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What's the best camera phone? We tested dozens, here are our top 8 picks

Want to shoot the best photos possible? Here are the phones up for the job.
By
November 28, 2022
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
By Samsung
9
Check price
Positives
Latest S Pen functionality
Stunning screen
Versatile cameras
Negatives
Only average battery life
Speakers could be louder
RAM reduced
Google Pixel 7 Pro
By Google
9
Check price
Positives
Unique design
Flexible, high-class camera setup
Upgraded fingerprint scanner and modem
Negatives
Tensor G2 still runs hot at times
Slow charging
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
By Apple
Check price
Positives
Excellent display
Powerful SoC
Advanced UI experience
Negatives
Expensive
Very heavy
Relatively slow charging
Sony Xperia Pro-I
By Sony
8
Check price
Positives
High-quality hardware with niche tweaks
Pro-friendly photo capture
Gorgeous 4K-ish screen
Negatives
Murky software support
Pro apps unintuitive even for experts
No wireless charging
Sony Xperia 1 IV
By Sony
8
Check price
Positives
4K 120Hz, 6.5-inch display
4K 120fps video recording
Powerful Sony videography tools
Negatives
Similar specs to phones half the price
Photography tools link to Sony Alpha cameras only
Google Pixel 6a
By Google
8
Check price
Positives
Powerful Tensor chip
Easy to use in one hand
Excellent image processing
Great software
Long-term update commitment
Negatives
Worse than average battery life
Slow charging
Only 60Hz display
Tensor runs hot
Oppo Find X5 Pro
By Oppo
9
Check price
Positives
Exquisite design
Brilliant 120Hz display
Fast wired and wireless charging
Negatives
Oversaturated main camera colors
Pre-installed apps and bloat
Logos and branding tarnish the aesthetic
Vivo X80 Pro
By Vivo
8
Check price
Positives
Best in-display fingerprint sensor
Great battery life
Bundled charger has fast USB-PD support
Negatives
Lots of bloatware
Disappointing long-range zoom
Bare minimum security update pledge

When was the last time you saw someone using a point-and-shoot camera? There’s a good chance it’s been a while. However, you probably see someone using their smartphone to take a picture on a daily basis. Smartphone cameras have become the go-to picture-taking method for many consumers, and cameras are becoming one of the most important factors when upgrading a device. If you find yourself looking for your next smartphone and want some guidance, we’re here to help. Here’s our list of the best camera phones available right now.

We’ve put each device through the wringer, testing the cameras in various situations to ensure we only recommend the best options. Let’s get into the results.

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The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best camera phone available

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Ultra-premium build quality • Gorgeous screen • Solid performance
Samsung has merged the Note and S series in one device to satisfy demanding users
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra pushes productivity, power, and photography to the utmost to satisfy those seeking the best phone in the market. The Galaxy S22 Ultra is Samsung's top device combining outstanding performance and stunning design. Samsung put together the latest processor, the highest megapixel camera, and the new built-in S Pen in one device to offer a premium experience.

Samsung’s flagships land among the best all-around Android phones regularly, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see a Galaxy device immediately. However, instead of recommending the entire Galaxy S22 series, we have to stick with the one that rises above all others — the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Its sheer megapixel might on both the front and back, combined with in-depth control, make it the best camera phone for almost any user.

Before we get into the experience of what it’s like to use the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s cameras, it’s good to know what you’re working with. Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S22 Ultra comes equipped with a well-rounded quad-camera setup that’s capped off by a 108MP primary sensor. It’s backed by Samsung’s powerful 12MP ultrawide lens and a pair of 10MP shooters — one telephoto and one periscope telephoto. Around the front, you’ll find a 40MP selfie camera tucked into the Infinity-O display.

Although megapixels only tell a portion of the story, the combination of lenses sets the Galaxy S22 Ultra up nicely to excel in almost any situation. We ran it through a gauntlet of situations in New York during our initial review, as well as a selection of challenges in the UK when tested against some of the other devices on this list, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra breezed through them all.

The phone returned clean, sharp images with decent HDR (but only when warranted) as well as Samsung’s standard color profile. The camera tends to be a bit punchier than reality, though not nearly as saturated as some brands. Red and green hues were particularly vibrant, but rarely to the point of overpowering the rest of the image. Despite its 108MP potential, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s primary camera bins by a factor of 9, dropping to 12MP for better low-light performance and more manageable image files. You can push it back to the full resolution as needed, but we found that it still performed admirably at its lower resolution.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra gets even better once you start to zoom, thanks to its telephoto duo. Its standard telephoto lens adds 3x optical zoom to the mix, while the periscope telephoto partner increases to 10x optical zoom. The result is that you can punch in much further on images without losing quality. Of course, as the third and fourth cameras in the setup, the telephoto shooters have much smaller lenses, but we didn’t notice too much drop-off in terms of color or clarity. No, 10x optical zoom won’t be as clean or as clear as 1x zoom from the primary camera, but it easily trumps hybrid and digital zoom from the phone’s closest rivals. Even Samsung’s ultrawide shooter keeps distortion to a minimum and is capable of nearly matching the primary shooter’s colors.

