Home / Digital Camera Reviews / Best Camera phone 2019: Camera Buyer’s Guide: the Best Camera-Phones, Applications and Accessories

Best Camera phone 2019: Camera Buyer’s Guide: the Best Camera-Phones, Applications and Accessories

As far as photography is concerned, in the last 10 years, smartphones have emerged as essential everyday companions. While compact cameras long held this role, our “smart” phones have seen the quality of their cameras go from fair to good… to excellent. As a result, their impact on photography has been quite significant: the device you take with you at all times is no longer your compact camera, but rather your smartphone. It is always with you, always on, always ready to use, and always connected. However, not all smartphones are equal as far as their photographic abilities are concerned and in each price range, some models are better than others.

Best Camera phone

Inspired by this idea, we designed this guide to help you find your way through the confusing world of smartphones and choose the best photophone according to your tastes… and budget. It will also introduce you to some highly relevant photo apps and accessories that should allow you to get the most out of your smartphone’s camera.

The evolving photophone landscape

Since the publication of the first version of this buyer’s guide in 2011, the photophone landscape has evolved quite a bit. Some industry stakeholders have rapidly transitioned from outsider status to that of a key brand (Huawei, OnePlus). Conversely, some companies have become more discreet – their products generating less hype than in the past (Sony, LG, HTC) – despite their undeniable qualities. For its part, Apple made a lot of headlines by unveiling its iPhone X (in November 2017), whose stylistic codes have since been widely copied, with varying degrees of success.

To compile our selection, we searched for the smartphones making the fewest possible concessions in terms of their photographic abilities while still offering a flawless overall user experience (design, OS integration…). We were also particularly attentive to the quality of photos taken under low-light conditions; while almost all current smartphones are capable of taking good-quality shots in daylight, only the best models are capable of maintaining quality after the sun has set.

Before entering into the heart of the matter, some considerations:

  • Is an ever increasing number of pixels a good thing? Yes and no. We’ve been saying, for quite some time now, that nothing good has ever come from the incessant race towards a higher pixel count, and that the best devices are not necessarily the ones with the highest number of pixels. Some manufacturers have, however, focused on integrating a very high definition sensor into their devices; however, significant improvements to a smartphone’s software are still required to take full advantage of this higher definition.
  • How about an ever-increasing number of sensors? Yes and no. This year has been marked by an increase in the number of rear-facing sensors. The iPhone now has two rear-facing sensors, the Huawei P20 Pro has three, and the new Samsung Galaxy A9 now has four such sensors! However, the number of sensors does not determine the quality of a smartphone’s photos. In contrast, some devices having only one sensor, perform just as well, if not better, than their multiple-sensor counterparts.
  • Maximum aperture: the smaller the f /, the better. A smartphone’s lens is characterized by its focal length (usually 28mm) and its aperture opening (f/1.8, for example). This value is of special importance for low-light photography. The lower the f / value, the brighter the lens – meaning that it will be better at taking photos under low-light conditions.
  • Digital or optical stabilization? Two types of stabilization capable of reducing motion blur can be found on today’s smartphones: digital stabilization and optical stabilization. The first of these methods consists of using algorithms to predict the camera’s movements. Optical stabilization is a more effective solution because it causes the lens to physically “move” in the opposite direction to the camera’s motion; it compensates for shaking, resulting in clear and stable photos or video.
  • Video: 4K or not 4K? In a similar way to Hyperlapse (we will speak more about this app later), a camera’s 4K video mode uses supplementary pixels to smooth its video stream and remove all movement from it. While 4K is a technology that allows for capturing perfectly stable 1080p video, we do not see the lack of a 4K video mode on a smartphone as a serious impediment.

High-end smartphones: the battle of the giants

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL

photography Heirs to the Pixel 2 (which was already a good photophone), the Pixel 3 and 3 XL offer excellent photographic performance despite only featuring a single rear-facing 12.2-megapixel sensor, surmounted by a 28mm f/1.8 lens. With these two new models, Google has taken another step toward “computational” photography, in which the smartphone’s sensor is supplemented by Google’s advances in artificial intelligence and image processing. The Pixel 3 and XL are capable of taking up to 15 photos simultaneously at different exposure values. Their Night Sight mode allows these Google smartphones to take night shots that blow the competition away. To compensate for the lack of a secondary lens capable of zooming, Google has integrated a feature called Super Res Zoom, which combines several images into one. All these innovations result in photos with near-perfect rendering and a very high level of detail.

