The camera of a mobile phone is among the decisive features today to opt for one model or another. After all, it is a camera that always accompanies us (since we always carry our cell phone on top).
And since most phones – especially high-end phones – are very similar in terms of performance and screen quality, photography and video is where manufacturers can differentiate their offer from that of their rivals.
The objective behind this comparative article is to discover which phone has the best cameras to take pictures, videos and selfies
We have tested and compared five phones with the best cameras currently available: iPhone XS Max, Galaxy S10 Plus, Google Pixel 3 XL, Huawei P30 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9.
As the iPhone XS has cameras identical to those of the Max, our comments apply to both phones. And the same goes for the Pixel 3, which shares the cameras of the XL.
Samsung uses the same rear cameras on the S10 as the Plus we discussed here, but the S10 lacks the secondary camera with depth sensor in the front, so our review in this case it only partially applies to S10.
You will not find all the flagship phones in this article, since we only include those that have cameras good enough to be called "the best".
This is not determined by the specifications or features, but by the quality of the photos and videos they produce.
How we test mobile cameras
Instead of trying to compare the cameras scientifically, we took pictures and videos as anyone would. This means using the default settings and taking pictures by hand, not with a tripod.
The only settings we changed were to disable the beauty modes of the cameras selfie and choose the highest resolution and frame rate for video samples, so you can see the best quality offered.
Most manufacturers make 1080p at 30fps the default setting because it uses much less storage space, but this is far from being the best quality available: all the phones in this review They are able to record in 4K.
We have kept comparisons with the main functions: photos with the main camera (including portrait modes with blurred backgrounds), selfies and videos. The additional modes, or lack thereof, have no impact on our verdicts.
The experience of taking photos is almost as important as the results, so the application of the camera is a key factor in our reviews, since this can make the difference between a phone that offers a completely perfect photographic experience to another that has just become a nightmare.
Our hope is that you end up with a very good idea of how the cameras of each phone work in the real world, but judging the image quality is inherently subjective.
Some people prefer processed images, because they are clearer and have saturated colors, while others prefer a more natural look. In addition, the screen on which photos and videos are displayed also influences.
That is why we have uploaded the original files of each phone so you can see the photos and videos in full size and decide for yourself, taking into account your own priorities, which phone you should buy.
To make conclusions
Instead of judging the photos by viewing them on the screen of each phone independently, we open them in Photoshop on a calibrated Philips Brilliance 272P. This is a 27 screen in 4K that allowed us to see all the details in the 4K video.
Keep in mind that your own screen may have a lower resolution and may not produce accurate colors.
|Rear camera (s)||Front camera (s)||Video (Highest Quality)||Special tools|
|Apple iPhone XS / XS Max||12Mp + 12Mp (2x zoom)||7Mp||4K at 60fps, without stabilization||Portrait lighting, adjustable depth of field|
|Google Pixel 3 / 3XL||12.2Mp||8Mp + 8Mp||4K at 30fps, stabilization||Top Shot, Super Res Zoom, Night View|
|Huawei P30 Pro||40Mp, 20Mp (wide angle), 8Mp (5x zoom), depth||32Mp||4K at 30fps, stabilization||Night mode, light painting, 960 fps in slow motion, AI Cinema|
|Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus||12Mp + 16Mp (wide angle), 12Mp (2x zoom)||10Mp + 8Mp||4K at 30fps, without stabilization||960 fps in slow motion, HDR10 video|
|Xiaomi Mi 9||48Mp + 16Mp (wide angle), 12Mp (2x zoom)||20Mp||4K at 30fps, without stabilization||Night mode, lighting effects|
Which mobile phone has the best camera?
Best camera on a mobile phone (2019): Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro has better cameras than all the phones available at this time. The main rear camera is simply amazing, capable of taking fantastic photos even in low light.
The other cameras cannot match the quality, but they add great versatility. The wide-angle camera is ideal for indoor or landscape photography, but it is the zoom 5x peak which impresses most.
Like all the phones here, the P30 Pro is not perfect: the screen has a lower resolution than we would like (especially considering its price) and the mono speaker seems to take a step back.
The video quality has improved, but it is still behind the best (iPhone XS and Xiaomi Mi 9).
As you see in the comments that follow, there are other excellent options besides the P30 Pro. Although we do not include it in this summary, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is almost as good, and if you do not need a zoom or a wide-angle camera, Google's Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL offer sharp and detailed images.
