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The best camera phone in 2018: ultimate smartphone cameras on test

Our ultimate guide to the best camera phone.

For years we’ve heard that camera phones are beginning to rival true top-end camera tech, and while that may still not be strictly true, the tech on offer is better than ever as you will see in this best camera phone guide.

Here, we'll talk you through the best camera phones on the market – and the good news is that these devices are also some of the best smartphones on the market too, so you won’t be losing out in other areas you need from your device.

UPDATE: The iPhone XS has arrived and has made it to second on our list. You can read more about how it performs in our iPhone XS camera review.

Our top pick for the best camera phone right now is the Huawei P20 Pro. It allows you to take beautiful shots quickly and easily and its team-up with Leica means that it has the best optics on the market right now.

When you’re looking for a camera phone, there are a few considerations to make –particularly in terms of image processing and colour accuracy. To help you find the right option for you, we’ve broken this list down into categories so you can quickly find the best camera phone for your needs.

1. Huawei P20 Pro

Three cameras have helped earn this camera phone the top spot

Release date: April 2018 | Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP | Front camera: 24MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/1.6 + f/2.4 | Autofocus type: | Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 155 x 73.9 x 7.8 mm | Storage: 128/256GB

Innovative three cameras
Great in low-light
Not as consistent as Samsung

The best camera phone: The Huawei P20 Pro is a very impressive piece of picture taking kit. We’ve ranked it slightly lower here as it’s not as consistent as the Galaxy S9 Plus, but it’s still a powerful camera that combines a 40MP RGB sensor with a 20MP black and white one.

That is said to help with image processing and decreases the amount of noise you’ll get in shots. Thanks to a third rear camera, an 8MP shooter, the phone allows you 3x zoom without having to default to a lower quality digital zoom.

2. iPhone XS

Tied to Apple? The iPhone XS is a fantastic camera phone

Release date: October 2018 | Rear camera: Dual 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras | Front camera: 7MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/2.4 | Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm | Storage: 64/256GB

Great Portrait mode
Spectacular for selfies
Can oversaturate

The best top-range camera phone: We don’t necessarily think the extra money spent on an iPhone XS gives a better camera experience, but it does offer you the best iPhone that’s ever been made. The X was a marked change for the company and while the iPhone XS doesn't look any different, it still offers a full screen 5.8-inch device that looks futuristic when you hold it in your hand, its camera software has been greatly enhanced.

The camera is a powerful dual 12MP shooter with one sporting f/1.8 and the other f/2.4 that both pack optical image stabilization to offer some impressive shots. We found the colors to be natural, and the fact one is a telephoto sensor helps for shooting detail at a further distance than most other phones on the market.

There's a new sensor, too, which measures 1.4µm and thanks to the new chipset it is now double the speed of its predecessor and has two new features: Smart HDR and Depth Control.

3. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

This was our favorite camera phone until very recently. But it is still great!

Release date: March 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.5 + f/2.4 | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm | Storage: 64/128/256GB

Fantastic auto mode
Packed full of features
AR Emoji isn’t for everyone

A superb camera phone: The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Plus is a camera phone that is actually one of the best phones that money can buy right now too. This is the first time Samsung has embraced dual camera tech, and it uses two 12MP sensors paired together.

The main sensor is particularly impressive with an aperture of f/1.5, and that does make for some incredible low-light photography so you can shoot at night. There’s also an impressive bokeh mode for portrait shots. That paired with great video recording, slow motion and AR emoji makes this our very favourite smartphone for photography.

4. OnePlus 6

A mid-range camera phone that delivers

Release date: May 2018 | Rear camera: 16MP + 20MP | Front camera: 16MP | IS: Yes (one sensor) | Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/1.7 | Weight: 177g | Dimensions: 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm | Storage: 128/256GB

Cheaper than phones above
All-round solid shooter
Limited UI
Mediocre zoom

The best mid-range camera phone: With two rear cameras (16MP and 20MP) sporting an impressive f/1.7 aperture each, it already sounds rock solid. OnePlus has also increased the pixel size on the main 16MP shooter too up 19% from the OnePlus 5T – that’s now 1.22um, which means it’s better than ever at low-light shooting.

There’s both OIS and EIS working on the rear 16MP shooter as well as slow motion video recording at 480 frames per second, making this the most accomplished OnePlus camera ever. It’s up there with some of the best, and the mid-range price of the OnePlus 6 makes this a must-have on a more limited budget.