We enjoyed Samsung’s default camera app and its bevy of controls and shooting modes, but some users might want a little bit more. The optional Expert RAW app provides that extra punch, offering even more control over your white balance, aperture, and shutter speed, as well as exporting RAW files for deeper edits later. It’s not the most approachable app for camera newcomers, but it’s the best way to push the four sensors to their limits.

Technically, you can go all the way to 100x Space Zoom with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, though it’s unlikely that you’ll do so frequently. This is where Samsung turns to digital cropping to get results, and the final photos aren’t quite up to snuff most of the time. We mostly only ventured past 30x Space Zoom for curiosity’s sake, but you do start to lose details and rely on Samsung’s post-processing. Instense zooming shows off Samsung’s image stabilization, however, which can go a long way in cutting out your shaky hands. If nothing else, you can also use the insane zoom options as a magnifying glass to read signs and menus from further away.

Samsung's Galaxy S22 Ultra succeeds both the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy S21 Ultra with elite specs across the board.

We have to give Samsung a little credit for not only keeping the Galaxy S22 Ultra with a hefty 5,000mAh battery but also making the charging speed faster. It bumped from 25W wired speeds on the Galaxy S21 series to 45W wired speeds. In reality, that means you can fill the hefty cell in just about an hour, which is good because the battery life wasn’t always excellent in our testing. We expect this ties back to the power — and thermal — requirements of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, which you’ll find onboard.

The upgraded chipset is paired with 8GB of RAM on the base configuration, though any upgrade brings you to 12GB instead. Samsung offers its premium flagship with up to 1TB of onboard storage, but it comes at a hefty price. Most people should be able to get by with one of the 128, 256, or 512GB configurations instead.

Get better in the dark: Tips to improve low-light photography

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is not just the best camera phone you can buy. Its combination of specs, build quality, and productivity features make it one of the best Android devices, as long as you’re willing to meet the asking price.

What makes it stand out:

  • Incredible zoom capabilities: Between its pair of telephoto zooms and cutting-edge software, the Galaxy S22 Ultra zooms better (and closer) than almost any other phone on the market — up to 100x.
  • Unbeatable software support: Longer update commitments are becoming the norm, but Samsung still takes the cake. The Galaxy S22 series will receive four full Android version updates and five years of security patches, which carries it through to 2027.
  • Ultra-premium design and build quality: Between the Armor Aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass Victus Plus panels, it’s tough to find a more durable device on the market.
  • Solid performance: Although it runs hot, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 packs enough punch to perform. It’s at home on most 2022 flagships and combines nicely with up to 12GB of RAM.

Best of the rest: 7 other camera phones worth considering

While we recommend the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as the best camera phone for most people, it’s not your only option. Smartphone cameras aren’t one size fits all, and you might prefer another brand’s experience instead. You’ll find excellent cameras throughout our list, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you. Here’s the best of the rest:

  • Google Pixel 7 Pro: The Pixel 7 Pro offers Google’s most powerful camera yet, adding an updated Tensor G2 chip with new editing features to the already powerful trio of rear cameras.
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max: If you’re willing to try iOS, the iPhone 14 Pro Max has Apple’s most advanced camera setup to date. It now features a 48MP main shooter, along with a host of other Pro-only upgrades.
  • Sony Xperia Pro-I and Xperia 1 IV: Sony’s flagships don’t come cheap, but they do bring a professional photography twist. You get in-depth controls as if you were using a DSLR or mirrorless device, and Sony is one of few brands to still rock a headphone jack in 2022.
  • Google Pixel 6a: Google’s Pixel 6a brings the same flagship-level image processing at a much more approachable price point. It carries the Tensor chip, a first for the mid-range series, and you get a pair of tried and true rear lenses.
  • Oppo Find X5 Pro: This flagship is one of our best Europe-only picks, thanks to its mix of space-age design and all-new Marisilicon X NPU. Oppo’s Find X5 Pro also packs Hasselblad tuning for improved color science — even in low light.
  • Vivo X80 Pro: The Vivo X80 Pro is the company’s most powerful and refined device yet. It’s another pick for the European audience, and it carries a very capable primary camera with Zeiss True Color for more accurate color recreation.

The Google Pixel 7 Pro is best for excellent image-processing software

Google Pixel 7 Pro
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Best Google camera • High-quality display • Big battery
The Pixel 7 Pro is the top-of-the-line phone on Google's roster.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro takes the best features from the Pixel 6 Pro, and makes them even better. Enjoy numerous camera upgrades and some fun new software tricks, all for the same cost as the last-gen Pixel phone.

The Google Pixel line is no longer an example of high-end image processing with modest hardware. After years of punching above its weight class with software alone, the Pixel 7 series packs the hard-earned muscles to compete with the best camera phones around. It builds on the upgrades of the Pixel 6 series and mixes in a bundle of new tricks thanks to the Tensor G2.

