Best camera phones 2020 - buyer’s guide

GSMArena team, Last Updated 02 May 2020.

The best camera phones are usually the best phones overall, and you'll mostly find flagships in this category - the likes of the latest Galaxies and iPhones typically deliver the best image quality of the time. Huawei's top dogs have also entered this race in the past couple of years, but as of mid-2019, they do come with caveats when it comes to their software future. Google's Pixel used to be an easy recommendation, but the current, 4th generation has proven to be a letdown.


Editors' choice

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

Specs
  • Big-sensor main cam gathers a lot of light, unique 9-to-1 binning helps with noise and HDR
  • Biggest sensor in a telephoto cam, and it's a 4x zoom periscope at that
  • 8K video recording.
  • Ultra expensive
  • Ultra wide cam lacks autofocus
  • 'Space zoom 100x' is for marketing only

Admittedly, we weren't ecstatic when we reviewed the Galaxy S20 Ultra at the end of February. But just because it's hard to justify spending €1300 on a smartphone that has an outlandish claim for Space zoom stamped on its back, doesn't mean we don't appreciate the Ultra for taking modern smartphone photography beyond the realm of the established.

So the S20 Ultra packs unique hardware and uses it to deliver some spectacular results. The big sensors give it an advantage in challenging light, whether its photos from the main cam or the telephoto. That telephoto is, indeed, capable of bringing distant subjects closer, but the 4x-5x is where you'd be liking the image quality and 10x is the usability threshold. Not 100x.

Video turned out spectacular, particularly so in the dark. The 8K capture capability (you'd best stick to daylight for that) is a welcome addition too even if footage is not quite amazing in quality nor do we know what to do with it at this point.

The ultra wide angle cam bugged us more than a little for its lack of autofocus while competitors are now making AF-capable ultra wides that double as 'macro' shooters, but maybe the Note20 will address that.

All in all, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is an easy pick for the Best camera phone award. For a money-is-no-object type of consumer, that is.

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Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Xiaomi Mi Note 10

Specs
  • Very versatile 5-cam setup with 2 telephotos
  • Main camera has a big, high-res sensor, similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra
  • Ultra wide cam has AF
  • Most cameras for the money
  • Midrange chipset (pretty powerful still)
  • Unimpressive video recording
  • No AF on the selfie cam

The Mi Note 10 from Xiaomi packs a ton of amazing camera hardware, and it was easily the most flexible camera phone until the Ultra arrived. It premiered the biggest and highest-res sensor on the market, a 1/1.33" 108MP Samsung unit that produces nice 27MP shots day and night.

It doesn't stop there, however, as the Mi Note 10 was the first phone with not one but two telephoto cameras, offering 2x and 5x magnification. On top of that, its ultra wide-angle cam has AF capability - it's only recently that makers are starting to catch up on that. And then there's an extra module just for close-ups - just 2MP, admittedly, but useful still.

Mind you, our raving about the Mi Note 10's camera prowess mostly applies to still images - we're not as excited about the video quality, which exhibits different flaws in different modes and resolutions. We're also still standing behind our expectation that selfie cameras should have autofocus too, and the Mi Note 10's doesn't. The (upper-)midrange chipset may not be an issue if you only care about cameras and that's okay, but back when we were reviewing it, we couldn't help but wonder if a top-end SoC could have helped with video or the occasional stutters when processing 108MP shots.

We finally got our answer with the release of the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G, which has the same camera hardware but comes with a flagship Snapdragon 865 and the corresponding high-end image signal processor. Besides the improved processing capabilities, the chipset has also enabled 8K video recording. Unfortunately, this phone is twice as expensive and has essentially the same imaging hardware, so it's hard to recommend for its cameras alone.

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Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Specs
  • Some of the most advanced auto HDR
  • Best video capture on the market
  • Very expensive
  • Somewhat dull color reproduction
  • Just 2x on the long end
  • No AF on the selfie cam
  • No AF on the ultra wide cam

The iPhone 11 Pro would be our top pick for video capture as it can record at all sorts of resolutions at all sorts of frame rates with its three cams and even do it simultaneously. It also boasts one of the smoothest video stabilization systems you can find in a phone, and the videos too can benefit from Apple's Smart HDR ensuring class-leading dynamic range.

Taking Smart HDR a notch up, Apple's Deep Fusion in stills makes for even better images than the already excellent output from before the iOS 13.2 update. Now, we're not so thrilled about the generally muted color output, but that's Apple's way of doing things.

Some other beefs we have with the iPhone include the lack of autofocus on the selfie cam and the ultra wide. Then there's the 2x optical zoom, bested by quite a few competing offerings by now. All in all, though, the iPhone remains one of the most competent camera phones around.

