Notebookcheck

Notebookcheck's Top 10 Camera Smartphones

Daniel Schmidt, 👁 J. Simon Leitner, Felicitas Krohn (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 02/15/2018

February 2019 Update. Smile please! Here you will find the best smartphones for digital photography including a big picture comparison. Our list of the best camera smartphones is regularly updated, maintained, and commented on and should assist in purchasing decisions.

The time of digital compact cameras is over. Smartphone cameras and their sensors as well as the corresponding miniature lenses, but especially the picture editing software have improved so much by now, that smartphone cameras can easily replace average compact cameras. At least the best smartphones, because there are still big differences in terms of picture quality. Our ranking includes the best camera smartphones for digital photography. They performed well in our reviews and we have also included a big picture comparison of all Top 10 smartphones. We also recommend checking our following rankings for further information:

The following table shows an overview of the Top 10 camera smartphones (camera rating) as reviewed by Notebookcheck in the last 12 months. If ratings are equal, the latest review is listed first. The table can be sorted by clicking its headers and filtered by entering text in the text field above it.

Best Camera Smartphones as of January 2019

Pos.DateCameraRatingImageModelHeightWeightSizeResolutionBest Price
104/201897%92%Huawei P20 ProHuawei P20 Pro
HiSilicon Kirin 970
ARM Mali-G72 MP12
6 GB Memory, 128 GB UFS 2.1
7.65 mm174 g6.1"2240x1080
208/201897%89%Samsung Galaxy Note 9Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Samsung Exynos 9810
ARM Mali-G72 MP18
6 GB Memory, 128 GB UFS 2.1
8.8 mm201 g6.4"2960x1440
303/201895%91%Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusSamsung Galaxy S9 Plus
Samsung Exynos 9810
ARM Mali-G72 MP18
6 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
8.5 mm189 g6.2"2960x1440
402/201993%92%Huawei Mate 20 ProHuawei Mate 20 Pro
HiSilicon Kirin 980
ARM Mali-G76 MP10
6 GB Memory, 128 GB UFS 2.1
8.6 mm189 g6.3"3120x1440
509/201792%89%LG V30LG V30
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (8998)
Qualcomm Adreno 540
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
7.3 mm158 g6"2880x1440
609/201889%91%Apple iPhone XSApple iPhone XS
Apple A12 Bionic
Apple A12 Bionic GPU
4 GB Memory, 512 GB NVMe
7.7 mm177 g5.8"2436x1125
709/201788%89%Apple iPhone 8 PlusApple iPhone 8 Plus
Apple A11 Bionic
Apple A11 Bionic GPU
3 GB Memory, 256 GB NVMe
7.5 mm202 g5.5"1920x1080
810/201888%89%OnePlus 6TOnePlus 6T
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Adreno 630
6 GB Memory, 128 GB UFS 2.1
8.2 mm185 g6.41"2340x1080
911/201886%88%Sony Xperia XZ3Sony Xperia XZ3
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Adreno 630
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
9.9 mm193 g6"2880x1440
1010/201886%90%Apple iPhone XRApple iPhone XR
Apple A12 Bionic
Apple A12 Bionic GPU
3 GB Memory, 128 GB NVMe
8.3 mm194 g6.1"1792x828

Top 10 of the last months at the time of writing – current articles are listed first

Editors' Comments

No updates this month.

1st - Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei P20 Pro with triple camera
Huawei P20 Pro with triple camera

The Huawei P20 Pro is the first smartphone from the Chinese company with a Leica triple camera. The actual highlight, however, are still the two lenses. The first lens offers a color sensor with 40 MP (f/1.8), which is supported by a second monochrome sensor with 20 MP (f/1.6). The third and slightly smaller lens (f/2.4, OIS) is used for a 3x optical zoom (82 mm). The third lens is only used for the optical zoom, while the other two work together. The low-light performance of the P20 Pro in particular is the best you can currently get on the market. Even longer exposures of up to 6 seconds can be taken by hand thanks to the AI stabilizer. The AI algorithms take optimal settings, which are sometimes a bit too saturated. You can also deactivate this feature if you do not like the results (also individually per image). The P20 Pro records videos at up to Ultra HD (30 FPS), and the results are good, but not perfect.

The smaller Huawei P20 features a Leica dual-camera, but it uses a smaller sensor with a lower resolution. It also takes very good pictures, but it cannot compete with the Pro model.

Sharpness Huawei P20 Pro (40 MP)
Sharpness Huawei P20 Pro (40 MP)
ColorChecker Huawei P20 Pro
ColorChecker Huawei P20 Pro
Full-size sample picture Huawei P20 Pro
Full-size sample picture Huawei P20 Pro

Pricecompare

2nd - Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is once again a really good business phablet. The Korean manufacturer upgraded the battery to 4000 mAh on the new Note model, so the runtimes are much longer compared to the previous model. The S Pen now supports Bluetooth and offers some new features. Samsung's new smartphone also turns out to be a serious storage device at up to 512 GB internal storage, which can be doubled via microSD card. All in all, the Note 9 can store up to 1 TB of data.