While the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL both employ the same camera module, they distinguish themselves by their respective designs. The Pixel 3 incorporates a 5.5-inch OLED display and has borders at its top and bottom. In contrast, the 3 XL incorporates a 6.3-inch OLED display and features a notch (that is less wide than that of its competitors, but also taller).

The Pixel 3 is available from 199$, while the Pixel 3XL has a suggested retail price of 899$.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

photography In the first half of 2018, Huawei unveiled the P20 Pro, the first smartphone to incorporate three rear-facing sensors; it is also equipped with a chip dedicated to artificial intelligence. At the end of the year, Huawei released the Mate 20 Pro, which has an impressive technical data sheet: large 6.4-inch borderless display, built-in fingerprint sensor, facial recognition…

Its photographic abilities are none the less impressive thanks to its triple rear-facing camera module designed in partnership with Leica. It has a “primary” 27mm 40 Mpx (f/1.8) sensor, supported by a 20 Mpx sensor with an ultra-wide angle lens (equivalent to 16mm with an aperture opening of f/2.2 and with a super macro mode that has a minimum focusing distance of 3.5 cm). It’s third, 8 Mpx sensor is surmounted by a telephoto zoom (x3, equivalent to 81mm) with optical stabilization and an aperture opening of f/2.4. Also noteworthy is the presence of a “hybrid” x5 zoom.

The whole system makes use of the camera’s artificial intelligence, which is capable of recognizing the scene being photographed and automatically applying the best settings. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro features many shooting options, and delivers very good shots under (almost) any conditions, despite its omnipresent software processing which has a tendency to apply rather artificial-looking smoothing and accentuation filters. However, the versatility of its camera makes the Mate 20 Pro a particularly nice smartphone to have in your pocket.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is available from 914$. Its little brother, the Mate 20, also features three sensors (equivalent to 17, 27 and 52mm, respectively), and represents an interesting alternative since it retails for 200$ less than the Pro. Lastly, we should mention that the P20 Pro’s price has dropped significantly, making it a very good end-of-year bargain (see next chapter).

iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr

photography The iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr, successors to the iPhone X are the best examples of the Cupertino company’s technical know-how. While the iPhone Xs and Xs Max rely on a dual rear-facing sensor, the iPhone Xr distinguishes itself from other models by its LCD (instead of OLED) display and its single rear-facing sensor… as well as its more affordable price (affordable for an iPhone). These three models offer very good image quality and include an excellent portrait mode capable of adjusting the level of background blur. Also noteworthy is the introduction of a “Smart HDR” function, which captures 4 main images and 4 secondary images, and combines them to create an “ideal” version of a scene.

The iPhone Xs and Xs Max incorporate a dual 12-megapixel camera module featuring a wide-angle lens with an aperture opening of f/1.8 and an x2 zoom lens with an aperture opening of f/2.4. Moreover, they both allow for video capture up to 4K at 60 fps. The iPhone Xr, on the other hand, has a single rear-facing 12 Mpx f/1.8 module.

While the photographic abilities of these new iPhones are undeniable, it would seem that the price increase initiated by the iPhone X represents a trend that is here to stay. The iPhone Xs is available from 999$, while its big brother retails for 1099$ (with a 512 GB version retailing for 1449$). Finally, the iPhone Xr, the most affordable version, is set to retail for “only” 749$.

However, if you are dead-set on buying an Apple device, you should know that this manufacturer continues to market its older models. While they do not benefit from the latest innovations in photographic technology, and their rendering of night shots is perhaps less good, they are still capable of taking very good photos, and their price is considerably lower. Expect to pay 307$ for an iPhone 7 (Refurbished), 366$ for an iPhone 7S (Refurbished), 475$ for an iPhone 8 (Refurbished), and 513$ for an iPhone 8 Plus.

What’s more…

Among the models that we tested for their photographic performance, there are a few others worth mentioning: the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which has an excellent dual variable aperture camera module (a feature taken from the Galaxy S9 +), offering very good rendering of details and colors and a pleasant overall experience (which is further enriched by the home stylus). Moreover, while slightly older, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ remain very good photophones.

