The best camera phone in 2019: ultimate smartphone cameras on test

Best camera phone

Choosing the best camera phone can be an arduous task. Camera phone technology has improved in the last few years. It has finally comes to the point that phones are no longer shirked by photographers but positively embraced as camera alternatives, especially with the advances in multi-camera capture, like the five-lens array in the Nokia PureView 9.

Whether it's lens and sensor quality, or the features on show, flagship smartphones are now matching compacts in the quality stakes. And as you will read, they are starting to give DSLRs a run for their money too – especially with so many brilliant camera deals flying around.

UPDATE: We have a new camera phone king. After impressing us in its hands-on review, now we have had the Huawei P30 Pro in for testing we can reveal that it has nabbed the top spot. The phone is currently best in class for zooming, low-light performance and all-round picture quality. 

Our top pick for the best camera phone right now is the Huawei P30 Pro. It was a tough fight but the P30 Pro beat the Google Pixel 3 in our low-light photography tests and has the best zoom we have ever seen on a phone.  

At the moment, there are a number of camera phones that are simply superb, though, with the differences between the likes of the Huawei P30 Pro, Google Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the iPhone XS pretty negligible. 

In short: it's a brilliant time to buy a phone for its camera capabilities.

And if you're interested in other clever uses of camera tech, check out our guide to the best dash cams on the market. 

Best camera phone: Huawei P30 Pro

1. Huawei P30 Pro

Simply the best camera phone around

Release date: April 2019 | Rear cameras: 40MP (Wide Angle Lens, f/1.6, OIS), 20MP (Ultra Wide Angle Lens, f/2.2), 8MP (Telephoto, f/3.4, OIS) | Front camera: 32MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 192 g | Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm | Storage: 128/256/512 GB

Best in class zoom
Superb low-light photography
Great manual control
Screen is just 1080p
Pro mode could be better

Best Camera Phone: There is a lot to love about the P30 Pro - it's a camera phone that has it all: superb low-light photography, unbelievable zoom capabilities (5x optical) and powerful specs. It's been given four lenses on its rear, one of which is a ToF sensor. This means that its depth sensing is also fantastic. While we would have preferred a better screen and the price to be a little cheaper, this is the best camera phone around right now.

As the P30 Pro is now out, we have taken the P20 Pro out of this list - if you can still get it though, it is also a superb camera phone.

Best camera phone: Google Pixel 3

2. Google Pixel 3

One of the best Android cameras - especially for low light

Release date: October 2018 | Rear camera: 12.2 MP | Front camera: 8 MP, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), PDAF, 8 MP, f/2.2, 19mm (ultrawide) | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8, 28mm | Weight: 148 g | Dimensions: 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm | Storage: 64/128 GB

Brilliant zoom
Superb night mode
Oodles of manual control
Only one lens
A bit too much reliance of software

Fantastic Night mode: The Google Pixel 3 has been a revelation in the camera phone stakes. Like its predecessors, it uses just one lens on the back. But the image results are fantastic. When we first tested the Google Pixel 3 against the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, we put the Mate 20 Pro in front. But the new Night Mode, which offers up stunning pictures in the low light, means that the Google Pixel 3 is a fantastic camera phone.

Best camera phone: Huawei Mate 20 Pro

3. Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Fantastic new addition to the camera phone crowd.

Release date: October 2018 | Rear camera: 40MP/20MP/8MP | Front camera: 24 MP | OIS: Yes | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 + f/2.4 | Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 57.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm | Storage: 128/256GB

Superb Leica lenses
The best portrait mode on a phone
Powerful pro features
No monochrome lens
Post production is a bit much

Best for portraits: The bigger (literally) brother to the P20 Pro, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro may have a slightly different lens setup (no monochrome lens this time around) but it's still a powerhouse in the camera department. The Mate 20 Pro has three (count 'em) lenses on the back, offering super-wide angle and macro shots. But it's the portrait mode that impresses us the most - the bokeh effect you get from the camera is one of the best we've seen. 

Best camera phone: Honor View 20

4. Honor View 20

A 48MP sensor is the icing on what is a superb imaging cake.

Release date: January 2019 | Rear camera: 48 MP | Front camera: 25 MP, f/2.0, 27mm | Rear camera aperture: f/1.8 TOF 3D stereo camera | Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 156.9 x 75.4 x 8.1mm | Storage: 256GB/128GB

Fantastic photography for a mid-range camera
Superb build quality
Pin-hole front camera works well
No wireless charging
Lack of waterproofing
No in-screen fingerprint unlock

The best mid-price camera phone. The Honor View 20 is a remarkable camera phone for its price. Its 48MP sensor is best in market and also comes packing an All-View screen. This essentially means that there is no notch and the only thing that marks the screen is a pin-hole camera situated on the top left of the device. 

The images we got from this device were superb - it uses a similar sort of AI found on both the Huawei Pro 20 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro (Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei) and this means that each and every shot you take has some sort of enhancements. 

Those who want to do things manually can head to the Pro mode as there's a decent amount of control to be found there. 

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5. 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.

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6. 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.

Best camera phone: OnePlus 6T

7. OnePlus 6T

A mid-range camera phone that utterly 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
Great updated night mode
Limited UI
Mediocre zoom

The best 'value for money' 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. OnePlus has also improved the night mode on the OnePlus 6T making this the most accomplished OnePlus camera ever. It’s up there with some of the best, and the price of the OnePlus 6T makes this a must-have for those mindful of budget.

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8. 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.

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9. 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.

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10. 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.

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11. 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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