What To Look For In Phones For Amazing Selfies?
Cameras are among the most important features of a phone for many buyers. After all, their phone is their camera so their quality can be the deciding factor in opting for one model over another.
And given that most phones – especially flagships – are otherwise very similar in terms of performance and screen quality, photography and video is where manufacturers can differentiate their offering from rivals.
Our aim with this comparison was to discover which phone has the best cameras for taking photos, videos and selfies.
We’ve tested and compared five phones with the best cameras currently available: iPhone XS Max, Galaxy S10 Plus, Google Pixel 3 XL, Huawei P30 Pro and the Xiaomi Mi 9.
As the iPhone XS has identical cameras to the Max, our comments apply to both phones. And the same goes for the Pixel 3, which shares the XL’s cameras. Samsung uses the same rear cameras on the S10 as the Plus we used here, but the S10 lacks the depth-sensing secondary camera at the front, so our review applies only partially to the S10.
You won’t find every flagship phone here, as we’re including only those which have cameras good enough to be called “the best”. That isn’t determined by specs or features, it’s judged by the quality of the photos and videos they produce.
How we test phone cameras
Rather than using controlled conditions and attempting to compare the cameras scientifically, we took photos and videos just as anyone would. That means using the default settings out of the box and taking pictures hand-held, not with a tripod.
The only settings we changed were to turn off any beauty modes on the selfie cameras, and to choose the highest resolution and frame rate for the video samples so you can see the best quality on offer. Most manufacturers make 1080p at 30fps the default setting because it uses so much less storage space, but this is far from the best quality available: all the phones here will record in 4K.
We’ve kept the comparisons to the core functions: photos with the main camera (including portrait modes with blurred backgrounds), selfies and videos. Extra modes, or the lack of them, have no impact on our verdicts.
The experience of taking photos is almost as important as the results, so the stock camera app is a key factor in our reviews as this can make the difference between a phone that’s a joy or a pain to use as a camera.
Our hope is that you end up with a very good idea of how each phone’s cameras perform in the real world, but judging image quality is inherently subjective. Some people prefer processed images which are sharpened and have saturated colours, while others prefer a more natural look. Plus, the screen on which you view the photos and videos has an influence too.
That’s why we’ve uploaded the original files from each phone so you can view the full-size photos and videos and decide for yourself – bearing in mind your own priorities – which phone you should buy.
est overall camera phone of 2019: Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro has the best cameras of any phone right now. The main rear camera is simply amazing, able to take fantastic photos even in very low light. The other cameras can’t match it for quality, but add huge versatility. The ultra-wide camera is great when you’re shooting indoors or for landscapes, but it’s the 5x optical zoom that impresses most.
Like every phone here, the P30 Pro isn’t perfect: the screen has a lower resolution than we’d like for the price and the mono speaker feels like a step backwards. Video quality is improved, but still lags behind the best (iPhone XS and Xiaomi Mi 9). But if you can live with those things and you take more photos than videos, the P30 Pro will not disappoint.
As you’ll see from the reviews below, there are other excellent choices besides the P30 Pro. Although we didn’t include it in this roundup, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro is almost as good, and if you’re not bothered about a zoom or a wide-angle camera, Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL delivers sharp and detailed pictures.
Xiaomi’s Mi 9 easily deserves to be in this comparison, and is capable of fantastic photos and stunning video.
And it’s no surprise to see the Galaxy S10 Plus as our new favourite from Samsung: it’s the first to sport a triple rear camera, so bests the S9 if you’re keen to have a wide-angle as well as telephoto lens.
The iPhone XS and XS Max can no longer claim to have the best cameras around, but they are still mighty impressive all-rounders when there’s lots of light. Compared to the P30 Pro they lack the zoom and wide-angle capabilities and with a lower-resolution main sensor can’t resolve the same amount of detail.a