We should also mention the OnePlus 6T – the latest version of the smartphone developed by the Chinese company OnePlus. Equipped with a 6.41-inch display, it features dual rear-facing sensors (16 and 20 megapixels respectively) capable of delivering very high-quality shots. Of particular note are the brand’s efforts in the field of night photography. What’s more, this smartphone with high-end features retails for a reasonable price: 669$ for the version with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage space.

Older high-end models remain viable alternatives

The forefront of the smartphone market is dominated by each manufacturer’s latest models; however, in addition to being much more affordable, older models often still have undeniable photographic abilities. The following is a short overview of models that are more than 6 months old, but which have retained their appeal.

Huawei P20 Pro

photography Last spring, we were able to evaluate the performance of the Huawei P20 Pro (the Chinese manufacturer Huawei’s high-end model) which features a large 6.1-inch display and triple rear-facing sensors. The P20 Pro is equipped with a 40-megapixel primary sensor (f/1.8 aperture), a very good monochrome 20 Mpx sensor (f/2.6), and an 8 Mpx (f/2.4) sensor. It also features an x5 hybrid zoom.

What’s more, it is equipped with an artificial intelligence system that is designed to automatically apply the best settings according to the type of scene being photographed. In actual fact, the AI tends to oversaturate the blue of skies and the green of grassy areas; nevertheless, this smartphone delivers very good image quality and is an excellent device for everyday photography. The release of the Mate 20 Pro has had the effect of lowering this smartphone’s price, making it one of the best end-of-year deals around. It can be found from 688$.

iPhone 8 Plus

photography Despite the release of this year’s new models, the iPhone 8 Plus, Apple’s former “Rolls-Royce” photophone, remains a viable alternative. Having almost the same features as the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 Plus’ dual camera module delivers very sharp and well-rounded shots. Also noteworthy is the excellent speed of its autofocus and its flawless digital noise management.

The iPhone 8 Plus is equipped with a 12-megapixel sensor. And, while its photosites only measure 1.2u m (versus 1.4 for the latest iPhone), its photographic acumen is undeniable; it is also able to film in 4K. Its only downside are the large borders situated at the top and bottom of the device; however, people used to the “Home” button will be delighted with this smartphone. The version incorporating 64 GB of storage space is available on the Apple store for 699$.

Samsung Galaxy S8

photography Despite its age, the Samsung Galaxy S8 continues to be a very good deal for anyone seeking to reconcile design and photographic ability. This photophone has a very good, almost borderless, 5.8-inch Super-AMOLED display… and is sure to please those put off by the notch featured on the iPhone X.

In terms of its camera, this smartphone “only” features an 8 Mpx sensor but is equipped with Dual Pixel AF technology (just like the latest Google Pixel), allowing its autofocus to be very fast. We should also mention that its lens has an aperture opening of f/1.7. Released in April 2017, this model has seen its price drop considerably and is available from 471$, The S8’s big brother, the Galaxy S8 +, which features a 6.2-inch display, is available from 558$.

What’s more…

Among older high-end smartphones displaying very good qualities – especially in terms of photography – two models, in particular, caught our attention, the first of which is the HTC U11+. The Taiwanese manufacturer HTC (unable to face particularly fierce competition) was ultimately bought out by Google. Nevertheless, the U11+’s 12 Mpx sensor offers excellent photographic performance (with very little smoothing). Its color rendering and sharpness are excellent, and its 6-inch LCD display has very accurate colorimetry. Expect to pay 530$ for this model.

We would also like to highlight the LG G6, one of the first smartphones to feature a secondary wide-angle sensor. Its photographic performance is very good (especially under low-light conditions), and it is equipped with optical stabilization. It is available for less than 359$.

For people on a tight budget: photophones retailing for between 250 and 400$
Nokia 7 Plus

photography Following its acquisition by Microsoft, Nokia dropped off the radar screen for a time, but has now made a comeback and is offering models featuring a classic design, good finish quality, and a “bare” version of Android OS (without a manufacturer overlay).

The Nokia 7 Plus has a large 6-inch display and a dual camera module featuring a 12-megapixel sensor and a 13-megapixel sensor equipped with an x2 zoom. The final result is very balanced: its good-quality photos have natural-looking rendering, relatively contained digital noise in night shots, and not very pronounced smoothing. The level of detail is remarkable for a smartphone in this price range, and its color rendering is quite decent. Released in the spring of 2018, this smartphone also has remarkably good battery autonomy: it can go for 2 days without needing to be recharged. It retails for around 399$ and is one of the most affordable photophones currently on the market.

