Our top 10 camera phones of 2023: the standout handsets of the year

top 10 camera phones of 2023
(Image credit: Future)

2024 is nearly here - but this is our rundown of the best ten smartphones of the last 12 months.

As we've come to expect in recent years, the camera hardware in this year's phones has received fairly incremental improvements compared to previous models. Instead, it's the computational side where the biggest photographic enhancements could be found this year. Google continues to pave the way for advanced AI image capture and auto enhancement, albeit with stiff competition from Apple, Samsung and Huawei. Thankfully it's not just the flagship phones where you'll find great image quality, as in 2023 we've been treated to several top-notch mid-range camera camera phones for shooters seeking maximum bang per buck.

So here's our countdown of our favorite camera phones of the year. There are phones on this list that we'd also recommend as the best camera phones you should buy, but some are more controversial choices. These might not make the most sense as a real-world purchase, but we rate such handsets as they stand out from the crowd in their own way.

Let's countdown our top ten phones of 2023, in reverse order…

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
The best compact phone of 2023, especially if you shoot video

Specifications

Release date: July 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.9 24mm (wide), 48MP 13mm ultrawide, 13MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front camera: 32MP
OIS: Yes (gimbal)
Weight: 172g
Dimensions: 146.5 x 68.1 x 9.4mm
Storage: 128-512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and lightweight
+
Exceptional video stabilization
+
Powerful with a smooth interface
+
All-day battery life and wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Occasional white balance issues
-
Ultra-wide camera downgraded vs Zenfone 9
-
Misses out on telephoto camera

The Asus Zenfone 10 is one of a handful of small, powerful phones with unique features that make it an excellent option for anyone looking for a pocket-friendly alternative to the big-screened iPhone Pro Maxes and Galaxy Ultras of this world. 

The latest Zenfone stands out from an increasingly homogenous crowd thanks to its gimbal stabilised primary camera. Unlike conventional optical image stabilization where an element wihing the camera lens is able to move in order to compensate for camera shake, the entuire primary camera module - lens & sensor - in the Zenfone 10 is mounted in a gimbal gyroscope. This makes it capable of compensating for movement up to +/- 3 °, in every direction. The result is silky-smooth video footage, more alike to a decent action camera than a camera phone.

Then there's the Zenfone 10's top-tier internals, a super-smooth screen, a tried and tested design, stereo speakers, and refreshingly compact dimensions that enable comfortable one-handed use. Compact flagship phones have become a rare breed in 2023, so the fact that Asus has managed to produce such a compelling package in the Zenfone 10 makes it all the more impressive.

In full: Asus Zenfone 10 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
2023's most innovative camera phone

Specifications

Release date: July 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.9 24mm (wide), 50MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front camera: 32MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 201g
Dimensions: 162.1 x 76.4 x 8.6mm
Storage: 128-512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Standout styling
+
Great performance
+
Wireless charging
+
Improved camera over Phone (1)

Reasons to avoid

-
No water resistance
-
No telephoto camera
-
Cameras struggle with highlights
-
Notifications occasionally slow to come through

You'd be forgiven for dismissing the original Nothing Phone (1) as just a one-hit wonder that only made headlines thanks to its show-off rear panel light show. But this year Nothing has silenced the doubters and released a follow-up, the predictably named Nothing Phone (2).

The Phone (2) packs mightier internals than before, along with faster charging, a brighter display and a new, more refined interface. Its cameras may be very similar to those of the Phone (1), but we applaud Nothing for sticking with two good-quality cameras. There aren't any depth sensors or 2MP macro fillers tarnishing a competent camera array.

Those signature rear-panel Glyph Lights also make a return, and are subtly upgraded. Factor Nothing's fresh take on the user interface, and the Nothing Phone (2) continues the appeal of its predecessor: it's an innovative camera phone, in a year that's given us a slew of handsets with little to differentiate them.

In full: Nothing Phone (2) review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
Samsung's strongest mid-range phone ever

Specifications

Release date: March 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.8 (wide), 12MP f/2.2 (ultrawide), 5MP f/2.4 (macro)
Front camera: 32MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 202g
Dimensions: 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2mm
Storage: 128/256GB

Reasons to buy

+
IP67 water resistance is great at the price
+
Stunning and smooth AMOLED display
+
Excellent battery lifeg

Reasons to avoid

-
Clunky design doesn’t feel as rich as some competition
-
No native or third-party RAW capture support
-
Punchy photo processing won’t be to enthusiasts' tastes

The Galaxy S series always steals the limelight, and for good reason. But when it comes to the Samsung phones people actually buy, it's the A series that steal the sales, with the A5x range offering the most compelling performance while still staying (relatively) affordable. 2022's Galaxy A53 5G was somewhat hampered by then-ongoing supply chain shortages, but 2023's A54 has no such shortcomings.

The A54 combines powerful (if arguably over-saturated) camera performance with OIS (not always a given at this price point) and a user experience that feels very similar to a Galaxy S-series phone. IP67 ingress protection, a gorgeous display, excellent battery life, and Samsung's commitment to regular OS updates make the Galaxy A54 the most compelling competition to the formidable Pixel 7a for the title of 2023's best value camera phone.