The Xiaomi Mi 9 deserves to be in this comparison as it is capable of making fantastic photos and stunning videos.
And it is not surprising that the Galaxy S10 Plus is our new favorite of Samsung: it is the first to have a triple rear camera, so better than the S9 if you want to have a wide-angle lens in addition to telephoto.
The iPhone XS and XS Max can no longer say they have the best cameras, but they are still impressive in every way when there is a lot of light.
Compared to the P30 Pro, they lack the capabilities of zoom and wide angle, and with a lower resolution main sensor they cannot solve the same amount of detail.
Other phones with good cameras
The models mentioned above are the best, but if you cannot justify the purchase of a flagship phone, here are some cheaper alternatives that we have tried and that have impressed us:
Reviews of the cameras of the smartphones
1. Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro surprises us even more with a zoom 5x magnification through a periscopic arrangement. Then he adds a fourth camera that is dedicated to detecting the depth of the objects in the scene.Huawei is now in a leading position in the field of photography, having already impressed us with the P20 Pro and then building on that success with the Mate 20 Pro.
One of the advantages of the system is that the P30 Pro is able to use its main camera for portrait photos and therefore offers the same field of view. Most of their rivals make zoom In this case, although it is not an overwhelming problem, it can be a bit irritating.
However, they are the capabilities of zoom those that really distinguish the P30 Pro. If you think a 2x telephoto lens is suitable, you will quickly change that opinion once you have used the 5x objective of the P30 Pro.
As before, there is a hybrid mode that uses the extra detail available from the 40Mp main sensor along with the 8Mp sensor behind the periscope lens to offer what Huawei calls "10x zoom without loss."
It works in a different way to Google's Super Res Zoom. We think it is more effective, but it is obvious that just looking at the photos at 1: 1 in Photoshop is not free of losses.
Scrutiny aside, it is impossible not to be impressed by the details that the P30 Pro can capture. To capture our sample photos, we are located next to the St. Pancras hotel in London.
You can see that there is a lot of detail and clarity in the 10x photo. Even at 5x, the P30 Pro is able to surprise: there is simply no competition with others zooms 2x
What is even more impressive if one takes into account the range that is offered, from the wide-angle lens equivalent to 16 mm to the telephoto lens equivalent to 5x of 125 mm: no other telephone is so versatile.
By default, Master AI, the processing of artificial intelligence images, is disabled, and in most cases you are likely to leave it as such. There is still a tendency to saturate everything too much when it is on, but not as much as in the P20 Pro.
What we haven't even talked about yet is the 40Mp Super Sensing 'enhanced camera. Huawei got rid of the traditional RGB sensor by one with two yellow subpixels instead of green ones.
This is because yellow is more sensitive to light and makes the sensor capable of capturing 40% more light.
Therefore, in addition to taking sharp and detailed images during the day, it is possible to take amazing photos in the dark, even if your hands shake.
Night mode works similarly on the P20 Pro, combining a selection of photos taken over a period of 8 seconds.
So, yes, we have seen it before (already the Pixel 3 brought us Night Vision). However, its super high sensitivity means that you can get colorful images even when it is practically dark. This seems almost magical.
The main camera is the one that is used most of the time, as it provides the best photos. In the sample phone that Huawei provided for this test, the photos of the wide-angle camera had noticeably different colors than those of the main and telephoto cameras, being darker and more saturated.
This is more annoying when a video is recorded and changed from the main camera to the wide-angle one, as the colors change visibly.
The camera application similar to Apple's is quite easy to use, but it is packed with too many settings and functions. One of the features we wish it had is the HDR car.
But no. Although Huawei has improved the HDR mode on the P30 Pro, it is still an independent mode that must be changed manually.
And so, for most of the time, you will not use it, which is a shame, since it is very good.
The P30 Pro is Huawei's first phone that offers 4K stabilization, but there is still no option to record at 60fps. The video quality is very good, with many details and good stereo sound.
The stabilization is not very good in 4K, unfortunately, so you may want to stay in 1080p or invest in a mobile stabilizer.
As if the 24Mp of the front camera were not enough, Huawei has updated it to 32Mp in the P30 Pro.
It takes a very good self-esteem to take selfies with a camera capable of taking out as much detail, although we really did not see as many details as we expected, surely some kind of "beauty" or noise elimination processing even when the slider is set to zero .
