That's probably the most sought after feature by users today. Almost all smartphones can take beautiful photos nowadays, but only a few stand out from the crowd with impressive daylight and low-light performance. And in most cases, image quality goes hand in hand with other top-end specs so you might have to dig a little deeper in your pocket for a flagship device.
And even though photo quality is sometimes subjective, computational photography can do so much for us these days that it produces DSLR-like images and it's hard to deny how advanced camera software has become. OEMs are also pushing for multi-camera setups so your camera phone can deal with almost every situation. We've gathered a couple of phones that stand out in their price range, and we are glad to see a couple of midrangers that making an appearance too.
But today's tech in this regard has advanced so much that pretty much every phone out there can snap awesome daylight stills, so the competition has moved over to the low-light territory. And the phones below are pretty good at that.
The recently introduced flagship from Oppo took the Internet by a storm with its advertised 10x zoom capability. However, it turns out that the telephoto unit can go only up to 5x native zoom and everything beyond that is digital zoom with some enhancement. There's even a 60x zoom option, which despite being digital, it's still impressive.
That doesn't take away the overall great camera performance, however, as the handset boasts a 48MP main camera with f/1.7 and OIS, an 8MP ultra-wide, and a 13MP periscope 5x telephoto lens. A motorized pop-up selfie camera complements all of this with 16MP resolution and LED flash.
But the camera isn't its only selling point - the battery life, the fast charging, and the excellent bezel-less, notch-less OLED panel and catchy design are worth considering as well. To our surprise, though, the camera UI makes it difficult to shoot in the camera's native 5x zoom, and it can't record video using the ultra-wide and the telephoto cameras. The 3.5mm audio jack is missing as well.
Hands-down, one of the best camera phones from 2018 - the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The phone is rocking three cameras on the back, covering all the essentials - telephoto, ultra wide-angle, and regular. More than half a year later, the handset's price has fallen significantly, making it a great bargain and an excellent all-rounder as well. Aside from the exceptional camera performance, the phone also boasts remarkable battery life, huge OLED panel, absurdly fast charging and two biometric security options - advanced face unlock and under-display fingerprint scanner.
Hard to resist package for just over €540 if you are willing to overlook the lack of audio jack, the proprietary memory cards, and the sub-par stereo loudspeaker quality.
Also, the Mate 20 X has the same camera setup and thus offers same camera experience but comes in a mostly different feature package and size. It's a nice alternative to have on your list.
The Huawei P30 Pro takes what's great from the Mate 20 Pro and makes it even better. It's the latest and greatest from Huawei and as always - it's considered as one of the best camera phones you can get right now. The triple-camera setup can take some fantastic shots while the Night mode is unrivaled. It's also one of the two available phones with 5x optical zoom.
The handset also excels in the battery department, charging (wired and wireless) and the under-display fingerprint reader is one of the best we've used so far.
But the lack of standard microSD card support (it uses NM cards like the Mate 20-series) and the absence of 4K@60fps video recording takes away a few points in our book. The missing 3.5 mm audio jack isn't ideal too.
The Google Pixel duo from last year is still widely acclaimed as one of the best camera phones on the planet. And they do so with just one camera on the back. That means there's no telephoto or wide-angle lens but, oh boy, does the 12MP main camera take awesome shots during the night and day. It's also one of the best phones for portraits. The computational photography achieved by Google is unrivaled.
But while the photography department is stellar, the Pixels struggle to keep up with the trends on the market - they've got big bezels, a huge notch on the 3 XL, only 4GB of RAM and no storage options beyond 128GB. And the included 3.5mm audio dongle doesn't deliver good audio quality.
The Pixel 3a-series is the long-awaited resurrection of the legendary Nexus phones and even though they are considerably more affordable than the flagship Pixels, the 3a and the 3a XL right some of the wrongs of its premium siblings. The 3.5mm audio jack makes an appearance, and battery life is considerably improved. The Pixel 3a lineup also boasts OLED panels - something rare for the asking price.
On top of that, the 3a and 3a XL make no compromise with the camera quality - it's almost identical to the premium Pixels (save for the selfie cam). So if you are looking for the best possible camera in this price range, look no further than the affordable Pixels.
It's hard to summarize the Samsung Galaxy S10 lineup's advantages and disadvantages as each offers something the others don't. But one thing's for sure - they can all take some amazing shots, no matter the conditions. Equipped with their own ISOCELL sensors, Samsung flagships have always been up there with the best when it comes to photo and video quality.
The Galaxy S10e is the only one missing the telephoto lens but it offers the same main and ultra-wide cameras as its bigger and more expensive siblings. In fact, the ultra-wide cams on all three handsets are among the best in the industry. These ultra-wide cameras can also be used to record super-smooth action camera-like videos in 1080p making most of the action cameras obsolete. Great stuff.
Aside from the excellent camera performance, all three models blow the competition out of the water in terms of screen quality. The industry-leading Dynamic AMOLED panels are something to behold.
Unfortunately, the underwhelming fingerprint performance on the expensive models and the awkward placement of the Galaxy S10e's side-mounted scanner keep us from giving the phone's great score. Also, the night mode isn't on par with the competition.
Yes, you've read that right. The Redmi Note 7 (called the Redmi Note 7S in India) can easily fit into this category given that it snaps excellent daytime and even nighttime stills for the asking price. Some small drawbacks like exposure and color accuracy during the day leave more to be desired, and 4K video recording isn't available with the native app. But the Redmi Note 7 can even go head-to-head with some considerably more expensive handsets. The Redmi Note 7 makes mobile photography on a budget possible.