The best camera phones in 2021

(Image credit: Snapchat)

 The iPhone 13 now sits atop our list of top cameras on phones. However, will it be only for a short time? In the end, the latest Pixel phones are available from Google and have an enviable reputation for creating top-quality devices to capture photos.
It is expected that the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will be facing tough competition to claim the title of top camera phones. iPhone 13 models took a major leap in the right direction, not only thanks to upgraded technology but with innovative video capture features which put Apple’s phones at the top of the line for cameras on phones. Here are the top iPhones that are available today.Best digital photo frame for you: Present your best photos

They’re on an impressive selection of phones because our tests have led us to find cameras that can capture unforgettable images as well as the rare images you’d miss out on with smaller-capacity devices. When we evaluate phones that have cameras, we search for phones that blend complex optics and sensors together with software algorithms that depend on science and math to squeeze the maximum clarity, brightness, and light from any situation. It’s not only all about how many lenses are that are on the back of the phone, however, but Some phone makers also make use of artificial intelligence to enhance the processing of photos.

After many hours of testing, and many head-to-head comparisons of photos They are among the top cameras you can get today.

Editor’s note: The iPhone 13 was chosen to crown our top picks at the Tom’s Guide Awards 2021 for the phones category, but these awards were released before the launch of the iPhone 13.

What are the top cameras?

The most popular of cameras can be found in iPhone 13 Pro Max. iPhone 13 Pro Max, closely followed by the less powerful iPhone 13 Pro. It comes with a triple 12MP configuration with bigger sensors on the ultrawide and wide cameras, and an optical zoom of 3x on the telephoto lens the latest Pro models have earned their names with stunning videos and photos.

If you’re looking beyond Apple’s smartphones, a lot of the top Android phones have amazing cameras that are their own. These include the OnePlus 9 Pro, Galaxy S21 Ultra, and even the less expensive Pixel 5a all relying on numerous rear lens options and top-of-the-line image processing features to give you the most stunning images. Also, with that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro being officially launched it is likely to use them to get an outstanding camera experience.

In reality, it’s this Pixel 5a is our pick for those who want to take advantage of their photography while on the go and spend as little as they can; Apple fans can turn to the iPhone SE, which is one of the most affordable phones on the market since it provides outstanding quality images quality while costing less than half the cost of a top-quality phone. There is also a Samsung Galaxy A52 among those best low-cost alternatives.

The best camera phones that you can purchase right now

The most powerful camera phone that you can buy


Display size: 6.7-inch OLED (2778 x 1284)

CPU: A15 Bionic


Storage/Expandable 128GB, 128GB and 256GB. 1TB, 512GB

Rear cameras include: 12MP main (f/1.5) Ultrawide 12MP (f/1.8) 12MP Telephoto (f/2.5) with 3x zoom.

Front camera 12MP (f/2.2)

Weigh: 8.5 ounces

Life of the battery (Hrs: Mins) 12:16

Motives to purchase

Best-in-class cameras, excellent battery life, and an impressive 6.7-inch display

The reasons to stay clear of

Charger sold separately and bulky

The largest iPhone 13 is also the most powerful camera phone you could purchase. Apple has gone all out on the Pro Max iPhone’s specs by increasing the size of the sensor for both the ultrawide and main cameras and including autofocus on the ultrawide camera. Ultrawide cameras can function as a macro camera taking pictures of subjects as close as 2 centimeters away. The sensor-shift OIS that was first introduced with the iPhone 12 Pro Max returns this year, and the telephoto was upgraded to 3x.

Apple has also upgraded its computational photography, particularly in low-light situations. This year, Apple also introduced Photographic Styles — basically filters that are real-time — and Cinematic mode. The latter is like portrait video that is a tad more powerful, moving focus dynamically to give you an immersive video experience.

It’s the one you should buy if you’re looking for the most enjoyable camera experience.

Read our complete iPhone 13 Pro Max revision

A powerful camera equipment compacted into a smaller body


Display size: 6.1-inch OLED (2532 x 1170)

CPU: A15 Bionic


Storage/Expandable 128GB, 256GB, 1TB, 512GB / No

Rear cameras include 12MP main (f/1.5) Ultrawide 12MP (f/1.8) 12MP Telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x zoom.