Honor 10

photography Honor is the Chinese manufacturer Huawei’s online and affordable product line. Honor smartphones share a number of technical characteristics with their cousins, while generally being more affordable. Let’s take a closer look at the Honor 10, which offers good photo rendering thanks to its dual 16 and 24-megapixel camera module (with an aperture opening of f/1.8). It is also worth mentioning that this smartphone uses the same processor as the Huawei P20 Pro – which sells for a higher price. Like its cousin, the Honor 10 has an artificial intelligence system that automatically recognizes the scene being photographed and applies the most appropriate settings. Sold for around 364$, this smartphone is a good option for anyone looking for a good photophone that won’t break the bank.

Samsung Galaxy A5 2017

photography Released at the beginning of 2017, the Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 follows in the footsteps of the very good A5 2016. Unfortunately, while it is equipped with a 16-megapixel sensor, it lacks optical stabilization. However, this small 5.2-inch Super AMOLED smartphone is a very balanced device and a great everyday companion. By day, the camera produces good-quality photos with quite a respectable level of detail and sharpness. Its autofocus is also very responsive. At night, the camera manages to produce relatively good shots (despite its lack of optical stabilization). Its interface offers a number of photo modes, which should be able to satisfy most users. Last but not least, it has the ability to record video in Full HD (30 frames per second). Available for around 274$, the Galaxy A5 2017 is a good deal for anyone looking for a well-rounded and enjoyable smartphone.

What’s more…

A sign that Chinese manufacturers are on the rise: the brand Xiaomi has recently gained a foothold in France and is offering smartphones at very low prices. The Redmi Note 5, in particular, caught our attention. Available for around 194$, this smartphone features a dual rear-facing camera module; it is equipped with a primary 12-megapixel sensor and a secondary 5 Mpx sensor. While it is probably not the best photophone currently on the market, its great value makes it an interesting choice. By day, the quality of its photos is quite correct: they display a good level of detail, as well as good color rendering. While its night shot performance is somewhat lacking, this smartphone provides a very decent camera, and it doesn’t break the bank.

Apps to get even more out of your smartphone

In addition to their constant connectivity, smartphones have another great strength: their access to a vast number of applications. Shooting, editing, and sharing photos or videos can all be done from your smartphone. In this section, we have compiled a selection of apps that will hopefully give you some ideas on how to more effectively exploit the photo functions of your smartphone. We invite you to share your own experiences in the comments section!

Essential shooting applications

The easiest thing is often to use your photophone’s native photo app. Simple and fast, it allows you to shoot without wasting time – all the more true since it is often accessible from your smartphone’s lock screen. The advantage of always having a smartphone with you and powered on are obvious: with just a swipe and a tap you can take very good photos.

While your smartphone’s native photo applications will, in most cases, be satisfactory, some third-party apps may allow you to take greater advantage of your smartphone’s inherent abilities.

Released in June 2010, Camera+ is a veteran on the App Store (iOS). Ever since its release, the app has enriched the basic functionality of the iPhone – too simplistic for photographers who love to change their camera’s settings themselves. Nowadays, it offers greater flexibility, granting access to all of the smartphone’s manual settings (exposure, ISO, focus, shutter speed) – whereas the iOS Photos application only offers exposure correction.

Manual is an interesting competing app; it makes shooting simpler while still allowing for control over many manual settings.

Since Google Camera no longer exists, the camera application used by an Android smartphone will depend on its particular make and model. However, there are a number of other comprehensive third-party camera applications available for Android devices, such as Camera Zoom FX, Open Camera (open source) or Camera MX.

Essential image sharing applications

After shooting, most photographers will want to adjust their images, either by performing small corrections, adding creative filters or performing more in-depth editing. The PC remains the most powerful tool for this, and highly portable devices respond better to “on the go” editing, which is fast and simple.