The camera equipment of the phablet is similar to the current S9+ and the main camera also gets a modular aperture, which changes between a f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture depending on the lighting conditions. Videos can be recorded at up to Ultra HD (60 fps, up tp 5 minutes). However, the manufacturer improved the settings a bit, so the Note 9 can beat its sibling.

Sharpness Galaxy Note 9
Sharpness Galaxy Note 9
ColorChecker Galaxy Note 9
ColorChecker Galaxy Note 9
Full-size sample picture Galaxy Note 9
Full-size sample picture Galaxy Note 9

Pricecompare

3rd - Samsung Galaxy S9+

Samsung Galaxy S9+ with dual-camera
Samsung Galaxy S9+ with dual-camera

The Korean manufacturer has implemented something new for the main camera of the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and equipped it with a modular aperture, which can change between an aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the lighting conditions. This is particularly helpful in daylight, since pictures are not so prone to overexposure and you get great results.

The second lens of the dual-camera is used for the creation of the Bokeh effect in portrait mode as well as a 2x optical zoom. The specifications are not as good, which is particularly noticeable in low-light conditions since the pictures of the zoom start to show noise much sooner. A positive aspect is that both lenses are equipped with an optical image stabilizer, which is also good for video recordings. The latter can be taken at Ultra HD (60 FPS, up to 5 minutes), but all features like object tracking are limited to 1080p.

The main camera of the Galaxy S9 is identical to the Plus model, but it does not offer a second lens.

Sharpness Galaxy S9+ (f/2.4)
Sharpness Galaxy S9+ (f/2.4)
ColorChecker Galaxy S9+ (f/2.4)
ColorChecker Galaxy S9+ (f/2.4)
Full-size sample picture Galaxy S9+
Full-size sample picture Galaxy S9+

Pricecompare

4th - Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei Mate 20 Pro with Leica triple camera
Huawei Mate 20 Pro with Leica triple camera

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is equipped with a Leica triple camera. However, compared to the P20 Pro, the Chinese manufacturer waives the monochrome sensor and implements a wide-angle lens (20 MP, f/2.2, 16 mm) instead. The 40 MP main camera (f/1.8, 27 mm) is supported by another 8 MP sensor (f/2.4, OIS, 80 mm), which acts as a 3x zoom. These three lenses already cover a wide range of focal lengths, which are even expanded by the digital 5x hybrid zoom. The picture quality is similar to the P20 Pro, but you can notice the missing monochrome sensor in low-light scenarios, which cannot be compensated by Super HDR. Video recordings are also limited to Ultra-HD at 30 frames per second.

Sharpness Mate 20 Pro (40 MP)
Sharpness Mate 20 Pro (40 MP)
ColorChecker Mate 20 Pro (40 MP)
ColorChecker Mate 20 Pro (40 MP)
Sample picture Mate 20 Pro (10 MP)
Sample picture Mate 20 Pro (10 MP)

Pricecompare

5th - LG V30

LG can do high-end as well: V30 with dual-camera and real glass lenses
LG can do high-end as well: V30 with dual-camera and real glass lenses

The LG V30 (review) and the familiar G6 are equipped with similar dual-camera solutions, but the V30 features 16 and 13 MP sensors (G6: 13/13). LG also uses real glass lenses with better translucency compared to common plastic lenses. Both the main camera (f/1.6, 1.0 µm) as well as the additional wide-angle lens (f/1.9, 1.0µm) feature optical image stabilization.

The camera is especially good in normal lighting conditions, while the colors are a bit too bright in our test environment with controlled lighting conditions. The low-light performance is also decent compared to other cameras. Videos can be recorded in Full HD (1920x1080). The picture quality of the front camera (selfies) is okay, but the results were very bright.

Sharpness LG V30
Sharpness LG V30
ColorChecker LG V30
ColorChecker LG V30
Full-size sample picture LG V30
Full-size sample picture LG V30

Pricecompare

6th - Apple iPhone XS

Apple iPhone XS
Apple iPhone XS

The Apple iPhone XS is the improved version of last year's anniversary edition, which was a full redesign with a slim-bezel 5.8-inch display including notch. This means the smartphone looks the same, but Apple added one color edition: Gold. The new SoC is very fast and the camera was significantly improved as well. Thanks to new software algorithms, you get better dynamic range and better low-light performance. The protection against liquids was improved and is not limited to fresh water anymore, and you also get a 512 GB option.

Fans of larger panels can get the iPhone XS Max with a 6.5-inch screen and identical cameras.

