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The best smartphone cameras in 2022

Best Camera Smartphones
© DrHitch / Shutterstock.com

What is the best smartphone for photography? Does it come with or without a telephoto lens? What is the best camera smartphone that costs less than $400, $300, or $200? In this selection of the best camera smartphones in 2022, NextPit helps you choose the camera smartphone of your dreams, which has been tested and approved by the editorial staff.

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The best camera smartphones to choose from in 2022 compared

  Best choice for Android Best choice for Apple Best premium value-for-money Best sub-$400 smartphone Best sub-$300 smartphone Best sub-$200 smartphone
Product
Image Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Apple iPhone 13 Pro Google Pixel 6 OnePlus Nord 2 Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro Samsung Galaxy A12
Pros
  • Daring and assertive design
  • Sublime WQHD+ 120Hz AMOLED screen
  • Eynos 2100 is extremely capable
  • Most versatile camera module on the market
  • Very effective 10x zoom
  • Balanced battery life
  • Fluid and feature-rich OneUI 3.1
  • Superb 120Hz screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • Excellent camera module
  • Potentially iconic design
  • Well-calibrated 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED display
  • Tensor SoC performs well and does not overheat
  • Pixel-like photo rendering
  • Adequate battery life
  • 5 years of security updates
  • IP68 + wireless and reverse charging
  • Its price
  • 90 Hz AMOLED screen is fluid even without a 120 Hz refresh rate
  • Powerful MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI SoC
  • No overheating
  • Warp Charge 65T is fast
  • Solid battery life
  • Detail level of the main 50 MP lens is high
  • Effective Night Sight
  • Promise of 2 Android updates and 3 years of security updates
  • Excellent overall impression
  • Great 120Hz AMOLED display
  • Good performance
  • Good main camera
  • Long battery life
  • Triple slot for dual SIM + microSD card
  • NFC support
  • Strong and decent stereo sound
Cons
  • Exynos 2100 does not outperform the Snapdragon 888 SoC
  • No charger included
  • No microSD slot
  • Fast charging is limited to 25 watts
  • S-Pen is a total gimmicky and clunky
  • Its price (though cheaper than the S20 Ultra)
  • The USB-C port is long overdue
  • "Fast" charge at only 20 W
  • Camera module is not versatile enough without a telephoto lens
  • Fast charge  is too slow and there is no charger included
  • Night Sight mode  is unnatural for night shots
  • 128 GB storage without a microSD port
  • "Only" 3 Android updates
  • No dedicated telephoto lens
  • No wireless charging/ IP rating/ microSD port/ 3.5mm jack
  • Colorimetry of photos not very accurate
  • Software photo processing is inferior to the OnePlus 9
  • Lack of clarity on High Performance mode
  • Camera module is a bit bulky
  • Average photo quality in low light
  • No 5G
  • No wireless charging
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The purpose of this selection is obviously to recommend the best camera smartphones available on the market today. The selection has been discussed and debated internally and, with very few exceptions, each model has been reviewed by a NextPit journalist. But the final goal is not to focus on the camera itself and forget about everything else.

As with every product, the purchase of a smartphone, camera-centric or not, is the result of taking multiple criteria into consideration. Hence, this selection focuses on the quality of the camera of each smartphone while taking into account the rest of the hardware specifications and the overall value-for-money of the smartphone.

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The best camera smartphones in 2022

In this section, we list the best camera smartphones available in 2022 according to NextPit. These are the best models across all categories. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 13 Pro share the podium and is followed by the Pixel 6.

Apple's best camerasmartphone: iPhone 13 Pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro is Apple's best smartphone this year in my opinion / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Dedicated telephoto lens
  • Autofocus also in ultra wide-angle
  • Natural colorimetry and powerful HDR
  • Multiple photo and video editing modes
  • ProRes 4K30 codec
 

Cons

  • Price
  • Night Mode is too natural, shots are too dark
  • 3x zoomis rather limited
  • No autofocus for selfies

NextPit's full review of the iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro is the best camera smartphone in 2022, having tied down the top spot with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. I didn't include the iPhone 13 Pro Max since it offers exactly the same camera specifications, so you might as well go for the cheaper model. Last year's iPhone 12 Pro Max is still very competitive obviously, but the iPhone 13 Pro brings improvements that really make a difference.

