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What are the best camera phones right now?

Which smartphone boasts the best optics, for snapping photos and home movies on the go? We review our favourite mobile phone cameras in 2017, from great-value budget shooters to the most advanced premium mobile cameras which can shoot RAW images and 4K Ultra HD video.

One of the most important features for a modern mobile phone is the camera slapped on the back. After all, we’ve pretty much all ditched our digital cameras in favour of that tiny snapper, to capture everything from family fun days out to that hilarious time Dave got wasted and puked up on the cat.

Of course, not everyone can afford the very latest flagship phone packing the best camera around, so we’ve also covered the best camera phones that can be picked up for a budget of £200 or less. Here’s our complete round-up of the best camera phones in the UK as we push into 2018, however much you spend.

Best camera phones

If money is no object, we recommend the following premium phones for snapping your everyday existence.

  • HTC U11
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus
  • Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
  • OnePlus 5T
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
  • Sony Xperia XZ1
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro
  • Huawei P10 and P10 Plus

HTC U11

Price: £645
Release Date: June 2017
Our Review: HTC U11 review
Camera specs: 12-megapixel rear, 16-megapixel front

Samsung used to be the king of smartphone snappers, until HTC rose to steal its crown in 2017. The latest U11 flagship phone boasts a truly remarkable 12-megapixel snapper with a f/1.7 aperture lens, which captures stunning shots in any conditions. That includes low light conditions, a realm previously ruled by Sammy.

That HDR Boost feature helps out considerably, when contrast levels are a little tricky. You get well-balanced, great-looking photos packed with detail, even when snapping against a bright sky and the like. In fact, only the image stabilisation when shooting video is beaten by other handsets. In every other area, the U11 is at least as strong, if not stronger.

Check out our in-depth HTC U11 camera review and our comparison with the best Android camera phones of 2017.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Price: £799
Release Date: September 2017
Our Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review
Camera specs: 12-megapixel dual lens rear, 8-megapixel front

One of the fastest growing smartphone trends in 2017 has been the rise of dual lens cameras. This concept isn’t all that new, yet the likes of Apple and Nokia have jumped on the bandwagon in recent months, slapping double shooters on their flagship phones.

Samsung, for all its market-leading innovation, was strangely absent from this race – at least, until the Galaxy Note 8 was unveiled near the end of the year.

Part of the appeal with the Note’s main camera is that both the wide-angle and telephoto sensors that sit side by side, packing a 12-megapixel resolution while boasting independent optical image stabilisation. The main wide-angle snapper and the front-facing 8-megapixel camera pack impressively wide f/1.7 apertures, for superior low light performance, whilst the telephoto lens shoots with a narrower f/2.4 aperture.

Have a gander at our Galaxy Note 8 camera review for full samples and our analysis.

You can also see this Samsung snapper in action in our dual lens camera comparison, where the Note squares off against the likes of the iPhone 8 Plus and Huawei Mate 10.

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

Price: £619
Release Date: April 2017
Our Review: Samsung Galaxy S8 review
Camera specs: 12-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front

Samsung’s latest smartphone snapper on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus handsets is truly remarkable, mostly because it churns out gorgeous results every time, even if you don’t really know what you’re doing.

That f/1.7 aperture 12-megapixel camera on the back shoots detailed, beautiful images in almost any conditions. That includes dark pubs, brightly lit exteriors and everything in-between. Like last year’s Galaxy S7 camera (see below), it’s the night shots that really impress. You can also capture up to 4K resolution video, with impressive image stabilisation.

Around the front the S8 and S8 Plus also impress, with a great f/1.7 selfie camera that’s again great in low light.

