The Best Camera Phones for 2023

Your phone is the camera you always carry. If you haven’t upgraded it in a few years, you should be pleasantly surprised by how much phone camera performance (particularly low-light image quality) has improved. In fact, we’ve pretty much reached the point at which you can leave your old point-and-shoot at home.

But not all phone cameras are equal. We put every phone we review through a rigorous series of camera evaluations to determine the best performers on the market and gathered our top picks here. You never have to worry about carrying a separate camera if you’ve got one of these in your pocket, and each is a stellar smartphone, too. Read on for our top picks, followed by what to look for in a good camera phone.

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Deeper Dive: Our Top Tested Picks

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Best for Content Creators

Why We Picked It

The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the pinnacle of iPhones, including its camera. It has it all: optical zoom, stabilized lenses, a big screen for editing, and excellent battery life for extended shooting. The iPhone platform also tends to have the best third-party camera and social media apps, making this the prime choice for content creators.

Who It’s For

People who are serious about their photography—and especially about their videography—should spring for the iPhone 14 Pro Max.


  • High-quality hardware
  • Always-on display includes widgets
  • Top-notch cameras
  • Stellar wireless performance


  • Pricey
  • Dated design and Lightning connector

Read Our Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max Review

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Most Zoom Power

Why We Picked It

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is the only US phone with a 10x optical zoom lens. You can even get to 100x hybrid zoom through a combination of the device’s 200MP main and 12MP ultra-wide lenses. It’s a lot more zoom power than is available anywhere else, even if those 100x zoom shots aren’t perfect.

Who It’s For

The S23 Ultra’s class-leading zoom power lets you get closer to the action than any other camera phone. If you photograph a lot of sports or wildlife with your mobile device, you will really appreciate its reach.


  • Large, bright display
  • Speedy performance
  • Excellent cameras
  • S Pen integration
  • Solid battery life
  • Durable hardware
  • Strong software update commitment


  • Expensive
  • Big, heavy build

Read Our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review

Apple iPhone 13 mini

Best Small iPhone

Why We Picked It

The iPhone 13 mini is by far the smallest good camera phone on the market. From a camera perspective, that means you can easily hold it in one hand and hit the shutter button while doing something with your other hand—which can be really difficult with a lot of other handsets right now.

Who It’s For

Anyone who regularly tries to shoot photos with one hand should check out the iPhone 13 mini. Your thumbs will thank you.


  • Most powerful small smartphone
  • Beautiful build
  • Better battery life than iPhone 12 mini


  • Shortest battery life of iPhone 13 family

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Best Android Camera Overall

Why We Picked It

The Pixel 7 Pro’s combination of sensors, lenses, software tweaks, and Tensor processor algorithms keeps Google near the top of the camera phone game. Highlights include Magic Eraser (to get rid of photobombers), Real Tone (to capture accurate skin tones), and Face Unblur (to remove blur from faces in motion).

Who It’s For

Serious smartphone photographers who prefer Android to iOS and don’t need (or want to pay for) the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s superzoom lens should go for the Pixel 7 Pro.


  • Excellent photography features
  • Powerful software tools
  • Fast, pixel-rich display


  • Shorter battery life than the Pixel 7
  • Connectivity could be better

Read Our Google Pixel 7 Pro Review

Google Pixel 6a

Best Affordable Android Camera

Why We Picked It

Pro-level camera phone quality doesn’t have to cost over $600. Google’s Pixel 6a uses the same Tensor chip for processing photos as its more expensive brethren, which means the same super-fast autofocus, smart color judgment, and AI-enhanced editing features. It does lack the Pixel 7 Pro’s optical zoom, however.

Who It’s For

The Pixel 6a is best for buyers on a budget who want the best possible camera quality.


  • Excellent overall value
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Vibrant OLED display
  • Solid camera


  • Lacks microSD card slot and 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Doesn’t support wireless charging
  • Weak cellular performance in some areas

Read Our Google Pixel 6a Review

Samsung Galaxy S23

Best Small Android Phone

Why We Picked It

Many Android phones are now so big that one-handed photography and video recording can get pretty awkward. That’s not the case with the small (but premium) Galaxy S23, which comfortably fits in one hand.

Who It’s For

If you often need to take photos of something you’re holding in one hand with the other hand, the standard Galaxy S23 is a good choice. If you aren’t committed to Android, check out the iPhone 13 mini instead.


  • Pocket-friendly size
  • Strong performance
  • Good battery life
  • Respectable cameras
  • Reasonable price


  • Slower charging than S23+ and S23 Ultra
  • No ultra-wideband (UWB) support

Read Our Samsung Galaxy S23 Review

Samsung Galaxy S23+

Best Galaxy S23 for Most People

Why We Picked It

The Galaxy S23+ doesn’t capture headlines for its photography features like the S23 Ultra, but it still produces very good images with plenty of saturation. You also get many capture modes, including high-resolution images, nighttime scenes, and multiple exposures. It’s our top all-around choice for Android phones based on price, performance, and features.

Who It’s For

The Galaxy S23+ is the mainstream Android choice, especially if camera quality doesn’t outweigh everything else for you.


  • Excellent performance
  • Big, vibrant display
  • Fantastic cameras
  • Impressive battery life
  • Industry-leading software upgrade policy


  • Lower resolution than the Galaxy S23 Ultra
  • No S Pen
  • Expensive

Read Our Samsung Galaxy S23+ Review

Buying Guide: The Best Camera Phones for 2023

Which Phone Has the Best Camera?

One thing we find frustrating with modern smartphones is that often, the best cameras aren’t available on phones in the US. There’s intense camera innovation going on from manufacturers such as Honor, Oppo, and Xiaomi, but for various reasons, these manufacturers don’t sell their phones stateside.