Google’s latest flagship keeps the same trio of lenses from its predecessor, and we’re not complaining. The Pixel 7 Pro’s 50MP primary sensor and 12MP ultrawide sensor still shine, and they’re both available on the standard Pixel 7, too. If you go Pro, you’ll also find a 48MP telephoto lens to round out the aluminum-coated camera bar. It still has ample room for all three lenses, though the swap from glass to aluminum offers a little more peace of mind in case your new Pixel 7 Pro should take a tumble.

Of course, how you use a camera is often the deciding factor above sheer specs, and the Pixel 7 Pro is no different. It still offers a slimmed-down approach to the camera interface, preferring to let the updated Tensor G2 chip do the bulk of the thinking. You can choose your shooting mode and your subject, but then the Pixel 7 Pro does the rest. Overall, it’s one of the best examples of KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) photography we’ve ever experienced. One look at the 200 images Rita took over the course of her first week with the phone, and you’ll see why it’s not such a bad thing. All our images in her gallery are straight out of the camera and deliver excellent color recreation and detail in tons of different settings.

We’re still waiting on the results of our next in-depth camera test, but it’s tough to see the Pixel 7 Pro giving up much room. Its predecessor edged the Galaxy S22 Ultra in recognizing scenarios where HDR is important, and we still love Google’s natural color profile over Samsung’s saturation. The previous Pixel 6 Pro had a penchant for oversharpening edges in some cases, but the Tensor G2 seems to have fixed some of that.

In fact, we went so far as to say that the Tensor G2 chip improves one feature that’s not easily replicated — reliability. It adds features like Photo Unblur and an automatic macro in the palm of your hand, in addition to existing options like Face Unblur and Real Tone. We found that Real Tone delivered accurate skin color recreation, even in difficult lighting scenarios. Further wrinkles like Action Pan and Long Exposure free up even more creativity — we loved freezing a subject in the middle of the action, and capturing a soft, flowy waterfall isn’t bad, either. In fact, you might find yourself missing the automatic long exposure feature when you switch to any other smartphone camera. The Pixel 7 Pro’s effortless processing and onboard smarts lend it the strength to compete against superior hardware and pick up software features long after launch.

Upgraded lenses and the new Tensor G2 chip give the Pixel 7 Pro more than enough muscle to compete on the camera scene.

Of course, the enhanced camera chops and price aren’t the only things landing Google on our list of the best camera phones. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro make the most of the new Tensor G2, which offers upgrades to the GPU and modem, fixing one of the biggest problems of the Pixel 6 series. Google’s Tensor G2 chip also comes with a suite of photo editing options, most notably the Magic Eraser.

Just how fast is the Tensor G2? We benchmarked it!

Despite the Tensor G2’s solid list of upgrades, it does run into a familiar pitfall from the first generation — thermal management. Google’s flagships still run hot under heavy loads, and warm weather only makes it worse. This tends to hamstring the overall battery experience, even if Google’s wired charging is quicker than ever before (though still not the 30W speeds that Google vaguely boasts).

In an age where most of the best camera phones will cost you more than $1,000, the Pixel 7 Pro is still an excellent value. It’s available at $899, with its Pixel 7 sibling launching at just $599, a near mid-range price for a full flagship experience. You’ll have to spend a little more if you want extra storage, but you won’t scratch the asking price of most competitors.

What makes it stand out:

  • Google’s Tensor G2 chip: Offers excellent post-processing and image editing capabilities like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur to bring images to life and keep your subject as the only focal point of your shot.
  • First-in-line updates: OEMs across the board are getting better at quick updates, but you still can’t beat Google. As the creator of Android, all Pixel devices remain at the top of the list regarding the latest and greatest software (and beta access).
  • Unique design: Android used to emphasize being together but not the same. Now, the Pixel 7 series is one of few examples to skip a corner-mounted camera array and adopt a boxy design to stand out.

The Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max is the best iOS camera experience

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
Excellent display • Powerful SoC • Advanced UI experience
Apple's premium phone with a massive screen
The iPhone Pro Max has a larger display and a higher resolution than the iPhone Pro. It powers Apple's most powerful SoC to date and carries new safety features, the Emergency SOS connected by satellite and the Crash Detector.

We are Android Authority, and most of this list is dedicated to Android camera phones, but it’s still impossible to leave Apple out entirely. The iPhone 14 Pro Max brings some of the first real camera upgrades to iOS in years, finally breaking free of the 12MP trio. We don’t have a true review of Apple’s largest iPhone, but you can check out our iPhone 14 Pro review instead.

After years of chasing modest megapixel counts and ignoring the idea of pixel binning, Apple caved. It adopted a 48MP sensor, which it’s taken to calling the main camera rather than the wide camera, and paired it with two familiar 12MP backups. That means you still get a powerful, flexible trio, and it still performs admirably against the best that Android has to offer. The iPhone 14 Pro Max follows the Pixel 7 Pro in terms of color recreation, keeping a relatively natural profile. Apple even claims a 6x optical zoom range, though it’s using the 0.5x ultrawide and 3x optical telephoto to get there.