5. Moto G6 Plus

The best cheap camera phone you can get right now

Release date: May 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP + 5MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: No | Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.2 | Weight: 167g | Dimensions: 160 x 75.5 x 8 mm | Storage: 64/128GB

Most affordable
Solid camera spec
Limited video recording
Poor zoom

The best cheap camera phone: Is your budget more limited? The Moto G6 Plus isn’t going to blow you away with the photos it can take like some of the other phones in this list, but it is a very affordable device at £240 or less and it sports a dual-rear camera.

It’s a 12MP sensor (f/1.7 aperture) paired with a 5MP depth sensor that allows for a bokeh effect Portrait mode on one of the most affordable devices we’ve ever tested. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for the best photography you can get on a budget device we’d recommend this option from Motorola.

6. Google Pixel 2

An impressively simple camera phone with great processing prowess

Release date: October 2017 | Rear camera: 12.2MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 | Weight: 143g | Dimensions: 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm | Storage: 64/128GB

Simple UI
Great automatic mode
Expensive device
OK selfie camera

The best Android camera phone: It’s the same camera on both of the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and if you don’t like the other options above this is the best you’re going to get on an Android phone. Neither ar cheap devices, but we chose the Pixel 2 as it’s more affordable. On paper the 12.2MP f/1.8 sensor on the rear may not sound great, but it’s a totally different situation in real life.

Google is particularly good at processing the images this camera can take, and it’s now well known as one of the best camera phones on the market.  This is particularly true in its automatic mode, and considering this can do some stunning portrait shots you’ll likely be happy with either of these phones.

The Google Pixel 3 has also been revealed and we can't wait to get it in for tests.

7. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The best camera phone in the world again, just repackaged

Release date: August 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.5 + f/2.4 | Weight: 201g | Dimensions: 161.9 x 76.4 x 8.8 mm | Storage: 128/512GB

Same camera as S9 Plus
Top-end device
Not built for everyone

The best Samsung camera phone: This is very much the same camera as the Galaxy S9 Plus, but here there are a couple of little software tweaks that makes it a touch easier to use. We chose the Galaxy S9 Plus as our number one phone in this list as it’s a bit cheaper, but if you want an S Pen and this powerful shooter you can get it with the Note 9.

You may prefer the design of the Note 9 and really want those minor software tweaks, and if you do you’ll continue to get that impressive low-light specializing camera that can shoot some phenomenal images even in its automatic mode.

8. iPhone 8 Plus

A great option for front-facing shooting

Release date: September 2017 | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 7MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/2.8 | Weight: 202g | Dimensions: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm | Storage: 64/256GB

Great for selfie shooting
Easy to use
Animoji isn’t for everyone

The best camera phone for selfies: Apple’s second phone on this list, the iPhone 8 Plus is a great option if you want to be taking front-facing selfie shots. It may only be a 7MP f/2.2 shooter, but Apple’s image processing is notable here and can create great shots of your face,

Our favourite part is the Portrait mode that is already good at including a bokeh effect, but there’s a new feature called Portrait Lighting that’s enormous fun. It allows you to give the effect that changes the lighting of the shot entirely meaning you can make the whole background black to just focus on your face. Plus there are lots more features like Animoji and panoramic shots for you to play with.

9. Huawei P20

A cheaper camera phone directly from Huawei

Release date: March 2018 | Rear camera: 12MP + 20MP | Front camera: 24MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/1.6 | Weight: 165g | Dimensions: 149.1 x 70.8 x 7.7 mm | Storage: 128GB

 Fantastic at low light
Pro mode included
Not three sensors like P20 Pro
Still high-end of prices

The best camera phone for low light: It isn’t as overall must-have as the triple camera on the Huawei P20 Pro, but the sibling to Huawei’s top-end phone will impress you when it comes to low-light photography. Often you’ll find the detail is a little less on the P20 than the P20 Pro, but we’ve included it as it is still incredible for night time shooting.

The dynamic range is fantastic on this phone, and it has a night mode that uses the artificial intelligence technology inside allowing the phone to better perform than a lot of the other competition on the market.

10. Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

Want to film video? This is the best camera phone out there

Release date: September 2018 | Rear camera: 19MP + 12MP | Front camera: 13MP | OIS: No | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/1.6 | Weight: 236g | Dimensions: 158 x 80 x 11.9 mm mm | Storage: 64GB

Lots of video features
Fantastic slow-mo mode
Thick and heavy phone

The best camera phone for video: Sony’s phone isn’t cheap, but it comes with some of the best video recording we’ve ever seen on a phone. It features much cleaner low light video than we’ve seen on most of the competition, while its video recording in daylight is top notch too.

Perhaps the most exciting element is you can shoot slow motion video at 960 frames per second in Full HD, which is double the resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S9’s similar feature. If you’re looking for some shareable video clips, this is a must-have for those slow-mo moments.


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