Cameras are an increasingly important part of smartphones, and as specs start to level out, they’re one of the main ways that manufacturers try to make their handsets stand out.
That can mean more lenses, as with the quad-lens iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, higher megapixel counts, unusual features and gimmicks, or just a focus on making the best single or dual-lens snapper possible.
Below, you’ll find the very best smartphone cameras available in 2022. And note also that while this guide focuses on their camera credentials, all of these handsets are great phones in other ways too.
The Honor Magic 4 Pro isn’t one of the biggest names in camera phones, but it arguably has one of the most balanced selection of cameras you’ll find in a 2022 handset.
By balanced, we mean one that covers all the key bases and doesn’t skimp on megapixels. It has a 50MP f/1.8 main sensor, a 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide one (with a 122-degree field of view), and a 64MP f/3.5 telephoto one, with a 3.5x optical zoom. Plus, there’s also a depth sensor.
So while it doesn’t zoom as far as some phones, it strikes a nice balance – if you’re only going to have one optical zoom distance on a handset than 3.5x is a decent distance to set it at. And all three lenses have plenty of megapixels.
The Honor Magic 4 Pro also has a 12MP ultrawide camera on the front, so this can fit more people in shots than many selfie cameras, and there’s a depth sensor here too, which can help with portrait shots.
If there’s a flaw it’s that only the telephoto lens has optical image stabilisation (OIS), which slightly hampers this phone’s low light skills, but in good lighting it excels.
Google has never been one to chase massive megapixel counts and lens numbers, opting instead for a less is more approach that focuses on quality over quantity. That said, with the Pixel 6 Pro it has a bit of both.
You get three lenses on the back – a 50MP f/1.9 wide camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (with a 114-degree field of view), and a 48MP f/3.5 telephoto, offering 4x optical zoom. So that’s a solid assortment, and the wide and telephoto cameras also have OIS.
The front-facing camera is decent too, as while it just has an 11.1MP sensor, it uses an ultra-wide lens, so you can fit plenty in your selfie shots.
The real reason the Google Pixel 6 Pro ranks so high for photography though is its software, as thanks to AI, algorithms, and clever modes, you can get excellent shots if you just point and shoot, and even better ones with a bit of editing, including through impressive modes like Magic Eraser, which can remove unwanted elements from a photo.
The Sony Xperia 1 IV stands out among just about all other camera phones through having a continuous optical zoom. In this case, that means it can optically zoom to any level between 3.5x and 5.2x. That’s in contrast to most phones which can only optically zoom to one focal length – or two at most.
So if a phone has a 4x optical zoom and you only want to zoom to 3x, you can’t, it will use inferior digital zoom instead. But with the Sony Xperia 1 IV, if you want to zoom to, say, 4x or 4.5x you can, as those focal lengths fall between its two zoom limits.
That zoom is handled by a 12MP f/2.3 camera, and the Sony Xperia 1 IV also has a 12MP f/1.7 wide camera, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide (with a 124-degree field of view), and a depth sensor. Its wide and telephoto lenses also sport OIS, and handily it can record 4K video at 120fps on every rear camera.
Our only slight disappointment is the relatively low megapixel counts of all the sensors, but this only really becomes a problem if you plan to blow the pictures up to a large size. It also has a fairly ordinary – if still quite capable – 12MP selfie camera.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best iPhone you can buy at the time of writing, whether you care about the camera or not, but the camera sure does excel.
The phone has a 12MP f/1.5 wide camera with OIS, a 12MP f/2.8 telephoto with OIS and 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP f/1.8 ultra-wide with a 120-degree field of view. Plus, it packs a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner for judging depth.
On the face of it that might not sound like the most exciting setup, but Apple’s phones consistently capture some of the most pleasing images you’ll see from a smartphone, and there’s no editing or adjusting settings needed to get them there – you can just point and shoot.
There are of course plenty of modes and controls if you want them though, so the iPhone 13 Pro Max is ideal whatever your skill level in photography.
It has one of the best selfie cameras too, as its 12MP front-facing camera is joined by a depth sensor, allowing for superb portrait shots.
For our money the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the ultimate camera phone, and one look at its camera specs should give you a good idea of why.
It has a 108MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera with OIS, a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide with a 120-degree field of view, a 10MP f/2.4 telephoto with OIS and 3x optical zoom, and a 10MP f/4.9 periscope snapper with OIS and 10x optical zoom.
As such, it can zoom further than almost any other phone, but also offers a more conventional 3x zoom, and it has a super-high-megapixel main sensor, plus a great 40MP front-facing camera. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra can also shoot video in up to 8K quality, so it has most handsets beat on that front too, and it’s packed full of shooting modes and tools.
It can sometimes over-saturate images a little, so the results won’t quite be the most natural, but instead you get vibrant shots, which tend to stand out a lot more. So if you’re happy with that, you won’t go wrong with this exceptional flagship.
The above phones are easily among the very best camera phones you can get at the time of writing. In our view, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the absolute best, but it has got some steep competition and it’s not the winner in every category.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max and Pixel 6 Pro excel if you just want to point and shoot for example, and they’re also great for taking night shots.
The Sony Xperia 1 IV meanwhile has an incredibly versatile optical zoom, while the Honor Magic 4 Pro packs a decent number of megapixels into every sensor.
So consider what you want to use the camera for and what your budget is before picking one. But for its versatility and the core quality of what’s on offer, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is our top pick.