1. The list in brief
2. The best camera phone
3. The best iPhone camera phone
4. Best Google camera phone
5. Best camera phone value
6. Best iPhone value
7. Cheapest camera phone
8. Best iPhone Pro camera for less
9. Best foldable camera phone
10. Cheapest Samsung flagship
11. How to pick
12. How we test camera phones
The battle among the best camera phones comes down to more than mere hardware specs — how your shot ends up looking is just as important. And that means putting cameras to the test to see how they benefit from photo-processing features and computational photography. For that reason, every phone we test goes through head-to-head photo face-offs, allowing us to see how a phone's camera output compares to what its closest competitors can do.
Our head-to-head camera testing covers photos in a variety of conditions — outdoors, low-light, portrait shots, selfies and more. That helps us find camera phones that meld the best sensors and computational photography and AI to extract the best possible light, color and detail out of every scenario. All those comparison also allow us to highlight, with confidence, what we determine to be the best camera phones.
Our recent camera testing has looked at the AI photo editing features of the Pixel 8 Pro and the top camera features of the iPhone 15 Pro. We're also keeping tabs on the rumored camera improvements for upcoming releases like the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which is expected to compete with some of the best camera phones when it arrives early next year.
After hundreds of hours of testing and many head-to-head photo comparisons, these are the best camera phones you can buy right now.
Philip Michaels is the managing editor for mobile at Tom's Guide. He's been covering technology since 1999, and started covering smartphones with the launch of the original iPhone in 2007. Since joining Tom's Guide from Macworld in 2015, he's developed an expertise in Android phones as evidenced by the stack of Samsung, Google and Motorola phones in his Northern California home. And his digital photo library is stuffed with images he's taken as part of head-to-head camera testing for phone reviews.
The quick list
Here's a summary of the best camera phones you can buy right now based on our head-to-head testing of each phone's camera capabilities. Keep scrolling to find the in-depth reviews of every camera phone featured here.
Best camera phone overall
Samsung's ultimate phone edges out some formidable rivals thanks to a pair of telephoto cameras that take excellent zoom shots. And the 200MP main camera gives photographers added flexibility while producing stellar results of its own.
Best Apple Camera Phone
Best Apple camera phone
Come for the improved telephoto lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max — it can deliver a 5x zoom now — but stay for the software improvements that bolster Smart HDR, portrait mode and night photos. A titanium frame makes this camera phone easier to tote around.
Smartest camera phone
Best computational photography
The Pixel 8 Pro ups the ante when it comes to capturing photos and video. Its Tensor G2 chipset adds even more magical features like Magic Editor and Audio Magic Eraser to turn its wielder into a seasoned photo and video editor. If that's not enough, it's a showcase for the future of artificial intelligence.
Best camera phone value
With a 64MP main camera and Google's usual flair for computational photography, you might think the Pixel 7a is a premium camera phone. At $499, though, it's a very affordable model that still produces photos that beat pricier handsets.
Best iPhone Value
Apple's best value
Apple upgraded the main camera on its entry-level iPhone to a 48MP sensor, which not only means more detailed shots but the ability to take a sharp 2x zoom without a dedicated telephoto lens. Software improvements also enhance portrait and night shots.
Cheapest camera phone
A camera phone for bargain hunters
For less than $450, the Galaxy A54 captures some excellent low-light photos, and its 50MP sensor deserves the credit. It's the same sensor found in the more expensive Galaxy S23, giving this more affordable midrange phone some serious photographic capabilities.
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Pro Camera Value
Pro cameras for less
It may not have the iPhone 15 Pro Max's more powerful zoom lens, but there's plenty for photo fans to like about the iPhone 15 Pro, including the larger sensor on the 48MP main camera. That improves low light photos, and software improvements make sure that portraits are stellar.
Best foldable camera
Best foldable camera phone
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 re-establishes Samsung as the top maker of foldable phones, and the cameras on this device are a big reason why. You get bright, vibrant images from the Fold when compared to the output from rival foldable handsets.
Best cheap telephoto
Best telephoto lens on the cheap
Normally, you have to pay up to get a telephoto lens, but the $799 Galaxy S23 features one. In addition to optical zooms, you can expect excellent photos from this camera phone, including more accurate colors than we've seen from Samsung.
The best camera phones you can buy today
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The best overall
Our crown for the best camera phone belongs to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This beast can do it all with its 200MP main sensor, 30x optical zoom, excellent selfies, and the still-amazing 100x digital Space Zoom. This new Ultra does what the likes of Apple and Google cannot.
New this year is the astrophotography mode, too, allowing for stunning shots of the night sky, including the moon. You can also shoot in 50MP RAW or use the full 200MP in the regular camera app. The upgraded stabilization also makes the Galaxy S23 Ultra a fantastic video phone with the ability to shoot at up to 8K 30 fps.