Sharpness Apple iPhone XS
Sharpness Apple iPhone XS
ColorChecker Apple iPhone XS
ColorChecker Apple iPhone XS
Full-size sample picture Apple iPhone XS
Full-size sample picture Apple iPhone XS

Pricecompare

7th - Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Video expert: Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Video expert: Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Apple has implemented a 7 MP camera for selfies at the front of the 5.5-inch smartphone. It features an f/2.2 aperture and an automatic HDR mode. The dual-camera is located at the back and uses one wide-angle lens (f/1.8) as well as one zoom lens (f/2.8), and both support optical image stabilization. Similar to other smartphones with this kind of setup, the dual-camera supports special features such as portrait mode ("Bokeh") and good results with the zoom mode.

Pictures taken with the iPhone 8 Plus (here in review) convince with natural colors, high dynamic range and sharpness. The automatic HDR mode as well as the comparatively good snapshot characteristics are advantages of the iPhone 8 Plus. However, there is noticeable picture noise in low-light situations. Videos can be recorded at up to UHD/4K and 60 FPS, which is a major advantage over the rest of the competition.

Sharpness Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Sharpness Apple iPhone 8 Plus
ColorChecker Apple iPhone 8 Plus
ColorChecker Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Full-size sample picture Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Full-size sample picture Apple iPhone 8 Plus

Pricecompare

8th – OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T with dual camera
OnePlus 6T with dual camera

The dual-camera of the OnePlus 6T was slightly improved compared to the previous model. The resolution has not changed at 16 (Sony IMX 519) and 20 megapixels (Sony IMX 376K), respectively. Both sensors are identical to the previous model, but there have been software improvements, so the OnePlus smartphone performs a bit better than its predecessor.

The picture quality is good. We can hardly see any differences compared to the old model in daylight, but the small improvements in low-light pictures are visible, even though many details disappear due to the noise suppression.

Videos can be recorded in 4k at up to 60 frames per seconds, but only for up to 5 minutes. These recordings are stabilized thanks to the integrated OIS.

Sharpness OnePlus 6T
Sharpness OnePlus 6T
ColorChecker OnePlus 6T
ColorChecker OnePlus 6T
Full-size sample picture OnePlus 6T
Full-size sample picture OnePlus 6T

Pricecompare

9th - Sony Xperia XZ3

Sony Xperia XZ3 with single camera
Sony Xperia XZ3 with single camera

The Sony Xperia XZ3 is once again equipped with a single camera. It has a resolution of 19 megapixels and captures a lot of light with an f/1.9 aperture. Daylight pictures look good with a wide dynamic range and we also like the colors. The high number of details is particularly convincing. The low-light performance is also very decent with good noise suppression, but larger areas can appear muddy.

The video function supports recordings in Ultra HD with HDR, and there is a super slow-motion (960 frames per second, 1080p).

Sharpness Xperia XZ3
Sharpness Xperia XZ3
ColorChecker Xperia XZ3
ColorChecker Xperia XZ3
Full-size sample picture Xperia XZ3
Full-size sample picture Xperia XZ3

Pricecompare

10 – Apple iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XR with single camera
Apple iPhone XR with single camera

The Apple iPhone XR uses the main camera from the more expensive XS models, only the tele lens is missing, so the functionality of the portrait mode is limited as well. The colors are also a bit too saturated. Otherwise, you get a great camera, which takes pictures with a high dynamic range thanks to the great Smart HDR algorithm. The low-light performance is not bad, either, but you start to see the difference compared to the best smartphones in this scenario.

Videos can be recorded in Ultra HD at up to 60 frames per second. There is no time limit.

Sharpness iPhone XR
Sharpness iPhone XR
ColorChecker iPhone XR
ColorChecker iPhone XR
Full-size sample picture iPhone XR
Full-size sample picture iPhone XR

Pricecompare

Top 10 Camera Smartphones Picture Comparison

Huawei P20 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S9+ vs Google Pixel 2 XL

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 vs OnePlus 5T vs Apple iPhone X

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Samsung Galaxy S9+ vs Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs Apple iPhone X

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3

Huawei Mate 20 Pro vs iPhone XS vs Galaxy S9 vs. OnePlus 6

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3

LG V30 vs Apple iPhone X vs Huawei P10

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Apple iPhone XS vs Google Pixel 2 XL vs Huawei P20 Pro

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Apple iPhone 8 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs OnePlus 5

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3

OnePlus 6T vs. iPhone XS Max vs. OnePlus 5T

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Sony Xperia XZ3 vs. OnePlus 5T vs. iPhone XS Max

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

Apple iPhone XR vs. Google Pixel 3 vs. Huawei P20 Pro

Image Comparison

Choose a scene and navigate within the first image. One click changes the position on touchscreens. One click on the zoomed-in image opens the original in a new window. The first image shows the scaled photograph of the test device.

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images
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Daniel Schmidt (Update: 2019-02-13)