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Which smartphone has the best camera?

Close up of a red smartphone camera lens.
Photo by Deep Advani on Unsplash.

Without a doubt, one of the best features of mobile phones these days is the phenomenal camera quality. All those selfies look crisp and clear in their high definition glory. Praise!

But when comparing smartphones, how do you know which camera is best? What tech-specs should you look out for? After all, best now doesn’t mean best later, especially with manufacturers constantly improving their products.

Let’s shine a light on what to consider when finding the best smartphone camera.

How to pick a smartphone with good camera quality

A smartphone with a good camera among photography equipment.
Photo by the Registi on Unsplash.

There are a few features to consider when comparing camera phones. As a general rule of thumb, higher-end phones tend to have better camera quality, but this isn’t always the case. 

Here are some features to keep in mind when choosing a good camera.

Lenses

The lens is hands down the most important part of the camera (as any photographer will tell you). Lenses control how much light is let into the camera sensor: more light equals sharper focus, hence better quality. 

Most phones these days will have one or more lenses, depending on the make or price. The best cameras will usually have a combination of the following:

  • Ultra-wide lenses to give your image a good breadth.
  • Telephoto or periscope zoom lenses, as opposed to a software-only zoom (see next section for more details).
  • Macro-mode lenses for those extra close up shots.
  • Depth sensors or 3D time-of-flight sensors, which allow you to take photos in “portrait mode”, since they can gather information on the background and foreground of your intended subject. Cheaper phones tend to only use depth sensors, while higher-end phones use 3D ToF sensors.

Some select few cameras have dedicated monochrome lenses, which capture true black and white images, as opposed to converting a colour image later using a filter.

Zoom

Don’t underestimate the importance of zoom when it comes to taking a good photo. Zooming allows you to blow up details and capture the full scope of a magnificent view. 

Most phone cameras don’t actually have the proper lens for a genuine zoom, but rather use a clever bit of software trickery to enlarge the area of the image you’re zooming in on. This unfortunately degrades the sharpness and quality of the image itself.

However, there are new smartphone cameras that allow a true zoom without losing quality. This is called an “optical zoom”. If you’d like to capture the finer details of life, opting for a phone with an optical zoom feature could serve you best. 

Megapixels

All about the megapixels, eh? This fancy term gets thrown around a lot in advertising campaigns, but for good reason. Megapixels measure the amount of data in an image, so high quality photos tend to have more visual data – i.e. more megapixels. Many of the best smartphones these days spruik cameras with 8 megapixels or more. 

As a rule of thumb, 2-3 megapixels is decent, 4-5 megapixels will give you printable standard photos, and anything over 8-12 megapixels is pretty dang awesome. 

AI-modes, like autofocus and image stabilisation

The rise of the machines makes for great photos. AI-driven modes such as autofocus and image stabilisation are incredibly useful features, correcting those human flaws that can render photos badly.

AI can detect where you’re pointing the camera and how to clean up the picture, whether it’s cranking up the colour saturation, balancing for different skin tones, or automatically enabling HDR to balance bright lights and dark shadows. AI can even detect faces and automatically turn on portrait mode, just to give you an aesthetic background blur. 

Luckily, these modes can be turned off, so you can still maintain complete control over your perfect shot.

Video quality

Sometimes a photo doesn’t capture the vibe: having great video quality can make a huge difference between your choice of camera.

The vast majority of phone cameras can be used to shoot video, sometimes at Full HD 1080p resolution (a standard for YouTube and other video streaming).

However, you might still get some motion blur with most camera phones, making the most realistic resolution 720p, though this is still pretty good! 

Nice (but not mandatory) extras to consider

Extra features can sometimes help sweeten the deal and improve the quality of the photos you take. These aren’t always technical, but include software and app features like filters, image editing, gif-making, etc. 

Some phone cameras even have different types of flash modes. While most use LED bulbs these days (which give a cool, energy efficient light), some specialised phones use the warmer, energy-guzzling xenon bulbs, which while inefficient are spectacular at capturing objects in motion. 

You can also compare storage capacity between phones, as nothing is more annoying than getting caught out with low storage in the middle of your photoshoot.

Hot tip for getting good photos

Aside from DSLR cameras, tablets might be better than smartphones for taking good quality photos. They usually have a bigger surface so you can see more, easier editing features, and improved app performance.

Tablets also tend to have better battery life and run far cheaper than flagship smartphones. However, tablets are also harder to take with you on the go and aren’t always enabled for calls, so this might not suit everyone.

What should be on your camera phone wish list?

A spotlight shines on a iPhone with a dual lens camera.
Photo by Simerpreet Singh on Unsplash.

In a nutshell, for a high quality smartphone camera, your wish list should include:

  • A high-quality lens with zoom capabilities, fast autofocus, and macro mode. 
  • A vivid camera flash (preferably xenon, not LED).
  • Lots of megapixels (8 or above).
  • HDR processing and panoramic modes.
  • HD video.

These features are usually indicators of a high performance camera, fit to capture all those memories and moments.

Which smartphones have the best cameras in 2022?

Different smartphones on a blue surface.
Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash.

The best camera phone for you will ultimately depend on your budget and needs. However, some of the highly rated models for this year include:

According to users, these seem to be the hottest makes on the market.

However, this list is far from exhaustive, and with 2023 coming in hot, new deals are sure to land on the market. If you're looking for the best camera, it's essential to compare the latest models to find one that suits your needs.

Shopping for a mobile phone plan? Use our comparison tool to find amazing deals, or browse a selection below.

Keen to preserve your new gadget? Here are five ways to make your smartphone last.

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Mozo may receive payment if you click to the website of one of the products below currently available via our partner, WhistleOut. They do not compare the entire market, but you can see more options by clicking on the View Full Results link in the table.
Last updated 22 July 2024
Evlin DuBose
Evlin DuBose
RG146
Senior Money Writer

Evlin, RG146 Generic Knowledge certified and a UTS Communications graduate, is a leading voice in finance news. As Mozo's go-to writer for RBA and interest rates, her work regularly features in Google's Top Stories and major publications like News.com.au.