The best camera phones of 2023: Which one is right for you?

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Best camera phones of 2023
These days, flagship phones all have amazing cameras. 

Who needs a dedicated camera anymore? Aside from professionals and enthusiasts, just about anyone can take excellent photos with their phone, with no need to splurge out on a dedicated camera. The newest Galaxy, the latest iPhone, and all the other premium-tier Android phones are all among the best camera phones you can buy in 2023.  

The average camera phone now comes packing a respectable camera setup with decent main camera and processing software, and while certain brands and models may excel in certain areas, it's pretty much a neck-and-neck race that's largely decided by one's personal preferences. How to separate the best camera phones from all the other phones? Is the best one a member of the best Galaxy phones or is it one of the top iPhones out there?

Some of the camera phones perform better in low light, others have dedicated Night Modes that are way ahead of the competition, and then there are those that are mediocre for stills, but are great for video. It's not easy picking the best camera phone, especially if you don't get the chance to try out many, many phones for yourself. With so much choice on the camera phone market, the potential for FOMO is very big. 

What do you have to look for if you want to get the best phone camera?

Best camera phones to consider in 2023:



These days, the bar for a top-performing camera phone is quite high. To be competitive, an aspiring camera phone device has to have exceptional camera quality delivered by the rear cameras. The result must be a photo that has sharpness, good color balance, adequate exposure, realistic saturation and a significant amount of detail.

It's especially important how the camera handles extreme lighting scenarios that test its high-dynamic range imaging capabilities — very bright spots shouldn't be just blindingly white spots and dark shadows must contain details. Speaking of darkness, low-light photography is where most sub-par cameras struggle, and we can't have any of that when it comes to the best phone cameras in 2023. The goal with low-light photos is not which phone can take the brightest shot with little or no light sources around. 

That being said, here are the best-performing camera phones on the smartphone market right now. Now, let's go find the best camera phone!

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The best camera phone of 2023, 200MP prowess at your fingertips

PhoneArena Rating: 9.2/10

Pros

  • Battery life is great, big improvement from predecessor
  • New Snapdragon chip is the best one in years
  • Design is improved, feels more ergonomic
  • Screen is less curved and gets very dim (perfect for nighttime use)
  • Camera improvements are there, but not colossal
  • Loudspeakers sound much better now
  • You get double the storage (256GB) at base model

Cons

  • Base model still only has 8GB RAM
  • Charging speeds have not improved
  • Haptics are still not as good as rivals
  • Camera system hasn't improved as much as hoped for
  • Expensive if you buy at full price

Samsung's has decided to upgrade from its 108MP camera sensor, gracing the new Galaxy S23 Ultra with a 200MP camera, a new undertaking in the Galaxy camera department. This one unlocks the possibility for super-detailed RAW pictures, but in most occasions, the phone uses pixel-binning to output, you guessed it, 12MP pictures, which still hold tons of detail.

Aside from a sharp new 200MP camera sensor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra camera also comes with a 12MP ultra-wide snapper, a 10MP 3X zoom, a much longer 10MP 10X periscope lens, and an a new 12MP front-facing camera, which outputs exceptionally nice selfies. As you can see, all the necessary chops for a super-versatile and exceptionally potent camera system that can be used in different situations, and will deliver top results nearly all the time.


When it comes to image quality, the Galaxy S23 Ultra performs very well, with excellent definition and tons of detail. The excessive processing of the Galaxy S22 Ultra has been toned down, so pictures on the Galaxy S23 Ultra look a lot more natural, which is an excellent improvement and propels this one to the coveted spot of the best phone camera in early 2023. 

Colors rendition in Galaxy S23 Ultra photos looks more natural and generally more pleasing than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which definitely tips the scales in favor of the newer device. Definitely a top camera phone, but still, not entirely perfect!

