Google Pixel 4a back taking photo 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Smartphone cameras have improved by leaps and bounds, even rivaling point-and-shoot cameras and other more complex systems. One thing that holds true 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. Instead, 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 very 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 in 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.

1. Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a back standing up on table 1

Google has set the standards yet again with the Pixel 4a. This phone succeeds and surpasses the Pixel 3a with better performance, an amazing camera performance, and an even lower price point. This phone costs a mere $349, which is a surprising price for a phone that can take such nice photos. It might very well be the very best budget camera phone around, but you can learn more about that in our full review.

The 12.2MP camera is the same Sony IMX363 sensor you find in the Pixel 4 and Pixel 3a series. What really takes this otherwise mundane camera specs to the next level is Google’s software enhancements, though. Their level of computational photography is on another level. The Pixel 4a adopts features from the Pixel 4 series, such as Astrophotography Mode, Night Sight, and the dual exposure sliders.

If you want something more capable, but not quite as expensive as the Pixel 5, Google has also released the Pixel 4a 5G. You would think this is just a Pixel 4a with 5G connectivity, but the Google Pixel 4a 5G is actually a better phone in many ways. On the camera department, it has the two-camera set-up you find on the Pixel 5. This makes it a much better camera option while staying below, albeit very close to, our $500 limit.

Google Pixel 4a specs:

  • Display: 5.81-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 730G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 12.2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 3,140mAh
  • Software: Android 10

Google Pixel 4a 5G specs:

  • Display: 6.2-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 12.2 and 16MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 3,885mAh
  • Software: Android 11

2. Samsung Galaxy A51

Samsung Galaxy A51 back standing up

For such an affordable phone, the Galaxy A51 has some decent cameras and quite a few of them to boot. There’s a main 48MP sensor that bins down to 12MP images, as well as wide-angle and macro lenses, a depth sensor, and a 32MP front-facing camera.

The cameras fared very well in our full Samsung Galaxy A51 review, making it one of the best budget camera phones. It also helps that it happens to be a great phone in other departments too. The OLED display is gorgeous, the design meets Samsung standards, and you get cool features like a headphone jack and dual-SIM capabilities.

Those interested in this Samsung series should also take a look at the Samsung Galaxy A71. Its MSRP is over $500, but you can often find it on special for significantly less.

Samsung Galaxy A51 specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Exynos 9611
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 48, 12, 5, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10

3. OnePlus Nord

OnePlus Nord Taking a photo with the phone

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. OnePlus certainly delivered with the OnePlus Nord.

More: The best OnePlus phones for every budget

It’s not as amazing as some of the other budget camera phones on this list, but you get a lot for what you pay, and the main camera is pretty good. It also helps the rest of the phone is pretty awesome. The hype surrounding the Nord was almost overwhelming at times, but with good reason. A solid processing package, a gorgeous new colorway, and OnePlus’ excellent software experience are all included.

OnePlus Nord specs:

  • Display: 6.44-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, 5, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 32 and 8MP
  • Battery: 4,115mAh
  • Software: Android 10

4. Moto Edge

Motorola Moto Edge rear view

The Moto Edge is a more affordable alternative to the Moto Edge Plus, and it keeps a number of the same top features. It’s one of our best cheap camera phones too, now that it’s available for $200 off.

Motorola trimmed down the camera unit on the Moto Edge, dropping from the 108MP shooter on the Edge Plus to a 64MP main lens. You also get an 8MP telephoto shooter and a 16MP ultra-wide and macro lens. On the front, you’re looking at a 25MP selfie camera. One of the best aspects of Motorola’s camera setup is actually its app.

Ryan-Thomas called it fairly robust and dead simple to use in his review. It provides quick access to all of the most popular modes with just a twist of the wrist.

Moto Edge specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765
  • RAM: 4/6GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB
  • Cameras: 64, 8, and 16MP
  • Front camera: 25MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

5. Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro

Poco F2 Pro Hero shot of the rear

The Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro comes as one of the best budget camera phones, but not just because it has a pretty good (albeit not amazing) camera system. The rest of the experience and the price certainly help it make it to this list.

You will find nothing but high-end specs in this phone, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 6/8GB of RAM, a nice 6.67-inch Full HD+ screen, and a large 4,700mAh battery. On top of that, its price point is well below the $500 mark.

As a camera phone alone, the Poco F2 Pro does very well for the price. It has its downsides, like the super wide-angle camera producing lesser quality images and some of the post-processing being on the heavy side. The main sensor is large and has a high MP count, though. It produces some great images for a phone at this price point.

Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro specs:

  • Display: 6.67-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, 5, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 20MP
  • Battery: 4,700mAh
  • Software: Android 10

6. Apple iPhone SE

iPhone SE review header - Best budget camera phones

While Apple smartphones are known for being expensive, the company really went above and beyond with their 2020 budget device. The iPhone SE is a very worthy competitor considering its $399 launch price point. Sure, it’s $50 more than the Pixel 4a, but many consider the iPhone SE to be $50 better. 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 actually 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. During my experiment, I used a budget camera phone to shoot professional photos. 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.