Compact smartphones with the best cameras

In the past few years, smartphone ODMs have made significant strides in the field of mobile photography. Sure, one could argue that a handset's camera is still not up to par with professional cameras, but surely that is understandable when we take the physical size and limitations that a smartphone has to work with (though, you can sometimes hear the oddball news of a pro photographer who has left the DSLR at home and is working solely with their iPhone). However, it is a non-arguable fact that upper tier phones have been able to deliver a very competent imagery for consumer standards, and, in recent months, we've seen some midrangers with great snappers, too.

Now, aside from the cameras getting better, contemporary smartphones have the tendency to also sport a larger screen, ergo – have bigger bodies. There are, however, still users out there who just like a small, easily pocketable, and easily held handset, but it should come as no surprise that those users would love to get all the benefits of a good snapper.

There are a few handsets out there that can fit in one's pocket without causing too much discomfort, and snap adequate pictures when needed. We've listed the 5 of the best ones that we've reviewed and judged by ourselves, and we are sure that 2015 will bring us some more interesting representatives for this category.

And to define “compact”, we've set our limits to 5.5” length and 2.8” width (just slightly longer and wider than the iPhone 6), while we were a bit liberal with thickness, as the design of a phone's back, corners, and overall material could still make a thick handset feel comfy.

5. Xperia Z3 Compact

Sony's co-flagship – the Z3 Compact is almost an Xperia Z3 in smaller form – in fact, the mini flagship is just 1 GB of RAM short from sporting the exact same hardware as its bigger sibling. So, naturally, it has also received the 20.7 MP sensor for its main snapper. Now, while images taken with the Xperia Z3 Compact are good, they tend to suffer from being a bit cold, and appear a bit too soft as soon as the lighting turns to being less-than-favorable. Additionally, Z3 handsets have suffered from a pink spot issue, which appears in certain conditions and adds a pink-ish vignette effect to snaps.

However, bottom line is, if you want a compact smartphone with IP 67 waterproof and dustproof certification – the Xperia Z3 Compact is your go-to device. As we said, the pictures it takes are good, so the snapper's drawbacks can be outweighed by the device's ruggedness, if you need it.

4. Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung's first foray into the whole "premium materials and design" ideology, which we've since seen grow with the Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy A3, A5, A7, and, of course, the newest Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. The Galaxy Alpha is a compact handset with a 4.7" screen, a metal frame, clicky buttons, very clean looks and, we have to say, it managed to hit that "premium feel" to the hand.

Now, as far as the camera is concerned, the Alpha can capture some really amazing shots, given it has lighting and stability. Indeed, the 12 MP snapper doesn't do so well with shaky hands, as it loses focus and blurs details easily, and night shots are definitely not its thing as well. However, if you want your handset to be almost as narrow as the iPhone 5 (2.58" on the Alpha, 2.31" on the iPhone 5) and look classy, you'd probably be able to easily live with the camera's drawbacks.

3. Xiaomi Mi 4

China-based up-and-comer Xiaomi truly offered a great flagship in the face of the Mi 4. While the handset doesn't aim at excelling in one field or another, it aims to do everything well enough to be considered a great all-rounder – from beautiful design, to crisp and simple UI, to good performance. Its camera follows the same philosophy, as it is generally good. Image colors are honest and fine details do get captured. However, blurring is often an issue and some of the aforementioned details could end up looking a bit too soft when compared to other competitors' from the flagship class results.

The Mi 4 sports a 5” screen, but a beautiful 72.20% screen-to-body ratio, landing its dimensions at 5.48 x 2.70 x 0.35 inches (139.2 x 68.5 x 8.9 mm). It's not a handset that you would call "mini" and its near the edge of not being "compact" – you shouldn't have an issue with carrying it around in your pocket, yet you'd feel it jabbing against your leg as you tie your shoelaces. An acceptable compromise, we'd say, if you are searching for a stylish-looking handset with an adequate snapper.

2. LG G2

The LG G2 is walking the same line as the Xiaomi Mi 4 – being almost small enough to comfortably carry around, yet definitely felt in the pocket if we need to sit, bend, or crouch. Still, the phone's impressive 76.28% screen-to-body ratio and pleasantly curved back will make it hard for you to believe that you are holding a 5.2" screen-equipped smartphone in your hand.

As far as pictures go, we were very impressed with the LG G2's photos back when we reviewed them first. Looking at them by today's standards, one would have to nitpick to call them anything short of "great for a smartphone". Well, sometimes they do look a little softer than they should and color reproduction could appear washed out in certain conditions, but that's really it. Otherwise, the G2's snapper still holds a very high standard and if you don't mind the fact that the device will not be a performer (compared to the latest and greatest in tech), we'd say that grabbing it from a retailer right now is a bargain.