We're still at 12 MP on all sensors, but they've been enlarged to capture more light. The main wide-angle lens now measures 1.9 µm (compared to 1.7 µm for the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max and 1.4 µm for the iPhone 12 Pro), and it has a better aperture (f/1.5, compared to f/1.6 on the iPhone 12 Pro). The same goes for the ultra-wide angle, whose aperture increases to f/1.8, against f/2.4 on the iPhone 12 Pro.

At night, the difference between the iPhone 13 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro is therefore rather obvious, especially since all sensors are now compatible with the Night Mode. Finally, the telephoto lens features a 77mm equivalent with an aperture at f/2.8 and 3x zoom, versus a 2x zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro and 2.5x zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The best Android camera smartphone: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Noble, chic, and powerful: the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • 2 dedicated telephoto lenses
  • Very versatile camera module
  • Very large main sensor for an excellent level of detail
  • Autofocus also works at ultra wide-angle
  • 4K 60 FPS video quality and up to 8K 24 FPS
  • Numerous photo and video editing modes
 

Cons

  • Price
  • Night Mode is not always effective
  • Portrait photos can be improved

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra full review

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the first Android flagship released in 2021 and it's also still the best in my opinion, for photos and in general.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra overhauls the copy of its camera module compared to last year's Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Instead of a 48 MP periscope telephoto lens, there are two dedicated telephoto lenses at 10 MP each, and the main 108 MP sensor is no longer the Isocell Bright HM1 which had a lot of focus issues but is replaced by the new Isocell Bright HM3 instead. And Samsung has fixed many issues since the previous generation of Ultra flagships.

It's the most versatile camera smartphone on the market and the most efficient when it comes to zooming capability, and Samsung provides you with a whole host of software aids and assistants to capture the best shots possible even without any photography skills. It's clearly the most capable camera, although it doesn't look as natural as the iPhone 13 Pro.

The best value-for-money flagship: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6
The Pixel 6's price/performance ratio is excellent for a flagship and its photo quality is worthy of a Pixel / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Large main sensor
  • Excellent level of detail and sharpness
  • Good exposure except in ultra wide-angle
  • Artificial but very effective night mode
  • Quality 4K 60 FPS video
 

Cons

  • Colorimetry lacks naturalness
  • Less good exposure in ultra wide-angle
  • No dedicated telephoto lens, limited digital zoom

NextPit's full review of the Google Pixel 6

I was privileged to review the Pixel 6 and it's definitely my slam dunk of the year. In terms of value-for-money, the Pixel 6 is the most recommended flagship in my opinion. And the camera configuration, although it is imperfect, it is still excellent and remains at the very top of the bracket.

The main 50MP lens is based on a Samsung GN1 sensor with a size of 1/1.31 inches (with 1.2µm pixels) with f/1.85 aperture and optical stabilization (OIS). The ultra wide-angle uses a 12 MP sensor with an f/2.2 aperture (pixel size 1.25µm) with a field of view of 114 degrees.

The photos from the main sensor are simply excellent in terms of sharpness, level of detail, and exposure. The colorimetry is not the most natural but I find that it handles those well. The Night Sight is also too aggressive and won't please those used to Apple's Night Mode, for instance. Portrait photos are also very good but the zoom, which is purely digital, remains rather limited.

I don't think the dedicated telephoto lens on the Pro model justifies the $250 price difference, but my colleague Camila, who reviewed the Pixel 6 Pro, doesn't share my opinion. And maybe the 128GB storage will also make you lean towards the Pro model. The choice is yours.

The best value-for-money mid-range smartphone

Logically, the best camera smartphones on the market are flagships or top-of-the-line handsets. But there are also good camera smartphones in the more affordable price ranges, especially under the $400, $300, or even $200 mark.