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iPhone 14 Pro Max

Best phone for video recording, the best camera on an iPhone

PhoneArena Rating: 9.0/10


Pros

  • Exceptional, industry-leading performance
  • Dynamic Island is a fun and useful twist on the punch hole
  • Very good battery life
  • Superb video-recording quality
  • Very bright and beautiful display with Always-On functionality
  • Premium, posh design

Cons

  • Relatively slow charging speed
  • Small evolutionary improvements
  • Lack of physical SIM feels like an inconvenience

The biggest strength of Apple's latest showpiece is its new main camera with a 48MP rear camera, which will most likely grace many future iPhones. Thanks to it, the iPhone 14 Pro Max can now take extremely detailed 48MP ProRAW images, but normally uses pixel-binning to deliver the good ol' 12MP image files of old. ProRAW is Apple's take on the RAW image format, which combines it with the iPhone's excellent native image-editing experience, allowing you to easily modify your files without the help of third-party apps. 

Meanwhile, pixel-binning is a fairly widespread technology that all the best camera phones use. Pixel-binning uses multiple pixels of a camera's sensor in order to create a single output pixel, which is usually beneficial to the overall image quality and sharpness, especially in low-light conditions. 

We do feel that the 48MP camera mode is truly a game-changer for Apple. Thanks to the new sensor, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is able to deliver more detail in both regular and low-light situations.



What makes the iPhone 14 Pro Max a great camera phone is the much improved video capture. Cinematic 4K at both 24 and 30fps is a big improvement over the measly 1080p 30fps cinematic mode that debuted with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which of its own was among the best camera phones of 2021/2022. 

In terms of video recording, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is as good as it gets, with superb video-recording capabilities that make it the main contender for the best camera phone title. 

What's more, the iPhone 14 Pro Max now comes with Action Mode that delivers exceptional optical and digital image stabilization to video capture and can easily rival a dedicated gimbal. Excellent portrait mode, night mode, and macro mode from the rear cameras, too. With all of these features, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is definitely among the best cameras you can get in 2023. 

Overall, we'd rank the iPhone 14 Pro Max camera near the top of the camera phones tier list.

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Google Pixel 7 Pro 

Google's best camera phone 

PhoneArena Rating: 8.8/10

Pros

  • Great deal at $900
  • Speedy performance, clean software
  • Powerful zoom camera
  • Guaranteed day 1 software updates

Cons

  • Portrait Mode is bad
  • Tensor G2 is not as powerful as rivals
  • Slow-ish charging


Building on the foundation of the Google Pixel 6 Pro, Google's latest Pixel 7 Pro camera phone is an incredible entrant with a longer optical zoom and a very adept camera system. The phone comes up with a 50MP rear camera with an f/1.85 aperture, a 12MP ultra-wide shooter with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 48MP 5X telephoto lens with an f/3.5 aperture, an improvement over the 4X rear camera one found on the Google Pixel 6 Pro

There are lots of software goodies on board as well, including but not limited to the Pixel's Super Res optical zoom, Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, Macro Focus, Cinematic Blur, and more, allowing you to Digital photography overwhelming.



We enjoy the quality and dynamic range that the Pixel 7 Pro produces, but on this already overcast day, we discovered that a number of the pictures were dramatically underexposed and appeared much more gloomy than they actually were. It is evident that both the selfie camera and the new ultra-wide camera have a broader field of vision.

However, if we had to pick one significant improvement to the camera in the new Google Pixel, it would have to be the fact that low-light shots are frequently taken twice as quickly as they were with the previous Google Pixel, a great improvement. Magic Eraser is another great software addition to Google's software experience, a worthy new feature for Pixel phones.