Apple’s detail recreation is excellent, and the iPhone itself is best described as a creator’s toolkit. If you’re willing to shoot in RAW, you can export massive files straight from the main camera and edit them to your heart’s content in Lightroom. Apple also lets you set your photographic style upon setup, which means you can tweak your contrast and tint to match your personal style. We stuck with the true neutral profile for our tests, and it worked nicely.

We’ve focused primarily on still images through our top camera phone picks so far, but the iPhone shows its strength as a video camera option as well. It offers a special Cinematic mode for video, which adds digital bokeh and autofocuses on faces as they look at the camera. We found that the feature generally worked as advertised, though it can struggle with multiple faces at one time. You’ll also have to stump extra cash for professional costumes and lighting before you can make the iPhone 14 Pro Max a true go-to for your feature film. Apple’s ProRes video also delivers lossless compression, which makes editing your footage slightly more manageable, but it’s limited to 1080p on the 128GB device.

As for the phone itself, the design is classic iPhone. Apple has been rolling with the same flat-sided design for a few years now, with few overall changes as far back as the iPhone 11. The boxy edges don’t exactly blend comfortably into your hand, but the size remains easy to hold and feels familiar right out of the box. It’s as tough as ever, with a Ceramic Shield front and a stainless steel frame with its durable IP68 rating. That said, as you turn your attention to the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s display, it’s clear that Apple has a few tricks up its sleeve. The notch is finally gone in favor of a Dynamic Island, which is essentially a punch hole camera for Face ID surrounded by a black window that expands and contracts to show texts, emails, and let you manage your music playback.

Apple's flagship doesn't fall far from the tree, but it improves on an already excellent camera package.

Under the hood, you also get Apple’s latest A16 Bionic chipset, with 6GB of RAM and up to 1TB of onboard storage. All four iPhone 14 models now offer the same base RAM, though, as always, extra storage comes at a steep price. As you’d expect from a flagship chipset, the A16 Bionic puts up gaudy numbers, improving upon Apple’s recent processors by a good margin. It also does this with less RAM than many Android devices — especially those at the same price tag — which speaks to an impressive optimization process.

We can’t skip over the fact that the iPhone 14 Pro Max has a smaller battery than most of its competitors. It easily reaches a day and a half if you’re willing to part with some battery drains like the always-on display. Unfortunately, Apple’s modest wired and 15W wireless charging aren’t the fastest, and you’ll need a steady supply of Lightning cables if you’re moving from Android to iOS.

What makes it stand out:

  • iOS at its best: Apple’s software has come a long way, and it’s best experienced with modern flagship power. iOS 16 packs new lock screen customizations, and there’s no denying the excellent optimization, especially when it comes to battery life.
  • MagSafe capabilities: MagSafe isn’t a new term, but the unique magnetic attachments give the latest iPhone flagships several new wrinkles. From wireless charging to attaching a wallet to the back panel, there’s plenty of magnetic flexibility.
  • Premium video capabilities: Every phone on this list has the potential for excellent still images, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max leaps to the top when it comes to video. Features like Cinematic mode and ProRes deliver smart autofocus and lossless exporting for your home masterpiece.

The Sony Xperia Pro-I is the best for professional camera controls

Sony Xperia Pro-I
Sony Xperia Pro-I
High-quality hardware with niche tweaks • Pro-friendly photo capture • Gorgeous 4K-ish screen
Need a powerful, pro-grade imaging phone that does it all? The Xperia Pro-I could be the answer.
The Sony Xperia Pro-I is the latest professional-grade camera phone from Sony. Aimed at imaging and video experts rather than typical smartphone buyers, the Xperia Pro-I is an admirable attempt at crafting a camera replacement with smartphone capabilities, though it's not without some notable flaws. And it costs a fortune.
$1,598.00 at B&H
Save $201.99

There’s no denying Sony’s place among the best camera phones, though it comes with a few caveats. Depending on where you live, we’re recommending different devices in the lineup. Really, it comes down to a matter of price and availability, but both options deliver impressive quality and high-end camera controls.

Up first is Sony’s Xperia Pro-I, which is the better choice for users in the United States. It’s taken up the mantle as Sony’s professional-grade imaging smartphone, following on the heels of the original Xperia Pro. The Xperia Pro-I also adopts a slightly different design from the brand’s other flagships, shifting the camera array from the corner into the center to give the massive camera sensor enough room to perform. Just be ready for the enormous price tag to match — the Sony Xperia Pro-I will set you back $1,799 for 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

As Sony’s pro-focused camera phone (with all of the irony that entails), you get a pro-focused camera interface as well. The in-app controls and Zeiss optics feel like they were shaved straight off of a full-frame shooter, as does the control over the camera aperture. You can pull up a virtual PASM dial, which the app will then explain to you before you can dive in. As soon as you choose a mode other than Automatic, the app opens options for autofocus, flash, exposure compensation, and so much more. Like Samsung’s Expert RAW, it can be overwhelming for beginners but can feel like a secret weapon for camera pros.