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OnePlus 7T Pro

OnePlus 7T Pro

Specs
  • 3x tele offers more reach than the mainstream 2x
  • AF on the ultra wide cam
  • Relatively affordable in the current landscape
  • No AF on the selfie cam

The OnePlus 8 Pro may be out, but it costs a bunch more than the 7T Pro and we're not convinced it's worth it if the camera in particular is your top priority. So we're still sticking with the OnePlus 7T for an all-round solid camera experience at a reasonable price.

It's a little above the mainstream, the 7T Pro. It's got a 3x zoom telephoto, which may be shorter than the 5x periscopes that came out his season, but it still reaches further than a Galaxy Note10 or an iPhone 11 Pro. The 7T Pro's ultra wide angle cam has autofocus, adding close-ups to the list of things the OP can do and the Galaxy and the iPhone can't. The OP from last year can't focus with its selfie cam, but that's because it's a thin elevating pop-up module that leaves the display notchless, so it's a worthy trade-off.

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Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei P30 Pro

Specs
  • 5x periscope tele remains among the longest around
  • AF on the ultra wide cam
  • About half the price of the recent P40 Pro
  • Has Google Mobile Services support, unlike recent P40 Pro
  • No AF on the selfie cam
  • Video recording isn't competitive
  • The Galaxy S20 Ultra is superior in low light, particularly when zooming in

A full one year old, the Huawei P30 Pro remains relevant. Packing a 5x periscope telephoto, it was one of the pioneers of such long teles and is still one of the longest zooms on the market. Its ultra wide-angle cam has autofocus too, adding points for versatility.

The P30 Pro, as most Huaweis until the P40 Pro, isn't quite as capable in video recording, though. Additionally, last year's Pro is missing autofocus on the selfie shooter. But at half the price of a P40 Pro we figure the tradeoffs are well worth it. Plus, the P30 Pro comes from a time when Huawei phones still had proper Google backing.

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Niche choice

Google Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 4 XL

Specs
  • Photos have that 'pixel look'
  • Competitors have caught up with the computational photography
  • Telephoto is only sort of 2x
  • No ultra wide camera at all
  • No AF on the selfie cam
  • Expensive
  • Hardware issues for yet another generation

Then there's the Pixel 4. Usually, a straight-up recommendation when it comes to taking photos on the phone, this year's model comes underequipped - it's missing an ultra wide camera altogether, and its telephoto is sort of 2x, which is still less than what a P30 Pro or a OnePlus 7T Pro will get you.

On top of that, Google's trump card of computational photography which made the Pixel unique, is no longer exclusive - everyone does image stacking and night modes now.

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Niche choice

Huawei P40 Pro

Huawei P40 Pro

Specs
  • All-round great performance from all cameras across most conditions
  • 5x periscope get closer to the action than even the Galaxy S20 Ultra's
  • Top-class selfies, properly good selfie portraits too thanks to ToF module
  • Great video quality at 30fps across the board, excellent stabilization
  • Night mode for photos isn't a big leap forward
  • 4K60 videos are disappointing
  • No Google Mobile Services support

The P40 Pro from Huawei may not have Google's blessing but that doesn't mean it's not a top-class camera phone. A 5x zoom periscope telephoto next to big-sensor main and ultra wide-angle modules make up an impressive specsheet, but more importantly, it delivers the goods. Add to that the competent selfie shooter with a ToF sidekick for portraits and it's hard to find fault with the P40 Pro's imaging department (the byproduct that is the huge pill-shaped cutout in the display doesn't count).

Not always the case on Huaweis, the P40 Pro can also shoot excellent video - that is, if you stay away from the 4K60 mode, which is a letdown. Stabilization in 30fps modes is top-notch, though.

The reason we have some reservations about recommending this phone whole-heartedly is the lack of Google services integration. Sure, it doesn't have to do anything with camera performance, but as things stand, we feel this phone is not for everyone. This is also one of the reasons why we still keep the Huawei P30 Pro on this recommendation list as well.

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Value proposition

Realme 6 Pro

Realme 6 Pro

Specs
  • Versatile triple focal length setup on the back
  • Two selfie cameras, ultra wide one is particularly hard to find
  • Low-light performance isn't great out of the telephoto and the ultra wide
  • No stabilization in 4K video

There's the occasional phone that punches above its weight in one area or another and when it comes to cameras, the Realme 6 Pro is one such example. It packs a full-featured triple focal length system on its back with a high-res 64MP primary unit, an 8MP ultra wide and a 12MP telephoto (plus a 2MP 'macro' we debated even mentioning). It's not quite up there with the flagships in low light, but the main cam fares well, and daytime shots with all three cams are great.

But there's more - the Realme 6 Pro has not one but two front facing cameras. Next to the main 16MP shooter, there's a wider 8MP unit for group shots or to lend more context to your selfies. Where's the wide selfie cam of the Galaxy S20 Ultra or the Huawei P40 Pro, we ask?

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Best phones by category

Reader comments

  • sadest

just throw it in the trash

  • Ehsan Ansari

That's was so helpful.

  • Mosio

What about redmi note 9 Pro?????