VSCO Cam

With this in mind, VSCO, one of the world leaders in computer photo editing, has made a name for itself in the mobile market with its VSCO Cam application (available for iOS and Android). In addition to providing advanced editing options and access to the filters that have made its reputation, this application also features a social network of “premium” photos.

photography Instagram

Everyone knows Instagram, the social photo network with over a billion users worldwide. Its application, which is available for iOS and Android, allows you to share your mobile photos. In the latest versions, its editing tool has been greatly improved, now allowing you to touch up your images in depth, whereas only predefined filters were offered before. Also noteworthy is the possibility of sharing Stories (photos and videos – a feature greatly inspired by Snapchat), as well as a new feature called Instagram TV for sharing long vertical-format videos.

Essential image editing applications

There are many applications for touching up your photos directly on your mobile device. Here is a selection of the applications we found to be most effective. The computing power of today’s smartphones allows them to function as veritable mobile workstations. You can take full advantage of this power by transferring your photos directly to your mobile device by means of an app and a WiFi, Bluetooth or NFC connection (connectivity found on the majority of modern photophones).

Snapseed

Snapseed (iOS and Android), which joined the Google product family in 2012, is a highly popular and very comprehensive image editing application. It enables you to apply presets to quickly embellish your photos, but also incorporates very advanced editing tools. Of particular note is its brush tool that is very similar to the one found in Photoshop. This app allows you to edit your photos locally by adjusting exposure levels, but also features a rather interesting Dodge and burn effect. In addition, Snapseed offers the possibility of saving the different stages of the editing process in order to apply them to other photos. Finally, the application is able to process RAW files – more and more commonly used in mobile photography. Very complete and easy to use, this app is essential.

Pixlr

Similar to Snapseed, Pixlr Express is also available for iOS and Android. It allows you to quickly and easily edit images, but also to apply a large number of filters. It also allows you to create photo collages, apply frames to your photos or write text on them. Easy to use, you will find this app particularly useful while traveling.

Lightroom CC

photography Lightroom, the essential desktop photography application now has a presence in the mobile world (on iOS and Android). Lightroom has “split” into two distinct versions: on the one hand, the “traditional” version of Lightroom (renamed Adobe Lightroom “Classic” CC); on the other hand, Adobe Lightroom CC, a simplified and cloud-oriented version geared towards touching up photos on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

The mobile version of Lightroom centers around three aspects: shooting, classification and touch up; it also bridges the gap between photos contained on your smartphone and those stored on your computer. It provides an extremely comprehensive shooting experience by allowing for fine adjustment of shooting parameters. The ability to capture images in RAW format is also available.

In terms of editing, it allows for very detailed post-processing of your photos (exposure, color, contrast). The paid version of Lightroom CC also enables you to make elements of a photograph disappear or to correct perspective. But the best thing about the paid version is that it allows you to synchronize images between your smartphone (or tablet) and your computer. In this way, you will be able to start editing your photos on a computer, and then continue to do so on your smartphone. Conversely, you will be able to take a picture with your smartphone and edit it on your computer. In order to benefit from this synchronization, you can purchase a Creative Cloud subscription from 119$ per year. Bundles combining Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop are also available.

Photoshop CC

photography Unveiled with great fanfare at its annual Adobe Max 2018 conference, Photoshop CC will become available for the iPad in 2019 and should include a number of the software’s key features (which will be expanded to include an increasing number of Photoshop’s features as it develops).

Users will have the opportunity to edit their images from their desktop computer (x86 architecture) as well as on their iPad (ARM chip). The application provides all of the same functions as the desktop version of Photoshop but adapts them for tactile use by means of a more suitable interface which takes into account finger and stylus (Apple Pencil) gestures.

Essential video applications

We will not spend all that much time discussing video apps despite the increasing popularity of using smartphones for recording video. This heightened popularity is in large part due to the ever-increasing quality of sensors which have generalized 1080p and 4K definition as well as very high fps rates (120 or even 240 images per second allowing for nice slow motion scenes)… smartphones have become fully-fledged video cameras!

