Which phone has the best camera? We put the best Android and Apple phones to the test, to crown the ultimate champion
Here at Expert Reviews, we test hundreds of smartphones every year. From the most expensive flagships to the budget handsets you buy out of sheer necessity, we run a series of pretty rigorous benchmarks to make sure we’re as informed as possible. As a result, we’ve snapped test pictures with every single phone that comes through our doors, so we know exactly which phones have the best cameras for your Instagram food/pet/holiday pics.
If you’re keen on taking pictures or video with your phone, or you simply want to know that you’ve got a smartphone that’s great for taking holiday snaps, then you’re in the right place. Below, you will find our regularly updated list of the best phone cameras on the market, and a helpful camera buying guide – so you know exactly what to look for when you’re browsing the Carphone Warehouse website.
How to choose the best phone camera for you
Megapixels aren’t everything
The first thing you need to be wary of is that megapixels aren’t everything. Pop into Carphone Warehouse and you will see the megapixel count listed next to the phone, but that isn’t the de facto indication of whether a smartphone’s camera is any good or not. Higher megapixels might look like a bonus, but it largely boils down to the tech inside.
Aperture is key
The thing you need to look out for? Aperture. A number listed with an f/ in front of it might look a little confusing at first glance, but it says a lot about the camera you’re holding. An f/1.4 aperture is wider than an aperture of f/2.0 for instance, which means that the camera will let in a lot more light and thus, greater potential for detail.
Don’t forget pixel and sensor size
Pixel and sensor size is just as important as that f-number. In short, the size of each individual pixel (measured in um) determines the quality of the image. Unlike aperture, bigger is better when it comes to pixel and sensor size. Got a big camera sensor? More information can be gathered, accruing better dynamic range and reduced visual noise, while a bigger pixel size lets more light in, performing better in low light.
How we test smartphone cameras
Modern smartphones incorporate a variety of different lenses and shooting features, so while our testing methodology is broadly consistent across releases, the individual elements we need to test can vary from one review to another. That being said, our phone camera testing is as thorough as possible, putting the latest handsets through a variety of demanding shooting scenarios, including low-light conditions (both indoors and outdoors), night scenes, and portrait photography.
With every review, we make every effort to ensure that all camera features have been fully tested before delivering our final verdict. This may include ultrawide and zoomed shooting, macro photography, as well as various resolution, frame rate, and stabilisation settings for recording video.
We never test smartphone cameras in isolation. A comparator device – which can either be a rival product, or the review model’s predecessor – is always used for direct comparison in testing, with side-by-side images published as part of our full reviews. Wherever possible, we also discuss the stock camera app, being sure to mention any irritating quirks or any specific user-friendly features.
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Best phone camera you can buy in 2023
1. Google Pixel 7 Pro: Best phone camera yet
Price when reviewed: £849 l Check price at John Lewis
Jumping to the top of the podium, the Pixel 7 Pro’s cameras are simply remarkable. Featuring a 50MP sensor as well as a pair of 12MP ultrawide and 48MP 5x optical zoom cameras, the Pixel 7 Pro’s top-notch photographic capabilities yet again sit comfortably at the first position. And considering how well-priced this handset is, there’s really not much point in choosing anything else.
The Pixel 7’s wide f/1.9 aperture and 2x faster shutter speed make it ideal for low-light photography and in good light, the Pixel 7 produced pictures with superb dynamic range and colour saturation, while the white balance was nice and accurate. Expanded features such as Magic Eraser let you remove unwanted objects and people from your picture with a simple tap, and “Face Unblur” does a great job at reducing smudginess on a moving subject as well.
Something else that makes this phone stand out is its portrait mode capabilities. Whether you use the front- or rear-facing camera, every portrait shot is captured beautifully, with nicely blurred backgrounds and crisp, definable edges around the subject. The Pixel 7 offers the best camera for your Instagram vanity shots and that tertiary 5x optical zoom camera is a real treat to play with, too.
The Pixel 7 Pro really does set a brand-new smartphone photography benchmark. Especially considering that it undercuts the cost of the rest of the flagship handsets on this list.
