With advancements in smartphone technology, most people don’t need expensive cameras such as a DSLR or even a point and shoot. Rather, many smartphone cameras fulfill the needs of most consumers and even challenge DSLRs. But not all smartphone cameras perform the same.
Looking for the top smartphone camera? Here’s our list of the best cameras for shutterbugs!
Defining “Best” for Smartphone Cameras
Just like purchasing a standalone camera, you’ll want to make a list of features you need. One of those criteria should be the quality of the photography. One of the best benchmarks of camera performance is DxOMark’s picture rating index.
DxOMark offers a fabulous, and independent, set of benchmarks for image quality in phones and cameras. We’ll use these ratings for reference. However, features are important, so we’ll also bear those in mind. Look for phones that include dual cameras, optical image stabilization (OIS), and a high DxOMark rating. Megapixels are important as well, although that’s not exactly the best metric by which to judge a camera.
Considerations for best smartphone cameras:
- Dual cameras
- High DxOMark rating
The Best Smartphone Cameras for Shutterbugs
Check out the best smartphone cameras available. With loads of stellar hardware available, it’s a good time to buy. After selecting your camera, try mastering your smartphone camera with these photography courses.
The Google Pixel 2 (our review) improves upon the already magnificent Google Pixel. Notably, the Pixel 2 revamped the camera, ushering in a new standard for smartphone camera quality. While the Pixel 2 only features a single-sensor main shooter, it’s a 12.2MP, 1/2.6-inch sensor camera with an aperture of f/1.8. Additionally, you’ll find optical image stabilization (OIS), HDR+ software, and dual-pixel autofocus.
Benchmarks by DxOMark proved the Pixel 2 providing superb color rendering as well as excellent dynamic range. Under low-light conditions, the Pixel 2 remains a strong performer. With a mid-range zoom, the Pixel does suffer slight quality loss. In its Bokeh score, which measures image quality elements such as limited depth of field and portrait quality, the Pixel 2 bests its predecessor. However, it’s not quite as adept as the iPhone 8’s camera for Bokeh. Still, the Google Pixel 2 rocks one of the best smartphone cameras available.
- Single camera: 12MP sensor with f/1.8 aperture
- Dual-pixel autofocus
With its superb dual-camera array, the OnePlus 5 (our OnePlus 5 review) is easily one of the best smartphone cameras on the market. Onboard, there’s a 16-megapixel sensor sporting an f/1.8 aperture that’s coupled with a 20-megapixel sensor with an f.2.6 aperture. With its 1/2.8-inch sensor size, the OnePlus 5 is what DxOMark calls “a serious shooter.”
The OnePlus 5 affords brilliant color reproduction and exquisite white balance. On the video side, the OnePlus 5 captures 4K 2160p/30 frames per second (FPS) video.
- Dual camera: 16MP sensor with 24mm f/1.7 lens plus 20MP sensor with 36mm f/2.6 lens
- 1.6x optical zoom
- Lossless digital zoom
- 87 DxOMark
- 4K 2160p, 30 FPS video capture
While the Apple iPhone X (our iPhone X review) is certainly among most well specced out phones, it’s possibly the best phone you shouldn’t buy. Because more affordable alternatives exist, the iPhone X has loads of competition. Yet it’s undeniably outfitted with a top-notch camera. As Apple Insider reveals, Apple purchased InVisage camera sensor firm with the goal of improving iPhone low-light photography. For iPhone beginners, learn how to use the iPhone’s camera and take your skills to the next level with Camera Genius.
Using a dual-lens camera array, the primary sensor brags of a 12-megapixel shooter with an aperture of f/1.8. Its second sensor affords another 12 megapixels and an f/2.4 aperture. Thus, the iPhone X gets twice the optical zoom of its primary sensor. Moreover, the X delivers OIS sensors on both of its sensors for pictures which appear sharper regardless of lighting. On the video front, the iPhone X offers 4K and 60 FPS. Even the best smartphone cameras suffer from quality degradation while zooming. However, the iPhone X alleviates this a bit with its telephoto lens and bright aperture. Considering its whopping 97 DxOMark, the Apple iPhone X is unarguably one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy. But for its high price tag, you might as well snag a more affordable smartphone and grab a DSLR.
