The best budget camera phones can represent a chance to have a capable camera in your pocket at all times without having to spend a fortune. Cheap phones used to have a reputation as being a prime example of false economy, but these days manufacturers have done a great job of filling out the cheaper ends of their offering with affordable, but capable handsets. And then there's also the option of buying an older phone, forgoing the latest tech in favor of a much more reasonable price tag, sometimes with just a good camera as the latest flagships.
As you might expect, there are plenty of cheap camera phones available for Android, but Apple users needn't miss out. Budget iPhones do exist, and we've included plenty of models in both categories of this guide to budget camera phones. Indeed, the price difference between these and the absolute best camera phones (opens in new tab)you can buy is absolutely staggering.
If you have a sneaking suspicion that you don't actually need a triple camera array, more than 100 megapixels, a sophisticated optical image stabilization system, or whatever else, and you in fact just need a simple camera phone that works, then this is the guide for you.
We've assembled the ten best budget camera phones you can buy right now for less than $600 (in some cases, quite considerably less). While there are a few manufacturers you might not be familiar with, there are also representatives from big names like Samsung, Nokia, and yes, Apple.
Need to go even cheaper than this? We've also got a guide to the best burner phones if you can forgo having a camera in your pocket wherever you go. Here, we've focused on cheap phones still capable of taking pictures that are decent. So here's the best of the budget camera phones you can buy right now...
Best budget camera phone
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Google doesn't usually deliver best-in-class power, but that's what it's done with the Pixel 6a. It features a mighty Google Tensor chip with top-end features like an under-display fingerprint scanner and a premium metal frame.
Costing midrange money, though, it's clear where Google's compromised. The Pixel 6a has a lower refresh rate screen than the competition, less competitive camera hardware, and no wireless charging.
Despite its dated hardware, the 6a is a powerful camera phone thanks to Google's smart software, enjoys playful design, and offers plenty of bang for your buck.
One of the best budget cameras out now, if not the best, the Pixel 6a, which launched at around the same time as the Nothing Phone (1) and OnePlus 10R (India only), is another excellent option for anyone after a great smartphone that doesn't cost the earth.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review (opens in new tab)
The Nothing Phone (1) is one of the best budget camera phones, thanks to its latest update, which helped us eke a few extra hours out of its battery and capture better photos, it's also one of the most charming, enjoyable phones we've tested to date. Don't get us wrong, this is a flashing, beeping, iPhone-styled midrange smartphone that differentiates itself from the crowd with a gimmick and a prayer. That said, this phone's style is matched by substance – a midrange price, a great screen, stable performance, wireless charging, and a very solid camera experience.
While you can get other great phones with similar camera setups for less or the same amount of money – the Realme 9 Pro Plus and Pixel 6a spring to mind, we'd stick with the Nothing phone given the choice. It's an exciting smartphone, from an exciting brand. We also trust how its elements are curated and are impressed with this first effort – even if it has taken a software update to get us to this point.
Read our full Nothing Phone (1) review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The OnePlus Nord 2 5G is a no-frills quality midrange camera phone. The ultra-wide camera isn’t stellar, but the combination of OIS and OnePlus’s image processing makes the main camera a winner for photography fans who like a more natural-looking image.
The rest of the phone is also impressive for the price. It has a great screen, in-display fingerprint unlocking, a very good-looking design, and nippy internals (and charging).
Beyond imaging, perhaps the thing that edges the Nord 2 ahead of the Xiaomi-flavoured competition is its interface. While still busy, OnePlus’s UI is more stable, and we had an uninterrupted six days of smartphone gaming, watching, photographing, and videoing while we were using it, even if it doesn’t display at 120Hz.
In turn, if you’re okay with no wireless charging or 120Hz screen scrolling and don’t crave high-zoom telephoto cameras or top-tier power, then the Nord 2 could give you everything you need from an almost flagship at a very agreeable price.
