Many photographers thought Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) and other cameras with replaceable lenses would become more affordable, and ever more needed with time as tech progressed. In recent years though, the camera in your pocket has steadily overtaken the one in your backpack.
Photos and videos taken with cameras on today’s flagship smartphones are sometimes hard to distinguish from those taken on professional hardware. One might go as far to say that in some respects, your smartphone cameras surpass the trusted DSLR. Now, no one is saying that you should throw out your camera and upgrade your phone, but for most users’ needs, a smartphone camera has become more than enough, far more affordable, easier to use and has the benefit of always being on you in person when that special shot presents itself.
Below, we will list our top five picks for the best smartphone cameras available on the market in 2019. We’ve taken into consideration overall performance, special features, and overall design.
1- Google Pixel 3
The Google Pixel 3 is arguably the best camera phone you can buy right now. In a time when most phones have at least 2, but more often than not 3, 4 or even 5 camera lenses on the rear, the Pixel 3 sticks to just one.
One nice thing about the Pixel 3 series is that both iterations of the Google flagship have the same camera setup and features, so whether you opt for the Pixel 3 or the larger Pixel 3 XL, you still get all the glory of the Pixel’s camera.
The Pixel might have just one camera in the rear, but it has two where it counts: the front. This allows for an amazing wide-angle selfie feature, letting more of your friends or the beautiful scenery squeeze into your frame.
We’re in love with the 12.2MP rear camera for its consistency. No matter the conditions, the subject or the context you pull your phone out for, the photos are always quick, sharp and beautiful.
One thing that secures the Pixel 3 on top of this list, is it’s mind-blowing “Night Sight” mode. With the entirety of Google’s powerful AI at your fingertips, every Night Sight photo will blow you away. After a few seconds of processing, you’ll realize how amazing it is at low-light photography, with zero noise, beautiful color correction and sharpness.
Google stands out above the competition through its processing data and evolving perfect algorithms. This is clear in Google’s dedicated Pixel Visual Core chip and machine learning software, which helps the phone recognize what photos should look like and what you’re actually trying to capture.
2- Huawei P30 Pro
It took a few months for a solid Pixel 3 competitor to materialize, but it’s finally here. Huawei’s recent string of massively successful flagships have cemented the Chinese manufacturer’s products on the top spots of virtually every list. Apart from the Mate Pro series, the P series are known for boasting the absolute best camera hardware and software Huawei has to offer.
Huawei’s night modes were often seen as the leader in smartphone photography, but were soon eclipsed by the Google Pixel 3’s Night Sight. The P30 seems to be trying to unseat Google’s undefeated low-light performance, and it’s packing quite a punch. The P30 doesn’t just do low-light photos, it even takes shots in the dark. Despite instances of over-saturation or loss of focus, the P30 makes up for it in what’s arguably the best zoom on a phone, with 5X optical, 10x hybrid and a whopping 50X digital zoom.
3- Samsung S10+
After a few models that lacked the “wow” factor users had gotten used to from Samsung, a lot was riding on the S10 series, and Samsung has definitely delivered. From the S10’s punch-hole display with front-facing cameras embedded in the screen, to the absolutely stunning super Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes (AMOLED) display, the S10+ is a fantastic phone. Simply put, AMOLED is one of the greatest innovations in display technology that is used on smartphone screens – all to provide users with a quick responsive touch screen and an impressive, rich, and vibrant display phone.
The camera experience is just as great. It’s crisp, snappy and with lots of cool tools and modes to experiment with. The Samsung S10+ has a robust triple-lens rear camera array, including a 12MP lens, a 12MP optical zoom telephoto lens and a new 16MP ultra-wide lens.
Samsung’s dual-aperture lens on the regular camera captures vibrant photos and fairly good low-light pictures. The quality is top notch, but might need more than one shot to get it right. It lacks something like Google’s dedicated long-exposure Night Vision mode, but it’s definitely among the best camera phones for 2019 if most of your photos aren’t in very low-light locations.
Despite Google winning with low-light scenarios, what Google doesn’t have on its main camera is the ability to shoot wide angle photos. Samsung’s ultra-wide lens has a 123-degree field of view, and it’s great for cramming more into the frame, letting you be closer to that building you like, without needing to cross the street.
4- iPhone XS Max
It seems that Apple has taken some pointers from Google’s computational photography playbook, introducing features like “Smart HDR” to make the iPhone XS Max the best camera ever on an iPhone.
Lowlight photography is much better, comparable to the Galaxy S9+ but still lagging when compared to the Pixel or Huawei models.
One feature Apple’s iPhone XS Max excelled above and beyond the competition at is video capture. Stabilization is fantastic and feels cinematic, and the XS Max can shoot 4K in 24fps, 30fps or 60fps along with 1080p in either 30fps or 60fps.
Apple’s camera remains fairly simple to use, with a carousel you slide through for different modes. This is ideal for some users compared to the ever more complicated controls on most Android flagships. And if you’re not a serious photographer, but would love to capture amazing photos and videos, the iPhone may be your best choice this year.
5- Nokia 9 PureView
Nokia's latest camera juggernaut is a gorgeous gorilla glass device with six rear-facing cameras. The limited-edition Nokia 9 PureView has a 5.99" crisp screen and thankfully no notch for the front-facing cameras. The device comes with an in-screen fingerprint reader as well as face recognition unlock, but has ditched the auxiliary port and comes with one loudspeaker.
The main reason the Nokia 9 earns a spot on this list is their incredibly flower-arrangement of camera lenses, with no bumps at all, making it easy to use while on a table. The array includes 5 12MP camera lenses and a ToS camera that gathers information about depth. The Nokia 9 merges the 5 images into one with insane dynamic range, with the option to save your images in RAW format to be able to tweak them professionally. Apart from the ability to capture and process RAW photos, the N9 has plenty of manual controls for photography experts, with portrait mode being arguably the best at subject differentiation from all the camera-heavy devices available this year.
All in all, the N9 is a gorgeous device, and where it lacks in other specs, it makes up for it and more with the unique camera functionality on this latest smartphone from Nokia.