Best Smartphone Cameras 2019

Product Use case Rating
Huawei P30 Pro Best Overall Camera Phone 4.5
Galaxy S10 Plus Best Triple Lens Camera 4.5
iPhone XS Max Best iPhone Camera 4.5
Google Pixel 3 Best AI Camera 4.5
Google Pixel 3a Best Budget Camera Phone 4.5

Everyone wants a smartphone that can take photos that will get more likes, or ones that will look great in a photo frame. After conducting in-depth testing and photo comparisons, the quad-lens Huawei P30 Pro is the finest camera phone money can buy today.

Still, it's a close battle for mobile imaging supremacy. Google's AI-powered Pixel 3 beat the just-released Galaxy S10 Plus in a photo face-off, but only just barely, as Samsung has made numerous improvements to that phone's camera, including new software features and a triple-lens setup on the back.

The iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS offer enhancements of their own over the iPhone X that produce better low-light photos. The latest iPhones definitely offer the best cameras of any Apple device and beat out Samsung's phablet in our iPhone XS vs Galaxy Note 9 camera face-off.

Meanwhile, if you still want a good camera but don't want to spend more than $400 on your next phone, the Pixel 3a offers a phenomenal camera quality on par with Google's flagship models in a significantly cheaper package. It's far and away our pick for the best budget camera phone.

News and Updates (May 2019)

  • Pixel 3a and 3a XL Reviewed: At $399 and $479, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL cost roughly half the price of their premium counterparts, but feature the same great camera — a 12.2-megapixel rear lens that is powered by Google’s breakthroughs in computational photography. That means you get great features like Night Sight, to capture amazing shots in low light, as well as HDR+ and Super Res Zoom, which leverage the power of artificial intelligence to improve shots. Many of these capabilities are standard fare on premium phones, but unheard of in the budget and midrange spaces.
  • 48-MP OnePlus 7 Coming Soon: May 16 is when we'll see OnePlus' first new handsets for 2019, the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro. The company's previous cameras have never been anything special to write home about, but its upcoming devices have been tipped to feature a 48-megapixel primary sensor, flanked by another wide-angle lens on the regular model and a third telephoto shooter on the new, ultra-premium Pro variant. Check out our OnePlus 7 rumor roundup for more.
  • Huawei P30 Pro Tested: Thanks to its new super spectrum image sensor and 10x hybrid zoom, the Huawei P30 Pro could very well be the most exciting camera phone of 2019 when all is said and done. We recently conducted a Huawei P30 Pro vs Pixel 3 camera shootout to determine a winner in low light.

The Huawei P30 Pro leads our list of the best camera phones on the market because it does pretty much everything well. With a grand total of four cameras on the back, comprising a 40-megapixel main sensor, an industry-first 5x zoom periscope lens, a super wide-angle shooter for fantastic landscapes and a time-of-flight camera to provide accurate depth effects, the P30 Pro has the right tools for practically any photo op. The zoom lens in particular is especially game-changing — other handsets can draw 2x or 3x closer, but 5x offers a unique perspective, and Huawei's 10x hybrid zoom can pull off some amazing shots from a very far distance, using a combination of powerful optics and intelligent processing. Unfortunately, the P30 Pro still isn't very convenient to buy in the U.S. — though if you can get your hands on it, your mobile photos will have never looked better.

More doesn't always mean merrier, but the addition of a third camera to the back of Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus is definitely produces better shots than this phone's predecessors. We're particularly impressed with how the ultra-wide 16-MP camera on the back of the S10 Plus can pull back to offer more captivating, detailed views. The other two lenses — a 12-MP dual-pixel main camera and 12-MP telephoto shooter — yield solid results, too, aided by a dedicated neural processing unit that can fine-tune the camera's settings. Samsung improved portrait shots, too, with Live Focus effects that let you easily blur and change colors of the shot's background.

