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The best 5G phone for photographers in 2021: get ahead of the curve!

best 5G phone
(Image credit: Apple)

Looking for the fastest, most future-proof handset? The best 5G phones are without doubt your best bet. Depending on your location, the 5G infrastructure may still not be fully installed, but make no mistake – this is the technology that is going to drive the future of data, and the best 5G phones are your opportunity to get on board early.

While the best 5G phones are growing increasingly more prevalent in the camera phone market, there are still plenty of handsets that don't have this technology yet. In fact, most of the best 5G phones tend to be flagship models with high price tags. However, that doesn't mean that you can't find an affordable 5G phone – we've included some handsets in this guide that will give you the 5G experience without breaking the bank.

So what is 5G? Well, in short, the best 5G phones are able to deliver 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.

The best 5G phones for photographers

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

If you're looking for the best 5G phone, look no further

Release date: January 2021 | Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide | Front camera: 40MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 227 g | Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm | Storage: 128/256/512GB

Fantastic camera zoom
Beautiful display
A little pricey
No microSD card slot

If you're looking for one of the best 5G phones that comes complete with an excellent camera, then the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra could be exactly what you're looking for. This camera phone features four rear cameras, including a 108MP f/1.8 main camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera and two 10MP telephoto cameras – one with an f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom and one with an f/4.9 aperture and a huge 10x optical zoom. It's worth noting that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is pretty big, offering a 6.8" screen size that users with smaller hands might struggle to maneuver. The Dynamic AMOLED 2X display features a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and gaming experiences, HDR10+ support, 1500-nit peak brightness and a 1440 x 3200 resolution. 

In full: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review

(Image credit: OnePlus)

2. OnePlus 8 Pro

Flagship specs at a friendly price

Rear cameras: 48MP (wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS), 8MP (3x zoom, f/2.4), 48MP (ultra-wide, f/2.2) | 5MP (color filter) | Front camera: 16MP | OIS: Yes | Weight: 199 g | Dimensions: 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5mm | Storage: 128/256GB

High-quality primary camera
Solid macro skills
Tasteful look
Not the best zoom among flagships
Pricey, if only by OnePlus standards

The OnePlus 8 Pro has had some major upgrades and is one of the most affordable handsets of the best 5G phones. The primary camera sensor is bumped from the Sony IMX586 to the 48MP IMX689. This is a large 1/1.4-inch chip. Night photos look better than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s even when used with the Night Sight mode, low-light video is brighter and pixel-level detail looks cleaner and more confident during the day. Its ultra-wide camera has the same sensor as standard OnePlus 8’s main one and the phone is a surprise hit for macro photography, too. Zoom images aren’t best-in-class, though – it has a 3x mode, but uses a 13-megapixel sensor cropped to take 8MP images, rather than a true 3x lens. The rest of this 5G phone is great, with a huge, excellent 120Hz 6.78-inch screen, tasteful glass and aluminum design and loud speakers.

(Image credit: Google)

3. Google Pixel 5

A capable point-and-shoot 5G phone with great battery life

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

Great camera
Good battery life
Wireless charging
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, making it one of the best 5G phones. 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. 

In full: Google Pixel 5 review

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Motorola)

4. Motorola One 5G

Also called the Moto G 5G Plus

Release date: July 2020 | Rear cameras: 48MP + 8MP + 5MP + 2MP | Front camera: 16MP + 8MP | Weight: 207g | Dimensions: 168.3 x 74 x 9.7mm | Storage: 64/128 GB

Great battery life
Good camera array
Super affordable
Not much storage available compared to other models

Depending on where you live, this handset has different names. In the US, it's the Motorola One 5G, while it's the Moto G 5G in the UK. However, no matter what name it is in your region, it's a super affordable way to get your hands on one of the best 5G phones. Featuring a large 6.7" display and a fingerprint sensor mounted on the side, the Motorola One 5G also offers a flexible array of cameras, including a 48MP main wide angle camera and two front-facing cameras (at 16MP and 8MP respectively). While we wouldn't expect the Motorola One 5G to perform as well as other more expensive handsets, such as the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, you simply can't argue with the price!

Best 5G phone

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

The best 5G phone for Apple users

Release date: October 2020 | Rear cameras: 12MP 13mm f/2.4, 12MP 26mm f/1.6, 12MP 52mm f/2 | Front camera: 12MP, f/2.2 TrueDepth camera | Dual OIS: Yes | Weight: 189 g | Dimensions: 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm | Storage: 128/256/512GB

Triple-camera unit
New Apple ProRAW file format
LiDAR scanner
5G
'Only' 12MP camera sensors

It took Apple longer than we'd hoped, but it's finally delivered the 5G goods. The iPhone 12 family are some of the best 5G phones, offering lightning-fast internet speeds (as long as you're in an area serviced by 5G). Interestingly, the iPhone 12 will automatically switch to using 4G LTE if 5G speeds don't matter to what you're doing to save battery power. The 5G will then turn itself on when it's needed. Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pro is one of the best camera phones currently available, featuring an impressive triple camera unit, including an ultra wide f/2.4 camera, a wide f/1.6 camera and a telephoto f/2 camera. There are plenty of new features on the iPhone 12 Pro, such as a LiDAR scanner – which will mean faster focusing in low light situations. 

In full: iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony Xperia 1 II

The best 5G phone for video enthusiasts

Release date: March 2020 | Rear camera: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70mm f/2.4) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2) | Front camera: 8MP (f/2) | Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4 + f/2.2 | Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2 mm | Storage: 128GB

Excellent pro video features
Stunning screen
Decent battery performance
Best suited to serious content creators
Colors priorize accuracy over the wow factor of other handsets

The Sony Xperia 1 II is the best 5G phone for video pros and cinema buffs who want to get manual with their smartphone videography. It’s able to shoot footage at up to 21:9 for cinema style capture, offers full manual control and features a beautifully flat color profile, perfect for post-processing in Premiere Pro or Da Vinci Resolve. Thankfully, almost everything else about this phone is excellent too, with a striking 21:9, 4K HDR screen, a clean UI and a snappy chipset ensuring plenty of power under the hood. There are a number of welcome improvements over the original  there’s no wireless charging. If want the ultimate cinema experience, both from a content creation and consumption point of view, the Xperia 1 II is it.

In full: Sony Xperia 1 II review

[Note: This phone model is not available in Australia as Sony has discontinued the Xperia line Down Under.]

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