The best camera phones for 2021, tested by our expert editors

Here are the very best phones for photographers, whether you're a seasoned pro or just want the sharpest photos without trying.

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The best camera phones for 2021, ranked

  1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  2. Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
  3. Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
  4. Google Pixel 4a
  5. Vivo X60 Pro
  6. Oppo Find X3 Neo
  7. Apple iPhone 12
  8. Huawei P40 Pro Plus
  9. realme X3 SuperZoom
  10. Apple iPhone SE 2020

How did we pick this list?

The camera on a phone is more than just the sum of its megapixels. For that reason, Finder's expert team of reviewers have extensively tested the cameras of every phone on this list. When we're reviewing a phone, we put a special focus on its camera capabilities because it's such a key value area for most smartphones.

Our editorial team chose the phones in this list based on a weighted balance of camera features, quality and our experiences when testing them, compared to other phones available in the market. The selection and order were not based on our overall phone review scores.

Read our full methodology below.

Compare the best camera phones of 2021


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Lots of shot choices and easy shooting modes put Samsung on top

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Superb 120Hz display
  • Great camera array
  • S-Pen Compatibility

Cons

  • S-Pen/Charger/Headphones aren't included
  • Galaxy S22 isn't that far away
  • Exynos version slower than US Snapdragon model

Why we chose it

Samsung's premium 2021 Galaxy S series flagship tops our charts of the best camera phones you can buy right now, and not without reason. While Samsung brought in periscope zoom lenses in the Galaxy S20 family, the refinements it placed in the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G give it a degree of zoom sharpness that we just haven't seen in any other handset. Combine that with a wide array of rear lenses to cover every shooting need, and you've got a highly capable camera handset. On the downside, you can't boost the storage, so you'll need a good cloud photo backup strategy. Samsung uses AI to improve focus speed, and that mostly works – but when it doesn't it can go a touch off-track, as we found in our review. A battery pack might also be wise, as there's no included charger in the box.

Read Finder's full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G review


Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

The iPhone to buy for serious photographers

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Best cameras in any iPhone to date
  • A14 processor is very powerful
  • Good battery life
  • IP 68 water resistance and ceramic shield glass

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy and large
  • iOS doesn't make the most of a large screen
  • Aussies don't get the best 5G options Apple can make

Why we chose it

Lots of smartphone users only look to Apple for their camera goodies, and if that's you, then look no further than the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's very explicitly Apple's premium camera phone offering, leveraging the company's ability to merge hardware and software features like no other. The inbuilt sensor shift stabilisation on its lenses allows for some truly superb photography, and Apple's own ProRAW standard allows the pro shooters a lot of flexibility when it comes to post-processing. Not that this is a camera phone only for the pros, however, as Apple's camera app does a lot of the selections for you by default.

On the camera front, however, the iPhone 12 Pro Max isn't the sharpest for very low light detail, and while it can stretch to 2.5x optical zoom, that's still well behind the competition. Like every iPhone ever, you're also limited to just the onboard storage on the phone, though naturally Apple would love it if you also invested in an iCloud subscription for your photo backups.

Read our full Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max review


Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G

Premium camera features without the premium price tag

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great cameras for the price
  • 5G version has a nice fast processor
  • Wide range of colour choices

Cons

  • 4G model isn't as nippy
  • Average battery life
  • Plastic body

Why we chose it

Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE offers the essential Samsung Galaxy S20 experience with one big point of difference: It's substantially cheaper. On the camera front, however, that still leaves you with most of the S20's best features to play with. You get "Space Zoom" at up to 30x, and while that full expansion leaves a lot to be desired, you can still get some great shots if you keep your zoom aspirations modest. It's also a very good phone for shooting in low light, especially at its price point.

For camera users, there are some compromises in play. The plastic body isn't as robust as the full metal bodies of regular Galaxy S phones, which could be an issue in the field. It's also not the best battery performer if you're going to be shooting video or lots of stills work away from a charger for any length of time.

Read Finder's comprehensive Samsung Galaxy S20 FE review


Google Pixel 4a

A great camera phone for photo novices on a budget

Google Pixel 4a
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Better night photography than similarly priced phones
  • Decent storage
  • Has a headphone jack

Cons

  • Plastic body
  • No wireless charging
  • Average battery life

Why we chose it

Google's cheapest Pixel in its current lineup gets our nod in the lower-cost camera category simply because, while it's limited to single rear and front lenses, Google's AI makes an awful lot out of those simple camera setups.

As it's done since the Pixel line debuted, the secret sauce here is Google's AI work in photo optimisation, making it an ideal phone to give to somebody who actively doesn't want to learn about apertures and exposure times, but instead wants pleasing photos with minimal effort. The Pixel 4a is especially good in low light, right up to astrophotography shots, although you will need a tripod for that to even be a possibility.