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OnePlus 11

Best budget flagship camera phone

PhoneArena rating: 8.7/10


Pros

  • New, more elegant design with round camera system
  • Three cameras on the back
  • 2X zoom camera for portraits
  • OnePlus alert slider is back!
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 inside
  • Possibly the best haptics ever on an Android phone
  • 6.7-inch OLED screen with 120Hz
  • Insane 100W fast charging

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • no IP68 rating
  • not exactly cheap

The OnePlus 11, a fresh camera entrant in 2023, comes with a pretty decent and quite capable camera setup, all things considered. The star of the show is a 50MP wide (main) camera, with a Sony IMX890 sensor and f/1.8 aperture doing the brunt of the camera work. In general, this camera captures warmer hues with a moderate degree of saturation without going overboard, while photos remain highly contrasted, with deep blacks. In low-light, details are excellent, albeit a bit more extreme in some cases.

There's also a 48MP ultra-wide snapper that utilizes a Sony IMX581 sensor and has a relatively fast f/2.2 aperture that provides more than decent low-light performance. This is actually one of the most decent ultra-wide cameras we've seen so far in 2023, a great performer! It's not the best camera phone, but definitely has one of the best cameras in the price range, especially considering the Android scene. 

Finally, there's the 2X optical telephoto camera, which is a bit short by today's standards, but still offers up to 20X digital zoom and should be more than good enough for the average user, provided that they don't require too much as far as zoom goes. This camera uses a 32MP camera with Sony IMX709 sensor and has an f/2.0 aperture. Still, the lack of a more potent zoom means that the OnePlus 11 is a step behind phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra or even the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which have more capable zoom cameras.

Up front, we get a 16MP selfie camera with an ISOCELL 3P9 (S5K3P9) sensor, which delivers nicely detailed selfies. However, those tend to be quite over-exposed in certain extreme cases, which isn't ideal, but still passable. For the full scope, check out our OnePlus 11 review.

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Sony Xperia Pro-I

The phone camera experience redefined

PhoneArena rating: 8/10


Pros

  • Sharp and accurate 4K 120Hz OLED display
  • Distinctive industrial design
  • Remarkable camera versatility
  • Superb video-recording capabilities
  • Natural, not overly processed photos and videos
  • Loud and clear stereo speakers
  • Plenty of storage plus microSD card support
  • Outstanding flagship-grade performance
  • User-friendly hardware features

Cons

  • High price
  • Shutter button is too sensitive
  • Only 30W fast charging
  • Mushy haptic feedback
  • No biometric alternative to the fingerprint scanner
  • White balance discrepancies between the different cameras
  • Camera interface doesn't rotate

Could this be the best camera phone? As a true first in a modern smartphone, the Sony Xperia Pro-I comes with an incredible sensor: an enormous 1-inch Exmor RS sensor, which is among the largest on camera phones and holds great potential for photography neophytes.  

This one's not totally new for the digital camera world, as it can also be found in the company’s Sony RX100 VII compact camera. Normally, the rear camera sensor is a 20MP one, but Sony has cut it down to 12MP in the Xperia Pro-I, so it’s technically not using the full capabilities of the sensor, but is still more than decent enough especially when camera phones are considered. 

On top of that, the main camera of the Xperia Pro-I has an F2.0/F4.0 switching aperture that can be changed depending on the lighting conditions and will mostly affect the depth of field and exposure. You can play around with the two different apertures in order to achieve different results, but have one thing in mind –– although this Sony phone is among the good camera phones, it's not that intuitive to jump into, especially if you're not into photography that much. It's the furthest from a regular point-and-shoot camera phone in recent years.  


This makes it one of the best camera phones for people who value manual controls and mobile photography. You can use this one to take superb night mode with the rear camera. In general, the camera sensor's ability to collect a lot of light is one of its biggest strengths. When combined with the main 24mm camera's switchable aperture, you can truly get serious about low-light photography.

