The Best Smartphone Cameras Of 2019 (So Far)

If you're buying a high-end smartphone, the phone part tends to play second fiddle. You're really buying a camera.

The best camera is the one you have on you, so why wouldn't you want that camera to be as good as possible? You're hardly going to give your friends FOMO if your holiday snaps look like they were taken on a potato. So, whether you want to capture precious memories or just make it look like you're living your best life, here are some of the best smartphone cameras around right now.

The Google Pixel 3a Fuccs

The Google Pixel 3 was a contentious handset when it launched last year. A good phone to be sure, but the price was a touch high for incremental upgrades to what the Pixel 2 was already packing. But Google wasn't done. Last month it came in hot with its lite version of the device. Not only are the specs ridiculously similar to its bigger siblings, so is the camera. Oh and the battery is better. In one fell swoop Google fucked the mid-range phone market. In fact, it may have even fucked the high range one. It redefined what consumers should expect for $650 and thus threw the phone landscape into glorious chaos. And I for one worship it.

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Huawei P30 Pro

Image: Tegan Jones

Rear-facing camera setup: 40MP primary lens + 20MP wide angle lens + 8MP 5x telephoto lens + Time of Flight

The Huawei P30 Pro has the best camera on any smartphone you can buy right now, by a healthy margin. It's easy to forget the photos it captures were taken take on a phone. It can take crystal clear shots in complete darkness. It can zoom to an absurd level without losing detail.

No matter what kind of environment you're taking photos in, the P30 Pro is versatile enough to handle it. Huawei well and truly leapfrogged the competition with a camera unlike anything we've seen on a smartphone before, and despite launching almost half a year ago, it’s yet to be bested. It's some real witchcraft.

But as good as the P30 Pro camera is, it’s worth being aware of the Huawei’s dispute with the US government. Huawei is currently restricted from with US companies, which effectively cuts it off from Android. However, Huawei has been granted a further 90-day reprieve (until around November 19) and managed to secure access to the Android Q update for the P30 Pro.

Regardless of whether the US situation is resolved, the P30 Pro will still be able to run Google apps and services and Huawei has promised to still provide security updates, but these may get deployed at a slower pace. If the ban remains in place, Huawei smartphones aren’t likely to see major operating system updates past Android Q.

However, if you do buy a P30 Pro, you won't lose any out-of-the-box functionality.

And if you still want to buy the P30 Pro, here's a look at the plans you can get it on:


Google Pixel 3a

Image: Alex Choros

Rear-facing camera setup: 12.2MP primary lens.

The best smartphone cameras have typically been locked away behind four-digit price tags, and those prices have just kept climbing. With the Pixel 3a, Google changed this. The $649 handset has the same camera you find in the $1,199 Pixel 3, and the photos the two phones take are almost indistinguishable.

Sure, the Pixel 3a doesn’t have extra lenses like ultra-wide or zoom, but it’s one the very best cameras around. It takes great photos in almost any situation and does so consistently. You even get a whole heap of clever software features including portrait mode for taking pretty pictures of your friends, and Night Sight for long exposure low light photography.

The Pixel 3a camera is unprecedented for a midrange device. It will genuinely make you ask, "why spend more?"

And here's a look at some Pixel 3a plans (note: it's currently only available on Vodafone):


Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

Image: Alex Choros

Rear-facing camera setup: 12MP primary lens + 12MP 2x zoom lens + 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens + ToF.

The Galaxy Note 10+ has a pretty similar camera configuration to the Galaxy S10, but there’s been a few tweaks and upgrades to make it more versatile. The zoom lens has a faster aperture, which makes it more reliable in low light, and there’s now a Time of Flight lens for capturing more accurate depth information to make your portrait shots prettier.

Much like the S10, the Note 10+ excels at snapping vibrant images with a high amount of dynamic range. Lowlight photography isn’t quite as good as what you’d get on the P30 Pro or Pixel 3a, and the fish-eye on the ultra-wide lens can be quite noticeable, but the Note 10+ is still an excellent choice when it comes to smartphone photography. A super solid all-rounder.

Here are a couple of Galaxy Note 10+ camera samples:

And here's a look at some Galaxy Note 10+ plans:


iPhone XS

Image: Raul Marrero (Gizmodo)

Rear-facing camera setup: 12MP primary lens + 12MP 2x zoom lens.

The latest iPhones don't have the same kind of crazy lowlight functionality or night mode shenanigans we've seen on other smartphones, but they still have excellent cameras and can take great photos in most conditions.

While the pair are set to be superseded in September, the iPhone XS is still one of the fastest shooting smartphones I've tested, which makes it easy to capture sharp shots of quick or unpredictable subjects like cute animals or sweaty men with guitars.

Here are a couple of iPhone XS camera samples:

And here's a look at the plans you can get the iPhone XS on:

And here are some iPhone XS Max plans:

Both the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max have an identical camera setup.


OPPO Reno 5G

Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Rear-facing camera setup: 48MP primary lens + 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens + 13MP 5x telephoto lens.

The Reno 5G is OPPO's strongest camera effort to date. While that's to be expected with any new phone, it's a surprisingly meaningful improvement on last year’s R17 Pro - especially when it comes to low light.

The telephoto zoom lens doesn't quite live up to what Huawei achieved with the P30 Pro - photos are harder to stabilise and can lose detail easily - but it's still a welcome feature that makes the Reno 5G a little more versatile than the typical smartphone camera.

Here are a couple of OPPO Reno 5G camera samples:

And here's a look at the plans you can get the Reno 5G on:

The Reno 5G is exclusively available on a plan through Telstra, but you'll find the 4G version (which shares the same camera) on these Woolworths Mobile plans for a little bit less:


Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.


As Gizmodo editors we write about stuff we like and think you'll like too. Gizmodo often has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

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