Based on our in-depth testing and photo comparisons, the iPhone 8 Plus has edged out the Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2 XL to become our new favorite camera phone.
It’s a very close call, but based on several side-by-side comparisons, the iPhone 8 Plus ($799) delivered more natural-looking colors both indoors and out, as well as better contrast. We also saw better detail in macro shots, though the Note 8 offered superior sharpness overall. With the dual cameras on the iPhone 8 Plus, you get a 2x optical zoom plus an improved Portrait Mode that lets you add lighting effects to your subjects.
The Galaxy Note 8 ($930) is also an amazing camera phone. It takes the superb image quality and fast auto-focus from the Galaxy S8 and S8+ and adds a second lens for a 2x optical zoom. Plus, with Live Photos, you can change the blur effect on the background both before and after you take a shot, as well as switch between a wide-angle and a close-up view in an instant.
The Pixel 2 XL ($849) proves that smarts are as important as megapixels, using computation photography to produce high-end photo effects. Meanwhile LG's V30 ($810) stands out for its video-centric capabilities.
If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, check out Asus' ZenFone 3 Zoom, which features dual rear cameras, a 2.3x optical zoom and even a dedicated color correction sensor for just $330. See all of our top camera phone picks below.
New Camera Phones
The fall release of the V30 and Pixel 2 took care of two of the more anticipated camera phone releases. But ZTE has just unveiled a new folding phone, the ZTE Axon M, that has a notable camera feature. At a time when other phones are adding a second rear lens, the Axon M features just one camera overall. Because the phone folds, you essentially use this single 20-megapixel lens as both your front and rear camera. We're interested to see what that means for selfies, once we have more extensive time to use the foldable phone.
How We Test Smartphone Cameras
We put the market's leading handsets through a variety of common shooting situations, such as landscapes, portraits and selfies in daylight and at night.
Then, we analyzed each set of images on a color-calibrated monitor to see which smartphone had the best combination of color accuracy, clarity and contrast. Like the Galaxy S8 before it, the Note 8 stood out for its superior performance both in daylight and low light, but more so for its ability to swiftly focus on subjects, as well as for its dual lenses.
In each of our smartphone reviews, we also factor in the phone's camera performance by testing it in bright, indoor and low-light conditions, as well as by recording and analyzing video clips.
Check out all of our top picks below.
Apple’s dual-lens camera phone takes the top spot for overall image quality, thanks to a bigger and faster sensor. We were floored with the level of detail but especially the vivid colors the iPhone 8 Plus provided in shot after shot. Apple’s flagship also does more with its wide-angle and telephoto lenses than its predecessor. In addition to offering a 2x optical zoom, the Portrait Mode now looks more natural when blurring out the background. And with Portrait Lighting (in beta), you can add Photoshop-style lighting tweaks to your subjects, ranging from Studio Light to Contour Light. Add in fun new Live Photo effects like Loop and Bounce and you have the best camera phone money can buy.
The first Samsung smartphone to feature a dual-camera setup, the Galaxy Note 8 captures images that look even better than its predecessors. One 12-megapixel lens features an f/1.7 aperture, while the 12-MP telephoto lens offers an f/2.4 aperture. Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the Note 8's dual cameras provide a 2X optical zoom, but both lenses also feature optical image stabilization. Its Live Focus feature lets you adjust the degree to which the background in a photo is blurred, and you can change this both before and after you take a shot. Plus, you can take both a wide-angle and close-up shot simultaneously.
Other flagship phones may be turning to dual cameras for striking photo effects, but Google’s latest Pixel relies on computational smarts to aid its single 12-megapixel rear camera. Despite the lone lens, the Pixel 2 XL can still create Portrait Mode style pictures similar to the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 with a stylish background blur. (So can the smaller Pixel 2 for that matter.) And because it’s computational photography powering the effect, the Pixel 2 XL’s front camera can take Portrait Mode shots, too. Throw in Google Lens — a feature that lets adds object recognition to your camera — and you’ve got one clever camera phone in the Pixel 2 XL.
With dual 12-megapixel rear cameras capable of up to a 2.3x optical zoom, the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom offers one of the best photography experiences you get on a phone for less than $400. In addition to its long reach, the ZenFone 3 Zoom also sports a full-featured pro mode, a dedicated color correction sensor and 4-axis optical image stabilization to ensure your shots stay shake-free. Up front, the ZenFone 3 Zoom features a sharp 13-MP selfie cam, complete with all the beauty mode settings you ever need. And with a battery that lasts more than 16 hours on charge, it's safe to say the ZenFone 3 Zoom should have enough juice to capture your favorite moments.
For those looking to spend a bit less than the Note 8, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ both offer an excellent 12-MP sensor that has multi-image processing (and HDR-like feature) so that you can capture images with better contrast and colors, as well as in darker conditions. The f/1.7 lens and large pixels capture a surprising amount of light. The front camera offers Smart Auto Focus for tracking faces, so you’re almost guaranteed to get great selfies. Unlike the Note 8, they only have one rear camera, but for many, that's all you'll need.
The latest addition to LG’s V series of phones adds to your video bag of tricks with Cine Video effects. These 16 filters give your videos a stylish look, emulating everything from Thriller to Romantic Comedy to help set the proper mood. Videographers will like being able save their shoots in the Cine Log format, while a Point Zoom feature gives you the power to zoom in on any area of the frame instead of just the center. Like its fellow LG phone the G6, the V30 also excels at taking wide-angle shots with its dual rear cameras.
With a dual camera setup that features two 13-MP sensors, the LG G6 is equally adept at capturing super sharp photos from either its standard lens or its expansive wide-angle lens. Landscapes look particularly impressive, as we used the wide-angle lens on the G6 to capture some gorgeous expansive cityscapes and hillsides. LG has thoughtfully included a fantastic pro mode too, so you can manually adjust settings like shutter, speed, ISO and white balance. And with the G6's new Square mode, you can shoot pictures while simultaneously looking at another, letting you easily recreate scenes or compositions without hassle.
Apple's 5.8-inch phone won't hit retail shelves until November, but it may be worth the wait if you're looking for a top camera phone. Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X features a dual-lens setup with support for the improved Portrait Mode feature. Both rear lenses feature optical image stabilization for steadier shots. Apple beefed up the front camera on the iPhone X, adding a Portrait Mode for selfies. That 7-MP TrueDepth camera can also turn your face into an animated emoji, and it supports Apple's Face ID feature for unlocking the phone.
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