However, it would be hard for us not to mention Luma Fusion, one of the most comprehensive (if not the most complete) multi-track video editing applications. It features an editing table and extremely powerful video editing tools (ability to add transitions between shots, manage soundtracks, add subtitles… all on your iOS device). Note that the app’s interface is much easier to use on an iPad than on an iPhone.

photography We would also like to mention the less professionally-oriented Hyperlapse app (only available for iOS at the moment). This app created by Instagram allows you to make high-quality time-lapse videos, even while in motion. The application provides ultra powerful software stabilization that stabilizes your video sequences, allowing you to move at the same time as you capture your time-lapse video; the final result is quite fluid.

photography Quik (iOS and Android) is the third post-production application we recommend. Developed by GoPro, this very easy-to-use app allows you to quickly create videos from your photos. You can then adjust the transition effects between images, add music, filters, etc. before sharing these videos to your favorite social networks.

photography What’s more…

Thanks to the vast number of apps now available, it has become extremely easy to find applications to help you in your practice of photography. One such app, Sun Surveyor (available for iOS and Android), makes it possible to track the course of the sun according to your geographical location. The app is also very useful for determining sunrise and sunset times. While a free version is available, the paid version offers additional features such as the ability to determine the position of the sun relative to your environment (in augmented reality) or to track the course of the moon.

Sun Surveyor

Accessories to complete your smartphone

Smartphones are becoming increasingly successful as cameras, and an increasing number of accessories are satisfying specific needs and enriching the functionality of photophones – transforming them into formidable tools for image and video capture.

Specialized shells for your smartphone

The first accessory that comes to mind is the protective shell. Shells protect our smartphones which, remember, are still very fragile and can easily end up on the ground. It’s not easy to recommend a shell or silicone protection for a smartphone. Just remember that, whenever possible, you should try a shell out before buying it, in order to get a sense of how it will feel in your hand and in your pocket. There’s nothing worse than buying a shell only to discover that, while your smartphone may be protected, it will no longer fit in your pocket.

In addition to protecting your smartphone, a shell can also open up new possibilities: it can serve as a support, protection against shocks and bad weather (for sports use), and even as a waterproof cover for divers.

photography

External batteries to increase autonomy

If you are the type of person who likes to do everything on your smartphone or if you are planning a weekend excursion away from civilization, you may want to look into acquiring an external battery. Depending on your needs, pay particular attention to the battery’s size and capacity: it is not necessary to have a powerful battery designed for a tablet if you are only interested in getting through a whole day of snapping photos.

The external Anker PowerCore + Mini 3350mAh battery (available for 19.99$), for example, is the size of a tube of lipstick and is capable of fully charging a smartphone. If you are interested in another model, be sure to choose one with CE certification.

photography

Extra lenses for more versatility

Smartphones have made huge progress in terms of sensor technology; however, as far as lenses are concerned, they remain, by definition, quite limited – especially in terms of their focal length. Some brands like Olloclip offer “all-in-one” kits with several lens adapters (powerful macro, wide-angle, fisheye, zoom, etc.) to augment your smartphone.

photography There are various competing products of varying quality on the market. At any rate, you should be aware of the pros and cons of these lenses: while they are convenient for achieving a different perspective and are fun to use, their optical quality will vary depending on their price. Moreover, you will be required to sacrifice a little quality in exchange for obtaining a different and unique perspective. What’s more, you will need to carry these adapters around with you in your pocket or a bag, which may not always be convenient.

A tripod mount to take advantage of manual settings

Now that it is possible to disengage some smartphones from their totally automatic shooting modes and to have some control over their manual settings (shutter speed, ISO, etc.), you may want to consider equipping yourself with an accessory that has long been popular with photographers: a tripod.

To allow you to mount your smartphone on a tripod, Studio Neat invented the Glif, a very well designed mount that allows you to attach your smartphone to any tripod (with a standard thread); it can also be used on a daily basis to support your smartphone on a tabletop, to facilitate reading for example. Manfrotto also offers a tabletop tripod, the Manfrotto Pixi Evo, which you might enjoy since it can also be used with a compact or hybrid camera.

For its part, Joby offers the Joby GripTight (20 euros) which combines a Gorillapod-type flexible tripod and a clamp to hold your smartphone.

Conclusion

Because of their impressive image quality and the wide range of accessories and applications they have access to, smartphones have become reliable everyday companions.

While almost all smartphones today are able to take good pictures in daylight, their low-light abilities and their overall image quality still serve to differentiate truly excellent photophones from the rest.

There is also a rise in what Google calls “computational photography”. The algorithmic processing of images is becoming increasingly important and is even capable of taking photography to an entirely new level (as in the case of the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL’s “Night Sight” mode).

