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The best budget camera phones you can buy

Good camera phones don't have to cost you an arm and a leg!
August 14, 2022
google pixel 6a back on table
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Smartphone cameras have improved by leaps and bounds, even rivaling point-and-shoot cameras and other complex systems. One thing that holds is that the best smartphone shooters are usually expensive. It’s hard to pick the best budget camera phones out of the bunch with so many devices out in the market. This is why we’ve put together a list of the best affordable camera phones you can buy.

More: Here are the best Android camera phones you can buy

We must set some standards before we move on. What exactly is a budget phone? The definition is subjective, but we believe that anything under $500 is considered a budget camera phone. Therefore, we won’t add any devices that go over that price point to this list.

The best budget camera phones:

Editor’s note: This list of the best budget camera phones will be regularly updated as new devices launch.

Google Pixel 6a

google pixel 6a camera in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Google’s Pixel A-series has set an industry standard on what a budget phone should be. These devices are very light on the wallet, yet offer most casual users a more than satisfactory experience. The build quality, while mainly composed of plastic, is solid enough. Performance is more than good enough as well, as the phone is powered by the same chipset as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. To top things off, these are still some of the best budget camera phones around.

This is due mainly to the fact that Pixel phone cameras are so great, not precisely because of advanced hardware, but because of Google’s advancements in computational photography. The Pixel 6a is no exception. It takes fantastic photos while keeping your wallet healthy.

More: These are the best Google products you can find

Aside from the excellent camera system, you’ll find plenty of improvements on the Pixel 6a over its predecessor. It has an arguably better design, n in-display fingerprint scanner as opposed to a rear-mounted one, and the already mentioned faster chipset. You also get a 4,410mAh battery, which is suitable for a budget device. 

Google Pixel 6a specs:

  • Display: 6.1-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Google Tensor
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 12.2 and 12MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,410mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Samsung Galaxy A53

samsung galaxy a53 app drawer
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and A52s 5G were great mid-rangers, but every phone needs to be cycled out. The successor has arrived, carrying the predictable Galaxy A53 moniker. It’s one of the best budget camera phones, although it offers much more than just that.

Samsung’s mid-ranger sports a flexible camera system equipped with four sensors. You get a great 64MP main camera, an impressive 12MP ultrawide sensor, a 5MP macro lens, and a 5MP depth sensor. The Galaxy A53 also comes with the Exynos 1280 under the hood, a large and crisp 120Hz display, and a microSD card slot. We also appreciate the flagship-level update commitment, as the A53 will get four years of Android updates.

Best of all, the handset is cheaper than its predecessor, coming in at $450 — the A52 went for $500. This puts it in direct competition with the likes of the Gooogle Pixel 6a that, for reference, will only get three years of Android updates.

Samsung A53 specs

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Exynos 1280
  • RAM: 4/6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 12, 5, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022)

moto g stylus cameras and buttons
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Motorola’s Moto G Stylus (2022) is a decent camera phone considering its price. It sports three rear cameras — a 50MP primary lens, an 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 2MP depth sensor. The images it captures are quite nice, although they are not on the same level as those made by the Pixel 6a or the Galaxy A53, for example. However, the G Stylus comes in quite a bit cheaper.

There’s more to this phone than a great camera system. It also sports a stylus, and although it’s not as impressive as the one you get with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it still gets the job done. 

The phone also offers a great display, excellent battery life, and a clean software experience. However, there’s no NFC, the charging speeds are slow, and the selfie camera has an aggressive beauty filter.

Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) specs:

  • Display: 6.8-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Mediatek Helio G88
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 50, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

OnePlus Nord CE 2

OnePlus Nord 2 CE review back of the phone 1
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Nord CE 2’s main sensor is quite capable and can capture great shots, while the other lenses leave a bit to be desired. Regardless, this is still one of the best camera phones on a budget.

The OnePlus Nord CE 2 comes with a silky smooth 6.43-inch Full HD+ AMOLED display, the Mediatek Dimensity 900 chip, up to 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4,500mAh battery, and 65W Warp Charging. 

The handset is a great competitor in the ever-fierce mid-range space and comes with features most flagship phones lack including expandable storage and a headphone jack.

OnePlus Nord CE 2 specs:

  • Display: 6.43-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Dimensity 900
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge

Mi 11i HyperCharge in hand showing back panel
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Before we start, we need to point out a significant downside to the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge; it is an India-exclusive handset. If you live in India or can manage to get it imported, though, it truly deserves its spot in this list of the best budget camera phones.

That camera setup looks impressive, right? The system is pretty good, considering the price. In our review, we mentioned it has a decent camera, and while we didn’t like its HDR and camera software, it still holds value if you want a nice primary sensor with some versatility. The device has a 108MP main sensor, which it uses pixel binning with to produce great 12MP photos. It also comes with ultrawide and macro shooters.

Other features make the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge unique. For starters, it comes with a 120Hz display, which is a rare feature to see in budget handsets. Charging is also stunningly fast, thanks to 120W support. We managed to go from zero to 100% in just 18 minutes! It also helps that the design is really nice.

Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 108, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Apple iPhone SE (2022)

iPhone SE 2022 review second opinion in hand with android authority website
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The 2022 version of the iPhone SE is a worthy competitor in this space considering its $429 launch price. It supports wireless charging, has water resistance, and sports the high-end A15 Bionic chipset.

More: Apple iPhone buying guide

As for the iPhone SE camera, it performs very well. However, you only get one rear sensor, which doesn’t give you the flexibility you get with something like the Galaxy A53, which offers four cameras. Regardless, the iPhone SE 2022 is still among the best budget camera phones in the market.

The phone is not without issues, though. Its design is quite dated and the screen is small and offers a low resolution. With that in mind, the iPhone SE 2022 is not for everyone.

iPhone SE specs:

  • Display: 4.7-inch, 1,334 x 750
  • SoC: Apple A15 Bionic
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB
  • Camera: 12MP
  • Front camera: 7MP
  • Battery: 2,018mAh
  • Software: iOS 15

Any phone could be the best budget camera phone

Edgar holding a budget camera phone

Hardware helps, but we can’t stress the importance of technique enough. The truth is a good photographer can take a good image with any budget camera phone, and current affordable handsets come with great shooters if you know how to make the most of them. I have previously proven this point. I used a budget camera phone to shoot professional photos during my experiment. And I used a Moto E5 Plus, which is beaten by all phones on this list on paper. Check out my experience in the article linked below.

Here: What a pro photographer can do with a cheap smartphone camera

With that in mind, you should also learn more about photography and learn how to take better images. That’s a better investment than spending more money on equipment. We have a great selection of educational content available to you.