One the downside you're stuck with a fixed storage allocation in a plastic body phone, and for the same money you could get any number of mid-range phones with 3-4 lens choices at the rear. Still, if you want simple and effective, the Google Pixel 4a is the way to go.

Read Finder's in-depth Pixel 4a review here


Vivo X60 Pro 5G

A superbly stabilised camera at a nice price

Vivo X60 Pro 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Good cameras
  • 3 years of Android updates
  • Good price point

Cons

  • No storage expansion
  • No wireless charging
  • No water resistance
  • Annoying camera watermark

Why we chose it

The Vivo X60 Pro 5G's camera claim to fame is the inclusion of an inbuilt gimbal stabiliser for both still and video shooting work. In combination with its primary 48MP f/1.5 sensor it can deliver some really pleasing photos, even if you're not a camera pro. It's also rather keenly priced for its general performance if you're just after a good all-round phone.

The Vivo X60 Pro 5G manages zoom well at standard optical length and even a little with hybrid digital, although predictably if you take it to its full length you do end up with a lot of image issues.

Read Finder's comprehensive Vivo X60 Pro review


Oppo Find X3 Neo 5G

Oppo's lower-end flagship phone has impressive cameras and a good price

Oppo Find X3 Neo 5G
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Good app performance
  • Lovely 90Hz display
  • Good overall cameras

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • No water resistance
  • ColorOS wants lots of permissions

Why we chose it

Oppo's current flagship is the Oppo Find X3 Pro with its fancy microscope camera, but for our money, the camera phone to buy if you're an Oppo fan is the more affordable Oppo Find X3 Neo.

The Oppo Find X3 Neo takes a more traditional camera path than its pricier sibling, with a primary 50MP f/1.8 sensor, 16MP f/2.2 Ultra-Wide, 13MP f/2.4 telephoto and 2MP macro lens on the rear, and 32MP front facing "selfie" camera.

That camera recipe gives you a lot of choices when composing your shots. While most 2MP Macro lenses aren't even worth looking at, the X3 Neo does a fairly good job of getting those close-up shots without losing detail or focus too quickly.

On the downside, while you do get 256GB of onboard storage, there's no way to expand that out with microSD cards. It's also lacking in water resistance, which means it's probably not the camera phone to take on your next fishing trip.

Read Finder's complete Oppo Find X3 Neo review


Apple iPhone 12

Apple's balanced and more affordable camera phone

Apple iPhone 12
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Camera gives better low-light shots
  • Apple A14 Bionic runs ludicrously fast
  • Improved Ceramic Shield glass

Cons

  • Dual cameras on a flagship is a little odd
  • No charger or headphones included
  • Battery life is still low for a premium priced phone

Why we chose it

The iPhone 12 – not the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max or iPhone 12 Mini – was our choice as the best iPhone on a balance of price and features for 2020 and early 2021. On the camera front while you don't quite get the photo toolkit of the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max, you're still getting some nicely optimised dual 12MP sensors at the rear capable of delivering some very nice shots. It makes the iPhone 12 a good choice for everday camera phone users who want to stay within the Apple camp but without spending the full premium commanded by the Pro iPhones.

The big caveat here is that the iPhone 13 family is expected to launch around the September/October timeframe, and it may be worth waiting to see what kinds of camera goodies Apple's updated smartphones bring to bear.

Read Finder's in-depth Apple iPhone 12 review


HUAWEI P40 Pro+

Amazing camera capabilities hampered by software

HUAWEI P40 Pro+
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Amazingly flexible and powerful cameras
  • 5G ready
  • Stylish design
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Quite heavy
  • Expensive
  • No Google apps
  • APK installing is super risky
  • Huawei App Gallery is still full of dodgy junk

Why we chose it

If we're talking purely cameras, then Huawei's astonishing Huawei P40 Pro Plus should sit at the number one spot. It combines a primary 50MP f/1.9 sensor with a 40MP Ultra Wide sensor and dual 8MP 10x/3x optical zoom sensors into a package that can deliver truly stunning results in even the most challenging situations.

So why isn't it sitting at the number one spot? It's because while it's an Android phone, the US government restrictions on Google means that it's limited to the open source bits of Android only. This means no Google apps, including Google Photos, but also no Google Play store, which means if your camera journey includes popular photo editing apps, you're not likely to find them in Huawei's jumbled and slightly dodgy App Gallery alternative.

It's a crying shame, because the P40 Pro+ is a superb example of what a company can do when it puts lots of resources into photography – but it's otherwise not a phone we can heartily recommend.