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Google Pixel 7a

Best budget camera phone

PhoneArena Rating: 8.5/10

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Flagship-grade performance
  • Capable camera with lots of fun features
  • Display finally has a 90Hz refresh rate
  • Compact and user-friendly size
  • Face Unlock on board
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • More expensive than its predecessor
  • Some slight build quality issues
  • Only a single 128GB storage option
  • Uninspiring digital zoom

The Google Pixel 7a might be Google's affordable phone in 2023, but its vastly improved 64MP camera is nothing to scooch over. In fact, bar some notable differences, a case can be made that it's just as good as the Pixel 7. To learn more about the specifics, make sure to read our dedicated Google Pixel 7a review.

Overall, a case could be made that this here Google Pixel 7a is the best affordable camera phone you might consider in 2023. It offers an excellent bang for the buck, with just enough camera features and a very decent image-processing that carries over the signature post-processing look of Google's flagship Pixel lineup, which are among the best camera phones one might consider. 

With the Pixel 7a, Google uses quad-pixel binning to combine four pixels into one, producing 16MP images. Pixel-binning not only produces more detailed images but also makes the sensor more light-sensitive, which sounds great. That also improves the quality of low-light images.


The Pixel 7a will use the 13MP Sony IMX712 sensor for its ultra-wide camera, which also receives a change in camera sensor at the same time. As a reminder, the 12MP Sony IMX386 ultra-wide sensor was used in the Pixel 6a and many earlier Pixel devices. There's a 13MP selfie camera at the front, which generally allows you to take very decent selfies.

What's the image quality like?

Both in good and in bad lighting conditions, the Pixel 7a shoots very decent photos, with a delightful vibranc, lively color reproduction, and sharp details. Portraits are superb with the Pixel 7a, as it does an excellent job at isolating your subject from the background. The video-recording capabilities of the device have also been ameliorated by improved optical stabilization.

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Xiaomi 13 Ultra

One of the best exotic Android camera phones


The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is an exotic Android phone from China packing some very, very serious camera hardware. The camera setup is quite spectacular, helmed by a 50MP wide-angle camera sensor with a massive 1-inch sensor with a switching aperture, which is bridging the gap between mobile phones and more potent dedicated mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Although the latter still have bigger sensors, allowing for better image quality, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra's 1-inch camera is seriously impressive for a mobile phone. There's switching aperture as well. At its maximum extent, this one measures at f/1.9 and allows for very natural-looking bokeh at the expense of slightly softer detail. Switch to the f/4.0 aperture mode, however, and you will enjoy a much, much sharper photo, with natural details. 

Here are the full Xiaomi 13 Ultra camera specs:

  • 50MP Wide (IMX989, 1" sensor), 23mm lens, f/1.9 - f/4.0
  • 50MP Ultra-wide (IMX858, 1/2.51" sensor)
  • 50MP 3.2X Zoom (IMX858): 75mm f/1.8
  • 50MP 5X Periscope zoom (IMX858): 120mm f/3.0
  • 32MP Front cam

But what's even more important than the raw hardware is the image post-processing, which is what matters the most at the end of the day. Over the years, we've seen many smartphone cameras with impressive hardware that put a stick in their own wheels by lackluster or excessive post-processing. Fortunately, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra doesn't fall into the same trap and doesn't rely on oversharpening, aggressive HDR, or on excessive post-processing that gives off that unmistakable smartphone look. 

On the contrary. The phone which was co-developed with Leica, the legendary camera company, delivers extremely natural-looking and amazing photos in daytime and nighttime alike. For camera specs and real-life camera specs, make sure to check out our Xiaomi 13 Ultra preview, which includes tons of information about the phone. 


Oppo Find X6 Pro

"The phone with three main cameras"

PhoneArena rating: 9/10

Pros

  • Best periscope zoom photo and video quality in low-light scenarios
  • Brightest display on a phone with touch-aware dynamic refresh rate
  • Symmetrical, ergonomic two-tone rear design version
  • Ultrafast wired and wireless charging
  • Very good battery life
  • Clever design-matching cases
  • Usable phone-based sleep tracking option
  • Silent call mode prevents conversation snooping

Cons

  • No global availability
  • Display panel leans on the cold color side
  • Some burned highlights in low-light photos
  • Stagnant selfie camera hardware

Welcome another exotic camera phone, this one manufactured in close collaboration with camera giant Hasselblad––Oppo Find X6 Pro. The latter is one of the more exciting and good camera phones we've reviewed recently, though you should have in mind that it has very limited global availability. 

