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I'm a photographer and I don't care about camera quality when buying a new phone
Camera quality has become one of the most important factors when picking a new phone. We conducted a poll in early 2021, and the results were as we assumed. About 24% of you told us you value the camera above all. Over 50% said it was a key factor in your buying decision, while only about 5% said you didn’t care about the camera at all, and I happen to share this opinion. Let’s talk about why and how not caring about the smartphone camera can be so liberating.
Why I don’t care about camera quality when buying a new phone
First, let’s talk a bit about me and my specific needs. You may be thinking the reason I don’t really care for smartphone camera quality is that photos are not important to me. On the contrary, creating good imagery is part of my livelihood. I am a professional photographer. My title here at Android Authority is Head of Imaging and Photography. I specialize in product photography, help the team improve their skills, shoot most stock photos for this site, cover events, and more. I care a lot about my photos!
So, if imaging is so important to me, why is it not a factor when choosing my next smartphone? Well, it is because I care about shooting a good photo that I use my actual camera instead. I reserve smartphone photos for casual snapshots and utility. I take pictures of things I need to remember or to show others something I came across, for example. Any modern smartphone camera will do for these purposes.
I’m not denying smartphone cameras have come a long way, both in terms of hardware and software. They surely have. Which is one of the reasons I am not letting “lesser” camera quality sway me away from an otherwise good phone. I believe you no longer get the value you pay for when buying a state-of-the-art camera phone. Smartphone cameras have gotten so good that even fairly average camera phones take nice images. If you pick one of the devices in our list of the best budget camera phones, you will obtain results that are very close to what you would get from one of the best camera phones. Especially if they come from the same manufacturer and apply similar editing to pictures.
Smartphone cameras have gotten so good that even fairly average camera phones take nice images.
Additionally, even the best smartphone cameras around still don’t truly satisfy my needs. They are still far from matching a real DSLR or mirrorless camera with a proper lens. The bottom line is that size still matters in photography. A bigger sensor and larger lens with quality glass elements are very important factors. They will often improve low-light performance, dynamic range, definition, noise levels, zoom capabilities, and more.
Complete aperture control is another crucial matter. You can’t control the aperture on most smartphones. A few manufacturers still offer variable aperture controls, but the feature isn’t as widespread as I’d like it to be. And it often only allows you to switch between two or three preset apertures, which still isn’t enough.
In terms of post-processing, machine learning and computational photography are simply trying to replicate what actual cameras and lenses do naturally, like with portraits or movement blur. They don’t always get it right, by the way. Not to mention editing is a whole other art; sometimes, a smartphone’s post-processing style can contrast your preferences. If you want images to look a certain way, you’ll have to learn how to do at least some basic editing.
Even the best camera phones aren't a bit leap in quality or control compared to a standalone camera.
And one more thing. Great camera hardware usually requires a big camera bump. This is more of a personal pet peeve, but I prefer to have no bump or to minimize it as much as possible.
Again, those factors only affect me and a handful of you. You surely have your reasons for prioritizing camera quality. And it makes sense; not everyone needs to buy a dedicated camera, a whole set of equipment, and carry it around everywhere. A smartphone might be the only camera you want, and getting a good one matters in this case.
Not caring about cameras has opened up the entire phone market for me
You may disagree with me, and that’s all fair, but I will say this: prioritizing camera quality when picking your next smartphone will severely limit your options. Likely to just a few series, mainly from manufacturers like Google, Samsung, and Apple.
Not caring about camera quality has opened for me the doors to a wide variety of great options the market offers. This is especially the case in the Android ecosystem. There are so many phones out there with exceptional features and propositions. I can pick the one that best suits all my other needs and not worry about its photography skills because it’ll at least have pretty alright cameras.
I can pick the phone that best suits all my other needs and not worry about its camera because it'll certainly be decent.
Let’s talk about some of the things you can enjoy if you stop caring about camera quality. Or at least if you stop caring as much. We’ll also show you some examples of good phones for each category, just to give you an idea of how rich and diverse the smartphone market is.
High-performance phones at a lower price
The main benefit is the performance-to-price ratio. You can get very powerful devices at a much more reasonable price point if camera quality is no object. Some of these match, and sometimes outperform, the top flagships while costing significantly less.