Front camera 12MP (f/2.2)

Weigh: 7.2 ounces

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 11:42

Motives to purchase

+Gorgeous and bright 120Hz display+Incredible performance+Spectacular cameras+Vastly improved battery life

The reasons to stay clear of

The List is empty

Following closely behind its larger brother and a step ahead of the iPhone 13 Pro is an extremely close second on this list of the top cameras on phones. It comes with the same features that are found in iPhone 13 Pro Max. iPhone 13 Pro Max with the bigger sensors as well as autofocus for the ultrawide camera, as well as macro mode.

The iPhone 13 Pro is right on par with the Pro Max, getting sensor-shift OIS as well as the same optical zoom of 3x. Cinematic and photographic styles are also available as standard. This is, in essence, the phone to buy to get the most camera experience in a smaller size. Its 6.1-inch display is stunning with a stunning design and features 120Hz ProMotion for smooth and fluid animations and smooth transitions.

Its battery lifespan is amazing, lasting almost 12 hours during our battery test, so you’ll be able to take plenty of photos and videos.

Check out our complete iPhone 13 Protest.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The most suitable alternatives to a camera phone is the iPhone


Displays: 6.8-inch OLED (3200×1400; 10-120Hz)

Processor: Snapdragon 888

RAM: 12GB, 16GB

Storage/Expandable 128GB, 228GB and 512GB.

Rear camera: Wide 108MP (f/1.8) and 12-megapixel ultra-wide (f/2.2) 10MP Telephoto (3x zoom f/2.4) and 10MP Telephoto (10x zoom ), f/4.9) and laser-AF sensors.

Front camera Front camera: 40MP (f/2.2)

Weight: 8.08 oz

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 11:25

The reasons to buy

+Dual telephoto lenses+S Pen support+Dynamic 6.8-inch display

The reasons to stay clear of

No charger included-Lacks MicroSD card slot

As Apple and Google fight it out, the new Galaxy S21 Ultra does everything it can to secure Samsung’s position in the category of camera phones you should take when you need to zoom in to get better details. Samsung has fitted its Galaxy S21 Ultra with a set of telephoto lenses one that has an optical zoom of 3x and the other one with 10x zoom — and the results were awe-inspiring when we tested them. The support for 100x digital zoom has returned as well, and you can use the Zoom Lock feature to help keep your shots focused. Laser focus sensors are a great addition to the 108MP lens.

Samsung’s new phone doesn’t end there. It’s not just about the hardware, however. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra features a variety of software features that allow you to be more creative with your photography. Its Simple Take feature from last year’s release has been enhanced to create slow-motion videos when you hit the shutter. Director’s view lets you take video from both rear and front cameras simultaneously. You can switch between S21’s various lenses at a moment’s notice.

Samsung’s capacity to record video at 8K resolution makes it an ideal device to own for those who record many videos. zoom lenses will put the iPhone on the radar. This is an excellent camera phone to own in case you’re an Android enthusiast.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.

The top camera phone for under $500.


Display size: 6.43-inch OLED (2400 x 1080 pixels)

CPU Snapdragon 765G


Storage/Expandable 128GB / No

Rear camera: 12.2MP (f/1.7), 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide

Front camera 8MP (f/2.0)

Weigh: 6.5 ounces

Life of the battery (Hrs:Mins) 9:45

Motives to purchase

Incredible cameras + Big, bright display + IP67 water resistance

The reasons to stay clear of

Older chipsets-Limited in the US and Japan

The Pixel 5a by Google is, in our opinion the best camera experience for under $500, like this Google Pixel 5a comparison with. iPhone SE shoot-out proves. The latest feature on Google’s phone this year is the ultrawide camera of 16MP. In comparison, the Pixel 4a from last year was only a 12.2MP camera, even though it was an excellent camera in its own right.