Therefore, the P30 Pro is not perfect: wide-angle cameras and zoom They have their flaws.
But in general, the versatility and the fact that you can bring the zoom and get details where other phones can't, just like shooting with an incredibly low light, make the P30 Pro our smartphone Favorite to take pictures.
You can read the review Complete the Huawei P30 Pro by clicking on this link.
2. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The cameras of the S10 Plus are very different from those of the S9 Plus. Instead of minor tweaks, Samsung has added a third camera that goes with the 12Mp main camera and the 12Mp telephoto camera.
It is a wide angle with a 16Mp sensor, which means that the S10 Plus, and the regular S10 that share the same configuration of the rear camera, now have a larger range than ever.
The main camera is basically the same as that of the Galaxy S9. Your iris can change between two openings: f / 1.5 (major) and f / 2.4 (minor). This is useful as it can be opened to let in more light at night and close with bright light to offer more sharp photos.
The telephoto camera is also the same, with zoom 2x and optical stabilization. The newcomer receives a 16Mp sensor and a wide-angle lens that is the equivalent of 35mm of 13mm with an aperture f / 2.4.
Given the quality of the cameras of the S9, it is not surprising to see a similar quality in the photos of the S10 Plus. They have a great dynamic range, so there are many details both in the shadows and in the lights. Auto HDR means you don't have to think about whether you need to enable this option or not.
The white balance is generally reliable, so the colors are very good in almost all lighting, except when it is very dark. We did zoom on a big screen and we saw a lack of sharp and fine details, but this is a minor complaint. You will not notice the effect of the variable aperture, since you will mainly use f / 2.4 in daylight.
The zoom 2x works well enough, but obviously it cannot compete with the 5x objective of the P30 Pro. As with the main camera, the exposure, white balance and colors are very good.
The images taken with the wide angle obviously lack details when the image is enlarged, but there is no obvious decrease in sharpness, as is usually the case at the edges of the lens.
In vertical mode, the S10 Plus uses the same field of view as the main camera and does a good job of depth detection.
There is a more realistic gradient in the blur of the foreground in the background that makes the portrait photos of the S10 more convincing than those of other phones.
But you still can't properly isolate the strands of hair, as revealed by any thorough examination.
As for the video, the S10 Plus offers great stabilization in 4K, but not if you choose to record at 60fps. However, it is no longer limited to five minutes per clip as with the S9.
Another update of the S9 is a beta option to record video up to 4K30 in HDR10 +, which is great if you have a TV compatible with this standard.
Just watching the HDR video on the S10 Plus screen, the difference was obvious to see with better contrast and colors.
The camera application uses the same format as most of the others, so it can pass from one mode to another. In a useful way, the configuration allows you to customize the modes that are displayed, so that you can delete categories such as 'food' or any other that you don't use.
Where the S10 Plus decays a bit is in low light conditions. There is no night mode or manual extended exposure mode. This means that you will end up with blurry photos if you select a long shutter speed in Pro mode, although this can be fixed with a good tripod.
Double front cameras can easily be confused with a standard and wide configuration as in Pixel 3, but the objective on the right is purely for depth detection.
There is an option for a wide range of options, but it does not look anything like the difference you get with the Google phone.
However, the selections are quite good, and the depth chamber certainly seems to improve the isolation of the subject. There are several modes available in the 'Live Focus' mode including Zoom, which we use to make the selfies in the published galley.
Overall, the S10 Plus has excellent cameras. Its strengths include portrait modes for the front and rear cameras, and great video stabilization (in addition to the ability to record in HDR10 +).
The zoom It is much more limited than that of the P30 Pro, as is the low light capabilities of the S10 Plus. But if you prefer to buy Samsung instead of Huawei, the S10 and S10 Plus are good options.
You can read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus here.
3. Xiaomi Mi 9
This phone can compete with the best of Huawei, as well as with Samsung and Apple. The same goes for the cameras of the Mi 9. Xiaomi has been playing to try to catch up with Huawei for quite some time, and the truth is that with the Mi 9 it has almost succeeded.
The triple rear configuration is the first we see of this type in a Xiaomi mobile. It is very similar to the S10 with a wide angle camera and 2x telephoto lens, but the main 48Mp sensor steals the show.
This works in the same way as the Huawei 40Mp sensor: it uses a technical pixel-binning where a group of four pixels are treated as one, with colors averaged through them (and other information) to produce a high quality 12Mp photo.