- Dual cameras: 12MP main sensor with f/1.8 lens, 12MP second sensor with f/2.4 lens
- OIS on both rear sensors
- 4K video with 60 FPS
- 7-megapixel front camera with f/2.2 aperture
- Excellent low-light performance
- Good zoom performance
A great camera in a sleek device, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 stands out as one of the hottest mobile devices on the market. What’s more, it doesn’t explode! Onboard, you’ll find two sensors for a 2x optical zoom. Like the iPhone X, the Note 8 features dual 12-megapixel cameras. Its primary lens boasts an f/1.7 aperture and 1/2.55-inch sensor. The secondary lens includes an f/2.4 aperture with a 1/3.6-inch sensor. Both sensors include OIS for enhanced image quality.
For video, the Note 8 can handle 4K recordings but it’s limited to 30 FPS. At 1080p through, the Note 8 can step up to 60 FPS. Overall, the Note 8 is an excellent handset with a high-performing camera. It’s arguably the best smartphone camera for zooming as well.
- Dual cameras: primary shooter 12MP, 1/2.55-inch sensor, 26mm wide-angle, f/1.7 aperture lens. Secondary shooter 12MP, 1.36-inch sensor, 52mm telephoto, f/2.4 aperture lens
- OIS on both dual-camera lenses
- 4K 2160p 30 FPS video
- Dual-LED flash
- Optical zoom of x2 and up to x8 with digital zoom
Hailing from hardware manufacturer Huawei, the Mate 10 Pro is a beastly device. With a spectacular 97 DxOMark score, the Mate 10 Pro holds its own with the best smartphone cameras. You’ll find dual cameras: one with a 12MP RGB sensor and the other with a 20MP monochrome sensor. Both rock f/1.6 aperture lenses replete with Leica optics. For uncompromising zoom, there’s a 2x lossless zoom, and it’s got a dual-tone LED flash.
Under bright light, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro renders colors accurately. Its low light performance is similarly spectacular. Though its zoom doesn’t quite capture details as well as the iPhone 8 Plus, X, or Note 8 do, it’s nonetheless fantastic for most purposes.
- Dual camera: 16MP f/1.6 aperture RGB, 20MP monochrome f/1.6 aperture lenses
- 2x lossless zoom
- Dual-tone LED flash
- Leica optics
Moto Z Force [No Longer Available]
Motorola dominates at making extremely solid yet affordable hardware. With its Moto Z Force and even the Moto Z Droid (DxOMark of 84), the Moto Z lineup is a top contender for the best smartphone camera. The Moto Z Force features a high-resolution, 21MP camera sensor. Even under low light, the Z Force delivers fantastic shots.
Though its shutter speed of 1/10 is a bit slow, OIS compensates. While its camera is simply a strong contender with superb image quality under any condition, its Moto Mods make this a great pick for shutterbugs. The Hasselblad True Zoom mod adds a 10x optical zoom, as well as the capability to capture RAW images. There’s a Xenon flash with a physical shutter and zoom. Unfortunately, the mod is priced almost as high as the phone. Still, this mod alleviates quality degradation when zooming, converting your phone into a point and shoot. Alternately, try the Motorola Other which converts your Moto Z Force, Play, or Droid into a Polaroid. Thus, the entire lineup of Moto Z devices sport great cameras that, through the use of mods, become even better.
- Single camera: 21MP f/1.8 aperture lens
- 1/10 shutter speed
Best Smartphone Camera for Shutterbugs
Since many consumers merely utilize the cameras in their phones rather than using a standalone point and shoot or DSLR, smartphone manufacturers began prioritizing camera hardware. As such, most smartphones, even mid-range, and budget handsets, offer suitable cameras for everyday use. However, the best smartphone cameras are found mostly in the mid- to upper-end of the spectrum.
The Essential Phone is a neat contender which features a secondary sensor that maximizes low light performance. LG’s V30 offers a wide angle sensor with an impressive 120 degrees. While the iPhone X camera is better, the iPhone 8 Plus camera is a great choice. Similarly, the Google Pixel 2 trounces its predecessor’s camera, but the original Pixel camera is no slouch.
What cameras for shutterbugs do you suggest?