Best camera phone 2023: Smartphones with stargazing capabilities

Image shows the rear cameras on one of the best camera phones Samsung camera phones
(Image credit: Samsung)

The best camera phones on the market are getting more and more advanced and are even surpassing 'proper' cameras in some cases in terms of quality and imaging technology. The good news is, we've rounded up the very best on the market today and put them in this guide, so you can check them out.

In this guide, you'll find the top camera phones available on the market, including models that are excellent for both general photography and low-light shooting. You'll find a variety of items from the newest and greatest to something a bit different that can deliver fantastic wide-angle images, ultra-clean 'Night Modes' or just a great value package, from manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei, and OnePlus.

Although it's true that the best camera phones are ever-improving in terms of technology and sophistication, the engineers and designers are limited in what they can try and do, due to the size of the phones, so it's no surprise that they cannot compete with the best DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The same goes for Night Modes, too, as even the best camera phones can't keep up with the top astrophotography cameras on the market. 

Having said that, bigger aperture lenses are boosting sensor quality and sensitivity in smartphone cameras. So much so that flagship phones can now capture high-quality photographs at night. Some smartphones boast huge digital zooms that can take detailed close-ups of the moon  (by cropping a regular image). The software is improving yearly and can now produce relatively clean shots. See our guide on smartphone astrophotography to learn more.

If you're looking for guidance on astrophotography for beginners then you'll also want to check out our guide for the best camera accessories for astrophotography. If you're looking for quality cameras and discounts then you can also check out our round-ups of the best cameras and best camera deals. However, for the best camera phones on the market today, keep reading. 


Best camera phones 2023

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Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

The latest and greatest from Apple, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is just a few months old. (Image credit: Apple)

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

Best camera phone overall: In terms of technology, this is the best iPhone yet for photographers

Specifications

Weight: 8.47 oz (240g)
Dimensions: 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm
Operating system: iOS
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Screen resolution: 1284 x 2778
CPU: A16 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Rear camera: 48MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Night Mode 
+
Good video stabilization
+
Best iPhone camera yet 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Much like 13 Pro Max 

Unsurprisingly, Apple is a big hitter in this guide and their newest 6.7-inch flagship smartphone is top-of-the-range. The advanced quad-pixel sensor on this camera phone means it produces brighter photos with up to 4x the resolution even in low light and at night. Additionally, it has a high-quality Night Mode, which makes it possible to capture decent shots of the night sky and, if you're ever in the Arctic Circle, great images of the Aurora Borealis.

That Night mode automatically kicks in when it's dark, just like the built-in high dynamic range (HDR) mode for all your shots. Simplicity is complemented by advanced hardware. Selfies and video calls are high-resolution, as is video, with 4K/60 frames per second.

The main camera has seen the biggest update from its predecessor — in fact, this is the first iPhone to use a 48MP 1/1.28-inch sensor with a Quad-Bayer color filter.


The rear of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Best Android smartphone camera: This high-end Android phone is a photographer's favorite

Specifications

Weight: 8.01 oz (227g)
Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35" (165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm)
Operating system: Android
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Screen resolution: 1440 x 3200
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM: 12GB
Rear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MP
Front camera: 40MP

Reasons to buy

+
 108-megapixel sensor 
+
 10x optical zoom 
+
 100x digital zoom 

Reasons to avoid

-
Massive file sizes 
-
Lacks micro SD card slot 
-
Bulky design

Is this the best Android camera phone? Yes, it is — and a large part of why is its incredible 108-megapixel image sensor. Although technically you can take ultra-high resolution images, that massive megapixel capability is there to improve pictures taken in low light. The 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra takes nine separate 12-megapixel images and then loses the 'noisy' pixels to create a cleaner and more detailed photo. 

Although you can use that sensor to capture 108-megapixel pure photos, why would you want to? Particularly considering that you cannot expand its 512 GB of built-in storage, which would fill up pretty quickly. For photographers, the 10x optical and enormous 100x digital zooms are more appealing, which can be useful when you mount the Galaxy S21 Ultra on a tripod.