You just have to look at the photos to see that the exposure is perfect, the colors are natural (the white balance is generally reliable) and the details are very clear.
Only when you examine the photos with Photoshop it becomes clear that the very small details lose quality compared to the P30 Pro, but this is a very minor complaint since this is hardly noticeable.
What is possibly more impressive is that the photos of the Mi 9 are better than those of the iPhone XS. Thanks to this high resolution sensor there are more details and the noise is kept under better control, especially in low light.
The telephoto of the Mi 9 is also better, in addition, it is able to offer more details than Apple.
We are particularly impressed by the portrait mode of the Mi 9 as it does a brilliant job of isolating the subject from the background creating the popular effect Bokeh. In addition, you can adjust the effect by editing a photo on the camera roll, just like on the iPhone XS.
Another of the strengths of the Mi 9 is the video. By default it is the usual 1080p30, but you can change it to 4K30 or even 4K60. When you do this, you will not see any message about the deactivated functions: the stabilization option remains active even in 4K60.
However, we realized that it was quite ineffective in that way, but at 4K30 you can expect excellent results: smooth, detailed footage with very little noise. Autofocus performance is exemplary and exposure changes are not abrupt.
The stereo audio is also quite good and the only area in which the iPhone XS exceeds the Mi 9 within the videos is the dynamic range. This does not mean that the footage of the Mi 9 has a limited detail of shadows and highlights: only that the iPhone XS captures more of it.
The Xiaomi camera application mimics that of the iPhone, which means that it is quite intuitive. There are a couple of additional modes, but Night mode is not very active when it is very dark.
In very low light a long exposure is needed, but the results are not impressive: it cannot compete with the P30 Pro or the Pixel 3.
However, with a moderately low light, there is a remarkable improvement, as you can see in the galley that we have climbed with figures on a shelf, where there are many more details in the Batman suit and many more details in the shadows.
Around the front is a camera selfie of 20Mp. It captures many details and even does a good job of portrait photos, again with very good isolation of the subject and the background.
Overall, the Mi 9 cameras are awesome. The zoom It is not as capable as the P30 Pro and is not as good in low light, but if you like the Mi 9 (especially its low price), then you will not be disappointed with your photos or videos.
You can read more about the Xiaomi Mi 9 by clicking on this link.
4. Google Pixel 3
Quite the opposite. Thanks to the so-called Computational Photography 'of Google and the Visual Core chip there is a lot of intelligent processing that makes some photos and videos look great.The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have the same cameras. Although the hardware It's not that fancy, with a single rear camera, don't make the mistake of thinking it's not good.
Starting with the hardware, the main camera still has a 12.2Mp sensor, a Sony IMX363. There is no laser focus (as in Pixel 2), but phase detection is used with good results: the auto focus is still very fast even in dim light.
The characteristics of software They are the most prominent in this case: zoom in super resolution, night vision and Top Shot. Super Res Zoom takes several photos and uses the small differences along with Google's computing power to create pixels intelligently and get a better quality photo than the one that would create a simple interpolation.
Night Vision works similarly to create a correctly exposed image instead of a too dark one. The exact technique has not been revealed, but the results speak for themselves.
It is possible to obtain fantastic results in dark conditions as long as there is no movement in the scene beyond the trembling hands.
Top Shot shoots a series of photos and automatically selects the best, eliminating those where a person's eyes were closed or not smiling. And it works very well. However, it is not always active, even if you think you should have done it.
If there is good light, the photos of the Pixel 3 are as incredible as you can expect. The detail is sharp, the white balance is excellent and, thanks to the HDR +, the dynamic range is impressive.
Despite the single camera, the portraits are very good and the blurred backgrounds seem authentic, with generally precise isolation of the subject. However, it is easy to detect errors, and a trained eye will know immediately that it is "false."
In spite of all the intelligent programs, the Pixel 3 stays behind its rivals, who are getting more lenses than ever. Super Res Zoom works as advertised, but only to a certain extent.
It is not up to the standard of the phones with a zoom 2x optical and certainly cannot compete with the 5x periscope lens of the P30 Pro (nor, in fact, the 3x telephoto lens on the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro).
And, of course, it lacks a wide-angle lens for panoramic shots, so you'll have to use the panoramic mode.