Apple improved the cameras in its latest iPhones by adding a sensor with bigger and deeper pixels to let in up to 50 percent more light than the iPhone X's camera did. The result is you get improved photos in low-light settings, putting the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max on more equal footing with the Pixel 2 XL. A new Smart HDR mode in the latest iPhones combine a new ISP, faster sensors and better algorithms to bring out the highlights and details of a photo, even one with shadows. And a new Depth Control feature lets you adjust the depth of field after you take a shot.

Last year’s Pixel 2 had one of the best cameras on a smartphone, and the Pixel 3 ups the stakes not with hardware improvements but by leveraging Google’s expertise with AI and computational photography. Top Shot suggests a better photo from the many exposures the Pixel 3 has captured when an unwanted blink or blur mars your shot. Super Res Zoom makes up for the Pixel’s lack of optical zoom by combining multiple frames to fill in the details when you zoom in on a shot. Up front, dual lenses help you squeeze more people and background details into your selfie shot. And a software update post-release brought improved low-light photos with Google’s Night Sight feature. The Huawei P30 Pro has kicked the Pixel 3 out of the stop spot thanks to its plethora of lenses, though Google's software is still king.

Midrange phone makers will have to step their game up now that Google's $399 Pixel 3a has finally arrived. Boosted with the same computational photography software that powers the $799 Pixel 3, as well as an identical 12.2-megapixel sensor and a similarly high-end Qualcomm Spectra image signal processor, the 5.6-inch Pixel 3a can pull off shots that are nigh indistinguishable from Google's other handsets that are twice as expensive. It also comes with the firm's latest cutting-edge imaging modes, like Night Sight for amazing shots in the dark, and Super Res Zoom that delivers digitally zoomed images that are shockingly similar to what you get from devices with 2x optical zoom lenses. For $400, no other camera phone comes close — though if you'd prefer a larger handset, the $479 Pixel 3a XL stuffs all the same hardware into a larger 6-inch body with a bigger battery to match.

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 analyze each set of images on a color-calibrated monitor to see which smartphone had the best combination of color accuracy, clarity and contrast. We also perform in-depth camera comparisons between the top phones, using each handset in their auto mode to take a wide range of photos in different conditions. After declaring a winner in each round, we name an overall winner of that face-off.

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.

 5 Quick Tips for Buying a Camera Phone

  • The megapixels don’t matter as much as aperture. Cameras with a wider aperture (lower f-stop numbers mean wider lenses) let in more light, which can help produce better shots in the dark.

  • Not all dual lenses are created equal. While more smartphones are featuring dual rear cameras, those cameras don’t necessarily perform the same. Some phones like the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone XS use their dual lenses to allow for depth-of-field effects; others, like the LG V30, just let you switch between wide-angle and standard lenses. Other flagship phones are adding a third lens, which generally helps improve low-light photography while also adding depth-of-field effects.

  • Do you need Portrait mode? It goes by different names — Portrait mode on the iPhone, Live Focus on Samsung's phones — but more phones let you play around with bokeh effects. That’s where the subject of the photo is in sharp focus, while the background features an artistic blur. While that’s mostly a feature on dual-camera phones, the single-lens Pixel uses software to produce a bokeh effect. Some phones also let you adjust the effect before and after you take a shot.

  • The front camera specs are just as important. In a world where we’re taking more selfies, you shouldn’t overlook a phone’s front camera. Besides the megapixels, check out the aperture to get a sense of how the camera will perform in low-light. And some front cameras, like the ones on the iPhone XS and Pixel 3, can perform the same Portrait mode effects that dual rear cameras pull off. The Pixel 3 is one of a handful of phones to add dual lenses up front, letting you fit more people or include more background in your shots.

  • 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. (The Pixel 3, for example, can record 4K video at 30 frames per second, while the iPhone XS and XS Max double the frame rate to 60 fps for 4K video.) Also look at the camera offers slow-motion features and video filters.