Read our full Google Pixel 7 Pro review
Key specs – Rear camera: 50MP, 12MP (wide), 48MP (5x telephoto zoom); Aperture: f/1.9; Stabilisation: Optical; Video resolution: 4K at 60fps; Front camera: 10.8MP
Also consider: Google Pixel 7
The regular Pixel 7, meanwhile, offers much the same camera system as the Pro at a much-reduced price. For £250 less than its bigger brother, you also get the excellent 50MP main camera and 12MP ultrawide but miss out on the 5x telephoto zoom lens.
If this isn’t something you’re fussed about, then the good news is that absolutely everything else is identical, with the same level of camera features and shooting modes in a more compact frame.
2. Apple iPhone 14 Pro: Best for video
Price when reviewed: £1,039 l Check price at John Lewis
Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro is one of the most expensive phones on the list but it does a mighty fine job of taking reliable photos and crisp, steady 4K video at 60fps.
The 14 Pro has three cameras on the rear. The main camera yet again delivers sensor-shift stabilisation on a smartphone – keeping your videos as steady as can be – and is now in its second generation, with Apple improving the way it processes low- and mid-light images. The main camera has seen a huge resolution boost to a massive 48MP, with a 65% larger sensor, while the 12MP ultrawide sensor has doubled in size. The 12MP 3x telephoto module is the same as it was last year.
While still image quality is excellent – with the 14 Pro building on Apple’s excellent portrait mode – the best thing is the iPhone 14 Pro’s video capabilities. Yet again capturing footage at 4K resolution at a maximum framerate of 60fps with support for Dolby Vision, no other smartphone’s video efforts come close when it comes to this level of quality. The Cinematic mode – which lets you shoot with a shallow depth of field with automatic focus transitions – has received a resolution bump to 4K, and the all-new Action Mode applies action camera-like stabilisation to your video.
It’s an expensive choice, no doubt, but that’s the sky-high price you pay for excellent-quality video on the go.
Read our full iPhone 14 Pro review
Key specs – Rear camera: 48MP, 12MP (wide), 12MP (3x telephoto zoom); Aperture: f/1.8, f/2.2, f/2.8; Stabilisation: Sensor and optical; Video resolution: 4K at 60fps with Dolby Vision; Front camera: 12MP
3. Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Best telephoto camera
Price when reviewed: £1,249 l Check price at John Lewis
Like its predecessor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra continues to raise the bar of what to expect in terms of smartphone photography.
Not only does it continue to be one of the few smartphones to support 8K resolution video recording (with remarkable results), but the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s zoom capabilities are second to none. Offering a hybrid zoom range of up to 100x, the Galaxy S23 Ultra excels when it comes to telescopic photography, and the new 200MP main camera is no slouch either. In our tests, we found that the Galaxy S23 Ultra was capable of capturing detail-rich images in well-lit environments, with superb dynamic range and rich, bold colours that look as if they’re going to leap straight off the screen. The phone’s night mode also did an exceptional job of boosting the brightness of the image without adding pesky visual noise and blowing out street lights.
Useful photography features such as the ability to grab an image directly from any frame of an 8K video recording are also a huge bonus, as is the ability to capture in both JPEG and DNG formats simultaneously in the Expert RAW app on the Galaxy Store. So, if you need a flagship smartphone that can pretty much do it all in the camera department, as well as something that knocks it out of the park with telephoto images, then the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is the ideal candidate.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
Key specs – Rear camera: 200MP, 10MP (10x telephoto), 10MP (3x telephoto), 12MP (wide); Aperture: f/1.7; Stabilisation: Optical; Video resolution: 8K at 24fps; Front camera: 12MP
4. Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022): Best-value iPhone (with a great camera)
Price when reviewed: £449 l Check price at John Lewis
Apple might prefer its customers to spend more on the iPhone 13, but the lower asking price of the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is well worth a look when it comes to the camera department. Powered by the same top-end chipset as Apple’s flagships – the A15 Bionic – the iPhone SE may only be fitted with a single 12MP rear camera, but image quality is frankly exceptional for the price.