Interestingly, Sony’s Photo Pro app also dictates that you have to use the hardware shutter button rather than the software version. It’s rare to see a physical shutter button on a phone these days, let alone mandate it. We also found Sony’s approach to zoom more complicated than necessary. Instead of pinching to zoom across the entire range, you have to zoom based on each lens. The 16mm equivalent only lets you punch in up to 24mm before you have to switch lenses to zoom to 50mm, and so on. It’s true to how a full-frame camera’s zoom would function, but feels like an extra hoop to jump through on a smartphone.

Sony chose a massive primary sensor, which is capable of letting in a ton of light and giving your images some juicy bokeh. Unfortunately, the tight form factor means that the phone can’t use the entirety of its massive sensor, but it sounds good on a spec sheet.

Sony's large sensor and Zeiss glass come with a ridiculous price tag to match.

In terms of actual performance, the Xperia Pro-I follows the Pixel 6 Pro down the road of natural results, almost to a fault. The color recreation is incredibly close to reality, and sometimes comes out muted as a result. They may not be what every smartphone photographer is after, but if you’re willing to put in a little editing legwork, you can bring them to life. We captured some of our samples in 12-bit RAW, which we could then ship to Lightroom and tweak to our hearts’ content.

A few of our sample shots came out underexposed as well, though some of this could be attributed to the Xperia Pro-I’s aperture. It’s not as wide as some class leaders, which means less light reaches the sensor despite its massive size. You might also be surprised to hear that Sony’s photography flagship skips a traditional portrait mode. Instead, it tries to make up for it with bokeh when set to f/2.0. It doesn’t blur the background to the extent of portrait mode, but it’s enough to set your subject apart nicely.

Overall, we enjoyed using the Xperia Pro-I throughout our testing. Sony’s tall, thin design is familiar at this point, and the 21:9 aspect ratio is longer than most competitors. It’s as tall as the Pixel 6, though not nearly as wide. Premium build materials like Gorilla Glass Victus and a textured side rail complement the rear camera (which is the focal point of the design) nicely.

It’s not exactly a perk related to the Xperia cameras, but the phone picks up another use if you’re a Sony photographer already. You can now hook it to your camera rig to serve as a sharp external monitor while you capture photos and videos. How often do you get to run around with a 4K viewfinder? We’d guess not very. It’s as simple as using the USB-C port, and you can upload shots right to Instagram without ever running back to a laptop.

We could continue all day about the tech that Sony packed into its Xperia Pro-I, but it might be best to read up on our thorough breakdown in our review. It’s packed with samples and detailed information on the advanced features and controls.

What makes it stand out:

  • Premium design: Sony didn’t skimp on any of the materials for the Xperia Pro-I. It blends Gorilla Glass and a textured frame for a great in-hand feel, and the Zeiss camera takes the starring role on the back panel.
  • Excellent camera controls: The Xperia Pro-I packs professional-grade controls for both photo and video in Sony’s dedicated apps. You can access different dials in both Photo Pro and Cinema Pro, depending on what you want to create.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is a better pick for shoppers outside of the US, and it all comes down to the asking price. While you can get Sony’s latest flagship for £1,299 in the UK and €1,399 in mainland Europe, it costs a whopping $1,599 in the US. It’s more affordable across the board than the Xperia Pro-I, though the difference is far more noticeable in international markets.

Sony’s Xperia 1 IV features many of the same camera capabilities as its expensive sibling, though it skips the claims of a massive primary sensor. It once again offers a trio of 12MP shooters with wide, ultrawide, and periscope zoom coverage. However, one of our favorite updates is the newfound support for Sony’s eye-tracking and object detection. We were particularly impressed by the autofocus, which is easily at the top of the list for smartphones, and it outweighs some mirrorless cameras, too. The Xperia 1 IV errs on the side of realism when it comes to color recreation, though we have to say it feels a bit punchier than in years past.

Sony Xperia 1 IV
4K display • High quality audio, including headphone jack • Vlogging tools
See review
MSRP
SAVE
$1,398.00
$201.00
$1,398.00 at Amazon
See review

The Google Pixel 6a is the best camera phone if you’re on a budget

Google Pixel 6a
Google Pixel 6a
Affordable • Loud stereo speakers • Great Pixel UI software
Google's latest budget offering takes some key steps forward, right into the path of the Pixel 6.
The Google Pixel 6a pulls some of the best Pixel 6 features into a smaller and more affordable package. It's easy to use with one hand and offers more of a processing punch than previous Pixel A phones, even if the battery life takes a big hit.

Google’s Pixel 6a is a unique entry on our list of the best camera phones you can buy. It costs just $449, yet it packs updated in-house internals and top-notch image processing that you expect from its premium siblings. The Pixel 6a might not stack up favorably across the board compared to heavy hitters on this list, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value.