These include the OnePlus 11, Google Pixel 7, or the ASUS Zenfone 9. All of these cost around $600-700. Maybe a little more or less, depending on where you get them and at which discount. They also have what the industry considers high-end specs. Not only that but the Google Pixel 7 is still one of the most respected camera phones out there.
High peak performance
The best bang-per-buck phones with decent cameras
Maybe you don’t mind a slightly less powerful device that actually manages to save you a bunch of cash. You have budget phone options whether you prefer iOS or Android. The iPhone SE 2022 and the Google Pixel 7a are your best bets. Both have very powerful processors and overall great specs. What’s best, these phones actually have pretty good cameras, too, especially the Pixel 7a.
Improved battery life
Powerful A15 Bionic chipset
You can also tap into different form factors, such as foldable phones. These can often actually cost more than regular flagships but allow you to explore a new way of mobile computing. Foldables often get the shorter end of the stick in terms of camera quality, though. For example, both the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and the very expensive Z Fold 4 have a worse camera system than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Though we’re looking forward to the Google Pixel Fold, our favorite foldable devices for now are the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. In terms of flip phones, though, we think the OPPO Find N2 Flip is another great option you might prefer over Samsung’s. The newer Motorola Moto Razr 40 series is another fantastic alternative.
Then there are gaming phones, which can come with amazing specs and some gaming enhancements you may enjoy, like accessories, cooling solutions, shoulder triggers, higher-refresh-rate screens, and of course, cool RGB lighting!
If you were to look at the REDMAGIC 8 Pro‘s spec sheet, you would imagine it is priced up there with the best of the best. It lacks nothing against high-end devices and comes with significant gaming optimizations. The best part? It starts at just $649! If you don’t mind paying some more cash, the ASUS ROG Phone 7 offers a more refined experience, with a better design and optional gaming accessories available.
Phones with amazing battery life
You thought a 5,000mAh or 6,000mAh battery was large? How about phones with better battery life and how about 22,000mAh? That’s how much the Unihertz Tank offers. And the manufacturer claims it has a standby time of over 99 days per charge, or about 150 hours of calling time. It’s also pretty rugged, with both IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certifications, and has a large flashlight and night-vision camera for your wildest adventures.
If you want something a bit less extreme, there’s also the Motorola Moto G Power 5G. It offers a pretty good experience, comes at a low price, and easily reaches two days of battery life.
Specs are pretty good
The fastest charging in the county
There are even more cool features you can get from some of the phones with less-than-ideal camera systems. Some have amazingly fast charging that can get your device from zero to 100% in 30 minutes or less, for example.
The OnePlus 11 can charge at 100W (though, sadly, that number is reduced to 80W in the USA). Meanwhile, the OPPO Find X6 Pro can charge at 100W wired or 50W wirelessly. Not fast enough? How about the realme GT Neo 5 240W? As the name suggests, it can charge at a whopping 240W, taking the battery from zero to 100% in just 10 minutes!
If you want a rugged phone, it’s hard to beat CAT smartphones. The CAT S62 Pro meets IP68/69 certification and is also MIL-STD-810H rated. If you want something less rugged-looking, you might also want to look at the Motorola Thinkphone.
IP68/69 and MIL-STD-810H rated
Gorilla Glass 6
And there’s more!
Of course, we can’t recommend every unique device, but the variety you get to choose from if you can ignore camera quality is astounding. There are tiny phones like the Unihertz Atom. Crypto heads like myself might like to explore the idea of a crypto-focused smartphone like the Solana Mobile Saga. Manufacturers have also played with uniquely-designed phones like the LG Wing. Those who really care about security can look into smartphones built specifically around privacy. The list goes on.
Additionally, there will be more awesome options to choose from at any budget. If, suddenly, the camera is not a factor in your phone purchase, the best budget phones become even more enticing. And some good options can cost well under $300. If you’re looking for mid-tier pricing, you might not have to sacrifice performance and features in other areas, as many of the upper midrange devices can cost around $500 nowadays. In summary, if you leave camera quality out of the equation, your money will get you much further in other departments.
What do you think of these options? Are you still sticking with the best camera phones, or are you jumping over to the wilder side? Are there any other phones you would recommend to those who don’t care about the camera? Sound off in the comments!