Front and rear image of the Huawei P40 Pro Plus

(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei P40 Pro+

Best for optical zoom: An excellent value flagship smartphone with seven lenses and a useful 10x optical zoom

Specifications

Weight: 7.97 oz (226g)
Dimensions: 6.23 x 2.86 x 0.35" (158.2 x 72.6 x 9mm)
Operating system: Android
Screen size: 6.58-inch
Screen resolution: 1200 x 2640
CPU: Kirin 990 5G
RAM: 86GB
Rear camera: 50MP + 40MP + 8MP + 8MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent engineering 
+
Leica lens 
+
Night Mode on telephoto camera 

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks Google apps 
-
No Night Mode on ultra-wide camera 

Are you having trouble choosing between Huawei's P40 Pro and P40 Pro Plus? The latter brings 10x optical zoom via an actual zoom lens — a first when it launched in 2020. This means more detail and editing options than any resolution-killing digital zoom. However, there's a lot more to get excited about on this 6.58-inch smartphone, which brings no fewer than seven lenses, including a 3x optical telephoto, ultra-wide lens and a time-of-flight depth sensor. The camera's night mode boosts dynamic range and sharpness to produce clear, vibrant photographs that most visibly reveal greater detail in shadows. It also works well on the telephoto lens, though less well on the ultrawide lens. 

Unfortunately, though, there's an elephant in the room. Huawei smartphones now don't support Google Play apps and services, which may make them less desirable. 


Google Pixel 7 Pro

The Google Pixel 7 Pro is special for photography, not just for its myriad quality lenses, but its image processing too. (Image credit: Google)

Google Pixel 7 Pro

Best for built-in software: A unique-looking camera array and a 50MP sensor

Specifications

Weight: 212g
Dimensions: 162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9 mm (6.41 x 3.02 x 0.35 in)
Operating system: Android
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Screen resolution: 1440 x 3120
CPU: Google Tensor
RAM: 8GB & 12GB options
Rear camera: 50MP + 48MP + 12MP
Front camera: 10.8MP

Reasons to buy

+
Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser modes 
+
Runs Android 13 OS 
+
Stylish design 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a huge upgrade on the Pro 6
-
Fewer color options

This Google smartphone is the best around for in-camera software and photo editing. Open the camera app, and you'll see all the standard shooting modes, like portrait, panorama, and a low-light setting called Night Sight, and there's also a new Cinematic Blur setting to record videos with a shallow depth of field — something the Pixel Pro 6 didn't offer. The Pixel 7 Pro also comes with Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser for removing people and objects from photos after the fact. 

It may not seem like a huge upgrade from its predecessor in many areas, but the Pixel 7 Pro features a 50MP wide lens, a 12MP ultrawide lens and a 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom and 30x SuperRes Zoom, compared to the previous generation Pixel's 4x optical zoom and 20x SuperRes Zoom. With regard to the ultrawide lens, it now has a 21% larger field of view and supports macro focus.


Product photo showing the Apple iPhone 13 Pro is available in black, gold, white and blue

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Best for ease of use: The best value flagship iPhone for photographers

Specifications

Weight: 7.20 oz (204g)
Dimensions: 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.30" (146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.7mm
Operating system: iOS
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Screen resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A15 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent battery life 
+
Improved camera suite 
+
Night Mode portraits 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Camera array protrudes slightly 
-
Only 3x optical zoom 

Not much has changed, design-wise, since the iPhone 12 Pro, but some of the changes do make this handset better for photography. Though there are some crucial differences between the iPhone 13 and the iPhone 13 Pro. Although they are both 6.1 inches, the latter features a brighter screen, more battery life, and a considerably better photography suite than the mainstream handset.

Its rear camera system includes an ultra-wide and a wide lens with larger apertures, a telephoto lens (something the iPhone 13 lacks) with 3x optical zoom and a LiDAR scanner for quicker autofocus and for taking portraits in Night Mode. On the iPhone 13 Pro, it's also possible to take professional quality images using Apple ProRAW and indulge in ProRes video recording up to 4K/30 frames per second. 

OnePlus Pro 10 stock image on white background

(Image credit: OnePlus)

OnePlus 10 Pro

Best for wide-angle photography: A partnership with iconic photography company Hasselblad makes for a unique camera phone

Specifications

Weight: 200.5g
Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.9 x 0.34 inches (163.0 x 73.9 x 8.55 millimetres)
Operating system: Android
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Screen resolution: 1440 x 3216
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile
RAM: 8GB/12GB
Rear camera: 48MP + 50MP + 8MP
Front camera: 32MP

Reasons to buy

+
 Hasselblad-calibrated colors 
+
 Fast wireless charging  
+
 Ultra-wide lens  

Reasons to avoid

-
 Average battery life 
-
 No macro capabilities 

Does the OnePlus 10 Pro live up to its hype? A 6.7-inch handset running Android 12, it sports a stunning AMOLED QHD+ display that beats most smartphones with its color and black levels. It also has lightning-quick wireless charging and a 65W charger that can fully recharge in 30 minutes.

