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Best budget camera phones: The greatest mobile snappers for £299 and under

Want a killer smartphone camera, but don’t have much cash to spare? Don’t worry, plenty of value-packed mobile phones boast a feature-filled snapper, for budgets of under £300 SIM-free. Here’s out pick of the best budget camera phones you can buy right now.

These days, you no longer have to splash out for a pricey flagship smartphone to get a worthy mobile camera. Obviously the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and the Google Pixel 2 pack the best phone camera tech around. However, you can get away with spending half as much and still get a great camera for everyday use.

In this group test we’ve gathered our favourite great-value mobile phones which rock an excellent rear camera. They’re all under £300 SIM-free (maxing out at around £30 per month on contract), while some of them dive beneath the £200 mark. Yet many of these camera phones can shoot up to 4K resolution video and pack features like slow motion capture.

If your budget expands beyond the £300 price point, go check out our selection of the best camera phones you can buy.

Best camera phones on a budget: Sony Xperia XA2

Price: £299
Our Full Phone Review: Xperia XA2 review
Our Camera Review: Xperia XA2 camera review

One of Sony’s best affordable phones of recent times is the Xperia XA2, boasting gorgeous premium-style design and some rather decent specs. All for under £300 as well. Of course, one of the most impressive features is that 23-megapixel rear camera. Given the budget price point, this smart snapper is an effective tool for recording your treasured memories.

Our test photos after a full week of use rarely failed to impress. Every shot is crammed with detail and accurate, stand-out colours. Even in tricky lighting conditions, the Xperia XA2 punches above its weight thanks to Sony’s excellent Superior Auto Mode. Plus, that supremely fast autofocus means you’ll never miss a key moment.

You can shoot Full HD video at up to 60 frames-per-second, for hyper-realistic results. Alternatively you can also record in 4K resolution, just like with the Moto G5 Plus. Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation tech makes for smooth, decent-looking video, even at Ultra HD.

Selfie lovers will also enjoy the 8-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera, complete with palm gesture shutter action. However, there’s no kind of screen flash feature, so you’re stuffed in low light.

Best camera phones on a budget: Moto G5 Plus

Price: £259
Our Full Phone Review: Moto G5 Plus review
Our Camera Review: Moto G5 Plus camera review

The great-value Moto G5 Plus boasts a ‘best in class’ 12-megapixel rear camera, complete with Dual Pixel Autofocus technology and an f/1.7 aperture lens – in other words, it sounds suspiciously similar to the brilliant Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge cameras.

Our tests revealed that the Moto G5 Plus is indeed a solid budget snapper, capable of capturing good-looking, accurate images in most conditions. Built-in HDR helps to deal with tricky lighting, ensuring your photos are packed with detail even when you have to shoot into the light. Meanwhile when conditions get a little dim, that f/1.7 aperture lens can suck up quite a lot of light. The result is a lot less grain in the end result.

You can shoot Full HD 1080p footage at either 30 or 60 frames-per-second, while the G5 Plus also boasts the ability to capture 4K Ultra HD resolution video. Detail levels are strong, complete with decent lighting and accurate colour reproduction.

Best camera phones on a budget: Honor 7X

Price: £279
Our Full Phone Review: Honor 7X review
Our Camera Review: Honor 7X camera review

We’ve seen plenty of premium phones sporting a sexy edge-to-edge screen design in recent times. However, that kind of gorgeous finish is seeping into the mid-range market now also.

As just one example, Honor served up that slick stylistic finish to the mid-range market with its Honor 7X. Thankfully this affordable handset is much more than just a pretty face, boasting a dual lens camera that’s impressively good for the price.

You get a primary 16-megapixel lens, which is backed by a 2-megapixel secondary lens for depth of field. Results are strong in all but low light, with realistic colours and crisp detail. Video also comes out well, although image stabilisation is rather basic.

Best camera phones on a budget: Samsung Galaxy J5 2017

Price: £230
Our Full Phone Review: Coming soon
Our Camera Review: Coming soon

Although the Galaxy J5 sports a significantly pared-down camera experience compared with Samsung’s more premium models, we’re still impressed. No matter what you’re trying to capture, the J5 often succeeds. Not too shabby considering that low, low asking price.

On full auto mode you can snap some great looking shots in all kinds of dodgy lighting, even in high contrast situations. The 13-megapixel lens sports an f/1.7 aperture which is particularly great in low light, meaning less fuzz in your photos. And if conditions are good, you can expect plenty of detail and rich, vibrant colours.

Video results are also fantastic for this price point. Resolution maxes out at Full HD but our footage was once again highly detailed and looked great when viewed back on a telly. However, like most of the other phones here, the image stabilisation is once again balls. Definitely keep as still as possible when shooting.

Best camera phones on a budget: Huawei P10 Lite

Price: £279
Our Full Phone Review: Huawei P10 Lite review
Our Camera Review: Huawei P10 Lite camera review

Although the P10 Lite doesn’t really share much DNA with the flagship Huawei P10, it’s still a solid mid-range mobile with some reliable camera tech slapped on the back. That 12-megapixel primary camera captures well-exposed shots with accurate colour reproduction, plus higher-contrast situations are ably handled by a wide dynamic range. Low light shots also come out strong, with a surprisingly low amount of grain.

Huawei’s camera app is absolutely stuffed with bonus features too, with some tools rarely seen out of premium smartphones. This includes pro video controls and the nifty light painting mode, for jazzy nighttime results. In fact, the only real shortcoming is the lack of decent image stabilisation when shooting video.

Best camera phones on a budget: Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus

Price: £199
Our Full Phone Review: Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus review

On the back of the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus you’ll find a 16-megapixel snapper bolstered by a dual-LED flash. At this price point it’s a pleasingly dependable shooter and a definite step up from the standard Swift 2’s 13-megapixel camera.

That autofocus is as fast as a Geordie when last orders are called, with the ability to burst shot by pressing your finger down. Focus deals well with everything from up-close shots of wildlife to sweeping landscape photographs. Even fast-moving subjects like pets and kids are usually caught without too much blur to ruin the photo.

You get a number of different camera modes, which can be flipped between with a flick of the finger, as well as some basic manual controls to take direct control. Thankfully auto mode does the job in the majority of cases, offering crisp detail and respectable colour capture. Low and tricky light can cause the Swift 2 Plus to stumble on occasion, but that’s exactly what we’d expect at this price point.

You can once again shoot up to Full HD video, with solid results when viewed back on a big telly.