Best camera phone 2018: the top smartphone snappers around

It's tough to work out the best camera phone on the market – there are so many smartphones to try out, so how on earth will you be able to work out which has the best snapper on the back?

[Update: we're now in 2018, which means our best camera phones list has been updated with the latest movers and shakers in the mobile photography world. ]

The good news for you is that TechRadar tests them all thoroughly, putting them through their photography paces in all manner of lighting conditions and scenarios to help you work out which phone will give the right pictures for you.

Before choosing, it's worth thinking about what you want from a camera phone. Do you want something that's great at taking outdoor snaps and aren't bothered if it's good in low light? Is a great quick pic with friends more important than a really powerful sensor that takes amazing shots when you put the effort in?

It's also worth thinking about battery size and screen quality – if you're going to be heading out all day and doing longer photography sessions, you'll need a battery that can keep up. 

And if you're mostly going to look at your photos on the phone, then a phone with OLED screen technology can really make your snaps pop – but if it's social media, or even printing out your photos, that's your plan then you've got a wider array of options.

We've listed all that information below, along with some of our top test snaps so you can make the right decision when it comes to choosing your next camera phone.

Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus photo samples

Read our full review: Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei P20 Pro photo samples

 The Google Pixel 2 duo have decent sensors on the back, but amazing software processing – and both cameras are identical.

That means you can take an average picture, and instantly watch it improve before your eyes as the phone stitches together multiple images. Despite only packing a single lens, the Pixel 2 pair can both take stunning portrait shots, bringing some real definition to the mix.

The camera software isn't always the best, with a tiny bit of lag in taking the picture (and waiting for the software to kick in) but the optical image stabilisation is a real boon.

The larger screen and longer battery life on the Pixel 2 XL will attract those looking for a more premium smartphone, but it is rather more expensive as a result.

But if you want the best pictures from a phone – we'd point you in the direction of the aptly-named pixel.

Read our full reviews: Google Pixel 2 | Pixel 2 XL

Pixel 2 / 2 XL photo samples

The iPhone X has the best camera ever seen on a device from Apple – and that’s on both the front and back.

The rear double sensor is capable of taking some stunning pictures in low light or bright scenes, capturing a lot of detail and erring on the side of natural colors.

Combined with the OLED screen, that brings a lot of vivacity to images, with the results still looking great on social media. The combination of two 12MP sensors, one being telephoto and both packing optical image stabilization, is a nice move, and you’ll find the speed of snapping desirable.

The front-facing TrueDepth camera is also very capable, bringing clear selfies and also allowing you to take blurred background snaps without using a second sensor. It’s not the best  camera on the market, but the iPhone X is easily the best Apple’s ever created and is very close to the top. 

Read our full review: iPhone X

iPhone X photo samples

Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9 photo samples

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera is one of the very best we've tested for a number of reasons: firstly, because the dual sensors are impressive and powerful. 

The blurred background, the telephoto lens, the speed of snapping – these are all the things we're looking for on a top-end smartphone.

The longer battery life and the improved screen mean you'll be able to keep taking photos over a longer time, and enjoy them with more vivid colors too.

The thing that we love about Samsung phones is that nearly every snap you take comes out looking clear and crisp, even in low light, which is what you want from an expensive phone… and the Note 8 certainly is.

Samsung has put so many modes on here, but also made the automatic settings incredibly easy to use… it's touch and go between this phone and the Pixel 2 for best camera phone, so either will certainly satisfy you.

Read our full review: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 photo samples

Read our full review: LG G7 ThinQ

LG G7 ThinQ camera samples

The Samsung Galaxy S8 pair are the two best phones on the market at the moment, helped ably by their excellent cameras.

They might only be single sensors, which means portrait mode isn't easily achieved (and the reason they're not top of this list) but if you don't care about that, then we'd recommend these phones.

The S8 is well-designed and fits more nicely in the hand for more comfortable photography, but the larger S8 Plus is longer-lasting and packs a more expansive screen.

The sheer range of camera settings is to be applauded here – as is an easy selfie mode – but overall, it's the fact that a quick automatic snap always looks so good in our opinion.

These are still great camera phones – definitely check them out.

Read our full reviews: Samsung Galaxy S8 | Galaxy S8 Plus review

Samsung Galaxy S8 photo samples

The iPhone 8 Plus is only behind the iPhone X because it’s got a slight higher aperture on the second sensor, meaning low-light photography isn’t quite as good.

Apart from that, the main camera images are almost identical to those shot from the more expensive phone, and you’ll be pleased with the results time and again. Portrait mode continues to improve and can bring some stunning results, and while the front-facing camera isn’t TrueDepth-enabled (so you can’t do blurred-background selfies) it’s still very good.

On top of that, the iPhone 8 Plus has another big advantage over the competition: you can record 4K in crisp 60 frames per second, or super slow motion video at 240 frames per second.

If you can’t quite afford the iPhone X but want a great camera from an Apple phone, this is the place to look.

Read our full review: iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 8 Plus photo samples

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is another step forward for a brand looking to really focus (sorry) on its photography performance.

The interesting thing is the Mate 10 Pro has the weakest performance in ‘standard’ light of all the cameras on this list – it’s a phone for the more professional user, as the name suggests.

Getting close, or using the phone in low light, will result in some great shots – and that’s a lot to do with the fact Huawei is combining monochrome and color sensors into its handset for the best mix of low-light and rich images – and the results bear out.

The Aperture Mode also allows you to fit far more into the frame, so while Mate 10 Pro isn’t the best snapper overall in a smartphone, it does reward those looking to put effort into their photos – and it’s a sensor bolted onto a really rather decent camera too, with simply sensational two-day battery life.

Read our full review: Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei Mate 10 Pro photo samples

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