They've cleaned up its camera array somewhat on the rear since the previous model, with the 10 Pro having three lenses instead of the four on the 9 Pro (in what was quite a busy setup). The downside of this though, is that the 10 Pro has no macro capabilities, which the 9 Pro did. Although it's technically a step back in terms of the number of cameras, the quality of the cameras and images produced has improved since the 9 Pro. Not to mention the OnePlus 10 Pro now has the ability to shoot in RAW format for simpler editing, and it provides 10-bit color photography.

But why is there a Hasselblad logo back there, you may be wondering? The ultra-high-end medium-format camera photography company has co-developed the 10 Pro's camera array with OnePlus, with 'Natural Color Calibration' as its substance. Its cameras do an excellent job capturing skin tones, and its ultra-wide-angle lens, which corrects for edge distortion, is the photography standout. In Night Mode, the images produced on the 10 Pro have much less of a green tint than images on the 9 Pro. Although there haven't been major changes since the previous model, the 10 Pro definitely takes better, brighter, and more detailed photos.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus in pearl, purple and black

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Best value Android camera phone: This good value effort includes 30x zoom, 8K video capture and a clean Night Mode

Specifications

Weight: 7.05 oz (200g)
Dimensions: 6.36 x 2.98 x 0.31" (151.7 x 71.2 x 7.9 mm)
Operating system: Android
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Screen resolution: 1080 x 2400
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100
RAM: 8GB
Rear camera: Rear camera: 12MP + 64MP + 12MP
Front camera: 102MP

Reasons to buy

+
8K video capture 
+
Bright Night Mode 
+
Long battery life 

Reasons to avoid

-
Ageing camera tech 
-
Night Mode requires stability 

It may not have the mighty 108-megapixel camera and 100x zoom of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra (opens in new tab)but the Samsung Galaxy S21 plus is kinder on the wallet, and still offers a lot to photographers despite using very similar tech to the older Galaxy S20 Plus.

Housed in a redesigned camera strip on the rear of this 6.7-inch handset are 12-megapixel wide-angle and ultra-wide lenses and a 64-megapixel telephoto lens. The latter offers 3x optical zoom and 30x digital. In bright conditions, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus takes colorful, vibrant and detailed photos that are equal to most other phones, while in low light, it produces images that are a touch brighter than, say, the iPhone. However, its Night Mode hugely benefits from using a tripod (or at least balancing it on a wall or similar).  


Apple iPhone 12 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Best value iPhone: It may no longer be the flagship but this camera phone still sports cutting-edge tech

Specifications

Weight: 6.67 oz (189g)
Dimensions: 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29" (146.7mm x 71.5mm x 7.4 mm)
Operating system: iOS
Screen size: 6-inch
Screen resolution: 1170 x 2532
CPU: A14 Bionic
RAM: 6GB
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 12MP

Reasons to buy

+
OLED display 
+
Night Mode 
+
Three camera array 

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life 
-
Uses an older chipset 
-
Only 2x optical zoom

Can this aging iPhone still compete? Actually, yes it can. A 6.1-inch smartphone with a triple camera setup — a wide-angle, ultra-wide and telephoto (the latter with 2x optical zoom) all capture thoroughly decent 12-megapixel photos. What may be slightly behind the times is its meager 2x optical zoom. It's nowhere near the abilities of Samsung (and other) flagship phones to capture distant subjects, but it's much better for better-composing portrait shots. Arguably, the latter is more useful on a smartphone. 

The same could be said for Night Mode, which is possible via the iPhone 12 Pro's rear lenses, which are vastly improved here than on previous models. Additionally, you'll have Apple's ProRAW image format, the LiDAR depth-scanning sensor, the ability to record 4K video at 60 frames per second, and fast autofocus in low light. What you miss out on compared to the iPhone 13 Pro is the latter's Apple A15 Bionic chip, slightly faster apertures and bigger sensors, 3x optical zoom and Cinematic Mode for video recording. 

How we test the best camera phones 2023

In order to guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best camera phones to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every camera phone through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each camera phone is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each camera phone is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each camera phone and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.

We look at how easy each camera phone is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date imaging technology, whether the camera phones can shoot high-quality stills photos and high-resolution video and also make suggestions if a particular camera phone would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on camera phones, whether you should purchase a device or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab) and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (opens in new tab), and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.

With contributions from