The find best smartphone camera is not an easy task nowadays. Almost all flagships now come with serious camera tech and software, and while certain makes and models can excel in certain areas, it’s pretty much a neck-and-neck race.
Some phones perform better in low light, others have dedicated night modes that are way ahead of the competition, and then there are those that are mediocre for photos but great for video. It’s not easy to choose the best of the best especially if you don’t get a chance to try many of them, a lot phones for yourself. With so much choice, what should you look for if you want the best smartphone camera?
How we choose the best smartphone camera
These days, the bar for a top-performing camera on a phone is quite high. To be competitive, a device must have a large number of lenses and sensors, supported by software that can get the most out of them. The end result should be a photo with sharpness, good color balance, sufficient lighting, realistic saturation and a lot of detail.
It’s especially important how the camera handles scenarios that test the HDR – very bright spots shouldn’t just be white spots, and dark shadows should contain detail. Speaking of darkness, low-light photography is what most underpowered cameras struggle with and we can’t have that when it comes to the best smartphone cameras in 2021. The goal in low-light photos isn’t which phone can get the brightest, low-light shot. no light sources nearby. Above all, a photo should be fun to look at.
Best camera phones, a summarized list:
Now let’s take a closer look at these phones!
What are the phones with the best camera?
iPhone 13 Pro Max
The new iPhone 13 Pro Max offers new camera features such as Center Stage and Cinematic Mode video, in addition to an inventive macro mode and an improved telephoto lens. With three main cameras on the back, the 2021 Pro Max is capable of producing some of the most impressive photos in daylight and at night, in addition to recording the best quality video on any phone.
In fact, that’s arguably the iPhone’s greatest strength. If you’re looking for arguably the best cameras on a phone that can shoot industry-leading video, iPhone 13 Pro Max is the one for you.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Last year, the Galaxy S21 Ultra impressed us with its versatile camera and especially with its incredible, high-quality 10X periscope zoom lens, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra camera largely retains that successful formula and gives it a fresh coat of paint. The camera specifications of the S22 Ultra have not changed much, they are almost identical to the S21 Ultra, but there are numerous improvements in the camera. Still, you can’t have the good without the bad, and in this case we’re a bit put off by the aggressive sharpening, revamped dynamics and gloomy colors.
At the same time, Samsung has improved the one camera feature that makes the S22 Ultra great: the 10x zoom! We were impressed with the previous generation Ultra, but this new edition brings much cleaner details and – unlike the main camera – more vibrant and vibrant colors. Simply put, this is a big improvement and we love it! Sensor sizes and number of pixels remain the same (the telephoto lenses have slightly smaller sensors), but Samsung says the main camera has an improved version of the sensor and is paired with an even wider lens than the 24mm lens on the S21 Ultra.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
Aided by a 12MP ultra-wide and a 48MP 4X camera, laser autofocus and OIS, the Pixel 6 Pro is a versatile camera phone. By default, it gives you easy access to a number of digital zoom levels: 0.7X, 1X. 2X and 4X, while at 20X you have to pinch with your fingers.
The Pixel 6 Pro comes with exceptional detail and sharpness with the main camera and the telephoto camera, as well as excellent dynamics and quite punchy colors. For good or bad, some photos tend to be a little underexposed as the Google Pixel 6 Pro prefers to keep those precious highlights. In addition, the 4X telephoto camera feels surprisingly usable, although using the 20X super-res zoom is almost guaranteed to produce some noise and artifacts, but that’s to be expected.
OnePlus 10 Pro
The OnePlus 10 Pro is a natural evolutionary step up from the OnePlus 9 Pro, and while there’s nothing groundbreaking or truly spectacular about the phone, it’s pretty well equipped by 2022 standards. The ultra-wide camera now has a smaller sensor, but it has a larger 14mm field of view and a nice new 150-degree fish-eye shooting option. The 3.3x zoom telephoto lens is the same as last year’s and doesn’t seem to have improved much, but that’s fine as it takes excellent photos. The Hasselblad logo, on the other hand, is still there and implies grandeur, but let’s see if that’s the case.
Overall, the OnePlus stands out thanks to its easy-to-use photography app and overall adaptability. The main camera captures beautiful images with great detail, wide dynamic range and somber tones with a hint of deep contrast, similar to the Pixel 6 Pro. While the specific fisheye mode is largely a goofy party trick, the ultra-wide camera is also fantastic. Finally, the selfie camera takes some stunning and detailed photos, despite the 3.3X telephoto lens being a bit soft in terms of brightness.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Should you consider the Mi 11 Ultra if you’re in the market for a new flagship phone and don’t want to buy into the Apple-Samsung duopoly? It’s a step in the right direction for Xiaomi, although it’s clear there’s more work to be done as the flagship still suffers from the same ‘diseases’ that have seemingly plagued Xiaomi’s flagships forever.
The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s standout camera module isn’t just for show. Whether you’re shooting photos or videos, day or night, this phone performs great.
Sony Xperia Pro II
A true first in a modern smartphone, the Xperia Pro-I comes with an incredible sensor: a huge 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor. This is not a one-off for this particular device, as it can also be found in the company’s Sony RX100 VII compact camera. Normally that sensor is a 20MP sensor, but Sony has reduced it to 12MP in the Xperia Pro-I, so technically it doesn’t use the sensor’s full capabilities. In addition, that sensor has an F2.0/F4.0 switching diaphragm that can be changed depending on the lighting conditions and will mainly affect the depth of field and exposure.