30 Jul 2021 9:27 AM +00:00

Best Camera Phones 2021: Top Smartphone Picks For Photography

If you're looking for the best camera phones around we're here to help with your search.

We've done the legwork and found a number of smartphones which we thought stood out from the crowd, based on specs, reviews, and features they offer.

There's also a handy guide a little further down that can help you to make a decision on what to look for when picking up your next camera phone, including the importance of sensor size and different types of zoom.

So, whether you're after the an under the radar flagship with the OnePlus 9 Pro 5G, or a phone that offers a double lens setup on a budget like the Google Pixel 5, then we've got you covered.

Best Camera Phone


Best Camera Phone iPhone - iPhone 12 Pro Max

Best Camera Phone Apple Iphone 12 Pro Max
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Image Credit: Apple

Rear camera: 12MP/ 12MP/ 12MP | Front camera: 12MP | OS: iOS 14 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1284 x 2778 | CPU: A14 Bionic | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB


The familiar favourite and latest iPhone, the 12 Pro Max is a popular choice for those who enjoy photography, and is said to have the edge on the iPhone 12 Pro's camera also.

As a camera phone, it's packed full of features, including a 2.5x optical zoom and even its own LiDAR scanner, which can help your camera sense depth in a scene, to then mimic the 'bokeh' effect (...aka, that blurry background look).

It's even supposed to have a larger sensor than its smaller counterpart, which works to enhance any low light situations.

In addition, the main camera boasts a newer type of stabilisation system and a larger sensor which work to improve image quality in a variety of conditions.

If you're on the hunt for an impressive, feature packed iPhone and don't fancy waiting till the release of the iPhone 13, then we'd say the iPhone 12 Pro Max could be one to consider.

Best Camera Phone OnePlus - OnePlus 9 Pro 5G

Best camera Phone OnePlus
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Image Credit: OnePlus

Rear camera: 48MP/ 50MP/ 8MP/ 2MP | Front camera: 16MP | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.7-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3216 | Battery: 4,500 mAh | CPU: Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 128/256GB

Another feature-packed smartphone, this OnePlus 9 Pro boasts some serious power under the hood thanks to its Snapdragon 888 processor, but when it comes to the camera it really comes into its own.


This phone was made in collaboration with Hasselblad, a company renowned for their camera lenses, with a particular focus being on colour accuracy and consistency, of which this phone is supposed to excel at.

Of course one of the big draws is the immense 50MP camera that's available, which can aid in capturing highly detailed scenes with fantastic contrast.

Since the battery is 4,500 mAh, you may need to pack a portable charger if you plan on spending the day shooting, but overall, it looks like this OnePlus 9 Pro is great camera phone for the price.

Best Camera Phone Samsung - Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best Camera Phone Samsung
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Image Credit: Samsung

Rear camera: 108MP/ 10MP/ 10MP/ 12MP | Front camera: 10MP | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6.9-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3088 | Battery: 5,000 mAh | CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 128/256GB/512GB

One of the best from Samsung the Galaxy S21 Ultra is characterised by its 5 cameras and impressive zoom function.


This phone boasts a total 100x zoom, but when it comes to the ranges you'll likely be taking photos at, it's said to have the edge in relation to some of the best camera phones around.

It also boasts an improved night mode for low light situations, meaning you can capture stunning photos at practically anytime of day.

There isn't a microSD card slot (which you would use to expand your storage) however the phone does pack a decent amount for most users.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a fantastic phone, and one we think looks absolutely stunning too.

Best Camera Phone Google - Google Pixel 5

Best Camera Phone Google Pixel
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Image Credit: Google

Rear camera: 16MP/ 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | OS: Android 11 | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 2340 x 1080 | Battery: 4000 mAh | CPU: Snapdragon 765 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB

The affordable Google Pixel 5 makes the list for those wanting to take decent crisp photos, but perhaps want to keep costs down too.


This phone has two rear-facing cameras, with one being ultra-wide. Unlike the Google Pixel 4, this doesn't have a telephoto lens, but that shouldn't stop you enjoying it for a wide range of photography.

It's also said to do well when it comes to colour accuracy, with editing software that's easy to use and full of different effects and tools.

For the everyday mobile photographer, we think this Google Pixel 5 could be a great call.

Guide: How To Pick The Best Phone For Photography

When it comes to choosing the best phone for photography, there are many things to look into before purchasing.

Do more megapixels mean better quality?

When it comes to cameras, while having more megapixels does tend to be better, it does not necessarily mean higher quality photos.

The quality of a photo is not only due to the number of pixels but also down to other factors such as the size of the sensor and the size of the individual pixels.

For example, if a 12MP and 16MP camera share the same size sensor, the 16MP camera won't necessarily be better.


Which is better optical or digital zoom?

Optical zoom uses lenses to magnify the camera to focus on something in the distance whereas digital zoom crops into the centre of the photo.

Optical zoom will generally produce higher quality images as it uses the full range of the camera's megapixels, whereas digital zoom will stretch the image and artificially fill the gaps in.

However, as technology advances, digital is becoming increasingly better and can provide higher levels of zoom on phones as they don't have much capacity for optical lenses.

What specs should I look for in my phone camera?

Larger screens can often be helpful to provide as big a viewfinder as possible which makes it easy to see the image you're capturing.

You may also want a phone that offers image stabilisation, this will reduce the blurriness of images that can occur when taking photos while handheld and without a steady tripod or stand.

Additional features such as slow-motion, ISO controls, video and zoom may also be a factor to consider depending on your requirements.

Can a camera phone be better than a camera?


For the sake of convenience, having a smartphone with a great camera is more convenient than lugging a big DSLR around with a plethora of lenses.

Moreover, as controls for ISO and shutter speed can be found in high-end flagships these days, then there's a possible argument to suggest that the plucky phone may be catching up.

However, in the real world, very few photographers are likely to shy away from their mirrorless or DSLR cameras due to a few things - most notably, the sheer size of the sensors and control.

An actual camera offers great freedom and customisation with pictures and video. In addition, given that these are devices truly designed to take incredible shots, the end product is likely to be a lot better.

Does sensor size matter for camera phones?

The size of the sensor determines how much light is let into the camera which can lead to higher quality photos as the camera has more light information from which it can process an ideal image.

It is a misconception that the higher the megapixel, the better an image. For example, a flagship smartphone with a 108 MP camera won't be able to compete on the same level as a 20 MP DSLR largely thanks to sensor size.

That's not to say megapixels aren't important. Traditionally, a higher megapixel rating can provide wider images which is arguably why phones are ideal for both panoramic shots and rather wide shots in general.

What is ISO in camera phones?


ISO is one of three main measures used by cameras to determine an image's exposure. It originally referred to the ability of film to gather light, but is more associated with sensitivity.

Alongside both f-stop and shutter speed, fiddling with ISO can result in an image looking grainy if not balanced correctly. Luckily, a lot of phones and cameras have an Auto function that can help to balance things out properly.

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