It also finally benefits from Apple’s Deep Fusion tech, which improves low-light images, as well as Smart HDR 4, which enables the camera to detect and adjust exposure for each face in group shots. The photos we’ve managed to capture with the iPhone SE have been very good across the board.
Once more, Apple’s portrait mode brings out the very best of the 12MP sensor, with crisp details and a rich palette of colours. In low-light, in fact, the iPhone SE 3 surprisingly holds its own against the iPhone 13 Pro Max, too. The A15 Bionic also allows for more even exposure levels and you can also record crisp 10-bit Dolby Vision HDR 4K video at 60fps.
In short, little comes close to the iPhone SE 3 at this price. Despite the lack of ultra-wide-angle and zoom options, the iPhone SE 3’scamera is an astonishingly capable one.
Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review
Key specs – Rear camera: 12MP; Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: Optical; Video resolution: 4K at 60fps; Front camera: 7MP
5. Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G: Best budget camera
Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at Mi
Xiaomi continues its reign of technical wizardry with the release of the Redmi Note 11 Pro. Somehow, Xiaomi has managed to launch a budget phone with a massive 108MP camera, which is something that’s frankly astounding for a phone this cheap, and it really impressed in testing.
For a mere fraction of what the most recent iPhone and Samsungs cost, this is a phone that manages to hold its own under scrutiny, taking Instagram-worthy pictures in a wide variety of lighting conditions and environments. Video recording is limited to only 1080p at 30fps, but for this little, the Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G barely manages to place a foot wrong elsewhere.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Pro 5G review
Key specs – Rear camera: 108MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Aperture: f/1.9; Stabilisation: Electronic; Video resolution: 1080p at 30fps; Front camera: 16MP
6. OnePlus 11: Best-value camera
Price when reviewed: £729 | Check price at Amazon
With no Pro variant on the cards this year, the OnePlus 11 is the brand’s top-end flagship for the foreseeable future, and it’s a good one. Battery life is great, the display is gorgeous and, most pertinently, it has an impressive suite of cameras. The standout is the new portrait module, which is essentially a dedicated 2x optical zoom lens. This shooter may not match competitors for telephoto capabilities, but the portrait images it produces are sharp and clear, with well-defined edges around the subject and a smooth bokeh effect in the background.
All three rear cameras use a new 13-channel multi-spectral sensor for colour identification, capturing more natural tones in our tests, especially in tricky lighting conditions. It’s not a completely flawless experience – the autofocus can sometimes miss the mark, resulting in a blurry mess – but most of the issues can be ironed out by getting to grips with the Hasselblad-branded Pro mode, with tools including focus peaking and an onscreen histogram.
Read our full OnePlus 11 review
Key specs – Rear camera: 50MP, (wide), 48MP (ultrawide), 32MP (telephoto); Aperture: f/1.8; Stabilisation: Optical; Video resolution: 8K at 24fps; Front camera: 16MP
7. Sony Xperia Pro-I: Best for photographic flexibility
Price when reviewed: £1,399 l Check price at Amazon
If there’s one thing Sony has nailed in recent years, it’s smartphone camera tech. After all, the company’s cameras are so good that many Android manufacturers use Sony sensors in their own handsets, and there’s no sign that this will stop anytime soon, either. But, of course, the very best Sony has to offer comes in the form of its own Xperia Pro-I, a (very) high-priced flagship with one of the most comprehensive and well-thought-out camera offerings to date.
Its trio of 12MP lenses might not seem out of the ordinary, but the new wide sensor is essentially the same huge 1in sensor as can be found in the legendary Sony RX100 point-and-shoot camera line. In testing, we found that minimal processing was applied to images, with Sony preferring to present them as neutrally as possible – this approach pays off, especially when it comes to preserving shadow in certain HDR situations.
The Sony Xperia Pro-I is also set up with extensive manual control over your shots, with a full suite of modes built into the camera app. The dedicated two-stage shutter button is a huge bonus, too – we just wish it was cheaper.
Read our full Sony Xperia Pro-I review
Key specs – Rear camera: 12MP, 12MP (telephoto), 12MP (ultrawide); Aperture: f/2; Stabilisation: Optical; Video resolution: 4K at 120fps; Front camera: 8MP