Oppo refers to the Find X6 Pro as having "three main cameras," implying how each camera was treated across the zoom range. Previously, it introduced a main and ultrawide camera with equal 50MP resolution and flagship Sony sensors on each, color-coordinating their output for a more unified photography experience. We also have those, beginning with a massive 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor and ending with the largest ultrawide camera sensor, a 1/1.56" IMX890 device.

Oppo, on the other hand, incorporated a periscope camera with the same 1/1.56" IMX890 sensor as the ultrawide camera on the Find X6 Pro, offering a unique 50MP zoom camera unlike any other available right now. This one can achieve a hybrid 6X zoom, and thanks to the large prism inside the telephoto camera, this one can 

This basically means that the Oppo Find X6 Pro puts very big emphasis on the image quality, no matter which camera you use. Our Oppo Find X6 review revealed that you can rely on each camera to deliver excellent photos in all lighting conditions. 

There are some downsides, though. The phone would occasionally grace your photos with burnt highlights and colors, implying that the dynamic range and the HDR capabilities of the Oppo Find X6 Pro might need some software tuning up. 



How to choose a camera phone for specific photography styles?


Most camera phones these days have similar camera setups, and thus, mostly excel at the same types of photography. Regular, everyday situations will hardly prove to be a challenge to the best camera phones out there, which all excel in daylight photography. There are few phones that specialize in niche photography styles, but the majority are mostly jacks-of-all-trades.

Thus, whichever camera phone from the mentioned in the list above you go for, you are likely getting a rather versatile package that could cater to just about any specific need you might have. Surely, some camera phones allow you to shoot in ways that other don't, so a careful research should be considered before a purchase. 

There are exceptions, of course. If you're into wildlife photography, few camera phones will do better than the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which lets you use the optical zoom to get close to your subjects. Surely, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra and the Oppo Find X6 Pro among others are very capable zooming phones, but their limited availability makes it hard to consider or recommend them. 

For portrait photography, it really is a toss up between the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro Max, though the Google Pixel 7 Pro also holds its own against the aforementioned competition. It all depends on how realistic and processed you want your portraits to look like. 

When it comes to night photography, the Galaxy S23 Ultra, iPhone 14 Pro Max, and Pixel 7 Pro all compare excellently, making them some of the very best camera phones you could consider getting right now.

How do we test camera phones?


Before we test the cameras of the phones we review, so a complete familiarization with the whole device comes as a paramount first step in the process. 

Although tempting, it is sometimes wrong to isolate the camera in a vacuum without taking into the account the rest of the experience and the phone features. That's not how we look out for the best camera phones out there.

Our actual camera testing starts with getting to know the camera specs, camera hardware, and camera app itself. Aside from the interface layout of the camera app, available features, and camera modes, we also spend some time into the dedicated settings page of the camera app, which often hides some awesome functionalities.

Next, there's little else to do than go out and shoot ton of camera samples from the rear camera, the optical zoom camera and the telephoto camera, ultra wide cameras, and the selfie camera. We take portrait mode shots, test the optical image stabilization during, the macro mode, the night mode, and any other camera feature that could potentially let you take better photos.

Then, we analyze the samples made with these "best camera phone" candidates thoroughly. 

Are there any glaring issues? 

What's the detail like, the dynamics, the low-light performance?  Are there any missing features that we've seen on other superb camera phones?

As it usually is nearly impossible to gauge a camera by itself, we often compare a camera phone against its predecessor and/or some of its rivals in the space, which allows us to gauge how it fares against the competition. This is a very brief summary of how we measure up the best phone cameras out there. 

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