In full: Samsung Galaxy A54 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
Best foldable phone of 2023

Specifications

Release date: April 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.8 23mm (wide), 13MP f/2.2 13mm (ultrawide), 12MP f/3.4 125mm (periscope telephoto)
Front cameras: Dual 8MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 239g
Dimensions: Folded: 156.9 x 72.4 x 11.1mm, Unfolded: 156.9 x 141.5 x 5.3mm
Storage: 256GB-1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful camera system
+
Lighter than an iPhone 14 Pro Max
+
Secure hinge and IPX8 water resistance
+
Two fantastic and usable screens

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks Google Mobile Services
-
No 5G mobile data speeds
-
Very expensive
-
Occasionally aggressive photo processing

Folding phones may not have dominated the camera phone market in 2023, but the year has still seen a steady stream of folding handsets, like the Google Pixel Fold, Samsung Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5. While each of these makes a much more sensible real-world buy, it's the left-field Huawei Mate X3 that's our winning foldable of 2023, thanks to its no-compromise hardware.

Quite simply, the Mate X3 packs the highest-quality foldable hardware you can buy. Its lightweight and slim design makes it feel comfortable to use when closed, its secure hinge makes opening and closing it a satisfying, reassuring experience, and the added water resistance helps it compete directly with the Galaxy Z Fold 5.

The phone's price, lack of 5G, and hamstrung software experience all work against it – and will stop most even considering picking one up – but as a technology showcase, the Mate X3 is a marvel that schools the foldable competition – not least of all with its powerful cameras.

In full: Huawei Mate X3 review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
Apple phones in another formidable flagship offering for 2023

Specifications

Release date: Sept 2023
Rear cameras: 48MP f/1.8 24mm wide, 12MP f/2.2 13mm (ultrawide), 12MP 120mm (periscope telephoto)
Front camera: 12MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 221g
Dimensions: 159.9 x 76.7 x 8.3mm
Storage: 256/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Refined design
+
Fantastic screen
+
Excellent ecosystem
+
Powerful camera system

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak between 2.5-4.9x zoom
-
Occasional noise-handling issues
-
Some users report overheating
-
Very expensive

Another year, another flagship iPhone. We really shouldn't be surprised/disappointed any more that a new iPhone sits firmly in the evolution rather than revolution camp, which is why it isn't higher up our list. That, and its signature new feature - the periscope telephoto camera - really isn't new technology, at least in the Android sector.

That said, the iPhone 15 Pro Max enjoys a more refined design than any past iPhone, a fantastic screen, and a seamless ecosystem that makes using it with a Mac, iPad, and AirPods very intuitive. The phone also has a powerful camera with the broadest optical range of any Apple phone thanks to the aforementioned periscope telephoto module.

If it has to be Apple, and you want the best (and are happy to pay top money for it), the iPhone 15 Pro Max is a stellar performer. If only Apple spiced things up a bit more, rather than sticking to the long-established recipe. I guess there's always next year...

In full: iPhone 15 Pro Max review

(Image credit: Bobby Hellard / Digital Camera World)
The best budget camera phone of 2023

Specifications

Release date: May 2023
Rear cameras: 64MP f/1.9 26mm (wide), 13MP f/2.2 (ultrawide)
Front camera: 13MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 193.5g
Dimensions: 152 x 72.9 x 9mm
Storage: 128GB

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent camera system
+
Long battery life
+
Stunning design
+
Value-for-money

Reasons to avoid

-
Inconsistent fingerprint reader

Pixel a-series phones have long been our go-to choice for a cameraphone with maximum bang per buck. 2023's Pixel 7a continues this, and is the most rounded Pixel a-series offering yet. It inherits much of its haardware from the old Pixel 7 and 7 Pro that's no bad thing, as those phones were already excellent performers. The more compact form factor of the 7a compared to a Pixel 7/8 Pro won't suit everyone, but we appreciate the more pocketable dimensions.

What's certainly not small is the Pixel 7a's camera performance. Google's image processing algorithms are supremely powerful, and help the 7a produce terrific image quality. The phone's extra image enhancement and retouching features add even more value to the camera performance.

At this price point, the Pixel 7a is a clear winner for sheer photographic ability, and it's the most complete smartphone you can buy in 2023 for the money.

In full: Google Pixel 7a review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Specifications

Release date: Jan 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.8 24mm (wide), 48MP f/2.2 (ultrawide), 32MP f/2.0 48mm (telephoto)
Front camera: 16MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 205g
Dimensions: 163.1 x 74.1 x 8.5mm
Storage: 128-512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent photo processing
+
Latest Qualcomm power
+
Brilliant screen quality
+
Fast charging and great battery

Reasons to avoid

-
No wireless charging
-
Poor telephoto reach
-
Fingerprint magnet (green version)

Back in February we got our hands on the OnePlus 11. It lacked the flagship 'Pro' moniker, but that didn't stop it exceeding our expectations in almost every area: this was the most balanced phone we'd seen from OnePlus in years.