However, it’s worth noting that the Pixel 5a also has a major hardware upgrade to improve the speed of processing photos and more efficiently. The Snapdragon 765G processor in the 5a has the exact processor that’s found inside Pixel 5 or the Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G. Although it’s not necessarily the best or the most advanced Snapdragon available (and it’s not far behind an A13 Bionic in the iPhone SE) however, it’s sufficient to make incredible photography.

The price increase of $100 from the Pixel 4a hurts a bit however the upgrades to the hardware as well as a larger battery and bigger screen more than will make up for it. However, it’s the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro is out and we’re preparing to try out the cameras. It’s very likely that they’ll be on this list.

Check out our full Google Pixel 5a review.

OnePlus’ best camera phone ever


Display Size: 6.7-inch MOLED (3168×1440)

The CPU Snapdragon 888

RAM: 8GB, 12GB

Storage/Expandable 128GB, 256GB No

Rear camera Main camera 48 megapixels (f/1.8) Ultrawide 50MP (f/2.2) 8MP telephoto that has three times optical (f/2.4) 2MP monochrome

Camera in front 16MP (f/2.4)

Weigh: 6.9 ounces

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 10:40

The reasons to buy

Fantastic cameras, stunning 120Hz display, and speedy wireless charging and wired charging

There are reasons to avoid

Nightscape photos are inconsistent. Morning Mist model is sloppy

The past OnePlus phones have been one or two steps in comparison to the best cameras phones. However, this has changed with the OnePlus 9 Pro, thanks to the partnership with camera manufacturer Hasselblad. OnePlus and Hasselblad are bound by an agreement over the course of several years to improve OnePlus cameras and the 9 series benefiting first.

This results in improved colors on photos taken using photos taken with the OnePlus 9 Pro, as the post-processing technology has been greatly improved on this phone. Certain features are unpredictable We had mixed results with low-light photography however overall, we were happy with the images we captured using the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is now equipped with both the software and hardware to compete on both the iPhone as well as the Pixel.

You can test it out through the OnePlus 9 Pro camera face-off where we examine how the latest OnePlus phone as compared to the top cameras phones made by Apple as well as Google.

The OnePlus 9, a cheaper model, OnePlus 9. is also a beneficiary of the Hasselblad partnership, but this phone does not have the Pro’s 8MP zoom lens.

Check out our complete OnePlus 9 Protest.

The iPhone’s most powerful cameras cost less


Display Size: 6.1-inch OLED (2532 x 1170)

CPU: A15 Bionic


Storage/Expandable 128GB, 256GB or 512GB

Rear cameras Main camera 12MP (f/1.6) Ultrawide 12MP (f/2.4)

Front camera 12MP (f/2.2)

Weigh: 6.1 ounces

Life of the battery (Hrs: Mins) 10:33

The reasons to buy

+Impressive dual cameras+Incredible performance+Comprehensive 5G coverage+Cinematic mode

The reasons to stay clear of

-Slow charging

The ideal iPhone that is suitable for the common user The iPhone 13 features important advancements over its predecessor. Not only the battery life is significantly improved but the camera has received several upgrades too. The first and most important thing is that the sensors have grown in size which allows for more light, which can help in photography in the dark and indoors.

In addition to the top cameras, you also get Photographic Styles as well as Cinematic mode which the Pro models come with. While you’re missing out on the telephoto lens as well as larger apertures, you still enjoy a great photography experience for an affordable cost. Apple has even increased the storage capacity to 128GB while keeping your cost the same.

Check out our full iPhone 13 report.

The most effective cameras software, and the best processing


Display OLED display of 6 inches (2340×1080 90Hz)

Processor: Snapdragon 765G


Storage/Expandable 128GB/No

Rear camera: 12.2MP wide (f/1.7); 16MP ultrawide

Front camera 8MP (f/2.0)

Weight: 5.33 oz

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 9:29

Motives to purchase

Fantastic compact design, excellent camera, now with an ultrawide lens and powerful software features

There are reasons to avoid

-Underwhelming performance-Expensive for what it is

It’s official that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are in the midst of the horizon, as is the Pixel 5, which has the same camera configuration and processor as that of the Google Pixel 5. It’s probably time for that phone to disappear to the background.