The best camera smartphone under $400: OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus Nord 2
OnePlus has whipped up a winner in the mid-range market this year / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Good daytime detail
  • Correct dynamic range
  • Digital zoom usable in 2x or 5x
  • Effective night mode
 

Cons

  • No dedicated telephoto lens
  • Software processing is sometimes too aggressive
  • AI mode distorts colorimetry
  • Secondary lenses is too limited in low light conditions

NextPit's full review of the OnePlus Nord 2

OnePlus may have lost its identity and everything else that made the brand, but the manufacturer has still succeeded with its Nord range. I've been using the OnePlus Nord 2 on a daily basis since its launch and it's the best smartphone for under $400 euros in my opinion.

As far as photography is concerned, the OnePlus Nord 2 packs a triple camera module that is spearheaded by a Sony IMX766 ultra wide-angle main sensor, which is the same one found in the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. I was not taken in by the photo rendering but I found the level of detail to be correct and the dynamic range rather wide. The purely digital zoom is usable and the night mode is quite effective.

Add to that the excellent overall value-for-money proposition as well as an extensive update policy (2 major Android versions and 3 years of security updates) of the smartphone, and I'm hard-pressed to find a better choice in this price range.

The best camera smartphone under $300: Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

NextPIT Redmi Note 10 Pro
With the Redmi Note 10 Pro, you'll have a budget smartphone that doesn't break the bank / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Realistic and detailed photos in daylight
  • Decent macro photos
  • Versatile camera
 

Cons

  • No optical image stabilization
  • Big loss of quality in low light conditions

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro full review by NextPit

The Redmi Note 10 Pro is still the best smartphone under $300 according to NextPit. There is a quad-camera module that is powered by a 108 MP main lens. The Redmi Note 10 Pro also packs an 8MP ultra-wide angle lens (118° FOV, f/2.2 aperture), a 5MP macro sensor (f/2.4 aperture), and a 2MP depth sensor.

Unlike OnePlus, Xiaomi hasn't resisted integrating the anecdotal macro+depth lenses. As for the rest, image rendering is still quite satisfactory for a mid-range smartphone. I find it to be less versatile than a Google Pixel 4a which is sold for a little less. But in terms of overall value for money, Google's affordable camera phone is too technically outdated.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro

The best camera smartphone under $200: Samsung Galaxy A12

Samsung Galaxy A12
The Samsung Galaxy A12 is the cheapest camera smartphone of this selection / © NextPit

Not reviewed

 

The Samsung Galaxy A12 is the only smartphone in this selection that NextPit could not review. For a smartphone that costs less than $200, I would tend to recommend mid-range smartphones from last year that sold for approximately $300 and have since dropped in price. But, due to the software upgrade policy and durability, I prefer to focus on models that were released this year.

The Samsung Galaxy A12's specs don't exactly make you dream. But, according to several comparisons and reviews that I've seen, the entry-level smartphone stands out with its camera module. Its 48MP prime lens does particularly well in daylight, and the smartphone ranks in the top 2 of DxOMark's photo rankings for entry-level models with a score of 90.

I don't think you can get a real camera smartphone for under $200. But in this price range, the Samsung Galaxy A12 is a decent, stop-gap solution, at least on paper.

What are the criteria for choosing the best photo smartphone?

What is aperture?

The term aperture describes the focal length of the system in relation to the diameter of the entrance pupil of the lens. This ratio is usually expressed as a fraction normalized to the numerator one in the notation "f/1.8" or "1:1.8". It is quite counter-intuitive but the larger the aperture is going to be, the smaller the number behind the f will be. Hence, f/16 is a very small aperture, while f/1.4 will be a large aperture.

Aperture is particularly useful in conjunction with sensor size to play with background blur and low-light performance. The larger the aperture - and therefore the amount of light captured - the blurrier the background behind the subject being photographed. This is a parameter that can be interesting to highlight in portraits but is also a good indicator of low light performance.

What is the focal length?

The focal length of a lens indicates the distance between the lens and its focal point, where all the light rays converge. An optical system with a very long focal length therefore focuses the light very far behind the lens. A long focal length therefore means a small angle of view - or in more colloquial terms, a "powerful zoom".

