Notebookcheck

Notebookcheck's Top 10 Camera Smartphones

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

October 2018 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 October 2018

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
409/201792%89%LG V30LG V30
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (8998)
Qualcomm Adreno 540
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
7.3 mm158 g6"2880x1440
509/2018
New
89%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
609/201788%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
704/201887%89%Sony Xperia XZ2Sony Xperia XZ2
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Adreno 630
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
11.1 mm198 g5.7"2160x1080
810/201787%90%Google Pixel 2Google Pixel 2
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (8998)
Qualcomm Adreno 540
4 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
7.8 mm143 g5"1920x1080
905/201887%90%OnePlus 6OnePlus 6
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Adreno 630
8 GB Memory, 128 GB UFS 2.1
7.75 mm177 g6.28"2280x1080
1006/201885%89%HTC U12 PlusHTC U12 Plus
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Qualcomm Adreno 630
6 GB Memory, 64 GB UFS 2.1
9.7 mm188 g6"2880x1440

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

Editors' Comments

The Apple iPhone XS is our new entry this month. It replaces the old iPhone X and passes the iPhone 8 Plus.

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

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

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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 - 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

5th - 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

6th - 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

7th – Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ2
Sony Xperia XZ2

Sony is one of the biggest manufacturers of camera sensors in smartphones and often fell behind expectations in the past. This changes with the Sony Xperia XZ2, even though the Japanese company has waived a dual-camera solution in favor of a single 19 MP lens. The camera app has been significantly improved and now offers a more intuitive handling.

We really like the pictures, but white areas show a slight red hue. The details are well captured, and the dynamic range is also great. Low-light images look balanced and evenly illuminated, and picture noise is only visible at a closer look. The trigger delay is also very long in this case.

Videos can be recorded at Ultra HD (up to 30 FPS) with HDR. There is also a super slow-motion feature (960 FPS, 1080p). The image stabilization only works up to 1080p.

You should have a look at the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact if you prefer a smaller form factor, because it is equipped with the same camera.

Sharpness Sony Xperia XZ2
Sharpness Sony Xperia XZ2
ColorChecker Sony Xperia XZ2
ColorChecker Sony Xperia XZ2
Full-size sample picture Sony Xperia XZ2
Full-size sample picture Sony Xperia XZ2

Pricecompare

Pricecompare

8th - Google Pixel 2

Available in two sizes: Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
Available in two sizes: Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

The camera equipment of the Google Pixel 2 (here in review) is identical to the bigger sibling Google Pixel 2 XL (review). The front camera uses an 8 MP sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. The sensor pixels are comparatively big a 1.4 µm, but this means that they can capture more light. It also supports a portrait mode with Bokeh effect. The quality of selfies taken with the Pixel 2 is very good.

Google's main camera in both models uses a 12.2 MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and 1.4 µm pixels. A laser autofocus is implemented as well. There is no dual-camera, but it still supports a portrait mode with Bokeh effect based on software calculations. The Pixel 2 takes very good pictures in daylight, and the Pixel 2 is even on par with the best smartphones in this comparison in low-light scenarios. There is no manual mode, and you cannot save RAW files either.

Sharpness Google Pixel 2
Sharpness Google Pixel 2
ColorChecker Google Pixel 2
ColorChecker Google Pixel 2
Full-size sample picture Google Pixel 2
Full-size sample picture Google Pixel 2

Pricecompare

Pricecompare

9th - OnePlus 6

OnePlus 6
OnePlus 6

The dual-camera of the OnePlus 6 has been slightly improved compared to the previous model. The resolutions are identical at 16 and 20 MP, respectively. While the second lens with the higher resolution remains unchanged, the main camera has a new Sony IMX 519 sensor with a 19% sensor surface increase compared to the IMX 398. The nominal aperture size of f/1.7 is once again comparatively large and the pixel size has been increased to 1.22 µm.

The quality of the pictures is good; it is hard to see a difference compared to the predecessor in daylight. You will notice the improvements in low-light conditions though, even though the noise suppression makes a lot of details disappear.

Videos can be recorded in 4K at up to 60 frames per second, but it is limited to five minutes. These shots are also stabilized thanks to integrated OIS.

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

Pricecompare

10th – HTC U12+

HTC U12 Plus with dual-camera for the first time
HTC U12 Plus with dual-camera for the first time

The HTC U12 Plus is the first flagship smartphone from the Taiwanese manufacturer with a dual-camera. The main camera features great specifications (12 MP, f/1.75, 1.4 μm, OIS) and is also equipped with the new UltraSpeed Autofocus 2 (phase detection and laser autofocus) as well as 4th generation UltraPixel. The second lens (16 MP, f/2.6, 1.0 μm) on the other hand is quite a contrast and appears a bit outdated. You can often see the difference between the two lenses in practice, which prevents a better score for the U12+. The 2x optical zoom cannot compensate for that either. This is unfortunate, especially since the main camera takes really good pictures.

Videos can be recorded in Ultra HD at up to 60 frames per second, but there is also a time limit (up to 6 minutes). We liked the microphones in particular during our review. The continuous zoom is also a good idea, but fails due to the mediocre quality of the second lens.

Sharpness HTC U12 Plus
Sharpness HTC U12 Plus
ColorChecker HTC U12 Plus
ColorChecker HTC U12 Plus
Full-size sample picture HTC U12 Plus
Full-size sample picture HTC U12 Plus

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

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

Apple iPhone X vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs Google Pixel 2 XL

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3

Sony Xperia XZ2 vs Google Pixel 2 XL vs Samsung Galaxy S9+

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

Google Pixel 2 vs Huawei Mate 10 Pro vs Apple iPhone X

Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3
click to load images

OnePlus 6 vs OnePlus 5T vs Apple iPhone X vs LG G7 ThinQ 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 3Scene 4
click to load images

HTC U12+ vs Samsung Galaxy S9+ 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: 2018-10-17)