Your old smartphone is only good for hammering nails, and you want to create – win a photo contest, make a film, work with Apple, or at least become an Instagram star? We have prepared a rating of models with excellent cameras for every taste and budget: cool photos with a single click are real!
If you decide to get serious about choosing a smartphone for mobile photography, the first thing you need to pay attention to is the matrix (also called sensor or sensor). It is the basis of the camera, and the quality of the images depends primarily on the matrix.
The larger the matrix size in a smartphone, the higher the chances of getting a high-quality picture. A larger sensor can accommodate larger pixels (or more pixels), which means the sensor can capture more light. And light is the basis of photography.
Smartphone camera size is usually measured in inches or fractions of an inch (usually stated as a fraction). The word “inch” itself is often replaced with a single quotation mark. The closer to an inch the fraction, the larger the die: a 1/1.5″ die will be larger than a 1/3″ die. Currently, the largest mobile camera sensor is 1/1.33”. At the same time, in most modern smartphones there are several cameras at once and often they have a different matrix size.
Choose smartphones with matrices, the size of which is as close as possible to 1 inch. They are usually found in more expensive models, but definitely worth it.
This is almost the only thing that many people pay attention to when it comes to smartphone cameras. Which is not surprising, because “megapixels” are a real workhorse of marketers! For example, 108 megapixels in the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra sounds very impressive (and it’s a really good camera).
Yes, the number of megapixels in a camera is important, but here is the case when more is not necessarily better.
The number of megapixels corresponds to the resolution of the image, or its size.
The larger the size of the pixels themselves, the better the light is captured and the better the image will be in poor lighting conditions. This is why traditional large sensor cameras used by professional photographers have a moderate number of large pixels (24 megapixels is the average for such cameras) instead of millions of tiny ones.
Pixel size is specified in micrometers (µm). In modern mobile cameras, it varies from about 0.8 microns to 2 microns or more. This, however, does not mean that a camera with 0.8 micron pixels necessarily takes bad pictures. Smaller pixels can be compensated by their number (that’s where all these megapixels come to the rescue!), But you definitely won’t get worse from large pixels.
In general, high-resolution smartphones use pixel binning (combining) technology without exception. Information from several (usually four) neighboring pixels is combined, as if creating one large pixel. Thanks to this, you can get better photos in low light, minimize the amount of “noise” and get rid of artifacts.
Our main advice is not to chase megapixels. 20- and even 12-megapixel cameras, other things being equal, cope with their tasks no worse than 100-megapixel ones.
The lens aperture determines how much light enters the camera. The larger the aperture, the more light will reach the sensor and the better the image quality will be, especially in poor lighting conditions.
Aperture is expressed in f-stops (eg f/2.0). A little counter-intuitive, but the smaller this value, the more open the aperture. For example, f/1.8 means a wider aperture compared to f/2.0, which means more light will reach the sensor.
The aperture value of the main camera in smartphones varies from f/1.28 to f/2.8. Other cameras, including specialized ones like a depth sensor, may have apertures above f/3.0, and that’s fine.
For most mobile photographers, the characteristics of the main (wide-angle) camera are considered the most important, so it is worth paying attention to its aperture. The aperture value is especially important if you’re going to be shooting a lot in poor lighting (such as at night or indoors with low light). In this case, it is better to think about purchasing a smartphone with the largest possible aperture – from f / 2.0 and below.
Number of cameras / lenses
A modern smartphone, as a rule, combines several cameras (camera modules / lenses) at once.
Usually each camera has its own matrix and lens with its own focal length. One of the common combinations is the main wide-angle camera (for most types of shots), the ultra wide-angle camera (for group portraits and landscapes), and the zoom telephoto camera (for shooting objects at a distance). It is also a fairly common case in budget and mid-budget models to use a macro camera (for taking pictures of small objects from as close as possible) instead of telephoto.
Some cameras have an auxiliary function, for example, the monochrome sensor on the Huawei P20 Pro improves the overall detail of the pictures (and at the same time takes black and white photos). In general, if you know that you often take a particular type of photo (for example, landscapes), you should pay attention to smartphones that have a camera suitable for this (in the case of landscapes, ultra wide-angle).
Almost all smartphones today are also equipped with a front camera. It is good for selfie shots, selfie videos, as well as video calls and streaming and live broadcasts on social networks.
Few, choosing a camera phone, pay attention to the display, but in vain. Smartphones, unlike traditional cameras, do not have viewfinders, so you will shoot looking at the display. If it is not too good, then during shooting it will be difficult to understand what image will turn out. This also applies to resolution and color reproduction. And on a small screen it is inconvenient to crop pictures.
Another issue could be brightness. If the smartphone screen is not bright enough, there are problems when shooting in sunny weather – you simply will not see what you are shooting.