The best camera phone for 2020

The most standout feature on a new phone is usually the camera. And in 2020 phone-makers have maximized the features and quality of their camera software and hardware more than any year in recent memory. Apple is still riding the coattails of its stellar 2019 models, the iPhone 11 Pro and the more affordable iPhone 11, both of which deliver excellent photos and videos. Google, with its computational photography-powered Pixel 4 and Pixel 4A, can go toe-to-toe with the best Apple photos, and arguably exceed them. 

Android phones offer some of the most exciting new camera features. Samsung has its Galaxy S20 Ultra with 100x Space Zoom and 8K video -- both are features the iPhone 11 Pro and Pixel 4 don't have. Sony packed its Xperia 1 II with settings and an interface that mimics its highly successful Alpha mirrorless camera line. The OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8. meanwhile, has one of the most user-friendly camera apps on the market.

As we compare the cameras on different phones, it's important to keep in mind that there isn't a "perfect" phone camera. There are definitely phones that excel at a specific feature when compared to others -- the zoom on Galaxy S20 family of phones, or Google's impressive Night Sight option for shooting after dark. There are also some phones that offer impressive specs on paper, like high megapixel sensors or multiple rear cameras -- but more doesn't necessarily mean better. I'm most interested in how the cameras perform in everyday situations in terms of features, ease of use, image quality, and price.


The best overall phone camera system

Apple iPhone 11 Pro


Apple iPhone 11 Pro


Apple's $999 iPhone 11 Pro has a triple-rear camera array featuring a main wide-angle camera, a 2x optical zoom telephoto camera and a 0.5x ultra-wide-angle camera. Those three cameras combined with Apple's Smart HDR and Deep Fusion processing yield tremendous photos with excellent dynamic range and detail. The 11 Pro also excels at video capture especially in terms of video image quality. To top things off, there's a new front-facing camera that performs at the same level as the main rear camera. The iPhone 11 Pro offers the best overall camera experience you can currently buy.


Best phone camera for photos 

Google Pixel 4


Google Pixel 4


The Google Pixel 4 launched at $800 last year, and it's already been discontinued ahead of the launch of the Pixel 5. (That model will have 5G wireless, but we don't know much more about it.) But you can still snag the Pixel 4 at prices closer to $550 in the meantime. The 2019 model takes sharp and vibrant pictures with a strong HDR effect. Photos have excellent detail and contrast which appear cinematic and dramatic. Its computational-powered digital zoom is also excellent, as is its Portrait Mode and Night Sight feature. (Its video shooting quality, however, is nothing to write home about, which is why I'd say the iPhone 11 Pro is a better all-around performer.)


Best phone camera for video 

iPhone 11 Pro


iPhone 11 Pro


Over the past few years, Android phones have caught up to the iPhone in terms of photos, but one area Apple still dominates is in video capture. The iPhone 11 Pro records the best quality video straight out of the camera of any phone we tested. Videos are consistently sharp, have good dynamic range, and are full of details. It's no wonder filmmakers like Steve Soderbergh or Rian Johnson reach for an iPhone to record a film or personal project.


Best phone camera for professionals 

Sony Xperia 1 II



Sony is after creative types who want more control over their photos and videos. That's why the company packed the $1,200 (£1,099 or about AU$2,000) Xperia 1 II with controls and tools from its popular Alpha line of full-frame mirrorless cameras. There's a physical shutter button on the phone, Eye Autofocus (which can detect and track the eyes of your subject, including pets), and three preloaded apps that take full advantage of the triple rear cameras. One is the basic Xperia Android camera app. The other two are Photo Pro and Cinema Pro, which give you detailed controls over every aspect of your phone's photo and video capture.


Best phone camera zoom 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra


Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra


Let's be clear: No one needs a 100x zoom camera on their phone let alone a feature called "Space Zoom." But remove the marketing and hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and you'll find the best zoom found on any phone today especially when you're zooming in at 4x which uses the optics of the camera without any cropping. Even at 10x zoom results are impressive. Compare that to the 2x optical zoom on the iPhone 11 Pro or the 3x optical zoom on the OnePlus 8 Pro.


Best phone camera for portrait mode 

Motorola Edge Plus


Motorola Edge Plus


The $999 Motorola Edge Plus is a spec-behemoth and marks the first high-end phone the Chicago-based company has made in years. Impressively portrait mode on the Edge Plus is outstanding. There's a time-of-flight sensor on the back of the phone that gathers depth information and makes rear portrait mode photos especially gorgeous. I was impressed by how natural and accurate the portraits I took were.


Best phone camera for night shots

Google Pixel 4


Google Pixel 4


Like many phones, the Google Pixel 4 has Night Sight, a special mode that allows you to take photos in low light and at night. Think of Night Sight like HDR for night time pictures. It produces stunning low-light photos that err toward an exaggerated "hyper-real" look versus the iPhone 11 Pro's competing Night Mode, which makes pictures that appear slightly more true-to-life. The Pixel 4 also has a dedicated astrophotography mode that activates automatically when the camera senses the scene is dark enough. Meaning you can actually capture photos of a starry sky with just your phone.


Best phone camera for selfies 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra


Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra


In a selfie camera shootout we conducted between the iPhone 11 Pro, Google Pixel 4, OnePlus 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, the S20 Ultra came out on top. It was the most consistent performer throughout all the tests, with strong video and photo results for the selfie camera. The S20 Ultra has a 40-megapixel front-facing camera that uses pixel binning to produce selfies with less image noise and with better brightness. It can shoot 4K video at 60fps.

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