Check out our guide to the S8 and S8 Plus’ camera modes for a closer look at the S8 shooter’s best features, and our in-depth Galaxy S8 camera review for all you need to know.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Price: From £629
Release Date: October 2017
Our Review: Google Pixel 2 review and Pixel 2 XL review
Camera specs: 12.3-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front

Although most mobile manufacturers have leaped onto the dual lens camera bandwagon, Google has stuck firmly with its single lens snappers for the second round of Pixel smartphones. We can’t argue with that decision either, as these handsets really do impressive when it comes to the optics.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL both sport the exact same camera tech, namely a 12.2-megapixel shooter with f/1.8 aperture lens. French optics experts DxO Labs reckon the new Pixel mobiles sport the best cameras of any smartphones to date, after awarding them a mighty 98 DxOMark Mobile score. We reckon they’re definitely at least on par with the mighty Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, capturing beautiful photos in even the most challenging conditions.

Have a gander at our Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL camera review for more info.

If you can’t quite afford the new Pixel phones, last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL original handsets also feature a 12.3-megapixel rear camera which can shoot up to 4K video, with most of the same features. You’ll still enjoy a fast shutter speed and strong results for photo and video capture.

Take a look at our in-depth Google Pixel and Pixel XL camera review to see full photo and video samples.

OnePlus 5T

Price: £449
Release Date: November 2017
Our Review: OnePlus 5T Review
Camera specs: 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel dual rear cameras, 16-megapixel front camera

Although it’s one of the cheaper flagship handsets out there, the OnePlus 5T still more than delivers when it comes to the camera smarts.

The OnePlus 5 already served up a great dual-lens smartphone snapper for under £500 earlier in 2017, yet the new OnePlus 5T improves on that camera tech with a boost to low light functionality. You can shoot great-looking bokeh-filled photos with zero effort, while night snaps look solid for the price. Home movies are also slick, with some impressive detail packed in at Full HD and 4K resolutions, along with great image stabilisation.

Head to our full OnePlus 5T camera review for samples and our comparison with the OnePlus 5’s optics.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Price: £649
Release Date: June 2017
Our Review: Sony Xperia XZ Premium review
Camera specs: 19-megapixel rear, 13-megapixel front

Sony has plenty of experience when it comes to world-class camera tech and so it’s no surprise that the optics on the latest Sony Xperia phone is truly brilliant. In fact, the Xperia XZ Premium’s snapper actually upstages the phone’s supposed stand-out feature, that 4K HDR-ready screen.

One of the biggest talking points is the insanely good (yet hard-to-master) Super Slow Motion feature, which captures incredible footage at a staggering 960-frames-per-second. However, it’s the XZ Premium’s everyday photography chops that really make it a solid smartphone snapper. You can shoot gorgeous-looking pics in any conditions, including really dark environments, using Sony’s Superior Auto mode.

Check out our full Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera review for all you need to know, plus full photos and video samples.

Sony Xperia XZ1

Price: £549
Release Date: October 2017
Our Review: Sony Xperia XZ1 review
Camera specs: 23-megapixel rear, 13-megapixel front

Sony’s Xperia XZ1 flagship phone, launched towards the end of 2017, boasts plenty of fantastic features. However, one of the biggest strengths of Sony smartphones has always been the camera tech, and the spruced-up Motion Eye snapper that sits in this mobile is definitely a highlight.

As well as packing the usual (and brilliant) Superior Auto mode, for snapping your everyday life with minimal effort, the XZ1 is perfect for action shots thanks to the smart autofocus burst mode. Even better, the video mode has been boosted by the Xperia XZ Premium’s Super Slow Motion feature. That means you can capture a home movie with stunning 960 frames-per-second segments, for impressive results.

On top of that, you can even use Sony’s 3D Creator tool to map out your mate’s head and make a virtual character out of them. Utterly pointless, yet still great fun.

Check out our full in-depth Sony Xperia XZ1 camera review for photo and video samples and more of our thoughts on this highly capable smartphone snapper.

