Best phone cam­eras

JIM MARTIN tests the best smart­phones on the mar­ket to see which has the best photo and video skills

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Flag­ship phones have got to the point where raw per­for­mance doesn’t re­ally need to get much bet­ter, and so they are dif­fer­en­ti­ated by their de­sign, bat­tery life, unique fea­tures, and pho­tog­ra­phy ca­pa­bil­i­ties. We’re fo­cus­ing on the lat­ter here, given that for many peo­ple a smart­phone now re­places a phys­i­cal cam­era. Our aim: to dis­cover what is the very best phone cam­era money can buy, for pho­tos, videos and even self­ies.

We’ve tested and com­pared four phones with the best cam­eras cur­rently avail­able: Sam­sung Galaxy S9 Plus, Google Pixel 2 XL, HTC U12+ and the Huawei P20 Pro. You won’t find ev­ery flag­ship phone here, as we’re in­clud­ing only those phones which have cam­eras good enough to be called ‘the best’. That isn’t de­ter­mined by spec­i­fi­ca­tions or fea­tures, it’s judged by the qual­ity of the pho­tos and videos they pro­duce. It’s why you won’t find the Sony XZ2 or OnePlus 6 here, among oth­ers.

How we test

Rather than us­ing con­trolled con­di­tions and at­tempt­ing to com­pare the cam­eras sci­en­tif­i­cally, we took pho­tos and videos just as any­one would. That means us­ing the de­fault set­tings out of the box and tak­ing pic­tures hand-held, not with a tri­pod.

Cam­era tests

We’ve kept the com­par­isons to the core func­tions: pho­tos with the main cam­era (in­clud­ing por­trait modes with blurred back­grounds), self­ies and videos. Although you won’t find side-by-side com­par­isons, we also tested out other modes of­fered in­clud­ing slo-mo and took pho­tos us­ing each phone’s sec­ond cam­era, where pos­si­ble.


The ex­pe­ri­ence of tak­ing pho­tos is al­most as im­por­tant as the re­sults, so the stock cam­era app is a key fac­tor in our re­views as this can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a phone that’s a joy or a pain to use as a cam­era.


Our main aim is to give you a very good idea of how each phone per­forms in the real world, let you see ex­am­ples of the pho­tos and videos it takes and be able to de­cide for your­self – bear­ing in mind your own pri­or­i­ties – which phone you should buy.

Note that not ev­ery­one agrees on the def­i­ni­tion of ‘best’. Some pre­fer pro­cessed images which are sharp­ened and have sat­u­rated colours, while oth­ers pre­fer a more nat­u­ral look. Plus, the screen on which you view the pho­tos and videos has an in­flu­ence too.

Draw­ing con­clu­sions

We judged every­thing not on each phone’s own screen but on a cal­i­brated Philips Bril­liance 272P. This is a 27in 4K dis­play which al­lowed us to see all the de­tail in UHD video. Re­mem­ber that your own dis­play may have a lower res­o­lu­tion, and may not pro­duce ac­cu­rate colours.

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