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Best budget camera phone: these are the best cheap camera phones right now

Best budget camera phone: these are the best cheap camera phones right now
(Image credit: Apple)

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.

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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 for 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. 

UPDATE March 8 2022: Apple has announced the iPhone SE (2022), a powerful new iPhone in an iconic design, with exceptional capabilities and performance at a far lower price than flagship iPhones. The new iPhone SE features A15 Bionic, which powers advanced camera capabilities and makes nearly every experience better, from photo editing to power-intensive operations like gaming and augmented reality. Along with 5G, longer battery life, and improved durability, iPhone SE comes in three colors – midnight, starlight, and red. See our Apple iPhone SE news story for more information, pricing, and pre-order links.

So 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, here you are. 

We've assembled the ten best camera phones you can buy right now for less than $200 (in some cases, quite considerably less), and 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 (opens in new tab) if you can forgo the camera side of things. Here, we've focused on cheap phones still capable of taking pictures that are at least somewhat decent. So here's the best of the budget camera phones you can buy right now... 

Best budget camera phone

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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A capable point-and-shoot camera phone with great battery life

Specifications

Release date: October 2019
Rear cameras: 12.2MP (27mm-equiv. wide angle lens, f/1.7, PDAF, OIS), 16MP (ultra wide angle, f/2.2)
Front camera: 8 MP, f/2, 24mm (wide), ToF 3D Camera
Weight: 151 g
Dimensions: 144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0 mm
Storage: 128 GB

Reasons to buy

+
Great camera
+
Good battery life
+
Wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
No expandable storage
-
No telephoto power
-
Midrange power

If you're looking for a fuss-free and capable point-and-shoot camera phone, then the Google Pixel 5 might be the handset for you. While the Google Pixel 5 might not have the most up-to-date tech, what it lacks in innovation it makes up for with reliability and usability. The rear dual camera unit on the Google Pixel 5 features a 12.2MP 27mm f/1.7 camera and a 16MP ultra wide f/2.2 camera, but it's the software that really elevates this camera to excellence. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 765G chipset works well with the Android 11 OS for a lag-free camera phone experience. The Google Pixel 5 also has some exciting flagship features to offer, such as a 90Hz refresh rate display, water resistance and wireless charging. 

Read our full Google Pixel 5 review (opens in new tab)

Samsung Galaxy S10e: best budget camera phone

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy S10e

Great camera array at an affordable price

Specifications

Rear cameras: 12MP f/1.5 wide angle + 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 10MP f/1.9
OIS: Yes
Weight: 150g
Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
Storage: 128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
Great rear cameras
+
Good specs for the price

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto camera
-
Smaller display

If you're a keen smartphone photographer, but you don't want to splash your cash on a handset with all the bells and whistles, then the Samsung Galaxy S10e might just be the perfect compromise for you. 

Featuring a powerful dual rear camera with a wide angle 12MP f/1.5 lens and a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, the Samsung Galaxy S10e is great for snapping pictures throughout the day. The only thing it's really missing is a telephoto lens, but these tend to be used less than wide-angle lenses anyway. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera is a respectable 10MP f/1.9 camera, which is perfect for taking selfies and chatting with your friends and family on video chat. 

The Samsung Galaxy S10e features a Full HD+ screen with a 5.8-inch display. It also features wireless charging and reverses wireless charging, which is a great flagship feature in such an affordable handset. 

Meanwhile, this Samsung camera phone has a powerful 3,100mAh battery and uses either the Snapdragon 845 chipset or the Exynos 9810 chipset, depending on what region you're in. Running Android 10 out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy S10e offers a heck of a lot of phones for not very much money. 

(Image credit: Motorola)
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3. Motorola Moto G8 Power

A top choice for budget buyers

Specifications

Rear cameras: 16MP (wide-angle, f/1.7), 8MP (2x zoom, f/2.2), 8MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 2MP (depth assist)
Front camera: 16MP
OIS: No
Weight: 197g
Dimensions: 156 x 75.8 x 9.6mm
Storage: 64 GB

Reasons to buy

+
Has a zoom camera
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No dedicated night mode

The Moto G range has been the easiest set of budget phones to recommend for the best part of a decade. They don’t use ultra-low-end tech, their software is tasteful and update support isn’t dropped from the day of release, as happens with some budget brands.

Our pick of the bunch is the Moto G8 Power. And the “Power” part refers to the battery, not the processor. This phone has a 5,000mAh battery, which outlasts most £1,000 phones when left to deal with a day of hard use.

The Moto G8 Power’s cameras are versatile, too, in a budget context at least. Very few phones this cheap have a zoom and an ultra-wide camera. Most use cheap filler sensors to bulk up the spec list, but this phone offers 2x shots with appreciably better detail than a crop of a shot captured with the primary 16-megapixel camera. 

Its zoom and ultra-wide use unremarkable 8-megapixel sensors, but that sense of having a better set of tools to work with still enhances the experience here. Elsewhere, the Moto G8 Power has a good 6.4-inch 1080p screen with a punch hole, Snapdragon 665 CPU, and a plastic shell.

However, the G8 Power does not have the dedicated night mode of the Motorola Moto G8 Plus. Consider the upgrade if low-light image quality matters more than a zoom lens and superior battery life. The Plus has a 48-megapixel main camera, 16MP ultra-wide, and 5MP depth assist.