Read Finder's Huawei P40 Pro+ review


Realme X3 SuperZoom

Get up close and personal with your subject on a budget

Realme X3 SuperZoom
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Plenty of processing power
  • Zoom cameras work well
  • 120Hz display

Cons

  • No storage expansion
  • No wireless charging
  • Battery life could be better

Why we chose it

The typical stomping ground of a realme phone is in the budget space, but the Chinese maker flexes its muscles into the mid-range with the realme X3 SuperZoom. As the name suggests, the inclusion of a zoom lens – in this case an 8x optical periscope lens – is a key selling point. Combine that with a pixel binning 64MP sensor and you can really push the realme X3 SuperZoom out quite a lot before you start to lose serious detail.
Like many lower cost phones there's also a 2MP macro lens on board, although like so many of those similar handsets it's not a highlight. You're also constrained to onboard storage only, and the lack of water resistance means it might not be great for those rainy day shooting sessions.

Read Finder's realme X3 SuperZoom review


Apple iPhone SE (2020)

An affordable way into Apple's camera systems

Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Image: Alex Kidman/Finder

Finder Score:

★★★★★

Pros

  • Apple A13 processor is very powerful
  • A lower cost entry point for iOS phones
  • Small size is easy to carry

Cons

  • Only a single lens camera feels cheap
  • Low light shooting is poor
  • Battery life is sub-par

Why we chose it

Apple isn't really into the whole "cheap" thing, except in the few instances where it is. The Apple iPhone SE 2020 is a considerably lower-cost iPhone option, and with that low price come some specific camera compromises. You do get access to the wide array of very smart iOS Camera apps, and its single lens does shoot quite well, but at the same price point you could easily have a triple or quad lens Android camera phone. You're stuck in the doldrums of Apple's fixed storage allocations as well, and with battery life that may leave you wanting.
However, if your smartphone OS of choice is an iOS and you're on a tight budget, it's the camera option for you.

Read Finder's full iPhone SE 2020 review


Compare the best camera phones of 2021

Compare the specs and purchasing options of each phone in the table below. (Click on "View Details" for more product specifications.)

Name Product Display Display Rear camera Battery size Overall rating More info More info
Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G
6.9
inches

2400 x 1080

  • Display

    6.9 inches

    2400 x 1080

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 108MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,500 mAh
12MP + 108MP + 12MP
4,500
mAh
View details
Huawei P40 Pro
6.58
inches

2640 x 1200

  • Display

    6.58 inches

    2640 x 1200

  • Rear camera

    50MP + 40MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,200 mAh
50MP + 40MP + 12MP
4,200
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
6.5
inches

1242 x 2688

  • Display

    6.5 inches

    1242 x 2688

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,000 mAh
12MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,000
mAh
View details
Oppo Find X2 Pro
6.7
inches

3168 x 1440

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    3168 x 1440

  • Rear camera

    48MP + 48MP + 13MP
  • Battery size

    4,260 mAh
48MP + 48MP + 13MP
4,260
mAh
View details
Google Pixel 4a
5.8
inches

1080 x 2340

  • Display

    5.8 inches

    1080 x 2340

  • Rear camera

    12.2MP
  • Battery size

    3,140 mAh
12.2MP
3,140
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G
6.7
inches

2400 x 1080

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    2400 x 1080

  • Rear camera

    64MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,300 mAh
64MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,300
mAh
View details
Google Pixel 4 XL
6.3
inches

1440 x 3040

  • Display

    6.3 inches

    1440 x 3040

  • Rear camera

    12.2MP + 16MP
  • Battery size

    3,700 mAh
12.2MP + 16MP
3,700
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
4.7
inches

1334 x 750

  • Display

    4.7 inches

    1334 x 750

  • Rear camera

    12MP
  • Battery size

    1,821 mAh
12MP
1,821
mAh
View details
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
6.9
inches

1440 x 3200

  • Display

    6.9 inches

    1440 x 3200

  • Rear camera

    48MP + 108MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    5,000 mAh
48MP + 108MP + 12MP
5,000
mAh
View details
Realme X3 SuperZoom
6.6
inches

2400x1080

  • Display

    6.6 inches

    2400x1080

  • Rear camera

    64MP + 8MP + 8MP
  • Battery size

    4,200 mAh
64MP + 8MP + 8MP + 2MP
4,200
mAh
View details
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Compare up to 4 providers


Methodology

150+
Mobile phones reviewed
10,000+
Hours spent testing
10
Best phones ranked
  • We've spent thousands of hours testing mobile phones with a particular focus on each phone's camera features and output.
  • Our editorial team has a combined 60+ years of experience writing about tech and reviewing the latest devices.
  • The phones on this list are chosen by our editorial team and are not based on commercial relationships.

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