PhoneArena 2019 Awards: Best Camera Phones

PhoneArena 2019 Awards: Best Camera Phones
Which phone has the best camera this year?

Determining this is a challenging task: most flagship phones these days take very good pictures in different conditions, but different devices have their particular strengths and niches where they are often hard to beat. For example, the Huawei P30 Pro has a camera that can zoom in 5X while maintaining crystal clear image quality, a feature that most other flagship phones cannot match. If you want that zoom level, that would be the phone to get.

However, in this comparison, we will try to take an overall look at phone cameras, starting with the overall look of the image, the subjective matter of color science, the quality of images captured during the day, but then also in low light, the video recording quality and so on.

With this in mind, let's get started, shall we?

Winner: iPhone 11 series

The iPhone has pleasing colors during the day, the best video on a smartphone, rich editing tools, and the easiest-to-use Night Mode, but it has a few issues too


The iPhone 11 series are an important moment for Apple. The company seemed to be falling behind in terms of camera features, and that became more and more apparent in 2019 as Android phone makers kept introducing more cameras that could do many things, but the iPhone 11 were the comeback Apple hoped for.

The biggest new feature for iPhones this year is probably the Night Mode that finally does something to salvage the basically unusable photos that iPhones captured in low light in previous years. Not only does the iPhone catch up in this regard, its implementation of Night Mode is automatic, fast and stress-free, unlike on most Android phones where you have to remember to manually turn it on every time and it takes a long time shooting and processing a single photo.

But that is not the only new thing that the iPhone brings to the table. On the video side, the iPhone remains the best phone out there: video shot on it is detailed, good looking and well-stabilized, plus it has the beautiful colors and wide dynamic range that other phones might be missing. The thing that impresses me most about iPhone shots is the beautiful color science that takes away the need to edit and tinker with photos after you've taken them. Sure, you can do that, but images mostly turn out good enough right out of the box.

All of this is what makes iPhones the best overall camera in our opinion. It was a close call with the other two contestants, and each phone and platform has niches where it beats the others, but we tried looking at the big picture and give you the nitty-gritty.


Runner-up 1: Samsung Galaxy S10 / Note 10 series

Jack of all trades, the Galaxy does well in various conditions and has both a telephoto and an ultra-wide camera, but it falls a bit short in terms of detail and night time performance



The Galaxy S10 and the Note 10 series feature basically the same main camera, so we are just going to talk about the camera on flagship Samsung phones in 2019 as one thing.

Samsung phones have had excellent cameras for years, but the S10 series for the first time made them truly versatile, providing the three essential lenses for smartphone photography: the main one, the ultra-wide one and the telephoto one. Couple this with ample 128 gigs of on board storage, so you can capture a ton of photos and videos without worrying you might run out of space, and the Galaxy cameras look strong.

The thing that Galaxy cameras stand out for is their beautiful color rendition. They capture very pleasing colors that are a bit more saturated than reality, but nice nonetheless. The camera experience is well refined, everything works without glitches, switching between the cameras is effortless and you can use all three cameras for video recording too.

While the Galaxies don't quite match the Pixel in low-light quality, they are more consistent with their daylight shots and do a very good in video too, and deserve the second place on this list.

 

Runner-up 2: Google Pixel 4 series

The Pixel remains the king of night-time photography, but lacks an ultra-wide camera, 4K60 video and has some strange issues with white balance during the day


The Pixel 4 is the current reigning champ of low-light and night time photography. Using powerful algorithms that combine multiple images behind the scenes to arrive at a single final photo that you see on your phone, the Pixel 4 is unmatched in quality in low light. We also love the power of the hybrid zoom solution that Google implements in the Pixel that allows you to zoom without losing much in terms of detail.

Generally, the Pixel 4 series also do an excellent job during the day too, but not always. We found a weird problem with white balance on quite a few shots with the Pixel 4 where the image would look way too warm and orangey, an obvious mistake in the way the camera processed color.

Not only this, but Google has arrogantly decided to not include an ultra-wide angle camera in its Pixel 4. Ultra-wide cameras can be super helpful and they are present on iPhones, Galaxies, and really, many other phones these days, so it's really strange not to have this useful feature.

Another detail that should be mentioned is the lack 4K60 video recording. If you are serious about capturing videos on your phone, 4K60 is an extremely useful option: it's great for shooting action scenes, plus it is the only way to get high quality slow motion in 4K on a phone.

All things combines, the Pixel 4 is an extremely capable camera that can sometimes create incredible shots and is clearly the low-light photo king right now, but looking at the bigger picture, it is missing a few features and that's why it gets the third place in this ranking.