Google Pixel 4a: best budget camera phone

(Image credit: Google)

4. Google Pixel 4a

Cracking specs and a low price makes this a great budget buy

Specifications

Release date: August 2020
Rear cameras: 12.2MP f/1.7
Front camera: 8MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 143 g
Dimensions: 144 x 69 x 8.2 mm
Storage: 128GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Great camera
+
Affordable price

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery could be better

The Google Pixel 4a is a great example of a phone with decent specs and an affordable price to match. While it might be slightly overshadowed by its big brother, the recently released Google Pixel 4a 5G (opens in new tab), the original Google Pixel 4a is around $150 cheaper and carries some very respectable specs.

The Google Pixel 4a carries a single rear camera with a 12MP sensor, featuring dual-pixel phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. It's capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps and 1080p video at 120fps. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera has an 8MP sensor. The Google Pixel 4a carries a Snapdragon 730G chipset and a 3,140mAh battery, which makes it more than powerful enough for most tasks a user might want to undertake.

The Google Pixel 4a only comes in one storage option, which has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage – and, unfortunately, there's no option to expand the memory yourself with a microSD card. 

Best budget camera phone: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

An extremely solid mid-range phone

Specifications

Release date: March 2021
Rear cameras: 64MP f/1.8, 12MP f/2.2, 5MP f/2.4
Front camera: 32MP f/2.2
OIS: Yes
Weight: 189 g
Dimensions: 159.9 x 75.1 x 8.4 mm
Storage: 128GB

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality camera array
+
Solid future-proofing

Reasons to avoid

-
Some over-zealous smoothing
-
On the pricey end of "budget"

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. 

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9: best budget camera phone

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

6. Xiaomi Redmi Note 9

High feature count and 48MP, at a low cost

Specifications

Rear cameras: 48MP (wide-angle, f/1.8), 8MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2), 2MP (macro, f/2.4), 2MP (depth assist)
Front camera: 13MP
OIS: No
Weight: 199 g
Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 8.9mm
Storage: 64/128 GB

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Solid night photo mode

Reasons to avoid

-
No 4K video

Affordable Xiaomi phones (opens in new tab) are hard to beat for the bang-for-buck features they offer. The Redmi Note 9 is a 2020 phone that offers a few extras we can’t take for granted. It has a basic degree of water resistance, looks very similar to much more expensive phones, and has an IR blaster. It can replace remote controls for most TVs and set-top boxes.

The camera’s Night mode is the part we appreciate most. Many phones at the price do not have one, and the Remi Note 9’s significantly improves the clarity and dynamic range of the main 48MP sensor’s low-light images. This is one of the best budget phones for night shooting. It uses the Samsung GM1 sensor, a detail for the tech fiends out there.

Other cameras are closer to what we expect at the price; an 8MP ultra-wide and a pair of 2MP cameras for depth processing and macro shots. Such a low resolution does your close-up shots no favors, but the macro camera does also have autofocus. This phone also has excellent stamina life, thanks to the large 5,020mAh battery.

There’s one important missing camera feature, though; video capture taps out at 1080p, 30 frames per second, whereas many rivals have full 4K capture. This is disappointing. The Redmi Note 9 also uses a MediaTek G85 processor rather than the more popular Snapdragon 665. It is to blame for the lack of 4K video but is otherwise roughly a match in raw performance for the Snapdragon alternative.

(Image credit: Apple)
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7. iPhone XR

A great camera phone at a good price, but there's no zoom

Specifications

Release date: September 2018
Rear cameras: 12MP (Wide angle lens, f/1.8)
Front camera: 7MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 194 g
Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
Storage: 64/256/512 GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Retains high quality build
+
Very good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No telephoto or ToF camera
-
Lower price, but hardly cheap

The iPhone XR is one of the most interesting phones in the 2019 line-up from an Apple fan’s perspective. It’s now an older, cheaper iPhone so bargains are out there, although the lack of a zoom camera is its biggest loss. 

The iPhone XR has only the one rear camera, the same 12-megapixel stabilised get-up as the iPhone XS. You get great images, sure, but a zoom is handy for gigs and other situations when you can’t simply move closer. Here you have to use a compromised digital zoom. 

Other differences? While the iPhone XR has the same processor as the pricier iPhone X models, it uses an LCD screen rather than an OLED. This screen is larger than the iPhone Xs’s, though, and battery life is far better than that of the smaller, fancier iPhone Xs too.

(Image credit: Apple)
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8. iPhone SE (2020)

iPhone 8 body + iPhone 11 processor = iPhone SE

Specifications

Release date: April 2020
Rear cameras: 12-megapixel, 28mm f/1.8
Front camera: 7MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 148 g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
Storage: 64/256GB)

Reasons to buy

+
Great 4K video
+
Very good imaging in bright light

Reasons to avoid

-
No zoom
-
No Face ID

The iPhone SE (opens in new tab) (2020) is a brilliant proposition: a $399 / £415 / AU$749 iPhone that takes the form factor and camera of the iPhone 8, and pairs it with the processor and software magic of the iPhone 11 Pro. The result is a pocket-friendly handset in terms of both size and price, with fusion technology that delivers highly respectable photographs and 4K video. 

Its smaller 4.7-inch 720p screen isn't as bright and doesn't refresh as fast as the flagship models, but that also means that its battery doesn't get gobbled up as fast either. It sticks with Touch ID instead of Face ID, and boasts Qi wireless charging. It's IP67 water and dust resistant, and features image stabilization for rock-solid 4K 60fps video. 

It certainly isn't the cheapest phone on this list (though neither is it the most expensive), and there are certainly phones that beat it in specific categories. However, taken as a whole – between its all-round imaging and video performance, and especially its A13 Bionic chip and Apple-standard software updates – the iPhone SE is unquestionably the best value handset out there right now.

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