One of the biggest reasons to buy a high-end phone is for the camera. Whether through computational processing or the use of as many lenses as possible, phones are taking good enough photos these days that most people don’t even consider a dedicated camera. Luckily, there are plenty of options for people that want effortless point-and-shoot style photography, as well as those who want to go more in-depth or have different needs in a phone beyond the camera. The best Android camera is on the Google Pixel 5 because it’s simple to use yet produces amazing photos in all conditions.
If you want the very best camera experience you can get on an Android phone, the Pixel 5 is what you need to buy. The 12MP primary and 16MP ultra-wide sensors might not sound all that impressive, but when combined with Google’s unmatched image processing, you end up with a phone that takes incredible pictures every time you press the shutter button. Day or night, inside or outside, the Pixel 5 churns out consistently amazing results.
While Google may have the upper-hand in the camera game, for now, Samsung is quickly catching up to it. Samsung’s image processing is still more saturated and less lifelike than Google’s, but if all you care about is getting a great-looking photo for Twitter or Instagram, the S21 has you covered. It’s also more functional than the Pixel 5, offering a 64MP telephoto sensor and a 12MP ultra-wide lens with a wider field-of-view.
The OnePlus 8 Pro really upped its game in the camera department, with a great main sensor that rivals the best out there. Its wide-angle and telephoto shooters aren’t quite as good, but at the same time, it’s also less expensive than phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra while still offering a similar experience across the board. This is the best camera system OnePlus has ever made, and it’s well worth your attention.
The Pixel 4a makes cuts across the hardware and specs to meet a much lower-than-flagship price, but one area Google didn’t skimp on is the camera. This is the same camera you get with the more expensive Pixel 5, and the front-facing camera produces the same sort of results as well. If you want access to one of the best cameras around while staying on a budget, you can’t do better than the 4a.
Telephoto camera sensors aren’t anything new for smartphones, but more often than not, they leave a lot to be desired. With the Galaxy S21 Ultra, that’s no longer the case. Thanks to its 108MP primary camera and two telephoto cameras — one offering 3x zoom and the other supporting 10x — the result is a phone that captures some of the most impressive zoom photos we’ve ever seen.
All of the phones on this list are capable of taking very good video, but if you want to make sure your home movies look as good as can be, the Xperia 1 II comes out ahead as the go-to pick. Offering three cameras and a time-of-flight sensor, the Xperia 1 II has incredibly fast focus speeds, records in 4K HDR, and offers full manual video controls you won’t find anywhere else. It takes some time to master, but once you get a feel for it, the potential is unreal.
If we’re making some Android camera suggestions
The Google Pixel 5 is the best overall Android camera available, and one of the best Android phones around, based on its fantastic ability to capture beautiful photos in every situation without any tweaking, guessing with settings, or edits after capture. You are getting fewer sensors than other options on this list, but you’ll forget all about that when you see the kinds of pictures you can take with the primary and ultra-wide cameras that are present. An intriguing option for budget buyers is the Pixel 4a, which nearly matches the Pixel 5’s camera quality for hundreds of dollars less.
The Galaxy S21 is more versatile than the Pixels, with improved zooming, a more useful ultra-wide camera, and wide-reaching software that combine to give you more shooting options. Its retail price is more expensive than the Pixel 5, though, and ultimately doesn’t reach the same incredible heights of photo quality.
Speaking of Samsung, we have to give a special mention to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The high price tag is bound to keep some potential customers at bay, but if you can stomach the MSRP, there’s so much to sink your teeth into. In addition to those outstanding zoom pictures, the S21 Ultra also impresses with its natural bokeh, vivid colors, and incredible detail. Samsung’s ample shooting modes are also greatly appreciated, even if you don’t use every single one.
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