In the meantime, before it’s replaced it’s important to acknowledge the outstanding photography capabilities of the Pixel 5 software that has made it an extremely popular choice for the best camera phone. The amount of detail particularly in low-light and mid-light situations, that you can capture in this handset is impressive. The Google Night Sight feature typically outshines Apple’s phones as Google continues to release new software features such as better astrophotography.

With all those advantages the Pixel 6 is worth waiting until to see the Pixel 6 if you can. The Pro model of the phone is expected to come with triple cameras, which include a zoom lens. If you’re able to hold off for a couple of weeks, then it’s possible that the Pixel 6 might be a better camera phone, equipped with hardware that is finally up to the standards that are set in Google’s application.

Read our complete Google Pixel 5 review.

 Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Still an excellent Android camera alternative


Display Size: 6.9-inch MODEL (3088×1440)

CPU Snapdragon 865 Plus


Storage/Expandable 128GB, 256GB, 128GB, 512GB,

Rear camera: A wide 108MP (f/1.8) 12MP telephoto camera with 5-x zoom optical (f/3.0) • Ultrawide 12MP (f/2.2)

Front camera 10MP (f/2.2)

The weight is 7.33 ounces

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 10:15

Motives to purchase

+ Dynamic 6.9-inch 120Hz display + Smoother S Pen performance +Powerful 50x zoom camera with laser autofocus. Very long battery life

The reasons to stay clear of


Its Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra barely beats the other phones in this list due to Samsung’s erratic post-processing. But rest sure that it’s still a fantastic camera phone.

The note 20 ultra’s main sensor, a 108-megapixel one, that was promising on the Galaxy S20 Ultra early last year, but was plagued by glitches, is now improved by the addition of a dedicated laser auto-focus sensor. The 12-MP telephoto makes use of an angled lens design to provide 5x optical power. This eliminates the 2x optical zoom in the iPhone 12 Pro and can offer an unrestricted 10x zoom as well with up to 50x zoom digital.

It’s true that the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra doesn’t provide better quality photos than Apple’s top iPhones in all instances For instance, it overly smooths faces when taking portrait shots and tends to blast out highlights. There’s not much that differentiates the overall picture quality of these phones and that the Note 20 Ultra offers arguably more flexibility, thanks to the high-resolution lens and dazzling zoom capabilities. However, considering the price of the Note, which is still a bit high you’d expect nothing less.

Check out our complete Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

A possible alternative to Galaxy S21 Ultra


Display Size: 6.7-inch AMOLED (2400×1080)

Processor: Snapdragon 888


Storage/Expandable 128GB, 256GB No

Rear camera 12-megapixel wide (f/1.8) Ultra-wide 12MP (f/2.2) 64MP Telephoto (f/2.0) equipped with 3x hybrid zoom and 30x digital

Front camera 10MP (f/2.2)

The weight is 7.05 ounces

The battery life (Hrs: Mins) 9:53

Motives to purchase

+Gorgeous 120Hz display+Excellent performance+Crazy zoom feature+Beautiful design

The reasons to stay clear of

No microSD card slot, or charger

You can easily pick to go with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra as your preferred camera phone and it’s the best option. This S21 Ultra produced the best images of all Samsung’s Galaxy S21 models released this year. At $1,199 the price isn’t inexpensive. However, Samsung launched three S21 models, and if you’re still searching for a large phone consider the $1,999 Galaxy S21 Plus.

Although it does not have the awe-inspiring zooming capabilities that S21 Ultra, it is still a great phone. S21 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Plus is still superior to other phones in this list with its incredible zoom quality. It also takes great regular images even though Samsung tends to over-expose slightly in post-production and use too much facial smoothing for selfies and portraits.

If you’re looking for a smaller, lighter phone then the Galaxy S21 has the same camera configuration as its sibling, the S21 Plus, just in a smaller size. It’s also less expensive than $799.

Read our complete Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus review.

The most affordable camera phones for iPhone users.


