The best camera phones of 2024: Which one to get?

Best camera phones of 2023
These days, flagship phones all have remarkable 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 mostly 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 in the camera phone market, the potential for FOMO is massive. 

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.

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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 S24 Ultra

The best camera phone of 2024... so far

Unveiled in early 2024, the Galaxy S24 Ultra quickly became the new benchmark that all other flagships released later this year will match against. Coming in hot with a 200MP camera, and joined by a 12MP ultra-wide, a 10MP 3X telephoto, and a new 5X periscope camera, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is the phone to beat right now. 

Unlike its predecessors, the Galaxy S24 Ultra drops the 10X periscope in favor of a more detailed 50MP periscope, which obviously has less optical zoom prowess, but thanks to clever trickery, the phone achieves a similar maximum-zooming capability, with Space Zoom up to 100X. Up front, Samsung still uses a 12MP front camera which delivers excellent

What's even more exciting than the hardware changes are the software and algorithm enhancements. These play a critical role in the overall camera experience. Fortunately for us, Samsung has done away with the over-processed mess that was the Galaxy S23 Ultra image processing. With the new top flagship, we get very natural and true-to-life scene rendition, which means that your photos are no longer excessively processed out of the box. 

For the full Galaxy S24 camera overview, feel free to check out our Galaxy S24 Ultra review right here

iPhone 15 Pro Max

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

The new titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max comes along with an intriguingly refreshed rear camera setup. The 48MP wide-camera that debuted with the iPhone 14 Pro Max is here to stay, and so does the 12MP ultra-wide, but the telephoto is now finally improved. We get a 12MP telephoto with a 5X optical zoom capabilities, the equivalent of a 120mm lens on a 35mm frame. This corresponds to 25X digital zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro Max

Many changes on the software front as well. We get an improved Photonic Engine and HDR algorithms, which enable the latest iPhone to take significantly more natural-looking photos than its predecessors. What's more, Apple is switching from taking 12MP photos by default and will now take 24MP pictures as standard on the iPhone 15 Pro and the Pro Max. Thanks to sensor-cropping, the latest top iPhone also delivers lossless 2X zoom; you can also choose to shoot at 1.2X (28mm) or 1.5X (35mm).

At 5X and 10X zooms, photos look better and have more detail in comparison with the iPhone 14 Pro Max. The camera also stays quite steady thanks to the stabilization, so they look sharp even in low light. There's also a small but visible improvement in low-light photography.

For a fuller look at the iPhone 15 Pro Max camera and our camera samples, head to the iPhone 15 Pro Max review

Google Pixel 8 Pro 

The Pixel camera we love

The Pixel 8 Pro is the best Pixel phone available right now by a mile. Continuing the legacy of the Pixel 6 Pro and the Pixel 7 Pro, the Pixel 8 Pro arrives with a camera that features slightly improved hardware but majorly enhanced software. 

The main camera is a 50MP one, accompanied by a 48MP telephoto camera with 5X optical zoom, as well as a 48MP ultra-wide macro-friendly snapper. At the front, we find a 10.5MP, which sounds less exciting in comparison, but still delivers good results. Thanks to this hardware setup, the Pixel 8 Pro easily ranks among the great Android cameraphones you can get right now.

But hardware isn't everything: the Pixel 8 Pro arrives with a ton of AI features and processing enhancements, all of which aim to make the phone's camera smarter and better-understanding what you want to capture.  

For the full review as well as camera samples, check our Google Pixel 8 Pro review

OnePlus 12

Best budget flagship camera phone

The OnePlus 12 introduces a fresh 50MP primary camera featuring Sony's latest camera sensor, the LYT-808, belonging to the same sensor family as the LYT-T808 utilized in the OnePlus Open, renowned for its excellent image quality and overall camera performance. However, unlike the OnePlus Open, the OnePlus 12's LYT-808 sensor isn't stacked, making the OnePlus Open technically the better equipped device. Stacked sensors offer better low-light image quality and clarity.

Moreover, the OnePlus 12's primary camera offers a slightly wider 23mm perspective and boasts a faster f/1.6 aperture, implying impressive low-light performance.

Beyond these hardware enhancements, OnePlus has incorporated some software and image-processing upgrades. A new HDR algorithm ensures superior image processing in challenging lighting conditions. Claimed to be AI-powered, OnePlus asserts that the phone comprehends scenes intelligently, applying precise edits for a more natural appearance.

OnePlus has also increased the megapixel count of the ultra-wide camera slightly, from 48 to 50MP, but this doesn't bring major improvements in image quality. The ultra-wide angle on the OnePlus 12 is a bit narrower than the OnePlus 11's, at 114 degrees compared to 115 degrees. Autofocusing now works from just 3.5cm, allowing for close-up macro shots.

Most importantly, OnePlus is bringing back a telephoto camera with 3X optical zoom on their flagship phones. Though not as advanced as some competitors' 5X periscope cameras, like those on the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Galaxy S24 Ultra, and Pixel 8 Pro, it's a significant addition.

Check the full OnePlus 12 review for more details on the flagship's camera.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

The phone camera experience redefined

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 recently.  

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.

Google Pixel 7a

Best budget camera phone

The Google Pixel 7a might be Google's affordable phone in 2023, but its vastly improved 64MP camera is nothing to scoff at. 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 produces more detailed images and 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 the 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 vibrant, 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.

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 X7 Ultra

The Galaxy S24 Ultra killer

The Oppo Find X7 Ultra is an extreme camera phone. Equipped with a quad-50MP camera system, this new Oppo device boasts two dedicated periscope zoom cameras. 

Back on the main camera, it features a second-gen Sony LYT-900 1" camera sensor, which is among the largest ones you can get on a phone right now and delivers awesome sharpness, low-light sensitivity, and overall camera quality. The ultra-wide camera also relies on a custom Sony LYT-600 sensor. The phone zooms with two cameras: a 50MP 1/1.56" Sony IMX890 sensor that goes up to 2.8X and a 50MP 1/2.51" Sony IMX85 sensor that zooms to 6X optically. 

With this setup, the phone can zoom from the equivalent of 14 to 270mm with mostly coherent image quality thanks to the new HyperTone Image Engine. Enhanced by AI, this one aims to fix unnaturally looking HDR photos, preserving highlights, as well as shadows and mid-tones. Overall, the goal of these is to deliver natural photos. 

For the full review as well as a multitude of photos, check our full Oppo Find X7 Ultra review

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