Read our full OnePlus Nord 2 5G review (opens in new tab)
The Realme 9 Pro Plus was never going to be the best camera phone (opens in new tab), but it is the best camera phone at under approximately $460. Its main camera packs 2021 flagship-grade photography, which means excellent results day or night and impressive video. While Realme oversharpens things, a lot of people will likely enjoy the punchy finish its photos sport, and there are also a couple of shooting modes that support RAW photography too.
While you can get a better screen or more power for less, photography enthusiasts who appreciate masses of storage won’t be disappointed by the 9 Pro Plus.
Read our full Realme 9 Pro Plus review (opens in new tab)
Buying a budget phone doesn't just mean putting up with tech that's a few years old. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G was announced in March 2021, and it sits pretty much perfectly in the middle of the smartphone offers: neither dirt-cheap nor prohibitively expensive. It's good to see Samsung continuing to cater to users who can't afford the latest models.
And "continue" is the operative word here; one of the great things about the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is that Samsung has committed to keeping it on the list for monthly OS updates, major Android updates, and security updates or at least three to four years. So you know you won't be buying a lemon and that nothing will work within a year's time.
The camera array on the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is very solid for a phone at this price, a three-camera setup that produces punchy bright images at a range of distances. The standard photo modes perhaps smooth things out a little too much – you can detect the hand of an algorithm at work – but it probably won't bother most users, and it certainly doesn't look bad. The 120Hz screen also looks the business, and the 4,500mAh battery will comfortably last the day for all but the heaviest of users. This ticks absolutely loads of boxes, and while it's a more expensive budget smartphone, in terms of value for money it's right up there.
The Poco X4 Pro 5G is a low-cost, high-impact phone that's big in every way – from its styling to its pixel count, screen size, and that battery – all big. Bang for the buck is therefore the name of the game here, but that isn't necessarily the case specifically when it comes to the camera. Last year's five-star Redmi Note 10 Pro actually outperforms the X4 Pro 5G's camera despite costing less.
With 5G connectivity, and an across-the-board competent feature set matched with good, not great photography capabilities though, Xiaomi's Poco X4 Pro 5G can still take excellent photos and is generally pretty easy to recommend at the right price.
Read our full Poco X4 Pro 5G review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
If you want a cheap iPhone and don't mind a small (4.7 inch) screen, the latest update to the iPhone SE is our top recommendation. At a quite affordable price, you'll get many of the same advanced capabilities and performance you'll find in much more expensive iPhones.
This latest iteration of the iPhone SE features 5G, longer battery life, and improved durability. It also features an all-new camera system powered by A15 Bionic, with a 12MP f/1.8 aperture wide camera on the rear that offers great tools like Portrait mode and the same Smart HDR 4 tech as the iPhone 13. The rear camera (7 MP, f/2.2) isn't half bad, either.
The iPhone SE (2022) is rated IP67 for water and dust resistance features the familiar Home button, and supports Touch ID – an easy, private, and secure alternative for logging in to apps, authorizing purchases, and making Apple Pay transactions.(opens in new tab)
If you're looking for a mid-range smartphone that has a good front and rear camera, looks stylish, and has excellent battery life, the Honor 50 is a good choice. It might not have the processing power of some of the latest iPhones, but it is considerably cheaper.
Features such as the curved screen, the OLED display, and the 4,300mAh single-cell dual circuit battery capable of reaching full charge within an hour you'd expect to see in pro series phones, so for the price you do get some nice features.
Living in a world where we document our entire lives on social media, it's nice to have both a front-facing camera and a rear camera that produce high-quality images. However, both 2MP cameras could've been left out and it still would've been a solid phone – perhaps even a little cheaper.
Read our full Honor 50 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The worst thing about the Redmi Note 10 Pro is how difficult it was to find when released. It launched with availability on Aliexpress (opens in new tab), you can import it now into the US or UK, or via Amazon.
That said, if you do find it and need a low-cost smartphone, it’s hands-down the easiest budget device to recommend right now, especially for photography enthusiasts looking for a steal. Sure, it isn’t the best camera phone in (opens in new tab) 2021, but it’s definitely one of the best budget camera phones and a benchmark for smartphones going forward.
Read our full Redmi Note 10 Pro review (opens in new tab)
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