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 in 2023
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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)(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)
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.(opens in new tab)
No stranger to fantastic budget camera phones, Xiaomi hasn’t always nailed user experience, but it tends to get value very right, and its cameras are also competitive. This has never been more true than with the Redmi Note 10 Pro.
Its 108MP camera system is best-in-class by a wide margin, its screen sounds like something that fell off a flagship spec sheet, and with a huge battery, sleek design and enough power to deliver smooth performance, it really should cost more! Make no mistake, this is one sensational budget camera phone.
Read our full Redmi Note 10 Pro review (opens in new tab)
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. The 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)
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