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Price: From £719
Release Date: October 2017
Our Review: iPhone 8 Plus Review
Camera specs Dual 12-megapixel rear, 7-megapixel front

Jutting out of the back end of the iPhone 8 Plus you’ll spy what appears to be the same dual-lens camera setup to last year’s iPhone 7 Plus. Have a squint at the specs and you might think it really is identical. Once again you have a 12-megapixel wide-angle snapper, backed up by a secondary 12-megapixel telephoto lens, which gives you a closer view of your subject thanks to the 2x optical zoom.

While the specs remain very similar to the 7 Plus, Apple has made some clear changes between the launch of these two flagship phones. Photo capture has improved, with cleaner results for moving subjects as well as tweaked night time performance. Meanwhile video recording can be boosted to 4K resolution footage at 60 frames-per-second. Your home movies have never looked so natural.

Check out our in-depth iPhone 8 Plus camera review, complete with side-by-side comparisons with the 7 Plus so you can see the improvements and changes.

Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro

Price: £699
Release Date: October 2017
Our Review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
Camera specs 12-megapixel and 20-megapixel dual lens

Whilst Leica’s level of involvement is still questionable, the Mate 10 and 10 Pro both possess a serious imaging setup. Similar to last year’s Mate 9 and this year’s P10 and P10 Plus (see below), these phones pack in a 12 and 20-megapixel dual sensor arrangement on the back with an 8-megapixel front-facer, sporting an f/2.0 aperture.

The SUMMILUX-H lenses on its main camera have been completely reworked, to boast the widest aperture of any smartphone around (f/1.6). With strong low light performance, plus extra detail and depth in your shots thanks to that secondary lens, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro certainly offer some of the best smartphone optics of 2017.

There are still clear areas for improvement of course. An improvement to video stabilisation at any resolution is a must, as well as HDR shooting by default. Plus, that busy and initially confusing camera UI could use a little tweaking. Those minor complaints aside, this is a great dual lens setup – and a rival to the likes of the iPhone 8 Plus and Note 8, as you’ll see in our dual camera comparison.

Wander on over to our in-depth Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro camera review to see our samples and more on these great dual snappers.

Huawei P10 and Huawei P10 Plus

Price: £599
Release Date: April 2017
Our Review: Huawei P10 review
Camera specs 12-megapixel dual-lens rear, 8-megapixel front

Like the Huawei P9 before it, the P10 boasts a dual-lens rear camera designed in collaboration with optics experts Leica. This updated mobile snapper offers a 20-megapixel monochrome lens and a 12-megapixel colour lens, complete with Optical Image Stabilisation, PDAF and a two-tone LED flash. You can even shoot in 4K now, something missing from the P9. Nice.

If you want to know what all of that gubbins means, take a close look at the P10’s camera and video modes and browse some photo and video samples shot on the P10, check out our in-depth Huawei P10 camera review.

The P10 Plus is a small step up in terms of image quality. That f/1.8 aperture lens can soak up more light, for improved performance in dim conditions. However, it’s still not quite as strong as rivals such as the Pixel and Galaxy S7.

Check out our in-depth P10 Plus camera review for more info.

Read next: P10 Plus vs Pixel vs Galaxy S7 camera comparison

Best budget camera phones

If your budget is a bit tight but you still want a great everyday smartphone snapper, here’s some more wallet-friendly options. We’ve included some older handsets with cameras that have stood the test of time, which you can find on a more affordable contract these days.

  • Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge
  • HTC 10
  • Moto G5
  • Moto G5 Plus
  • Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus
  • Lenovo P2

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Price: £395
Release Date: March 2016
Our Review: Samsung Galaxy S7 review
Camera specs: 12-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front

If you’re after a simple-to-use point n’ shoot smartphone camera, then Samsung’s Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge flagships from 2016 are still among the very best. This 12-megapixel snapper is the same on both phones and brilliant in almost any conditions, with low light proving its specialty. Home movies also look great, with Full HD, Quad HD and 4K recording all on offer.

