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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!
By
January 16, 2022
the google pixel 5a camera module and fingerprint sensor
Jimmy Westenberg / 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 5a

the google pixel 5a on a piece of cement showing its back in mostly black color
Jimmy Westenberg / 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 may not be top-notch, but you won’t notice any real slowdowns unless you start using some heavy games or apps. 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 5a 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 5a. It comes with 5G support, has an improved Snapdragon 765G, and comes with a good amount of RAM (6GB). You also get a 4,680mAh battery, which is suitable for a budget device. And there’s even a 6.34-inch OLED display in there.

Those looking for a similar camera experience for even less money should also look at the Google Pixel 4a.


Google Pixel 5a specs:

  • Display: 6.34-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 16 and 12.2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,680mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy A52 and A52s 5G budget camera phones

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G camera module in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and the A52s 5G have nearly identical cameras, but the Galaxy A52s 5G came with an added improvement that makes it an overall better device. The price difference is minimal, making the newer handset a better deal too. On the other hand, the A52s is harder to get in the USA, as it wasn’t made with this market in mind. You can find it, but it will be imported.

The Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G features a Snapdragon 778G chipset instead of the 750G on the Galaxy A52 5G. This will provide added performance for a minimal price increase. Otherwise, the specs are very similar. You get a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display, up to 8GB of RAM, a nice 4,500mAh battery, and a quad-camera setup.

Related: Our favorite cheap Samsung phones

Having so many cameras on a budget phone is a rare occurrence, which is one of the things that makes this phone special. There’s a 64MP wide camera, a 12MP ultrawide shooter, a 5MP macro camera, and a 5MP one that acts as a depth sensor. You also get a capable 32MP selfie shooter. They’re definitely some of the best budget camera phones out there.


Samsung Galaxy A52 5G specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 750G
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 12, 5, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 778G
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 12, 5, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus Nord 2 5G cameras
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

As OnePlus went from the “flagship killer” to true flagships in their own right, consumers were clamoring for a more affordable option from the company once again. And so the Nord series came to be. The OnePlus Nord 2 follows the family legacy, offering the most possible bang per buck.

More: The best OnePlus phones for every budget

It’s not as impressive as some of the other budget camera phones on this list, but you get a lot for what you pay, and the camera system is pretty good. The primary sensor is the same 50MP Sony IMC766 you’ll find on the OnePlus 9 series, which means the phone can output some lovely imagery.

The front comes with a powerful 32MP IMX615. The original Nord had two sensors upfront, but this one is much better than either of those.

You’ll also get excellent performance out of the OnePlus Nord 2. It comes with a Dimensity 1200, one of MediaTek’s best chipsets. You’ll also get a 6.43-inch AMOLED screen, up to 12GB of RAM, a 4,500mAh battery, and a couple of other cameras.


OnePlus Nord 2 specs:

  • Display: 6.43-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: MediaTek Dimensity 1200
  • RAM: 6/8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 50, 8, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

ZTE Blade X1

ZTE Blade X1 rear - Best budget camera phones
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The ZTE Blade X1 has a lot of competition, and its availability is limited to Verizon’s Visible service, but it’s still one of the best budget camera phones out there. In fact, we praised its primary camera performance in our full review. It also has a pretty good processor and ample RAM for the price.

Learn: Everything about MVNOs

This unit comes with a Snapdragon 765G chipset and 6GB of RAM. Also rare is that it has a versatile array of cameras, a rare find on budget phones. These include a 48MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultrawide, a 2MP macro shooter, and a 2MP depth sensor.

It’s also a uniquely designed phone, with a back that shines against the sun. It’s plenty large at 6.5 inches, and the 4,000mAh battery is nothing to scoff at.


ZTE Blade X1 specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, 2, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10

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

iPhone SE review header - Best budget camera phones
David Imel / Android Authority

While Apple smartphones are expensive, the company went above and beyond with their 2020 budget device. The iPhone SE is a worthy competitor considering its $399 launch price point. It is built with more premium metal and glass materials, still supports wireless charging, has water resistance, and sports what would be considered a high-end A13 Bionic chipset. These are all things the Pixel 4a is missing.

More: Apple iPhone buying guide

As for the iPhone SE camera, it performs very well. Not to mention it can record 4K video at up to 60fps. That is a rare feat in phones at this price range. We are an Android-centric website, but if you want one of the best budget camera phones in the market, there is no denying the iPhone SE needs to be added to your list of options.


iPhone SE specs:

  • Display: 4.7-inch, 1,334 x 750
  • SoC: Apple A13 Bionic
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB
  • Camera: 12MP
  • Front camera: 7MP
  • Battery: 1,821mAh
  • Software: iOS 13

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.