If you want a smartphone with an absolutely killer camera, you have to consider a few features that set each device apart from the competition. Get these terms down before you do your shopping. Plus, read on for the best camera phones money can buy.
Aperture is important because it is directly related to the low-light camera performance of the smartphone you are considering. A lower aperture number results in more light reaching the camera sensor, which leads to better looking low-light photos.
Don't be confused by the slight mathematical difference between the aperture numbers. For example, a sensor with f/1.8 lens will let in a lot more light than an f/2.0 lens. Having a low-aperture lens will also enable you to capture portraits with a shallower depth of field and pleasantly blurry backgrounds.
#2: Optical Image Stabilization
Having a camera with optical image stabilization in your phone means that there are dedicated hardware components inside it, designed to offset the slight movements of your hands while you capture photos. You will also be able to achieve lower camera-shutter speeds and thus better low-light photos. It's also incredibly helpful during video capture.
#3: Image Processing
This particular feature is impossible to quantify, yet it truly separates a good and a great smartphone camera. Simply put, image processing involves the phone's ability to, well, process all the data captured by its camera sensor into a photograph.
With today's smartphone cameras offering similar specs, superior image processing gives the today's best devices an edge. Rather unsurprisingly, the smartphones from today's leading brands (Apple, Google, Samsung) have a lead over their competitors on this instance.
With this in mind, here's a look at our top picks:
Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+
Best for Taking Photos in Low-Light Conditions
from $720 BUY NOW
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ by Samsung pack an advanced 12MP camera sensor with blisteringly fast, dual-pixel autofocus, optical image stabilization, and a bright lens. The latter's f/1.7 aperture is larger than any of its competitors, thus giving the S8 and S8+ an edge in low-light photography.
Samsung's latest phones also offer an 8MP selfie camera whose lens has the same aperture, thus meaning that your low-light selfies are going to look great too.
The camera interface of both smartphones has an intuitive layout and a host of available features, ranging from applying goofy stickers in live view, all the way to a full set of manual controls for more advanced shutterbugs. In typical Samsung fashion, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ also offer a multitude of ways to capture your photos — from simply tapping on the display to using voice commands.
Best for Capturing Cool Panoramic Shots
from $696 BUY NOW
The LG G6 has a duo of 13MP camera sensors with phase-detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. One is sitting behind a regular lens with f/1.8 aperture, while the other one utilizes an ultra wide 125-degree lens with f/2.4 aperture.
The second camera sensor enables the LG G6 to capture excellent panorama shots on all occasions. Other phones will require you to take multiple side-by-side photos and stitch them into panoramas without guaranteed results.
In a typical LG fashion, the G6 also offers a camera interface that's brimming with features and shooting modes. They range from a simple setting where you snap photos by tapping on the display, all the way to a manual mode with a plethora of controls at your disposal.
More: Our Take on the LG G6
iPhone 7 Plus
Best for Taking Portrait Photos
from $869 BUY NOW
The iPhone 7 Plus is the first smartphone by Apple that features a dual-camera setup. In addition to the 12MP main camera with a bright f/1.8 lens that's found in the smaller iPhone 7, the Plus model packs another 12MP camera sensor, sitting behind an f/2.8 lens with twice the focal length (56 mm vs 28 mm for the regular one).
Having a lens with twice the focal length means that you can zoom in on your object without the usual loss of image quality. It also enables the iPhone 7 Plus to offer a dedicated and rather excellent portrait mode. The latter blurs the background of the people and objects in a similar fashion to a DSLR camera with an attached prime lens.
The iPhone 7 Plus also offers the best selection of third-party camera apps, as well as some of the best photo-editing apps in the business. Because of its popularity, there's also an excellent selection of accessories that will further enhance its photographic abilities.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL
Best for Never Running Out of Storage
from $649 BUY NOW
On paper, the 12MP main camera of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL doesn't look overly impressive. Sure, it has both phase-detection and laser-assisted autofocus, but its f/2.0 aperture and lack of optical image stabilization lag behind rivals from Apple, Samsung, and LG.
However, thanks to Google's amazing image processing, the Pixel and Pixel XL can capture amazing photos on just about every occasion, including in less than perfect light conditions. The smartphones currently occupy the top of the prestigious DxOMark Mobile chart, which ranks smartphone cameras after an extended period of rigorous testing in various conditions.
Another important bit to consider about the Google Pixel lineup is the unlimited cloud storage for full-resolution photos, and even 4K video that each phone comes with. You will have all your images and video content neatly organized in Google Photos.
Huawei Mate 9
Best for Capturing True Black-and-White Photos
$572 BUY NOW
The Huawei Mate 9 has a duo of cameras tuned by none other than the photography wizards from Leica. The setup consists of a 12MP color sensor with f/2.2 aperture, and a 20MP monochrome sensor with the same lens. Both sensors benefit from optical image stabilization, as well as laser and phase-detection autofocus.
The 20MP monochrome sensor is what sets the Huawei Mate 9 from its similarly priced competitors. It allows the smartphone to capture stunning black-and-white photos with amazing detail and an equally impressive dynamic range. Thanks to Leica's fine-tuning, the two sensors can also combine to deliver 20MP color images as well.
Another cool bit about the Mate 9 is its camera interface. It uses the same signature Leica font as the storied manufacturer's amazing cameras and lenses, so it will give you a cool sense of occasion every time you open the camera app. Of course, there are plenty of image-capture modes to choose from as well, including a Pro setting with manual controls.