The battle for best camera phone comes down to more than mere camera specs. We test every phone that we review against its closest competitors to determine which camera takes the best shots in all sorts of conditions.
The extensive camera testing we conduct on phones helps us find devices that capture memorable images and once-in-a-lifetime shots you'd miss with less-capable handsets. We're looking for 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.
If you're on the fence between Apple and Google, check out our iPhone 14 Pro Max vs Google Pixel 7 Pro camera shootout for a closer head-to-head look at the top two phones on our list. And keep an eye out for Samsung Galaxy S23 rumors as we get closer to launch.
After hundreds of hours of testing and many head-to-head photo comparisons, these are the best camera phones you can buy right now.
The best camera phones you can buy today
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The iPhone 14 Pro Max is everything you could ever want in a smartphone, including the best-in-class performance and cameras. The new 48MP main sensor is extremely powerful, offering crystal clear images with beautiful colors and lighting. The ultrawide lens also saw a bump in size, so it lets in more light. The telephoto sticks to 3x, which we think is a bit low given the competition.
The main sensor also sports 2x optical zoom on its own, letting you get that quad-pixel quality on a zoomed image. There’s Apple’s new Photonic Engine, which improves on the phone maker’s computational photography for mid- and low-light scenes. All told, you won’t find better all around cameras on a smartphone.
Read our full iPhone 14 Pro Max review.
Coming in hot right behind the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the Pixel 7 Pro, Google’s latest flagship. This phone improves upon its predecessor in many key ways (except for battery life), including offering a 5x optical zoom on its telephoto lens. The Pixel 7 Pro keeps the same 50MP main and 12MP ultrawide sensors as the Pixel 6 Pro, but that’s just fine.
From the main and ultrawide cameras, pictures look stunning, matching and/or besting the iPhone 14 Pro (which shares the same camera system as the iPhone 14 Pro Max) in a lot of scenarios. Apple still had the upper hand on color reproduction in telephoto images, even if it tops out at 3x optical zoom.
The Pixel 7 Pro’s 10.8MP front camera also lags behind Apple, especially in dimmer settings. We noticed some extra face smoothing in our testing, while the iPhone reproduced more facial details. Even so, the Pixel 7 Pro is an incredible camera phone, certainly the best in the Android camp.
Read our full Pixel 7 Pro review.
Even though the Pixel 6a costs $150 less than the Pixel 7, it’s still a formidable alternative, particularly if you’re looking to get a great camera phone on the cheap. (Our Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 6a camera face-off shows how the phones compare when it comes to pictures.) The Pixel 6a doesn’t have a telephoto lens, but it does benefit from computational photography, producing very good images that blow away most of what you see from comparably priced phones.
The Pixel 6a has something in common with last year's flagship Pixel 6 models — they all run on the same Tensor processor, so this budget device is capable of the same machine learning-powered features found on pricier Google phones. (Be aware that the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have a more advanced Tensor G2 chip, though.) That includes Magic Eraser, the photo-editing tool that lets you erase extraneous people and objects from images with a tap. A revamp of the Pixel 6a lets you tone down distracting objects as well.
Battery life could certainly be better on this phone, but for a low-cost camera phone, there’s no better option than the Pixel 6a.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review.
If you’re put off by the iPhone 14 Pro, but want the same camera prowess, then look no further than the iPhone 14 Pro. With its more compact 6.1-inch display, this phone is one powerful beast. And with the new 48MP main sensor, the iPhone 14 Pro can take some beautiful photos.
The ultrawide camera also got an upgrade to allow in more light for better-lit pictures. The telephoto lens sticks to 3x — and we wish it was at least 4x to match the competition — but the main camera has its own 2x optical zoom, too. All told, the iPhone 14 Pro is the best compact camera phone.
Read our full iPhone 14 Pro review.
Samsung didn’t make major changes to the camera setup on the Galaxy S22 Ultra, but the enhancements over the S21 Ultra are very welcome. For starters, the 108MP main camera has a larger sensor, letting in more light. A Super Clear Glass over that lens eliminates flare when you’re shooting in twilight and at night. The end result is better low-light photos and some sharp images when using the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s Night mode.
Other camera improvements to the Galaxy S22 Ultra focus on the software side of things. You now get adaptive pixel technology for combining 9 pixels into one (another low-light photo improvement), enhanced AI high-res processing and 4x faster multi-frame processing. Portrait mode benefits from AI Stereo Depth Maps to better separate your subject from the background of the shot. And a video Auto Framing feature recognizes up to 10 people and keeps them in focus when you’re shooting. These software features are already getting a boost from Samsung, which began a camera update rollout in June 2022. Among the key improvements are a performance upgrade to portrait mode and a bug fix for Single Take.