The Pixel 6a takes Google's new design language and compresses it into a palm-friendly 6.1-inch body.

Despite taking on the Pixel 6’s design language, the Pixel 6a offers a camera experience that’s reminiscent of previous generations. For starters, it brings back the tried and true 12.2MP primary sensor that dates all the way back to the Pixel 3. It immediately feels familiar, delivering results that we’ve raved about over the years thanks to Google’s excellent post-processing. The camera is no longer as tack-sharp as the competition, but it’s reliable as can be. Google’s ultrawide camera tells a similar story. There’s some distortion around the edges, which is to be expected, but the color recreation and details are excellent.

Of course, the secret weapon that pushes the familiar camera package above its predecessors is Google’s Tensor chip. This is the first time we’ve seen it come to a mid-range device, and it brings an extra processing punch. It’s quicker to deliver final results than the Pixel 5 was, and it blends all of the latest retouching features. In fact, Magic Eraser picked up a new Camouflage option with the launch of the Pixel 6a. We’ve had plenty of fun erasing unwanted images from objects, but Camouflage takes a different approach. Instead of erasing objects, it simply recolors them to blend in with the background. We made good use of it, especially in scenes with complicated backgrounds where the traditional magic eraser struggled to recreate details.

We’ve seen plenty of other budget-friendly phones push for more lenses or more megapixels, but the Pixel devices have put brains over brawn since the beginning. Samsung’s Galaxy A53, for example, packs four rear cameras and a 64MP primary shooter, yet its color recreation and features are no more powerful than the Pixel’s. In fact, we prefer Google’s slimmed-down approach to the massive camera bump on the Galaxy A53, which adds a dedicated macro lens mostly for the imposing effect.

Pixel UI is one of our favorites when it comes to achieving a nearly-stock Android experience. It’s light and smooth, with very little bloatware, and it’s always at the front of the line when it comes to software updates. You can feel the impact of Material You throughout, with customizable widgets and first-party app icons that adapt to your wallpaper.

We immediately fell in love with the phone’s smaller form factor during our time with it. Where the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro were large at 6.4 and 6.7 inches, the Pixel 6a is a manageable 6.1 inches. It’s much easier to reach across with one finger, and the flat display is comfortable to hold for long stretches. Google’s budget phone skips the premium Gorilla Glass back panel in favor of a 3D thermoformed composite, which is a fancy way to say plastic. The display, however, is Gorilla Glass 3, which is good but lags behind the similarly priced competition.

See also: The best budget Android phones

One of the Pixel 6a’s main drawbacks comes in its battery life. The plastic back eliminates the potential for wireless charging, while the 18W wired charging is significantly slower than many rivals. Further, the Tensor’s struggles with thermal management mean that when your battery starts to tick away, it can be tough to slow down. We turned to Battery Saver early and often through our review period, which turned out to be a lifesaver.

What makes it stand out:

  • Unbeatable price: Most camera phones on our list start at $899 or above, yet the Pixel 6a packs a flagship-level experience for about half that price.
  • Pocket-friendly design: Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are large, boxy devices. The Pixel 6a compresses the best features into a smaller, more manageable package.
  • Tensor-powered processing: The same powerful Tensor chip from Google’s latest flagships is right at home on the Pixel 6a. That means it’s capable of matching the image processing potential with Real Tone and Face Unblur, though it skips a few of the most advanced features like Motion Mode.

The Oppo Find X5 Pro is the best-looking camera phone

Oppo Find X5 Pro
Oppo Find X5 Pro
Exquisite design • Brilliant 120Hz display • Fast wired and wireless charging
Oppo's customized chassis meets customized hardware, but does it gel?
The Find X5 Pro is a technological showcase for Oppo's custom charging and imaging hardware, encased in a unique chassis design that ensures the handset stands out from the crowd.

Style isn’t always a defining factor when buying a great camera phone, but when it looks as good as the Oppo Find X5 Pro, it’s worth mentioning. The flagship is a direct successor to the equally stylish Find X3 Pro, even if it swaps the mirrored finish for a serene white one. You’ll notice the brand skipped a Find X4 model, as the number four is considered unlucky in China. Unlucky or not, the fourth Find flagship is a showcase for the best that Oppo has going right now. However, this is a Europe-only recommendation, as it’s not easy to bring to the US right now.

Oppo’s well-rounded approach to photography is what earns the Find X5 Pro its place on our list. It skips the lenses for lenses’ sake approach, instead sporting just three rear cameras. Two are 50MP Sony IMX766 lenses, one wide and one ultrawide, and both deliver solid results for casual use. The third is a 13MP telephoto, which is just as capable of holding its own. It may come across as odd to praise the removal of a lens, but Oppo’s decision to skip the 60x super macro from the Find X3 Pro means the two existing lenses have more freedom to breathe.