Of course, all of this comes at a hefty $1,199 asking price, so be prepared to shell out some cash for the privilege. But if you want the best camera experience in 2023 so far, this is it.
Read our full Galaxy S23 Ultra review.
The best Apple camera phone
The improved zoom lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max draws all the attention, but it's not the only improvement Apple made to the photo features on its premium phone. Smart HDR gets an update that improves dynamic range while portrait and nights shots see some software-powered improvements as well. It's no wonder that the iPhone 15 Pro Max excels at both portrait shots and low-light photos in a way that tops what Samsung's best camera phone can do.
As for that improved zoom lens, the tetraprism design lets the iPhone 15 Pro Max deliver a 5x zoom, compared to a 3x zoom on the iPhone 15 Pro. That's not quite the 10x zoom the S23 Ultra can provide, and as a result, the iPhone 15 Pro Max falls behind the 23 the more you zoom in on a subject.
Still, there's a lot to like about the iPhone 15 Pro Max'x cameras, from the anti-reflecting coating on the ultrawide lens to the outstanding quality of video capture. iPhone users who want the best camera phone should be prepared to pay up for this model.
We're planning a more extensive Galasy S23 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max camera face-off, so stay tuned for that.
Read our full iPhone 15 Pro Max review.
The best Google camera phone
Coming in hot right behind the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the Pixel 8 Pro, Google’s latest flagship. This phone improves upon its predecessor in many key ways, while also giving us a glimpse into the future with artificial intelligence powering unique experiences. The Pixel 8 Pro keeps a similar triple camera arrangement, but its Tensor G3 powers cool new features such as Best Take, Magic Editor, and Audio Magic Eraser.
When it comes to capturing photos, this year's model adds Pro Controls for the first time ever in the series — giving users more controls typically found on dedicated mirrorless cameras. This means adjusting common parameters like the ISO, shutter speed, color temperature, and focus.
If that's not enough, the magic of the Pixel 8 Pro is on full display with its various Google AI assisted features. Most notably, we love how Google Assistant sounds more human than ever before when screening phone calls. Not only that, but also the contextual responses that Google Assistant is able to provide when we're unable to take those phone calls.
Read our full Pixel 8 Pro review.
The best camera phone value
Google's Pixel 7a continues the fine tradition of Pixel A phones offering a superlative camera experience, except this time the hardware deserves as much credit as Google's computational photography and AI-powered photo processing. For this model, Google has done away with the 12.2MP main camera and added a 64MP sensor that's physically larger than before. That means more light provinding more detail to shots, and the result is a camera phone that's neck and neck with the Galaxy A54 among budget devices.
The Pixel 7a tends to favor dark colors which don't always serve it well in every scenario. But low-light photos are excellent and the portrait mode is tops, making this a great camera phone for the money.
The Tensor G2 chipset powers a number of impressive features like the Magic Eraser tool for removing unwanted people and Photo Unblur for cleaning up older images. And a bright 6.1-inch display lets you see your photos clearly, even in bright light.
Read our full Google Pixel 7a review.
The best iPhone value
The iPhone 15 takes a big leap forward by inheriting the 48MP main camera Apple introduced to last year's iPhone 14 Pro lineup. But that main camera does more than just capture more detailed shots. If you use the default settings, you're getting a 24MP image that balances detail with lighting and color. The main camera also enables you to zoom in by 2x without any noise or blur creeping into the image as a workaround for the lack of a dedicated telephoto lens.
The same software improvements available to the iPhone 15 Pro Max are on display here, so you get the better Smart HDR, portrait mode and Night sight features. Best of all, the iPhone 15 starts at $799 — $400 less than the iPHone 15 Pro Max, so you're getting premium camera features for less.
Read our full iPhone 15 review.
The best low-cost camera phone
Samsung has equipped its midrange phone with a much better camera, giving the Galaxy A54 the same 50MP main shooter that comes with the Galaxy S23. The result is some impressive photos, particularly when you consider that the Galaxy A54 costs $449.
In our Google Pixel 7a vs. Samsung Galaxy A54 camera face-off, the Pixel 7a finished slightly ahead due to more consistent camera performance. But don't sell the Galaxy A54 short. Its large main sensor captures lots of light for more detailed and colorful storage. Samsung's phone also has a solid portrait mode.
Other features like expandable storage and a long-lasting battery make this phone appealing to mobile photographers. And its $449 starting price means you don't have to pay big bucks for a very good camera phone.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 review.