Ultimately, the top Apple and Google camera phones remain ahead of Samsung’s best efforts, but only barely. This is the camera phone to get for Samsung fans.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.
While it might lack the new 48MP sensor present on the Pro models, the iPhone 14 is still a great camera phone. It packs a faster aperture for better lighting, plus an upgraded ultrawide sensor. In short, the photos that the iPhone 14 puts out are a step above last year.
Details and dynamic range give the iPhone 14 a leg up over many of its similarly-priced competitors, such as the Galaxy S22. (Samsung’s phone has the advantage in zoom, however.) But for $799, the iPhone 14 offers a great camera experience.
Trying to decide if you should get the iPhone 14 or save $100 by opting for the iPhone 13 and its reduced price? Our iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 13 camera shootout shows the changes Apple made to its cameras in the course of a year produce different images.
Read our full iPhone 14 review.
You may not get a telephoto lens with the Pixel 7, but you get everything else the Pixel 7 Pro offers while paying less for the privilege. The Pixel 7 starts at $599 — $300 less than its Pro sibling and $200 less than flagship phones with comparable specs.
The Pixel 7 is all about the Tensor processor, and the new Tensor G2 enables a lot of photo-friendly features like an improved Super Res Zoom for getting up close to objects without introducing a lot of blur or fuzziness to your photo. Speaking of blur, the Photo Unblur feature can touch up photos — even ones shot on different devices — so that they’re better focused.
Underwhelming battery life means you’ll need to charge up during marathon shooting sessions. But the Pixel 7 continues to reap the benefits of Google’s skill with computational photography.
Read our full Google Pixel 7 review.
Anything the iPhone 14 can do with its dual camera, the iPhone 14 Plus can handle as well, only with a bigger display for showing off your photos. Otherwise, the Plus uses the same camera system as its smaller sibling, including the bigger sensor on the main camera to let in more light. As a result, big phone fans should feel confident they're getting a great camera phone with the iPhone 14 Plus.
The larger size means more than just a bigger screen. Apple also equips the iPhone 14 Plus with a larger battery that lasted just shy of 12 hours on our custom test. That's an outstanding time that outperforms the average smartphone by 2 hours, so you can be assured of a lot of extra time out in the field taking some stellar photos.
Read our full iPhone 14 Plus review.
You don't typically buy foldable phones expecting great cameras, even the best foldable phones. But Samsung took great pains to fix a weak spot in its otherwise stellar foldable lineup by upgrading the main camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Thanks to the 50MP wide shooter, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 can hold its own against other devices on our best camera phones list. It even exceeded the iPhone 13 Pro Max on some individual shots in our testing. We were particularly impressed with the colors in photos captured by the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
We'd advise against taking photos with the 4MP under-display camera, which still produces fuzzier shots compared to the superior 10MP camera on the phone's cover display. We also like the multitasking features on the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which let you do things like drag photos from the camera roll directly into Google Drive.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review.
Apple may have stuck with a single-camera design for the iPhone SE (2022), but the lowest-cost iPhone still does plenty with that lone lens. Part of the credit goes to the A15 Bionic inside the SE — the same chipset that the iPhone 13 lineup uses. Because of the A15, the iPhone SE 2022 supports features such as Smart HDR 4 (which can handle tricky lighting situations) and Deep Fusion (for calling it details and textures in photos). The iPhone SE 2022 may only cost $429, but the pictures you've captured will look like they're coming from a much more expensive device.
There's a noticeable shortcoming with the iPhone SE 2022's camera capabilities. Unlike the other best camera phones, there's no Night mode support. And as far as we can tell, there's no reason for leaving out that feature, other than Apple want to distinguish its cheapest phone from its pricier flagships. The result is that the iPhone SE can't match the other phones on this list for taking photos in low- and no-light settings.
That shouldn't necessarily prevent you from turning to the iPhone SE 2022, especially if you like Apple phones but don't care for high price tags. This iPhone still takes excellent all-around photos, even if its nighttime performance leaves a little to be desired.
Read our full iPhone SE (2022) review.
How to pick the best camera phone for you
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, the single-lens iPhone SE is capable of capturing 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 13 and Pixel 6, 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.
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 when we rate the best phones overall.