Display Size: 4.7-inch LCD (1334×750)

CPU: A13 Bionic


Storage/Expandable 64GB, 128GB 256GB ,

Rear camera Wide 12MP (f/1.8)

Front camera 7MP (f/2.2)

The weight is 5.22 ounces

Battery life (Hrs Mins) 9:18

The reasons to buy

+Very affordable+Fast A13 Bionic performance+Excellent camera for the price+Supports wireless charging

There are reasons to avoid

-Big bezels

The iPhone SE costs $400. iPhone SE packs the iPhone 8’s 12-megapixel f/1.8 single-lens camera, but it also comes with Cupertino’s Bionic processor, which kicks its photography computational capabilities to high speed.

The results speak for the results. Pixel 4a Pixel 4a has an advantage in nighttime photography, as well as portraits with a shallow depth of field and digital zoom. But it’s the iPhone SE is nearly as competent in many situations because it is able to benefit from the many advanced imaging techniques, including Smart HDR and Semantic Rendering.

Since it’s true that the iPhone SE lacks ultrawide or Telephoto lenses, it’s far from the best, but together with its Pixel 4a, its camera is significantly better than the cameras in the vast majority of similar-priced models that you can purchase currently. In the end, if you’re looking for an upgraded phone and aren’t spending a lot particularly the case if you need an iPhone it’s no better value available at the moment.

Read our complete iPhone SE 2020 review.

What is the best smartphone camera for you?

There are numerous things to think about when camera quality plays a significant role in the purchase of a smartphone. One way to begin is to ask yourself what kind of images you are likely to take. Not all multi-lens cameras are created equal — some have ultrawide lenses for stunning landscapes, others have telephotos for zoomed-in shallow-depth-of-field portraits, and others still have both. The most recent flagships from companies like Samsung and Huawei also have a periscope-style lens which can provide the equivalent of 10x lossless zoom which is comparable to the performance of DSLRs.

A few other things to consider The importance of megapixels is more than aperture. Cameras that have a larger aperture (lower F-stop numbers translate into bigger lenses) allow more light, which aids in capturing better images in dark. The high-resolution sensors that are found in the most recent models are beautiful, but it’s commonly believed that a higher pixel count translates directly into better photographs.

Do you require a portrait mode that can allow for backgrounds with bokeh? This is the place where your subject is clearly in focus while an artistic blur covers the remainder of the scene. While it was initially an option only available to phones with multiple cameras, the single-lens iPhone SE is capable of taking portraits with bokeh effects. Certain models let you alter the amount of blur before and after taking the picture.

The front camera’s specs are vital as well. In a time when selfies are taking more photos than ever before, it’s important to not forget about a phone’s front-facing camera. Some front-facing cameras, like the ones found on phones like the iPhone 12 and Pixel 5 can achieve the same effects in portrait mode that rear cameras can pull off. Some phones, including the old Galaxy S10 Plus, feature two cameras on the front with the second one drawing in more background information.

Don’t forget to think about the video. Cameras can capture more than just images. Take note of the resolution that the camera records video at along with frame rates. A word of caution, however: be wary that increasing the resolution could cause videos to consume larger space in your phone’s internal storage.

How do we test camera phones?

We tested the top-of-the-line phones through a range of situations for shooting like selfies, portraits, and landscapes both in daylight and night. We examine each image on a calibrated monitor to find out which handset had the highest level of clarity, accuracy, and clarity. We also conduct deep camera comparisons among the top smartphones, by employing each phone in auto mode to capture various photographs in various circumstances. After we have declared a winner of each round, we choose the overall winner of the face-off.

In all one of our reviews of smartphones, we also consider any unique features such as dual lenses and the functions they allow as well as Portrait Modes and various other unique modes before coming to the conclusion.

The top Android phones in all price points

The top iPhones that you can purchase today

Jordan is the Editor for Phones of Tom’s Guide, covering all phone-related issues. He enjoys nothing more than spending time at home with an e-book, game, or even his most recent work in writing. It’s difficult to pinpoint what Jordan is enthusiastic about, as his interest in one particular topic or task isn’t very long. Jordan is known to be a lurker on social media, however, it’s best to connect with him via Twitter.




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