Best camera phone for 2022

Last updated: 12 March 2022   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

The quality of the camera is one of the features that sets an outstanding smartphone apart from its rivals.

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market in 2022, offering an excellent combination of quality hardware and software.

There's little to choose from among the top three of Apple, Samsung and Google, with the flagship devices from all those companies proving to be the best smartphone cameras available.

The OnePlus 9 Pro and the Sony Xperia 1 III round off this list, both bringing something a little different to the market.

camera smartphone

What are the best camera phones in 2022?

Cameras are one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a new smartphone.

Manufacturers save their best camera innovations for their flagship models, so customers will be looking at the most expensive handsets if they want the best camera phones.

We've rounded up five excellent camera phones for 2022, although customers can search for lower-spec models using our free mobile comparison checker if these devices are out of budget.

1. Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Lens 1 Lens 2 Lens 3 Front
Megapixels 12MP 12MP 12MP 12MP
Type 26mm wide 13mm ultrawide 13mm telephoto 23mm wide
Aperture f/1.5 f/1.8 f/2.8 f/2.2
Other Dual pixel PDAF, sensor-shift OIS PDAF PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom SL 3D

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro might be the smaller (and cheaper) sibling of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but it has the same great camera set-up with a trio of 12MP rear lenses.

It comes with some notable upgrades on the previous model, including larger sensors, an inbuilt macro mode that doesn't require an extra lens and autofocus on the ultrawide camera.

The iPhone 13 Pro also comes with a dynamic refresh rate that scales between 10Hz and 120Hz to balance battery life with the need for excellent performance. For photographers, the smoother displays allows for more accurate editing and visualisations without the need for transferring files straightaway.

Taken together, these technical upgrades make the iPhone 13 Pro the best camera set-up on an iPhone, and there are behind the scenes enhancements that improve the way users can work with their photos and videos in the form of Photographic Styles and Cinematic Mode.

If customers have the money to upgrade to the iPhone 13 Pro Max, this comes with a larger display and a bigger battery to allow for more photography and editing on the move.

However, the larger size of the Pro Max can be both a positive and a negative for users, offering a bigger display for editing on the move but also proving more unwieldy.

On balance, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro will suit most customers' needs, and it's one of the best camera phones available in 2022.

Here are some current iPhone 13 Pro deals on the 128GB model with low upfront costs:

Handset Minutes Data Monthly price Initial price Contract
Apple iPhone 13 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 30GB on 5G £45 Free 36 month term
Apple iPhone 13 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 25GB on 5G £48 Free 36 month term
Apple iPhone 13 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 100GB on 5G £51 £49 24 month term

2. Google Pixel 6 Pro

Lens 1 Lens 2 Lens 3 Front
Megapixels 50MP 12MP 48MP 11.1MP
Type 25mm wide 17mm ultrawide 104mm telephoto 20mm wide
Aperture f/1.9 f/2.2 f/3.5 f/2.2
Other Dual pixel PDAF, Laser AF, OIS N/A PDAF, OIS, 4x optical zoom N/A

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the latest flagship device from Google and it includes some important upgrades compared to the more budget-friendly Pixel 6.

It comes with three rear cameras including a 48MP telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom (compared to the 3x seen on the iPhone 13 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra), allowing for better quality close-up shots.

Thanks to their new proprietary Tensor chip, Google can power AI features more effectively than before including the Magic Eraser for removing elements from the backgrounds and Super Res Zoom for digitally cropping images without losing quality.

Like the Apple iPhone 13 Pro, the Google Pixel 6 Pro offers a 120Hz refresh rate for a smooth display, although there are reports that the Tensor chipset can get very warm when the device is being used heavily.

Overall, though, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is probably the best option for Android photography lovers - and it's definitely worth choosing over the standard Pixel 6 if you want the best camera.

Here are a couple of deals on O2 and Vodafone to illustrate pricing:

Handset Minutes Data Monthly price Initial price Contract
Google Pixel 6 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 80GB on 5G £44.75 £30 36 month term
Google Pixel 6 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 25GB on 5G £47 £29 36 month term

3. Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Lens 1 Lens 2 Lens 3 Lens 4 Front
Megapixels 108MP 12MP 10MP 10MP 40MP
Type 23mm wide 13mm ultrawide 70mm telephoto 230mm periscope telephoto 26mm wide
Aperture f/1.8 f/2.2 f/2.4 f/4.9 f/2.2
Other PDAF, Laser AF, OIS Dual pixel PDAF, Super Steady video Dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 3x optical zoom Dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 10x optical zoom PDAF

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best handset Samsung have ever released, so it's unsurprising they have tinkered behind the scenes to improve the camera functionality.