In the US, Apple, Google, and Samsung phones typically have the best cameras. Higher-end devices tend to perform better, but the gap is closing, especially if you primarily take photos in good light. Sony phones also have good cameras, but their latest models are expensive and difficult to get in the US.

Apple’s iPhone cameras tend to be the benchmark in the creative industries. They’re dead simple to use and offer excellent focus and balanced colors. Google’s Pixel cameras are like the Apple of Android: fast, simple, and balanced.

Samsung’s phones typically have more lenses, modes, and options than Apple’s or Google’s. Samsung’s top innovation right now is super-zoom: The S23 Ultra has a 10x optical zoom with decent resolution at up to 30x digital zoom. Neither Apple nor Google can match that feature. Samsung also tends to amp up colors more than Apple, which causes some controversy, but might be what you’re looking for.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera stack

The Galaxy S23 Ultra offers 10x optical zoom
(Credit: Eric Zeman)

The most important factor in any photo isn’t the camera—it’s the photographer. No matter what phone you have, following our camera expert Jim Fisher’s tips and tricks for camera phone photos can make your images better.

Which Camera Phone Features and Accessories Do You Need?

A few years ago, we saw a blossoming trend of phones with multiple lenses, which is still in full bloom. Many phones now have a standard lens, a magnifying zoom lens, and a wide-angle lens. Monochrome or infrared time-of-flight sensors can help judge depth for bokeh effects. Less successful lenses and sensors we’ve seen include color filters (you can do this very well in software) and macro lenses for close-ups (slowly improving).

Although super-high-megapixel camera phones are becoming more popular, the options are scant in the US. The 200MP sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is the exception. The advantage of that many pixels is that you can zoom and crop images after the fact or perform lossless digital zooming in your camera app without relying on an extra magnifying lens. The disadvantage is that the individual pixels can sometimes be very small, creating problems for color capture or low-light photography.

Superzoom lenses are also popular. Phones now combine high-megapixel sensors, optical magnifying lenses, and advanced software to give you 30x, 50x, or—in the case of the Galaxy S23 Ultra—100x zoom. In general, anything much higher than 10x shows heavy digital artifacts. But a good 10x zoom, as you get on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, is still a big step forward from what we used to have.

Google Pixel 7 sample photo of a playground

Image from the Pixel 7 Pro
(Credit: Dave LeClair)

Sensor size is a separate matter from the megapixel count. Unfortunately, most of the phones available in the US fall behind their international competition. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 1/1.3-inch primary sensor and the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max’s 1/1.28-inch sensor are among the biggest you can buy in the US. Compare those with the Sony Xperia Pro-I’s industry-toppling 1-inch primary sensor, and you can see we still have a way to go. Larger sensors are arguably more important than a higher megapixel count because they capture more light in less time. That translates to less blur and sharper photos, particularly in challenging light.

The most advanced night modes combine close to a dozen successively shot frames to brighten up photos and improve clarity. They appear to have long, multi-second exposures, but they use AI software to reduce blur by aligning the various images together. (You still shouldn’t use them for moving subjects, though.) Google’s Pixel phones, Apple’s iPhones, and Samsung’s Galaxy S phones all have excellent night modes.

Google’s camera software also has top-notch features such as Magic Eraser (removes unwanted objects), Real Tone (ensures accurate skin tones), and Face Unblur (leans on the other lenses to make sure everyone’s face in an image is sharp).

A good Pro mode can tie all these individual facets together and make for a powerful platform. Most phones have manual settings that allow you to tweak the exposure, aperture, and focus point to get exactly the shot you want. If you’re getting into smartphone photography, take some time to learn how manually adjusting things like aperture, ISO, and shutter speed can improve your photos. If you need a fast shot, however, all the phones on our list use machine learning and other software smarts to take incredible photos without any manual tweaks.

Railroad tracks over water in park

Image from the iPhone 14 Pro Max
(Credit: Eric Zeman)

Why do so many photographers rely on iPhones? The availability of third-party camera apps plays a big role. Some are available for Android, but apps that professionals use still tend to come out first and see more frequent updates on iOS.

For more, see our story on the best phone and camera gimbals.

Recommended by Our Editors

Which Phone Is Best for Video Recording?

In the TikTok and Instagram Reels era, video is more important than ever. Here are some features to look for.

Optical image stabilization is always better than electronic or digital image stabilization because it leads to less jittery videos. Many high-end phones now use both, giving a Steadicam-like effect.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max camera module

The iPhone 14 Pro Max lets you record video in Dolby Vision
(Credit: Eric Zeman)

Although 1080p video is still good enough for most people, many phones can record in 4K. 8K recording is becoming more common on Android flagships now, too. 8K requires a massive amount of storage—about 600MB per minute—and right now its primary use is for editing videos on a PC after the fact, especially if you want to be able to crop and zoom. If you’re not sure how to do that, see our tips for how to get images (and other media) off your phone.

Slow-motion videos can make for some exciting effects. Although most phones can now capture up to 240fps (1/8 speed), some can go up to 960fps (1/32 speed). Keep an eye on how long a phone can record slow-mo, though, because it can be tricky to grab a scene if you only have 0.2 seconds of recording time. Many phones also have other video tricks like time-lapse, hyper-lapse, and video bokeh or HDR modes.

How Do Camera Phones Compare With Standalone Cameras?

For the ultimate in image quality, the best possible low-light performance, killer optical zoom, or a good macro shot, you still need a dedicated SLR or mirrorless camera. Our list of the best digital cameras is a great place to start. And be sure to check out our beyond-basic photography tips.

If you don’t need to take professional shots, however, a top smartphone camera should suit you just fine, and you can’t go wrong with any of our picks here.

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