The Best Camera Phones 2024

As the cliche saying goes, the best camera is the one you always have on you. That is why smartphones have become essential pieces of kit. They help document our lives and give us a window into what’s happening at any given time.

For most users, the best smartphone camera has to be ample enough that its photos are shareable on social media or printed out and hung up on the wall with little editing beforehand. Fortunately, this is the status quo, especially if you pick from the vast mid-range to marquee offerings.

We’re starting with the flagships for our best camera phones list: the best ones launched thus far. We’ll explain what you get from an Apple “camera phone” over an Android one and what differentiates the Samsung camera algorithm from Google’s.

Coming soon

  • Those of you shopping in the mid-range subset, hold tight. An update to the Samsung mid-tier Galaxy A-series is expected, as well as the relatively affordable—especially during a sale—Google Pixel 8a, which is still the cheapest way to buy into the Pixel-branded camera algorithms. We’ll be updating this page to include the best middle-of-the-road devices once they’re updated in spring 2024
  • Where is OnePlus and the regular iPhone 15? Check back soon, and we’ll have a rundown of the best camera phones under $800

Best all-around camera phone

iPhone 15 Pro/Pro Max

A photo of the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max

The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max have slightly different camera systems. Only the 15 Pro Max can go up to 5x optical zoom.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The iPhone 15 Pro is a stellar shooter, though it’s a minor improvement over its predecessor and a minimal bump from the iPhone 14 Pro. Indeed, in my side-by-side testing, the color temperature was consistent between old and new. At the very least, the iPhone 15 Pro’s primary camera has a wider aperture than the iPhone 14 Pro. In my review, I wrote, “It manifests as slightly better low-light performance for the 15 Pro, mainly where still-life photography is involved.”

The iPhone 15 Pro’s camera system includes:

  • A primary 48-MP camera
  • A secondary 12-MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom
  • A tertiary 12-MP ultra-wide-angle camera with a 120-degree field of view

There is one crucial spec to consider when choosing between small and big iPhone 15 Pro models. Only the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max has the 5x optical zoom capability, while the iPhone 15 Pro caps out at 3x optical zoom. It’s a slight differentiation, but you start seeing the limitations of the digital helper beyond that maximum.

One thing I loved about the iPhone 15 Pro’s camera during testing is that it allows you to switch between three oft-used focal lengths: 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm. You can even set one of them as the default, so if you prefer to have a cropped-in photo when you’re snapping a shot, you can set that up beforehand.

Best phone for zooming in

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

You need to touch some grass if you’re wondering why you’d want to zoom in on something far away. There is a vast world of wildlife, and a digital zoom is better than nothing. Also, if you’re a snitch like me, filing reports on polluters will be much easier as you can submit your complaint with photo evidence.

The past few generations of Samsung’s Galaxy Ultra variant have been stellar choices for capturing birds in the air, movement on a tree, or a flaring smoke stack from far away. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the latest offering, and like its predecessors, it has four cameras:

  • A 200-MP main camera
  • A 50-MP camera
  • A 12-MP ultra-wide camera
  • A 10-MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom

The primary camera tops out at 100x digital zoom, while the secondary 50-MP lens caps at 5x optical zoom, which puts the S24 Ultra on par with the iPhone 15 Pro Max. I still prefer the zoom of last year’s Galaxy S23 Ultra and its lower-resolution 10x optical zoom for sharper images—that phone I once used to capture planes in the sky. The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 50-MP camera is fine, and it’s more forgiving if I’m shooting zoomed-in without a tripod, but high-up airplanes aren’t as sharp as they were with the S23 Ultra.

Best phone for AI tricks

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of the Pixel 8 Pro

Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Google’s Pixel 8 Pro has some of the best camera algorithms in the Android sphere, especially for shooting stars. However, even with the 48-MP primary camera and 5x optical zoom, I have continued to prefer the relative sharpness of the Galaxy S24 Ultra since its launch several months ago. Where the Pixel 8 Pro shines is with all of Google Photos’ magical photo editing capabilities.

Your mileage may vary. Features like Magic Eraser, which erases unwanted subjects and shapes in the background, usually work if what you’re nixing is simple enough. Magic Editor lets you do more complicated crops, like selecting and enlarging a person or changing the background of the sky to indicate a different time of day. And although you can mix up the background blur after the fact, there are only a handful of times that they’ve made the picture better.

You’ll also have to pay for some of these features through Google One, Android’s new all-inclusive subscription plan. This plan unlocks features like Magic Eraser, Portrait Blur, Portair Light, and HDR. You won’t have access to these AI-infused capabilities unless you subscribe.