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  • BrodaFett
    You should have included the Sony xperia z5 on here. 23 megapixels and Sony tech equals a deserved mention in this article. Samsung might have the best specs but in my experience are the least reliable and most likely to be a factory lemon. They get too much hype already so show some deserved love to other brands.
  • Brian_100
    Point taken Brodafett, However You Must Have All The Knowledge of What Makes a Cell Phone Camera The Best, and its Not Havingt The Most Mega Pixls That Make The Best Cell Phone Cameras!!!!
    The Resolution Myth
    Generally speaking, the more megapixels a cellphone camera offers, the better the quality of pictures you can take with the device. However, this is not always true. While the megapixel resolution is important, it alone does not guarantee the optimal results for picture quality. Other variables such as lens quality, shutter speed, low-light performance play an equally important role in determining the overall quality of pictures taken with a cellphone or smartphone camera. Nevertheless, the best camera cellphones offer resolution ratings of at least 10 megapixels, and a few models support resolutions of 20 megapixels or more.
  • bjornl
    2204995 said:
    You should have included the Sony xperia z5 on here. 23 megapixels and Sony tech equals a deserved mention in this article. Samsung might have the best specs but in my experience are the least reliable and most likely to be a factory lemon. They get too much hype already so show some deserved love to other brands.

    The above linked review is not alone in determining that that the Samsung s7 s7Edge are the best cameras in smart phones.
    Also pixel count, particularly in as small a sensor as phones have play next to no role at all in image quality.
  • BrodaFett
    Yes, I am well aware that pixels aren't the end all be all of photography. My point was simply the Sony xperia z5 is every bit as good as any of these cameras listed. It wasn't mentioned because it is not a Samsung or Apple iPhone period. Let me ask both of you how good are Sony lenses?? Yeah they are very good. The xperia is a Sony phone with Sony lenses and camera technology. Then logically shouldn't they get mentioned on this list? Instead it's Samsung, Samsung, Samsung, Apple, Samsung. So, do you want to keep singling out one little point from my comment, or address the actual basis of my original comment? Disprove that the xperia z5 doesn't deserve to be on this list. I'm waiting.

    To the author do some research. Don't be lazy and just list the newest phones, in order, from the two biggest names in the industry. There are enough corporate sponsored fluff pieces for Samsung already.
  • 098340394852
    One of three of Samsung and Apple's sensor part sources is Sony. Guess which produces the best results in tests? A good camera is low fringe and grain and best low-light handling under competitive pixel density. Three years ago Sony finish a "super white" low-light tech that nobody has yet to compete with. You think they are going to use worse parts on their own products?
  • bjornl
    You guys should just check out DXO Mobile. Which unlike uninformed random noise from the internet is fact based.
    The Sony's do well, but aren't as magical as you might wish.
  • ladinboarder
    No comment about the Lumia 950? ..maybe/probably the true winner in the categories "Best Smartphone Camera Overall" and "Best Smartphone Video"?!?!
  • malaima
    The Sony's do well, but aren't as magical as you might wish.
  • Faisal_15
    Well I think the sony cybershot was one off the best cell phone camera at that time.. cybershot took us to another level of photography
  • Michael Trenton
    I have a Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. Best phone camera I've had ever. :)
  • smith15
    Apple Iphone SE has good camera quality
  • wdoutjah
    Anyone forgot Lumia 1020?
  • Willa7
    I own lumia 950XL..... Nothing to say.... The best..... Sony too is the best.... It's the reality.... Rest everything is here patronized
  • peterh337
    The best phone camera ever was the Nokia 808 (Symbian). No question. It was a fully functioning phone for me. I moved on only when the awful web browser (Opera was the least bad) became useless for some websites which I need to use. It had a dedicated shutter button and a wonderful 3rd party camera app which produced stunning 12MP images generated by averaging down the raw 40MP images.

    Nokia then put the same camera into the Nokia 1020 (Windows 8.1) but without the 808's coprocessor so it was slower, and they crippled the output options into (a) 40MP raw (a rarely supported version of DNG!) and a small jpeg of about 1MB in size (intended for emailing by dumb users).

    Still the two above are the best ever camera phones and if you look at the size of the lens, never mind the thickness of the camera, you can see why nobody today gets even close.

