Buyer's Guide to the Best Cellphone Cameras

Narrow your search for a high-quality smartphone camera

Not all cellphone cameras are created equal. Megapixels count, of course, and the more the merrier, but megapixels aren't as important as aperture, which is indicated by f-stop number — the lower the better. A camera with a wide aperture lets in a lot of light, which translates directly into better nighttime or other low-light images.

Some smartphones are equipped with dual lenses on their rear-facing cameras to deliver depth-of-field effects, while some use their dual lenses to switch between standard and wide-angle modes. All the best smartphone cameras also record video, so video resolution is also important when evaluating phone cameras. Most of the top cameras offer 4K video.

Here's a look at 10 of the best smartphone cameras on the market.

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Apple iPhone XS

iPhone XS and XS Max

Apple Inc.

Overall, it's hard to top the 12-megapixel telephoto and wide-angle cameras on Apple's iPhone XS. The wide-angle camera has an f/1.8 aperture, while the telephoto camera has an f/2.4 aperture. The six-element lens has optical image stabilization and captures a wide color gamut. 

The camera has Portrait mode, portrait lighting, autofocus, and tap to focus. The body and face detection features are excellent. Even Apple's popular Live Photos have stabilization.

The 4K video capture displays beautifully on the smartphone's screen.

The 7-megapixel, f/2.2 front-facing camera on the iPhone X delivers portrait mode effects that usually require dual rear cameras.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Introduces New Galaxy Note 8

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 gives the iPhone a run for its money. A curious blend of mini-tablet and phone, the Galaxy Note8 has a dual-camera configuration. One 12-megapixel lens had an f/1.7 aperture, and the 12-megapixel telephoto lens has an f/2.4 aperture. The dual cameras deliver a 2X optical zoom, and both lenses feature optical image stabilization.

The Note8 can take a close-up shot and a wide-angle shot at the same time. You control the amount of background blur in the photos using the Live Focus feature and can adjust the blur after the photo is taken. The video is captured at 4K.

The front-facing 8-megapixel, the f/1.7 camera uses the Smart Auto Focus feature to track the faces in any shot.

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Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel, Pixel 2, Pixel 3, and Pixel XL phones.

The Google Pixel 2 XL excels in low light. Its single 12-megapixel rear-facing camera uses computational photography to generate portrait style images similar to those produced by dual-lens cameras. This smartphone camera has an F/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, laser autofocus, and touch focus. 

The 8-megapixel front-facing camera lens uses an f/2.4 aperture. 

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Samsung Galaxy S8

A shot of a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone with a white background.


Boasting one of the smartphone industry's most advanced cameras, Samsung built the S8 with a 12-megapixel dual-pixel sensor and an F/1.7 aperture lens. The camera shoots beautiful video at 4K resolution.

The S8 offers an optional Pro mode for experienced photographers. It allows the user to adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure, white balance, color tone, and manual focus.

The video is captured at 4K. The 8-megapixel front-facing camera has smart autofocus and an f/1.7 lens.

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HTC U11 Life

HTC U11 Life


With 16-megapixel f/2.0 rear-facing and front-facing cameras, the HTC U11 Life delivers high-quality images in a smartphone that costs much less than its competitors. This camera uses Phase Detection Autofocus to deliver superfast focus speeds with little blur.

This smartphone's weather-resistant IP67 rated package makes it possible to take great pictures in rainy or snowy situations.

4K video recording and high-resolution audio combine to deliver memorable videos.

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OnePlus 5T

OnePlus 5T smartphone at angle


The OnePlus 5T captures crystal-clear shots thanks to its 16- and 20-megapixel, f/1.7 aperture cameras, which are optimized for low light and portrait photography.

The OnePlus 5T uses Intelligent Pixel Technology to merge four pixels into one whenever the ambient light is low. This feature reduces the noise in low-light images and enhances clarity.

The stunning 4K video benefits from advanced image optimization to banish shaky video forever.

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Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Three Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphones side by side


The Huawei Mate 10 Pro dual-lens camera has the smallest aperture of any smartphone camera on this list. At f/1.6, it is designed to excel in low-light situations and offer blur-free images of moving objects. The 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and 12-megapixel RGB sensor with optical image stabilization capture even more light. 

The 8-megapixel front-facing camera has an aperture of f/2.0.

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Photo from Amazon

The dual cameras of the LG G6 switch easily between standard and wide-angle 13-megapixel capture. The standard camera offers optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture. The f/2.4 aperture, the wide-angle lens does not offer stabilization but excels at landscape photos.

The G6 delivers more accurate color than most of its competitors. 

The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel, f/2.2 camera.

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ZTE Axon M

ZTE Axon M

Photo from Amazon

The foldable dual-screen ZTE Axon M may make you do a double-take, but don't overlook the fact that it has only one camera, a 20-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture front-facing camera that is designed to function both as a selfie and rear camera. There's no image stabilization with the Axon M, so you need steady hands when taking nighttime shots. In bright daylight, it delivers good detail. The camera takes 4K video.

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Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom

The dual-lens of the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom capture everyday scenes and dark environments with a 12-megapixel, f/1.7 aperture wide-angle lens, while the 12-megapixel 2.3x optical zoom captures high-quality close-ups. When you want to get even closer, use the camera's digital zoom technology to up the magnifications to a 12x view.

The Zenphone 3 has a 13-megapixel front-facing camera.

This smartphone is half the price of others on this list, which makes it an excellent choice for bargain smartphone hunters.