Thus, the main differentiating factor between “high-end” smartphones and more affordable devices has become the quality of their respective cameras. That said, mobile photography has never so accessible and the number of products being offered has never been as abundant as it is today.

In the previous version of this guide, we considered the relevance of purchasing a “standard” compact camera versus an increasingly versatile smartphone; our mobile devices are now capable of behaving quite naturally in the realm of photography, both in terms of shooting and editing – something that it would have been difficult to imagine 10 short years ago, when smartphones were first introduced.

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22 comments

  1. I would like to talk about the latest phone developed by iDROID USA, the iDROID Tango 2 has a great selfie camera with a flash. Other features include an out of this world rear camera, a 5.0″ OGS IPS display (iDro Brite technology), sound powered by iDro Beast technology. Go here to get the bigger picture: http://www.idroidusa.com/english/tango-2-black.html

  2. I’d really like to see how the Nokia 808 compares. Someone had to say it,and new ones are still available via Amazon and others.

  3. Pure B.S. – The Lumia 1020 Blows ’em all away!

  4. Lumia 1020 is the best of them all

  5. Just grab a normal mini tripod for Lumia 1020 4 sec of shutter speed, you will realize none of the smartphone came close either.

  6. Lumia 1020 Is only have deacent flash.Xenon +Led.

  7. Nice comparsion!

    Like to point out that chart is missing one point why I bought Lumia 1020 back in 2013.
    It has a dual flash LED and XENON not just one LED! Well then an engineer from Nokia who
    was a part of designing that “monster camera” told me to force phone to not use flash.
    Low light pictures look nicer if you have steady enough hand to cope with exposure time.

    Are you planning to test iPhone6 as some calim it is the best camera in phone now?

  8. Wow…nice one buh I think u were bias in some judgments..buh anyways, thumbs up.

  9. This is helpful, but one of my criteria is shutter response time. I,like many people, take more pictures of people (kids, family gatherings, etc) and capturing moments as the happen us very important. I haven’t found a single review or spec sheet that even mentions response time. Please consider including that in your next reviews.

    • I agree. Response time is most important for those of us with kids. That’s auto-focus time and accuracy with moving subjects and shot to shot time. Because I am a parent the camera is the most important feature of my smartphone and thus I keep coming back to the iPhone though I prefer Android OS. I love loved the new Moto X but the focus was frequently off. I hoped the Droid Turbo Would save me but the jump to 21mp from 13mp just Slowed the camera down to the point of being unusable IMHO.

  10. nice job, but i think u should add nokia lumia 1520 (21 megapixels) in this comparison, although it was nice

  11. I am an American living in the Philippines. I have been trying to buy a Nokia 1020 for months. The only ones I can find are second hand used ones or online sales with questionable sellers and no warranty. No store in Manila has one. Why are they so hard to find? Where can a get one from a reputable dealer with warranty?

    RJC

  12. It would be good to add LG G3 and MotoX/Droid to the list. Or perhaps the new Moto series once released. We should see some comparison of Clearpixel vs. Ultrapixel vs megapixels. The laser focus of LG G3 should be tested here.

  13. what about huawei ascend p7? I’d like to see how it compares. it’s got a 13 mpix camera, so I think it’d be an interesting comparison, especially with the iphone and samsung galaxy s5.

    Let’s not forget about the galaxy s4 zoom or samsung galaxy k zoom.

  14. Makes a refreshing change for someone to not say that iPhone is the best. Nice to read a good honest and well written review.

  15. for me iphone 5s is the best!! very natural!

  16. Hi! great review. can you please give us your comparision for front camera photo output among those mobile units aside their megapixel computation? i was so amazed how lumia overwhelms other popular units. thanks!

  17. Hello! Please tell me with what camera firmware, baseband firmware and android version did you make the analysis – I’m talking about Samsung Galaxy S4. Thank you in advance! Best regards!

  18. Well, it looks like the HTC One did pretty well here if things like lack of noise, lack of distortion, responsive shutter, lack of vignetting, and good white balance are the measure. Not sure how you get the s4 is better. Certainly it is faster with flash (flash pics suck)and can get a few more fps, but neither of those are the measure of a good camera. The resolution is where HTC is behind, but of course with only 4mp, and yet, the photo of resolution shows it is sharper, albiet less lines per cm.

  19. Great work! Full marks!

  20. samsung s4 zoom c101 is the best,

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