    Today, production phones, all use the same sensor, and the top Iphone is similar to the Samsung S7. I have the S7. The previous, S6, is very similar. Unfortunately, Samsung try to please the undiscerning masses on the S7 by oversaturating the images so if you want natural colours you often have to tweak them. And there is no properly functioning 3rd party app for the S7 (yet, OS version 6.x) which might enable one to get natural pics straight out of the phone.
  • Cuong_2
    Have you compare your phones with Sony Xperia Z3......myself and friends try to compare witch smart phone's camera is the best.......sorry iphones - the worst among the worst....
  • sgPrototype
    adding a Dark Horse to this article here.. one of the best and cheapest smartphone cameras i have found is the vivo xshot.. the phone itself has its cons in outdated OS & support.. however the camera has a very decent F1.8, OIS, 6P lens, 13MP.. this still cant match the S7, but i would say is on par with the iphone 6 plus.. **interesting thing to note is that the xshot halted production and newer models from vivo all have F2.0 cameras with no more OIS.. obviously going in line with cost reduction.. that or maybe they were making a loss with putting such a good camera in a relatively cheap flagship..
  • Ciricky
    I bought the Sony xperia z5 just because of the camera and was very excited to get it. The pictures were half as good as my Samsung Galaxy S5. I tried every setting, printed the same picture with both camera phones and send tthe phone back with the pictures enclosed. Very disappointed. So I wish they would do sample pictures of the same pictures with each camera. Save us all time and money.
  • Ewitte
    Cell phones can take great pictures in good lighting provided your in focus. There is only so much that can be done because the total light on the sensor is really important and the sensors are so small. A f/2 ISO 100 setting on a 1/2.5 inch sensor is comparable to f/11 ISO 1600 on an APS-C sensor and even worse with bigger sensors.
  • Ciricky
    2110685 said:
    Cell phones can take great pictures in good lighting provided your in focus. There is only so much that can be done because the total light on the sensor is really important and the sensors are so small. A f/2 ISO 100 setting on a 1/2.5 inch sensor is comparable to f/11 ISO 1600 on an APS-C sensor and even worse with bigger sensors.
    I use the blond method...I shoot the exact same picture with both cameras and print them. The Sony was half as good as the Samsung Galaxy 5, and yes I tried different settings as well in the Sony and got the same results. Same photographer same picture same lighting, different cameras. Interestingly enough I just went in to test the Samsung 7 it was very contrasty with blown out highlights. I did try the LG G5 and it took great pictures. Of course I didn't print them as I was in a store, so I don't know for sure. But at least on screen the color and exposure was excellent.
  • xtreme29
    No huawei p9 with leica camera's ?
    funny point of view..
  • bluebirdAbe
    According to me Galaxy s7 edge has the best camera among the high end smart phones.
  • GG2016
    Along this same conversation, I had purchased the Samsung Note 7 and had to return it for the recall. . . .now was I'm waiting to see what they are going to do, I see the specs for the New LG V20 and the rumored specs for the upcoming SonyXperia XZ. . . .what are your thoughts on those in relation to the cameras on the phones, etc
  • cnemo013
    I don't know why a great camera is so important on a smartphone. Most people take pictures to post on Facebook or Instagram and probably never look at the picture on the phone again. I think we should be focusing on speed, display quality, data speeds, call quality and probably the most important thing should be battery life. I think we're point here.
  • daNUL
    The Z3 and Z5 phones are great (I've had both) but the camera is quite poor quality in today's standards. Unless you're under a bright clear blue sky, almost all photo's appear quite dull and lifeless. Twilight/night time shots even in manual mode with maximum exposure leave a lot to be desired.

    To be honest the z5 (compact for me) would be the perfect phone if only it had a larger sensor with only 8 - 12mp captures (most people only save at 8mp anyway). The 23mp is for spec sheet comparison only, and is no reflection of quality, if anything it's worse as it makes shots take considerably longer (have you ever taken a photo on a current iPhone, Samsung or LG G4/5?).