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The best 5G phone for photographers in 2020: get ahead of the curve!

Best 5G phone
(Image credit: Samsung)

If you want the fastest, most future-proof handset, the best 5G phones are without doubt your best bet. Of course, depending on your location, 5G technology may still be a yet to arrive or it may already be on your doorstep – but make no mistake, it is the future. 

So what is 5G? Well, in short, 5G delivers faster mobile internet than we’ve ever had access to before. And this is transformative for your workflow; whether you’re waiting for that tutorial to download or for that album to sync on Lightroom mobile, having a faster mobile internet connection will save you serious time. The best camera phones are obviously about the camera, first and foremost, but 5G will inevitably improve the whole experience – especially with 4K video and high-resolution photos becoming an increasing part of our everyday imaging.

In theory 5G is capable of speeds as high as 50Gbps, but you won’t get anything close to that just yet; in our time using the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on Vodafone in the UK, we were maxing out at about 200Mbps in the few spots 5G available around London. Though obviously 5G speed and coverage is only going to improve. 

What 5G phones are available now?

At the time of writing, there are no 5G iPhones, only Android phones. These include the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, Oppo Reno 5G, Xiaomi Mi Mix 5G, Huawei Mate 20X 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G. 

When will Apple follow suit? It is widely anticipated that the iPhone 12 will introduce at least one 5G option, as Apple is being as conservative (or, to be more charitable, 'considered') as ever when it comes to rolling out a new technology. 

Should I get a 5G phone?

Whether you should buy a 5G phone now really depends on two things: what you need from your phone, and where you live. If you frequently tether your phone’s mobile internet and download huge files on the go, it might be worth investing in 5G sooner rather than later – provided it's on its way to your region. 

Bear in mind that 5G is currently only available in big cities, and only in a handful of them around the world. So if you want to know when it’s coming to you, check with your local network provider.

If you think that the new technology is for you, then let's dive into the best 5G phones available right now…

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

The best 5G phone all-round

Rear cameras: 108MP (wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS), 48MP (4x zoom, f/2.2), 12MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2) | Front camera: 40MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 222g | Dimensions: 166.9 x 76 x 8.8 mm | Storage: 128GB

Excellent hardware quality
Amazing versatility
8K video
Very pricey
Limited high-res video stabilisation
100x zoom images don’t look good

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung’s ultimate Android phone. There’s an optical zoom with around 4x magnification, a 108MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide, and a time of flight depth sensor for good measure. The consistent quality of these sensors stands out, with great image quality on offer at all native focal lengths. However, its much publicized “100x Space Zoom” photos look bad; add all the clever processing you like, we’re still zooming into a 5x image here. But the results are excellent at 10x zoom and acceptable at 30x zoom. This alone is a big achievement. 

What’s missing? The S20 Ultra does't have 4K video stabilization in the same league as the iPhone 11 Pro, but it can capture non-stabilized 8K. Shoot with a tripod in sunlight and the results are often excellent. The 120Hz screen is superb, but other core elements vary by territory. In the UK the phone uses an Exynos processor, which leads to slightly disappointing stamina given the 5000mAh battery capacity, but the phone has the Snapdragon 865 in the US. Judging by our experiences with the two chipsets, the Snapdragon is better.

best 5G phones: Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

2. Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G

The best budget 5G phone

Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.8, OIS), 12MP (Telephoto, f/2.4) | Front camera: 24MP + 2MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 225 g | Dimensions: 157.9 x 74.7 x 8.5 mm | Storage: 164/28GB

Most affordable standalone 5G phone
Flagship performance and speed
Moving parts give us the heebie jeebies
No ultrawide camera

Available exclusively on Vodafone in the UK, and not on sale in the US, the Mi Mix 3 5G is our pick for the best budget 5G phone. It has two cameras, skipping the ultrawide angle option found on many of its competitors. While this means it doesn’t have as versatile a camera as that of the Galaxy S10 5G or the Oppo Reno 5G, what it does deliver is incredible value for money. 

It comes loaded up with a Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB RAM, so performance is excellent, and the 6.39-inch AMOLED screen delivers bezel-free gaming, watching, swiping and scrolling.

If you think you’re getting a poor camera, think again. The Mi Mix 5G still has smart scene detection, a dedicated night mode and dual front cameras to make your portraits pop with a shallow depth of field effect. There's also a slide-out selfie camera that's hidden from view when not in use – so from the front, it's light on bezels and has a futuristic look.

best 5G phones: Moto Z4 + 5G Mod

(Image credit: Moto)

3. Moto Z4 + 5G Mod

The best mid-range phone with modular 5G

Rear cameras: 48MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.7/2.4) | Front camera: 25MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 165 g | Dimensions: 158 x 75 x 7.4 mm | Storage: 128GB

Affordable mid-range phone
Cool clip-on 5G modular accessory
Worse performance than the competition
Single-camera with limited features

There’s no getting around the fact that standalone, the Moto Z4 is neither a flagship phone nor is capable of 5G data speeds. With its mid-range processor, single camera and tapered spec-sheet, it won’t be the best choice for keen photographers who want a top-quality cameraphone experience.

However, if you want to go for something future-proof, aren’t ready to pay the 5G premium yet, and don’t need a flagship model, this could be the perfect phone for you. Thanks to its modular design, you can clip a 5G module onto the back of the Z4 to enable 5G capabilities down the line. While the module isn’t cheap (it'll set you back in excess of $300), when the service is a bit more widespread at least you’ll have this option – something no other phones offer right now. 