Our Galaxy S7 camera review tells you everything you need to know, and we’ve also taken an in-depth look at the Galaxy S7’s many camera features, including the Pro mode for confident photographers and the streaming feature for live broadcasting on platforms like Facebook.

HTC 10

Price: £385
Release Date: April 2016
Our Review: HTC 10 Review
Camera specs: 12-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera

You get some vibrant and detail-packed photos with the HTC 10’s excellent 12-megapixel camera phone, which rivals the Samsung Galaxy S7’s shooter for best camera phone of 2016. The camera app is nice and simple but boasts some solid features like RAW image support. And moving subjects are well handled, good news for parents and pet owners.

Video recording is a winner again, with up to 4K resolution supported. Video quality is excellent with some strong image stabilisation to cut down on hand judders.

Check out our full in-depth HTC 10 camera review for more info on one of the best mobile phone cameras of 2016.

Moto G5

Price: £199
Release Date: April 2017
Our Review: Moto G5 review
Camera specs: 13-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front

The Moto G4 Plus really impressed us by packing some solid optics for under £200, including full phase detection autofocus (PDAF) for a near instant shutter speed. That feature has trickled down to the newer Moto G5 handset, which is even faster at locking onto your subject than before.

The G5 packs a 13-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture lens, which is pleasingly capable in almost any kind of conditions. HDR support sorts out any kind of vicious contrast and even low-light performance is decent enough. Meanwhile the 5-megapixel front-facing camera on the Moto G5 features a wide-angle lens for cramming in plenty of heads.

Great news if you take lots of spontaneous shots too, as the Moto G5’s camera app can be activated just with a double-twist of the phone, even when the phone is hibernating.

Check out our full Moto G5 camera review for samples and analysis.

Moto G5 Plus

Price: £269
Release Date: April 2017
Our Review: Moto G5 Plus review
Camera specs 12-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front

The Moto G5 Plus may have stripped back to a 12-megapixel rear camera, which means less pixels crammed into each shot compared with the standard Moto G5 and even the older Moto G4 Plus. However, the Dual Pixel Autofocus technology and f/1.7 aperture lens matches Samsung’s brilliant Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge cameras and that kind of smartphone mettle for a budget price is definitely enticing.

Moto’s camera app is pleasingly simple to use and the main interface is free of clutter, giving you access only to the most essential settings and features. The auto mode with built-in HDR offers attractive shots even in a range of tricky conditions, while the f/1.7 aperture lens sucks up plenty of light to produce respectable night shots. You can also shoot up to 4K resolution video, on demand.

For our in-depth thoughts, check out our Moto G5 Plus camera review.

Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus

Price: £229
Release Date: November 2016
Our Review: Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus review
Camera specs: 16-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front

British brand Wileyfox really impressed us with the Swift 2 Plus, which captures detailed snaps pretty much the moment you tap the shutter button.

Our test photos look great when viewed back on a big screen, providing lighting conditions are reasonable. You get realistic colour reproduction, while the autofocus deals well with everything from up-close macro shots to sweeping vistas. Even fast-moving subjects like pets and kids are usually caught without too much blur to ruin the photo.

You can also shoot up to Full HD video, while the 8-megapixel front-facing camera captures every sag and wrinkle. Nice.

Lenovo P2

Price: £199
Release Date: January 2017
Our Review: Lenovo P2 Review
Camera specs: 16-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front

The Lenovo P2 sports a low £199 asking price and offers a whole bunch of great stuff in return. This handset’s main USP is its mighty 5100mAh battery, which delivers up to three full days of use between charges. But thankfully the P2 isn’t a one-trick pony, also packing a smart and dependable 13-megapixel camera on the rear.

Complete with a two-tone LED flash, the P2’s shooter is a perfectly decent budget effort. Lenovo’s ‘Smart’ auto mode does a respectable job of figuring out the best settings for each shot on the fly, while the Phase Detection Autofocus locks onto your subject in double-quick time.

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