Despite missing out on wireless charging, it sports a slick glass and metal design, the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon power, all at a very attractive price: $699 / £729, at the time of launch. And at the price, it was the best camera phone on the market. Though not the absolutely greatest in any one area, it did a great job in all deparetments: design, screen, primary camera, performance, and battery life, and with no significant drawbacks - unless that lack of wireless charging is a deal-breaker.

Though not a cheap phone, the OnePlus 11 5G is one of our favorite phones of the year as it proved itself as a genuine flagship killer. With a phone this good, dropping four-figure money on a true flagship phone was very hard to justify.

In full: OnePlus 11 5G review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Specifications

Release date: Oct 2023
Rear cameras: 50MP f/1.7 25mm (wide), 48MP f/2.0 (ultrawide), 48MP f/2.8 113mm (telephoto)
Front camera: 10.5MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 213g
Dimensions: 162.6 x 76.5 x 8.8mm
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Reliable camera with new Pro Mode
+
Smooth performance and clean UI
+
Premium screen and styling
+
Unique Google Android highlights

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than the Pixel 7 Pro
-
128GB starting storage too low for price
-
Occasionally gets warm to hot
-
Strange shadow processing in certain scenes

Last year's Pixel 7 Pro flew to the top of our best camera phones list when it launched because of its fantastic value and powerful camera system. But for 2023, the Pixel 8 Pro's main selling point was its image processing software capabilities. However that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Pixel phones have long been a triumph of software processing over simple hardware specs.

Tools like Magic Editor and Best Take helped showcase what Google's algoryths could do, and the new Pro mode was on hand if you wanted to take control youself. Google's commitment to a whopping seven years of software updates also made the Pixel 8 Pro a smart long-term proposition. Add in the usual streamlined Android experience, and an overal camera package that's a match for anything from Apple or Samsung, and the Pixel 8 Pro is a genuine contender for the best camera phone of the year.

In full: Google Pixel 8 Pro review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
The best all-round camera phone of 2023

Specifications

Release date: Feb 2023
Rear cameras: 200MP f/1.7 24mm (wide), 12MP f/2.2 13mm (ultrawide), 10MP f/2.4 70mm (telephoto), 10MP f/4.9 230mm (periscope telephoto)
Front camera: 12MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 234g
Dimensions: 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm
Storage: 256GB/512GB, 1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Supremely versatile camera system
+
Fantastic display quality
+
Powerful performance
+
Strong battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy-handed processing in auto mode
-
Very similar to the S22 Ultra
-
Will be too big for some

In 2023 Samsung continued its dominance of the flagship camera phone market. Boasting an incredible 200MP primary camera sensor, the S23 Ultra was always going to be a force to be reckoned with, while the faster, more efficient processor and subtle refinements to the whole user experience make the S23 Ultra not only a camera phone champion, but a fantastic smartphone in general.

Quite simply, the S23 Ultra represents the best balance of camera hardware, software, and versatility available on a smartphone. As we eagerly await next year's S24 Ultra, it's testament to just how good that the S23 Ultra is that even almost a year after launch, it's still able to fend off the more recent iPhone 15 Pro and Pixel 8 Pro.

In full: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)
The best camera phone in the world... yet few will buy one

Specifications

Release date: March 2023
Rear cameras: 48MP f/1.4-f/4 25mm (wide), 13MP f/2.2 13mm (ultrawide), 48MP f/2.1 90mm (telephoto)
Front camera: 13MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 200g
Dimensions: 161 x 74.5 x 8.3mm
Storage: 256/512GB

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class macro photography
+
Best-in-class night photography
+
Best-in-class variable aperture on a phone
+
Premium design and striking display

Reasons to avoid

-
No Google support
-
No 5G support
-
Very expensive
-
Sharpening can be heavy-handed

If the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the best all-round camera phone of 2023, then why do we rate the Huawei P60 Pro as the absolute number one camera phone of the year? Well, this isn't a guide telling you what to actually buy, rather it's our favorite camera hone of the year. And on these grounds alone - pure camera performance - the P60 Pro beats anything from Samsung, Apple or Google.

This shouldn't be all that surprising, as a few years ago phones like the Huawei P20 Pro and P30 Pro dominated the flagship phone market, and not just for their camera prowess. However, since the Huawei vs. Google debacle in 2019, Huawei phones have faded from public consciousness thanks to their inability to use Google Services like YouTube, Google Maps and the Google Workspace. Many assumed this would mark the death of Huawei P-series phones, but no, Huawei hasn't just kept the range alive, it's doubled down on the camera tech in each successive generation. To the point that the current 2023 P60 Pro is - at least in terms of raw camera performance - the best camera phone on the market right now.

This is a phone that changes the game for macro photography, and its variable aperture adds a level of control we've not seen elsewhere. Its instant night photos are also a revelation, besting the competition for quick night snaps across all its cameras. If you can live without Google apps and also 5G support, the P60 Pro is an awesome photography powerhouse.

In full: Huawei P60 Pro review

Read more
• Best SIM only deals
Best budget camera phone
• 
The best camera phone
• 
The best add-on lenses for iPhone and Android phones
• 
The best gimbals for your iPhone, GoPro and camera
The best selfie sticks

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1