As for the rest of the phone, the Z4 has a large 6.4-inch OLED screen and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, which is coupled with 4GB RAM. The sole camera is 48MP with an f/1.7 aperture, and a 3600mAH battery keeps things ticking along.

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

The best 5G phone all-round

Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.5/2.4, OIS), 16MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2), 12MP (Telephoto, f/2.4, OIS) | Front camera: 10MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 198 g | Dimensions: 162.6 x 77.1 x 7.9 mm | Storage: 256/512 GB

All-round great performance
Headphone jack
Regional differences with the processor
Not the best zoom camera

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is like the Swiss Army Knife of 5G phones – it has a gorgeous pin-sharp screen, six cameras with cutting-edge depth-sensing tech, a huge battery and loads of storage. And let’s not forget, it's one of only two 5G phones available right now with a headphone jack. 

The S10 5G has four cameras around the back. In a similar setup to that of the Galaxy S10, these cover wide, ultrawide and telephoto options. Unlike the other S10s though, these are supplemented by a time of flight (ToF) camera, which can detect depth more accurately than traditional cameras, delivering more precise artificial background blur across photos and videos.

The phone’s large 6.74-inch screen is a Dynamic AMOLED panel with sensational colour accuracy, depth and vibrancy. On the top right of the screen is a cutout that houses the front 10MP camera, which is coupled with a ToF sensor for portrait mode selfies and video.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review.

(Image credit: OnePlus)

5. OnePlus 7 Pro 5G

The best 5G phone under $1000/£1000

Rear cameras: 48MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6, OIS), 16MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2), 12MP (Telephoto, f/2.4, OIS) | Front camera: 16MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 206 g | Dimensions: 162.6 x 75.9 x 8.8 mm | Storage: 256GB

Gorgeous design and screen
Fastest 5G speeds in the UK
The stills/video camera falls behind S10 5G
Microphone quality could be better

If you're after 5G on a budget, take a look at the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. OnePlus has become one of the main smartphone players over the last few years, by combining exceptional performance and value. If there was one device that broke the mould and put OnePlus in the big leagues though, it was the OnePlus 7 Pro. 

Available exclusively on EE in the UK, the 5G variant of the phone doesn’t make any changes to the original’s winning formula, beyond the addition of 5G (read our OnePlus 7 Pro review ). Powered along by a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and packing up to 256GB storage, it’s fast and full of space for your stuff. The curved OLED screen sports QHD+ resolution, so is pin sharp, and with its in-screen fingerprint scanner and pop-up selfie camera, it also packs enough party tricks to keep gadget fans happy.

As for the cameras, the OnePlus 7 Pro includes a great stills camera that delivers a 3x optical zoom. While it can’t quite topple the Galaxy S10 5G when it comes to across-the-board imaging reliability, or the Reno 10X Zoom when it comes to getting you close to your subject, as a package, it’s excellent. Independent research company Root Metrics even found it to be the fastest 5G phone in the UK. 

best 5G phones: Huawei Mate 20X 5G

(Image credit: Oppo)

6. Huawei Mate 20X 5G

Best 5G phone for video playback

Rear cameras: 40MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6, OIS), 20MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2), 8MP (Telephoto, f/2.4, OIS) | Front camera: 24MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 233 g | Dimensions: 174.6 x 85.4 x 8.4 mm | Storage: 256GB

Huge immersive screen
Versatile cameras
Too big for most
The battery is good; not great

Launching on Three in the UK, with no US release in sight, the Huawei Mate 20X 5G is the phone to go for if you’re in the market for a multimedia powerhouse. Its gargantuan 7.2-inch screen is the biggest mainstream display around and makes everything else seem tiny, and anything you watch on it look stellar. 

This is the best phone for 5G early adopters who want to download and stream the highest resolution content with no buffering time. Games on the Mate 20X Pro look immense, and the Kirin 980 processor powering everything along with 8GB RAM will ensure they play back smoothly.

Its three cameras capture three different zoom ranges, from a 16mm ultrawide angle through to an 80mm telephoto camera, offering plenty of versatility from an imaging point of view. Oh, and the phone’s video stabilisation is fantastic, too. 

best 5G phones: LG V50 ThinQ 5G

(Image credit: LG)

7. LG V50 ThinQ 5G

Best 5G phone for gadget fans

Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.5, OIS), 16MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/1.9), 12MP (Telephoto, f/2.4, OIS) | Front camera: 8MP + 5MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 183g | Dimensions: 159.2 x 76.1 x 8.3 mm | Storage: 128GB

Clip-on second screen is a fun gadget
Versatile camera system
Notch looks dated
Clip-on screen potential unrealised as of yet

How good the LG V50 ThinQ 5G is will depend on where you are and what the phone ships with. If you’re picking it up in the UK on EE, the Dual Screen case – a fun gadget lover’s dream – ships in the box. It’ll give you plenty to tinker with while adding protection. The case also turns into a handy kickstand for movie-watching or support when photo-taking.

If you’re in the US, it isn’t plain sailing, with the case harder to come by and inclusion with the handset unclear. If the idea of the dual screens sparks joy with you, it's worth checking with your retailer whether you’ll be getting one included before you pick the V50 ThinQ 5G up.

As for the rest of the phone, it’s loaded up with a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, features five cameras – two on the front and three on the back, and even crams in a quad-DAC for excellent wired audio. Audiophiles can also rejoice at the fact that the V50 ThinQ 5G is one of only two native 5G phones with a headphone jack.

Read more:

• The best camera phones you can buy today
• Which is the best iPhone for photography?
• 
The best add-on lenses for iPhone and Android phones