The best Apple camera phone for less
The best foldable camera phone
Finding the best camera on a foldable device boils down to a comparison between Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Google Pixel Fold. The two phones are evenly matched for mobile photography — in our Galaxy Z Fold 5 vs. Google Pixel Fold face-off, we thought Google's phone handled zooming and low-light situations better. Yet, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 won the day with brighter, vibrant images.
Credit the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset and its photo-processing powers because Samsung made no hardware changes to the cameras on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 compared to the Galaxy Z Fold 4. You still get a 50MP main shooter coupled with 12MP ultrawide and 10MP telephoto lenses. The unique folding design lets you use those rear cameras for self portraits too — something we'd recommend over the disappointing 4MP under-display camera.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 silicon also helps the Galaxy Z Fold 5 post the best battery life of any foldable, so you won't have to worry about running out of power as the perfect shot comes along.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 review.
The most affordable Galaxy flagship cameras
The Galaxy S23 offers something you won't find on a comparably priced iPhone — a telephoto lens. And thanks to its support for 3x optical and 30x digital, that camera lets you get up close for very detailed shots. In fact, the entire rear camera setup of the Galaxy S23 impresses. Like the other S23 phones, it boasts improved night photography and does a much better job of handling colors without over-saturation. The difference is that at $799, the Galaxy S23 is the least expensive of Samsung's flagships.
We were less impressed with the new front camera, which produced some lackluster selfies when compared to what other top camera phones are capable of. At least, the Galaxy S23 features better battery life thanks to its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset. That helped the Galaxy S23 last 2.5 hours longer than the Galaxy S22 did on our battery test, giving you more time out in the world to shoot photos with this phone.
If you don't mind paying up for a device with a bigger screen, the $999 Galaxy S23 Plus has the same camera setup as the standard S23 and produces equally impressive results.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 review.
How to pick the best camera phone
There are many factors to consider if camera quality factors heavily into your smartphone purchasing decision. A good way to start is by asking yourself what kinds of photos you see yourself taking. Not all multi-lens cameras are created equal — some have ultrawide lenses for stunning landscapes, others have telephotos for zoomed-in shallow-depth-of-field portraits, and others still have both. The newest flagships from the likes of Samsung and Huawei even have periscope-style lenses that can achieve up to 10x lossless zoom, rivaling the power of DSLRs.
Something else to consider: Megapixels don’t matter as much as aperture. Cameras with a wider aperture (lower ƒ-stop numbers translate to wider lenses) let in more light, which greatly helps produce better shots in the dark. The high-megapixel sensors found in the latest devices are nice, but it's a common misconception that pixel count directly translates to better-looking photos.
Do you need a portrait mode that allows for bokeh backgrounds? That’s where the subject of the photo is in sharp focus, while an artistic blur blankets the rest of the scene. Although it started as a feature exclusive to multi-camera phones, even cheaper phones like the single-lens iPhone SE 2022 can now capture bokeh-effect portraits. Some devices even let you adjust the strength of the blur before and after you take a shot.
Front camera specs are important, too. In a world where we’re taking more selfies than ever, you shouldn’t overlook a phone’s front camera. Many front cameras, like the ones on the iPhone 14 and Pixel 7, can actually perform the same portrait mode effects that rear cameras pull off. Some phones feature two front cameras, with the second lens pulling in more background details, though that feature has gone out of fashion recently.
Finally, don’t forget about video. Your cameras shoot more than just still images. Consider what resolution the camera captures video at along with the frame rate. A word to the wise, though: Be wary that ratcheting up the resolution will result in clips that take up much more space on your smartphone's internal storage.
For a good rundown of what to consider when looking for the best camera phone, check out our guide on which camera specs you should pay attention to.
How we test camera phones
When we evaluate the best camera phones, we pick phones of comparable prices and capabilities and put them through a range of head-to-head comparisons. We pick common shooting situations — landscapes, indoor and outdoor shots, portraits and selfies in daylight and at night. We also test out each camera lens, including ultrawide angle and telephoto lenses if the phone features those.
In addition to testing the rear lenses of each phone, we also test the front camera, snapping selfies in both standard and portrait mode. We then compare the results to similar camera phones.
Photos used in our comparisons are taken with the default settings on each camera. Even if a phone offers manual controls, we don't test those, as we want to replicate the experience the typical smartphone user would have using the camera app on a device.
In each of our smartphone reviews, we also factor in any special features, such as dual lenses and what they enable, Portrait Modes, and other special modes, before we come to a conclusion.
Camera testing is the most relevant evaluation for picking the best camera phones, but our smartphone reviews include other testing, such as performance testing, battery testing and display testing. You can see the full results of those tests — outlined in our explanation of how Tom's Guide tests and reviews smartphones — when we rate the best phones overall.