The camera application is great. But the slider does not indicate the factor of zoom, so we have approximated a 2x zoom, as well as 5x and 10x to match the P30 Pro. In these shots, the deficit becomes evident when the masonry of the St. Pancras Hotel becomes blurred in our photo.
As the Pixel 3 is not noticeably cheaper than its rivals, we cannot help but wish that Google had spent the money invested in Super Res Zoom on a second sensor and lens.
In fact, Google gast on a sensor and an extra lens, but we found them in the front. This is without a doubt because many people now do more. selfies anything else.
Therefore, in addition to the camera selfie standard, there is also a wide angle. Both have 8Mp sensors, but with the great image processing that is enough detail for beautiful photos.
You cannot choose the camera you want to use: there is a slider zoom that goes from wide angle to zoom and portrait mode works anywhere in the range.
The wide angle setting is ideal for group photos, but it makes the Pixel 3 more suitable for people who prefer to take group photos instead of others' photos.
The video capture is exactly the same as that of the Pixel 2, shooting 4K at a speed of up to 30fps. Stabilization is a combination of electronics and optics and works in all resolutions.
It is a pity that 60 fps are not available in 4K and that Google has not yet improved the slow motion options: you are still limited to 120 fps at 1080p and you can only shoot 240fps at 720p. However, the Pixel 3 gains a flickering sensor that eliminates the glow effect that is obtained from indoor videos recorded under artificial light.
There are advantages to buying the Pixel 3, including the fact that you get free and unlimited storage in Google Photos for photos and videos at full and original resolution.
This lasts until January 31, 2022, and can save you a good amount in cloud storage.
Although you can criticize Google for certain decisions about the cameras and capabilities of Pixel 3, the main camera takes exceptional photos. If you do not want or need the cameras and additional functions available on other phones, the Pixel 3 is still a great option for photography.
Read our full review of the Pixel 3 XL by clicking on this link.
5. iPhone XS / XS Max
So the arrangement remains the same as in the iPhone X (whose cameras were already very similar to 7 Plus) with a standard and telephoto camera on the back and a single camera selfie which uses the Face ID 3D scanning system with depth detection for select portraits.Like Google, Apple better cameras in its XS and XS Max models mainly by using ingenious tricks of software instead of any other update of hardware important.
A feature that was not previously available is the updated Smart HDR mode, which is capable of taking many more photos and instantly combines them into an image with an excellent dynamic range: you can even take photos with the sun shining behind a subject and an So get decent results.
The video has no HDR, but the extended dynamic range continues to make a notable difference and, as always for an iPhone, the iPhone XS produces fantastic and stable footage and can record at 60 fps in 4K, although not with stabilization in that setting.
Another novelty for the XS and the XS Max was the possibility of changing the depth of field, that is, the amount of background blur, in the portrait photos after they were made.
It works well and it is certainly a function that is good to have, but as with Smart HDR, it is not a revolutionary function. In fact, if you already have an iPhone X or even an 8 Plus, it is not worth updating just for the XS cameras.
There is no real change in the capabilities of the slow motion function: you can choose between 240fps or 120fps at 1080p. The difference is that there is no longer the option of 240 fps at 720p.
What you get with the iPhone XS are consistently good photos. The focus, white balance and exposure are reliable, and the images have a great dynamic range.
HDR is used automatically when necessary: nine frames are mixed almost instantly. If you go to the Settings application, you will find an option in the Camera section to deactivate the automatic HDR and choose to keep the normal photo as well as the HDR version.
It remains a frustration that you cannot change the video resolution or frame rate in the camera application, but at least the application itself is exceptionally easy to use.
Where rivals get ahead of Apple is in the low performance. The XS simply can't keep up when it gets dark. There is no night mode or any software to stabilize the long exposure handmade shots. We may see this on the iPhone 2019 …
As long as you take pictures before it gets dark, you should be happy enough. And you could be even happier using the iPhone XS portrait lighting effects that work very well.
The iPhone XS also makes very good selfies And in general, the depth sensor does a great job, but as with any other system, it may seem false if the strands of hair are wrongly blurred.
When it comes to selecting, Apple better the vertical mode in the XS and the results are excellent. It also demonstrates that it doesn't always take more than a 7Mp sensor to get great looking photos.
The iPhone XS and XS Max have great cameras and take great photos in almost all conditions. It is true that they are not the best cameras on the market, and that they have low light, but if you are from iOS before Android, they are the best you can find today.
Read our full iPhone XS Max review by clicking on this link.
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