The Find X5 Pro was the fourth horseman in our ultimate camera test, and it often wound up in second or third position behind the top two phones on our list. We found that the phone had no problems nailing exposure and white balance in outdoor situations, along with decent details. Its 2x zoom results are on par with its standard snaps, thanks to its telephoto lens. However, it does fall behind a few rivals once you stretch to 5x and 10x zoom as the 2x telephoto turns to digital cropping.

Despite its Hasselblad co-branding and premium color science, we also found that the Find X5 Pro leaned heavily on saturated colors to make images more appealing. A few of our test images show Oppo’s sky as a completely different shade of blue as compared to its top competitors. The Find X5 Pro makes up some ground in its application of HDR, however, only coming up short of the Pixel 6 Pro based on its color profile. It rarely crushes shadows and often manages to find details where the iPhone and Galaxy S22 Ultra come up short.

Oppo, like OnePlus, has turned to Hasselblad for a dose of color science.

Oppo’s selfie camera performed better than most during our time with it as well. It inserts an extra white pixel into the standard RGB filter to help with light capture, and we found that it wasn’t just a claim for the spec sheet. Our samples were well exposed with minimal noise, though the details can be a bit soft. We did appreciate the ability to tune the Find X5 Pro’s bokeh for portrait mode, which isn’t always a guarantee.

No matter the hardware muscle, Oppo’s Marisilicon X NPU steals much of the fanfare. It’s the brains behind the brawn, and the chip is essentially designed to run Oppo’s AI imaging algorithms on the camera’s RAW data to improve noise reduction and low light performance. Regardless of the technical jargon, the chip combines impressively with both of Oppo’s lenses to deliver great night mode images. We tested its mettle on the ultrawide, standard, and zoom settings and had no qualms with the results — which is especially impressive for the zoom option. You’ll need night mode for any luck in the dark, as Oppo’s cameras tended to struggle without the feature active.

Moving beyond the camera, Oppo’s 80W wired SuperVOOC fast charging and 50W wireless charging can both fill the 5,000mAh cell in a hurry. We also achieved somewhere in the range of six to eight hours of screen on time with reasonably heavy use, landing among the best Android phones on the market. The results are good considering the power requirements of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. Like previous Oppo flagships, the device comes tuned to a lower performance setting out of the box to maximize that battery potential. It delivers great results in terms of graphical performance, even if the raw numbers don’t always add up.

Read next: Proprietary charging used to be a necessary evil, now it’s just evil

What makes it stand out:

  • Space-age style: Oppo introduced an almost Star Wars-esque style with its Find X3 Pro, and it’s nice to see a return. The camera array once again seems to melt into the back of the phone, even if the Hasselblad branding is a bit large.
  • Excellent charging and battery life: 80W wired charging is excellent, regardless of battery size. Oppo’s 50W wireless speeds are remarkable, too, and the 5,000mAh cell lasts for hours upon hours.
  • MariSilicon magic: Like Google, Oppo has realized that the best smarts are behind the camera. The MariSilicon X NPU offers excellent processing capabilities, especially in low-light situations. It buoys the already impressive trio of cameras even further towards the top.

The Vivo X80 Pro is one of the best co-branded camera phones

Vivo X80 Pro
Vivo X80 Pro
Best in-display fingerprint sensor • Great battery life • Bundled charger has fast USB-PD support
The Vivo X80 Pro is positioned as the brand's top device for the year so far, but does it deliver?
The Vivo X80 Pro is the best of the X70 Pro Plus with 2022 flagship specs. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's still a welcome upgrade over its already great predecessor.

The last entry on our list of the best camera phones right now is another Europe-only offering in the Vivo X80 Pro. Like the Find X5 Pro, it adds updates to an already impressive flagship — the Vivo X70 Pro. It brings a standard set of changes for 2022, like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, faster wired and wireless charging, and a 120Hz QHD+ display.

In our review, we were quick to point out that the camera has been a particular strength for Vivo over the last few years, and the X80 Pro carries the torch for another year. There aren’t too many changes to the overall setup, though the micro-gimbal stabilization has migrated from the ultrawide lens to the 2x telephoto. Depending on which peripheral lens you prefer, you might love or hate this. If you’re not entirely sure what this means, essentially the lens and sensor are able to tilt on the X or Y axis to stabilize your images or videos. One thing you might not love is the massive camera housing. It’s about the same size as the one found on the Vivo X70 Pro and stretches across the entire back panel.

The camera bump may be huge, but Vivo's lenses put it to good use.

The hefty camera bump houses a 50MP main camera, a 48MP ultrawide option, 12MP telephoto (with micro-gimbal stabilization), and an 8MP periscope. Overall, the flexibility is excellent, as are the daytime images through the primary camera. The saturation is pleasant if a little heavy, but you can toggle Zeiss True Color if you want more realistic hues. Noise is minimal, though there were occasions where the results had less resolvable detail.

Vivo’s ultrawide lens doesn’t suffer too much despite the loss of micro-gimbal stabilization. It’s still plenty sharp with minimal noise and healthy amounts of detail. The ultrawide occasionally boosts contrast and crushes black hues here and there, but we’re sore about the lack of distortion correction, even in post-processing. It does don the mantle of macro support, which is common among most of the phones on this list. You might, however, find yourself turning Vivo’s Super Macro mode off entirely, given that many of our images came out artificially over-sharpened.