1. Apple iPhone 6

Apple did (finally?) increase the screen size of its iconic handset to fit better with contemporary standards, but it still didn't want to go overboard and disappoint the fans that have stuch with the iPhone for its easily manageable size. So, the company released the 5.5" screen 6 Plus to cater to heavy smartphone users and the 4.7" screen iPhone 6 to keep its casual customers happy. The latter is, indeed, very pleasant to hold and carry around, albeit a bit slippery, as it sports a slim profile and pleasantly rounded edges.

Now, the iPhone 6's camera is, as you might expect, the best camera Apple has put on a smartphone to date (actually, it's second to the iPhone 6 Plus, but not by a huge margin). While some may cuss at its yellowish hue, there's no denying that the snapper is fast and manages to capture details with ease. If you are looking for a compact handset with a great snapper, Apple's offering should definitely be on your radar and probably among your first choices, so long as the steeper price is not an issue, and you don't mind the operating system and the fact that the phone's battery doesn't fare well under heavy usage (it makes up for that with some outstanding standby times, so casual users should fear not).



1. nenadmitrovic

Posts: 64; Member since: Aug 01, 2014

So stupid

32. vincelongman

Posts: 5724; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

True, the top 3, iPhone 6, G2 and Mi 4, aren't compact #4 (Galaxy Alpha) is boarderline iPhone 5S and Xperia Z1 Compac should be in here

43. chunkybeats

Posts: 9; Member since: Nov 15, 2011

I couldnt agree more, just more iOS fanboyism from PA. For a start where are the night time shots of the Z3C? In my opinion it would beat all the phones due to the backlight tech Sony have. And as others have pointed why have they got the iphone 6 as a compact phone? Its huge compared to the others. The 5s would of been a better comparison.

2. Enddo

Posts: 53; Member since: May 26, 2014

When did the LG G2 become a compact smartphone?

10. zachki17

Posts: 294; Member since: Sep 14, 2014

Compact mean great camera great battery life .. Fast UI The phone work perfectt

13. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

No, compact means it has smaller than normal dimensions. The G2 is definitely small for its screen size, but it is by no means a "compact" device.

28. Osama99

Posts: 41; Member since: Nov 14, 2014

Which device do you use?

39. tury694

Posts: 167; Member since: Aug 25, 2014

What? You need a dictionary my friend. My Lumia 1520 is a compact 6" and takes the best pictures

3. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

.... +5 inch smartphone is compact? I don't know why I come here anymore. Oh yeah, the database.

7. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

To have a reason to mention the Galaxy A series in an article. Its a prerequisite to have a Samsung mentioned in almost every article.

12. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Same goes for iphone. They're just adding other OEM for the sake of being added but by the end of the day they highlight samsung not to mention apple. Never get surprised.

25. UglyFrank

Posts: 2194; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

The alpha is small by todays standards.

4. brrunopt

Posts: 742; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

Where is the Lumia 930 or 830 ??

5. Neo_Huang

Posts: 1067; Member since: Dec 06, 2013

Yeah, the Lumia 930 should be here, as it beat out the iPhone 6 Plus, which is better than the iPhone 6.

15. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Ordinarily I'd say "because they aren't compact devices", but since they included the G2 and the Mi 4, I honestly have no idea.

22. mafiaprinc3

Posts: 585; Member since: May 07, 2012

wondering the same thing!

6. seven7dust unregistered

compact is 5 inches ? before 3.5 inches was compact , then 4 " , nowadays I guess 4.3-4.5 is called compact not 5 by any strech I still miss the 3.5 " iPhone 4/4s days , boy where those great or what.

34. vincelongman

Posts: 5724; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I remember seeing the first iPhone and thinking OMG I want that massive 3.5" display Funny how times have changed

8. Rydsmith unregistered

Isn't the Galaxy S6 Edge slimmer and almost the same dimensions as the iPhone 6; with a far better camera?

9. Max_Boost

Posts: 101; Member since: Sep 22, 2012


11. seven7dust unregistered

no s6 is bigger width wise and height wise.

16. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Not really. It's taller, wider and thicker than the iPhone 6. I'd say it's definitely got a better camera though. (The iPhone 6 might have an easier one to use for decent shots though).

17. mushpika

Posts: 33; Member since: Mar 19, 2015

No. It's taller but thinner. Have no idea about the width.

42. jellmoo

Posts: 2627; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

According to the size compare tool here on phonearena, the iPhone 6 measures in at 138.1 x 67x 6.9 mm. The S6 edge measures in at: 142.1 x 70.1 x 7 mm. Thus making the S6 edge taller, wider and thicker.

14. Jorgemerino97

Posts: 70; Member since: Apr 05, 2014

Stupid article, iPhone 6 is compact? jajajajajaja

18. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

iphone 6 is compact? seriously? you should have just written "below 4.8" screen phones with the best cameras."

19. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Where are the Lumia 930 and 830 mr Paul K ?

23. Rydsmith unregistered

They only post phones that people will actually buy.

20. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

This article must be either get edited again or get deleted, cuz this is just messed up. LG G2 and Xiaomi Mi 4 is "compact" lol?

21. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Agree with you.....the author lost the main idea when he was writing the article...

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