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

Best camera phones of 2022
Finding the best camera phones is no easy task these days. The average flagship now comes packing a respectable camera setup with decent main camera and software, and while certain brands and models may excel in certain areas, it's pretty much a neck-and-neck race. How to separate the best cameras from all the other phones?

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 of the best, especially if you don't get the chance to try out many, many phones for yourself. With so much choice, what do you have to look for, if you want the best smartphone camera?

Best camera phones, a summarized list (in alphabetical order):

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 end result must be a photo that has sharpness, good color balance, adequate exposure, realistic saturation and a great amount of detail.

It's especially important how the camera handles scenarios that test its HDR — very bright spots shouldn't be just 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 2022. The goal with low-light photos is not which phone can take the brightest shot with little or no light sources around. A photo has to be, above all, nice to look at.

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!

iPhone 14 Pro Max

Exceptional video quality, great 48MP camera

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

The Good

  • 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

The Bad

  • 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. Still, 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. 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.

Overall, we'd rank the iPhone 14 Pro Max near the top of the camera phones tier list, a very big contender for the best camera phone released in 2022.

Google Pixel 7 Pro 

Google's best camera

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Google Pixel 7 Pro

The Good

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

The Bad

  • 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 is an incredible camera phone 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.  Digital photography overwhelming.

We enjoy the quality and dynamic range that this camera 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.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Possibly the best camera phone
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Good

  • S Pen in a flagship, great for creatives
  • Industry-leading screen quality
  • Faster charging than before
  • 10X zoom camera is improved significantly
  • Video recording gets smoother stabilization
  • 4 years of major software updates!

The Bad

  • Battery life has gone down from the S21 Ultra
  • You get less RAM than last year
  • No microSD card slot, no headphone jack
  • Loudspeaker quality could be better
  • Jittery swiping, microstutter with gesture nav in One UI

Last year, the Galaxy S21 Ultra impressed us with its versatile rear cameras and camera features. The incredible, high-quality 10X periscope optical zoom lens, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra camera mostly keeps that successful formula and gives it a fresh coat of paint. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has mostly the same cameras as the one on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but there's tons of camera improvements. Still, you can't have the good without some bad, and in this case, we're a bit put off by the aggressive sharpening, revamped dynamics, and bleaker colors.

At the same time, Samsung has improved the one camera feature that makes the S22 Ultra great: the 10X optical zoom! And with digital zoom in, we can get to 100X! We were impressed with the previous-gen Ultra, but this new edition brings a much cleaner detail and — in contrast to the main camera — more vibrant and lively colors. Put simply, this is a big improvement and we love it!  Sensor sizes and pixel counts remain the same (the telephoto camera has a slightly smaller sensor), but Samsung says the main camera has an improved version of the sensor and it is coupled with an even wider lens than the 24mm one on the S21 Ultra.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra is definitely a great camera phone, arguably one of the best and most versatile camera phones, with an S Pen stylus on it as well.

OnePlus 10 Pro

Hasselblad-powered goodness

OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro

The Good

  • Great performance with good thermal management
  • Gorgeous display
  • Nice haptics and lovely sound
  • Premium design
  • Versatile camera
  • You get a charger in the box

The Bad

  • Sometimes bleak image colors
  • Color temperature inconsistencies between the different lenses
  • No auto Night Mode

The OnePlus 10 Pro is a natural evolutionary step up from the OnePlus 9 Pro, and while there's nothing groundbreaking or genuinely spectacular about the phone, its rear cameras are pretty adept. The ultra wide camera now has a smaller sensor, but it has a larger 14mm field of vision and a fun new 150-degree fish eye shooting option. The 3.3X optical zoom telephoto lens is the same as last year's, and it doesn't appear to have improved much, but that's fine because it shoots excellent photographs. The Hasselblad logo, on the other hand, is still present and implies grandeur, but let's see whether that's the case.

General, the OnePlus stands out thanks to its user-friendly photography app and overall adaptability. The main camera captures beautiful images with a lot of detail, a wide dynamic range, and gloomy hues with a touch of deep contrast, similar to the Pixel 6 Pro. Although the specific fisheye mode is largely a goofy party trick, the ultra-wide camera is also fantastic. Finally, the selfie camera captures some stunning and detailed shots, despite the 3.3X telephoto lens being a little soft in terms of clarity.

Overall, the OnePlus 10 Pro is a very, very adept camera phone, with decent rear cameras, superb camera hardware, and good optical zoom, as well as decent digital zoom.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

The phone camera experience redefined

Sony Xperia PRO-I

Sony Xperia PRO-I

The Good

  • 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

The Bad

  • 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 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor.

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. On top of that, that sensor 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.

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.

How to choose a camera phone for specific photography styles?

Most camera phones these days have asimilar camera setup, and thus, mostly excel at the same types of photography. There are few phones that specialize in niche photography styles.

Thus, whichever camera phone from the mentioned above you go for, you are likely getting a rather versatile package that could cater to just about any specific style you might have.

There are exceptions, of course. If you're into wildlife photography, few camera phones will do better than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, which lets you use the optical zoom to get close to your subjects.

For portrait photography, it really is a toss up between the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro Max, though the Google Pixel 7 Pro also holds its own against the aforementioned competition.

When it comes to night photography, the Galaxy S22 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.

Which phone offers the most camera capabilities for the price?

The Galaxy S22 Ultra could very well be the best camera phone released in 2022, and in general, one of the best camera phones you can buy, period. Not only does it have the most amount of hardware and software features among all the flagship camera phones, it's also one of the best all-around flagship devices. We can summarize that the Galaxy S22 Ultra is likely the best camera phone released in 2022.

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.

Our actual camera testing starts with getting to know the camera specs, camera hardware, and camera app itself. Aside from the layout, 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 thoroughly. Are there any glaring issues? What's the detail like, the dynamics, the low-light performance? 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.
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