If you want to test Vivo’s low-light chops, you’ll need a pitch-black scenario. We found that the primary camera adapts far better than the ultrawide, maintaining details where its complement struggles. The X80 Pro even has its take on Google’s Action Pan, called Sports Pan, though it only works in scenes where it can recognize human forms.

Overall, the Vivo X80 Pro is another strong step forward for a brand rapidly building a name in smartphone photography. Did we mention it still comes with a charger in the box?

What makes it stand out:

  • Bundled charger: We just mentioned it, but the X80 Pro still comes with a charger in the box. It supports Vivo’s proprietary 80W speeds, and we found it was able to fill the battery in just 37 minutes.
  • Fingerprint sensor: In-display fingerprint readers are the go-to for most flagships, so it’s saying something when one stands out. We found the X80 Pro’s unit fast and reliable throughout our testing.
  • Steady as she goes: Moving the micro-gimbal stabilization to the telephoto camera helps to keep your shots in focus as you zoom in further. Hand shake can easily ruin a zoomed-in image, so we’re happy with any help we can get.

What to look for in a good camera phone

If you’ve read through our picks for the best camera phones and still have some questions, we don’t blame you. There’s a wide world of options, and it can be tough to know where to start. With that in mind, we have a few simple points to consider:

  • How many cameras do you need? There’s a popular trend where smartphone makers slap as many cameras onto a phone as they can to make you think it’s better. You might find four lenses on a $300 device, but you may never use them all, and they may not hold a candle to a pair of higher-quality lenses. No matter what, you can ignore devices that pass off macro cameras and depth sensors as extra lenses to fill space. A good ultrawide camera can take the place of a macro, and depth information rarely requires its own sensor.
  • What type of cameras do you need? Picking up from the point above, it’s good to consider the type of images you want to capture. If you’re into landscapes, you might want a sweeping ultrawide lens to bring in every last detail. However, you might find yourself looking for a telephoto lens if you’re hoping to capture some wildlife. Some of the best cameras, like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro, offer both types of lenses, which makes them better as all-around performers.
  • Megapixels aren’t everything: Just like the fact that four cameras aren’t always better than three, 108MP isn’t always better than 12MP. Many cameras with massive megapixel counts bin down to smaller images by default, while some 12MP lenses take advantage of larger sensors for excellent results. Google stuck with a 12.2MP primary sensor for years before adopting (and binning) a larger sensor for the Pixel 6 series.
  • Do you want manual controls? If you’re coming from the world of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, you might like a little more control in your life. Some phones offer in-depth apps that let you tweak your aperture, white balance, and exposure compensation. If none of those terms sound familiar, you might be after a device with a more straightforward setup. The Pixel 6 Pro, for example, lets you control portrait mode and a few basic effects but limits your manual power in favor of the Tensor’s smarts. If you’d rather do it all yourself, the Xperia Pro-I is a perfect example of a mighty manual setup — it doesn’t even have a dedicated portrait mode.
  • Software matters a lot: Sticking with the Pixel example, one of the reasons that Google didn’t update its hardware very often was because the processing software is just that good. Two phones may share the same image sensor yet produce completely different results, which all comes back to the onboard software. Powerful software also leads to better editing control over colors and object removal.
  • Do you need RAW capture? A few smartphones, like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max offer the option to export your photos as RAW files. You’ll typically want a phone with this option if you plan to edit your shots later on in a program like Lightroom, as it gives you more control over the image data to recover highlights and shadows. The Oppo Find X5 Pro also runs RAW data through its MariSilicon X chip as part of its processing method.

FAQs

Most phones with excellent rear cameras have strong selfie options as well. The Galaxy S22 Ultra, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and Pixel 6 Pro stand out as especially good, and you can check out our full list of recommendations here.

No, not necessarily. The iPhone 13 Pro Max carries three 12MP lenses, yet it’s one of the best cameras you can get, thanks to its processing power. Google’s Pixel line has also historically stuck to lower megapixel sensors and let it machine learning do the work.

No. Most smartphones will combine pixels from a larger camera in a process known as pixel binning. This turns a 64MP or 108MP camera into the equivalent of a 12MP camera for better low-light performance and smaller image files.

This is a difficult question to answer, as there are so many more Android cameras to choose from. There are many more Android flagships to choose from, but the iPhone has a consistently excellent camera setup year in and year out.

Large, heavy DSLRs have already fallen in popularity over the last few years and will likely be replaced by smartphones for average users. Professional photographers, however, will continue to rely on dedicated cameras with larger sensors for commercial work and wedding photography.

The most important things to look for are the types of lenses you will use, as well as the software options. Some phones will offer a simple camera app with excellent processing as opposed to an in-depth app that puts you in the driver’s seat. Both may be good phones, but it comes down to your preference.