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37 Comments

1. disatrousrainbow

Posts: 71; Member since: Oct 24, 2015

As a long time Pixel user, I agree with this list. The Pixel is still fantastic, but I would miss modes I've had a lot of fun using like wide-angle and good video recording capabilities on the iPhone 11 Pro I've been using. Also, the native editing capabilities for both photos and videos too. Overall, I can see why the iPhone 11 wins this year.

6. tbreezy

Posts: 246; Member since: Aug 11, 2019

Indeed, the iPhone 11 Pro series covers overall things incredibly well.

8. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 727; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

I agree for 2019. All in all, iPhone 11 series delivers the best camera performance. For 2020, I am really curious about what Samsung‘s camera redesign will do.

18. Papa_Ji

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

Huawei P30 pro/Mate 30 Pro are the overall best.... all others are just catch up what the huawei did?...

25. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

And yet they not even in the list LOL :D

27. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

Because PA didn't review it? Of course they won't include a device they haven't done a proper review on.

30. Papa_Ji

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

So, PA should mention that they are only choosing the best from this...... list.

2. TBomb

Posts: 1714; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Well now I am just confused. I thought in the camera scores, the Pixel 4 beat both of the other phones?

4. Victor.H

Posts: 1107; Member since: May 27, 2011

It is the best phone for taking photos in low light and often times it captures great pictures during the day, but it lags behind when it comes to video, it does not have an ultra-wide lens, and sometimes during the day it has trouble with white balance.

33. TBomb

Posts: 1714; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Thanks for the clarification Victor

3. Gryffin

Posts: 92; Member since: Dec 19, 2018

I knew they would keep an Iphone on 1st place.

5. tbreezy

Posts: 246; Member since: Aug 11, 2019

Hopefully your favourite OEM will work harder next year then and win.

7. Xavier1415

Posts: 234; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

of course lol

10. dnomadic

Posts: 449; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

However in this case I agree, this is legit. I own the iPhone and the Pixel 4 and have until recently owned the Note 10, and the overall camera experience on the iPhone is the best. Not the beat image but they are second best, the best video, best stabilization, meets current trends with wide, ultra wide and telephoto, the camera UI is also a great experience. Taking individual elements I would take the pixel for photos, but not overall.

9. Vancetastic

Posts: 1883; Member since: May 17, 2017

This is so subjective...I think iPhone photos always look kinda yellow, but the Pixel looks a bit artificial. Huawei seems to do a good job.

12. hammertong

Posts: 42; Member since: May 10, 2010

Please note that none of these winning phones has 108MP. Not even 64MP. Not even 48MP. Most have 12MP which works just fine. Unless you are doing photoshoots for roadside billboards, you are wasting your money.

13. OneLove123

Posts: 1296; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I didn’t even read but I think I know who won.

14. saif2711

Posts: 113; Member since: Feb 22, 2016

Where the hell are huawei mate series??They are actually above all these rookies.

15. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

What i've seen about the quality coming from huawei, photos aren't very consistent. We seen the same here in many camera comparisons

24. Mikele

Posts: 193; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

What kinda camera comparisons that would be different from what DXO Mark had done! Even Xiaomi Note 10pro beats iPhone 11 Pro or Max

28. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

From Huawei or from Mate 30 Pro? Mate's camera is miles ahead of P30 Pro, namely in detail rendition and color reproduction.

17. Zrtsg

Posts: 40; Member since: May 09, 2019

And xiapmi mi 10 should be the runner up

16. Zrtsg

Posts: 40; Member since: May 09, 2019

And people think that dxomark scores are trash. Just look at this crap. Phonearena the most biased swebsite period!!

19. midan

Posts: 3228; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Why? The list looks very good

22. Zrtsg

Posts: 40; Member since: May 09, 2019

Iphone best camera? Samsung runner up? Lol These phone's cameras are crap compared to huawei and xiaomi

26. iushnt

Posts: 3176; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

Xiaomi?? Really?

23. whatev

Posts: 2444; Member since: Oct 28, 2015

Lmao, just leave him, he’s a case of a person under the influence of RDF

20. Elvis358

Posts: 291; Member since: Mar 25, 2018

Let's face it people Iphone 11 series have the best camera quality in 2019!

29. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

I agree. Absolutely the best video recording capability, excellent auto mode that triggers zero-shutter-lag Deep Fusion and night mode automatically without forcing users to wait for 5 seconds for each capture, and generally great still image quality. No further argument needed.

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31765; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I can agree with this, just like if the Note won, I could also agree. The iPhone might be boring, and lacking much needed features, but its camera is killing it. No arguement from me. I'd love to be able to add an image to an image, or use the lasso feature natively, like I can on my Note 10+ though. The iPhones camera, still requires too many 3rd party apps, to enjoy the maximum experience for me.

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