k/ is really amazing !!! Leika lens and 1' sensor + Android, no need to wp anymore !!!

2. DeusExCellula

Posts: 1390; Member since: Oct 05, 2014

How does the Galaxy K zoom and the Panasoic have those bigass 20 MP cameras and the Xperia z2, 3 and 3 compact have that tiny 20.7 mp camera?

10. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

sensor size my friend. i know the sony has a big one too, but the Panasonic has the biggest so far in phones. the Samsung K, idk how big its sesnor is off the top of my head, but it has optical zoom lenses AND xenon flash vs. just LED. so thats probably why

16. rency0722

Posts: 158; Member since: Jun 12, 2013

Samsung K Zoom also uses Sony's IMX220 1/2.3-type 20.7 megapixel sensor, which also being used in Z1/Z2/Z3.

17. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

well it must b the added bulk of the optical zoom n the Xenon flash. i want the K zoom even more now that u told me this!! but am still holdin out for the Panasonic :-D

3. Jorgemerino97

Posts: 70; Member since: Apr 05, 2014

And... where are the Xperia Z's phones?

6. crestfallen

Posts: 23; Member since: Apr 03, 2014

Nothing's unusual with the Xperia's camera so they're not in this list.

11. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

they are "designed" to b "all around" bad ass phones, not camera CENTRIC phones. thats y theyre not on the list. btw, the cameras software (when it comes to picture taking) on the sonys is so bad i hear, the probably took them off the list :-P

7. bendgate unregistered

They have bigger and great sensors but are usual.

4. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Altek Leo and K Zoom are awesome...point and shoot smartphone hybrids FTW

12. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

for a low spec'ed (these days neway) basic device, u cant go wrong wit the altek. i mean no 4G, but with WiFi, come on!!! if it cheap enough by now, fowget-aboud-it !!!! im actually gona see if i can find one lols. n look for a samsung K as a daily driver possibly, till i find out how powerful that LED on the Panasonic is going to be. im hoping its a bad ass CREE LED or something.

21. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Wow. You're one of the only people I've seen on a website that likes the K Zoom. And don't forget, K Zoom has a Xenon Flash which the Panasonic doesn't look like it has Xenon Flash. K Zoom FTW.

28. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

yuppp i didnt even know i wanted it till this article!!!! i thought it was like the first s4 zoom or something. n its NOT :-D #EXCITEEDDDD!!!! but seriously....the panasonic gets a big ass CREE LED........im gettin the panasonic

5. bendgate unregistered

Lol M8 made there. Its camera is unusual.

13. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

it is different lols

8. pegasso

Posts: 285; Member since: Nov 27, 2011

this list should include LG Optimus 3D, Nokia N90, Nokia N93, and Samsung G810.

14. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

HTC Evo 3D?

15. SemperFiV12

Posts: 949; Member since: Nov 09, 2010

Good call!

18. reckless562

Posts: 1153; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

man f that Plauged "phone" i wanted it sooooo bad, n found out it had blackberry storm problems. o well

20. wando77

Posts: 1168; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Put OIS and xenon on the Panasonic and I would take it


Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

The Nokia's are still top notch! No other cameraphone can beat them yet!

33. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

And Nokia 808 pureview is still a epic phone. Largest camera sensor we ever seen in phone......

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