What is optical zoom?

A focal length in 35mm equivalent defines exactly the size of a given object imaged on the sensor at a given distance from the camera. Now, an optical zoom means that the camera is able to achieve different image angles or image sizes by varying the focal length.

In short, take a 3x optical zoom for example - it means the largest focal length of the camera module divided by the smallest focal length that results in exactly three. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, for example, optically reproduces equivalent focal lengths of 13 to 103 millimeters - and therefore has an optical zoom of around 8x.

What do you think of this selection? Which models do you think we have forgotten and should be included? Do you find the advice and methodology sections useful? Give us your feedback in the comments!

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114 comments

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  • Kris R 6 months ago Link to comment

    Really good article, thanks!
    An acquaintance of mine takes pictures on a pixel (he is a professional photographer) and the pictures turn out unreal)


  • Robert Vadra 6 months ago Link to comment

    Wonderful post


  • Ant Kan Dec 1, 2020 Link to comment

    I think Xiaomi is the best one to capture very nice photos without spend a lot of money.


  • Adrian Palmer Edwards Nov 25, 2020 Link to comment

    How narrow minded can you be, every true photographer online says this new Sony Xperia 1 ll has the best camera by a mile, they all say it every single one. But, tech reviewers stick to what they are spoon fed, very narrow minded. People read these reviews before they spend $1k+ on a new smartphone, waste of time, by the way I have a Blackberry.


  • S K Oct 8, 2020 Link to comment

    this article is great with all the relevant information required for mobile photography.thanks


  • Dean L. May 23, 2020 Link to comment

    I have a Sony alpha 6000 and love using it for taking pictures. Bottom line is I always have my phone with me which I probably take >90% of my pictures with. So I have both sides covered. The other key feature I love with my phone is I can shoot video and take pictures at the same time. Just my two pfennig...


  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    May 22, 2020 Link to comment

    If your interest is photography then you need a real camera


    • Franz Fifty May 22, 2020 Link to comment

      no, unless you can shoot with a "real" camera by taking it out of your pocket, point towards something and take great night pictures without a tripod... but since smartphone cameras have become more versatile and far superior in processing, that statement is not true anymore


      • Rusty H. May 26, 2020 Link to comment

        I take night photos without a tripod. If your d-slr/lens has great stability, it can be done. I've taken some fantastic moon photos without a tripod. Now, if you are talking more than 1/2 second exposure, yeah, you'll need a tripod.


  •   46
    Deactivated Account May 22, 2020 Link to comment

    If you want the best pictures buy a DSLR camera. No smart phone with a tiny lens can ever compete with a real quality camera. They can replace the old point and shoot camera but that is about it


    • Franz Fifty May 22, 2020 Link to comment

      didn't know a DSLR can make phone calls or browse the internet..or did i miss something in an article talking about "camera PHONES"?


  • storm May 22, 2020 Link to comment

    You've managed to pick no phone of interest to me. A camera isn't everything.


  • MirandaStown Aug 25, 2019 Link to comment

    Samsung phone models take truly superb photos and videos. The quality is excellent!


  •   4
    Deactivated Account May 31, 2018 Link to comment

    S9+'s Variable apeture is fire tho


  • harshatecordeon May 25, 2018 Link to comment

    i think Huawei is the best one to capture


  • Rusty H. May 25, 2018 Link to comment

    Another vote for the Mate9, VERY good camera. Using Camera FV-5 or Open camera, it does very well.


  • CJ Brown Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    ZTE Axon 7
    20 Megapixel Back

    #nuffsaid


  • Marius Viney Mar 21, 2017 Link to comment

    What about the LG G5 camera?

    Dean L.Deactivated Account


  •   54
    Deactivated Account Mar 20, 2017 Link to comment

    The Mate 9 is doing very well, and also the nubia Z11, both have excellent cameras, but I can not say how good they are in comparison with the Pixel or Galaxy S7. But anyway they are better then my old S6 edge plus and the honor 5x :)


  •   46
    Deactivated Account Mar 20, 2017 Link to comment

    Really no LG phones. This is a very biased incomplete article.

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