While the camera set-up itself didn't evolve between the S21 Ultra and the S22 Ultra, the way Samsung present it did. For example, the main camera incorporates a Super Clear Glass cover to reduce the amount of lens flare when shooting in low light. Combined with the Night mode on the S22 Ultra, it means users will see improved quality on darker photos.

Software improvements further bolster the 22 Ultra's credentials, including adaptive pixel technology to combine pixels for improved night photography and enhanced AI high-res processing.

There's no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the best camera photo available from Samsung and it can outperform the iPhone 13 Pro and the Pixel 6 Pro in several respects.

Yet some sunny shots can still feel overexposed on the S22 Ultra, and the same sizing issues we mentioned earlier in relation to the Pro Max version of the iPhone apply too (and, in fairness, apply to the Pixel 6 Pro).

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra aims to land in the same segment of market that the Galaxy Note range used to occupy, meaning it comes complete with an S Pen and integrated stylus holder. This adds to the bulk of the device and might make it more difficult to hold in some situations.

Handset Minutes Data Monthly price Initial price Contract
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (128GB) Unlimited 30GB on 5G £55 Free 36 month term
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (128GB) Unlimited 30GB on 5G £70 £79 24 month term
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (128GB) Unlimited 40GB on 5G £73 £50 24 month term

4. OnePlus 9 Pro

Lens 1 Lens 2 Lens 3 Lens 4 Front
Megapixels 48MP 50MP 8MP 2MP 16MP
Type 23mm wide 14mm ultrawide 77mm telephoto Monochrome Wide
Aperture f/1.8 f/2.2 f/2.4 f/2.4 f/2.4
Other Multi-directional PDAF, Laser AF, OIS AF PDAF, OIS, 3.3x optical zoom N/A N/A

OnePlus partnered with Hasselblad on the camera for the OnePlus 9 Pro which was named one of our best Android phones of 2021 last year.

The camera system holds up well against competition, with a quad rear camera incorporating a 48MP main lens and a 50MP ultrawide lens. The 3.3x optical zoom on the telephoto lens might not match up to the Google Pixel 6 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, but it is still a powerful option for taking zoomed in shots.

The partnership with Hasselblad has improved post-processing, ensuring the colours on the OnePlus 9 Pro are more vibrant than we're used to seeing with OnePlus handsets.

Plus, the hardware and software of the device have been updated to improve overall performance, helping the photography side of things too.

While the OnePlus 9 Pro is the only handset on this list to incorporate a dedicated monochrome lens, but extra small cameras like this don't always add a great deal to the user experience.

Here are a couple of OnePlus 9 Pro contract deals from Three:

Handset Minutes Data Monthly price Initial price Contract
OnePlus 9 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 12GB on 5G £50 £29 24 month term
OnePlus 9 Pro (128GB) Unlimited 100GB on 5G £51 £29 24 month term

5. Sony Xperia 1 III

Lens 1 Lens 2 Lens 3 Lens 4 Front
Megapixels 12MP 12MP 12MP 0.3MP 8MP
Type 24mm wide 16mm ultrawide 70mm telephoto Depth 24mm wide
Aperture f/1.7 f/2.2 f/2.3 N/A f/2.0
Other Dual pixel PDAF, OIS Dual pixel PDAF PDAF, OIS, 2.9x/4.4x optical zoom TOF 3D N/A

The Sony Xperia 1 III is a flagship Sony device that brings its 4K 21:9 aspect ratio display to customers, providing a different photography experience that we find on other handsets simply because of the height of it.

It makes our list thanks to the Variable Optical Zoom that can shift between 70mm and 105mm focal lengths with a single press of a button. It's a physical element within the device that moves to achieve two different zoom options within the same handset.

Like all the phones on this list, behind the scenes enhancements improve the overall user experience of the Sony Xperia 1 III, although it's worth noting that the more vibrant colours you'd find on a Samsung or Apple camera are more muted (and truer to life) on this device.

Perhaps one of the major drawbacks of the Sony Xperia 1 III is the element that makes it most unique: its 21:9 ratio and tall display. It can make the device a little difficult to handle, meaning landing that perfect photo might only be possible with two hands.

Handset Minutes Data Monthly price Initial price Contract
Sony Xperia 1 III (256GB) Unlimited 30GB on 5G £46 Free 36 month term
Sony Xperia 1 III (256GB) Unlimited 80GB on 5G £47 £30 36 month term

Camera phones: 5 things to look out for

The quality of a camera on a smartphone is one of the major considerations when choosing a new handset, and the devices we've listed above are some of the best on the market.

Yet manufacturers will often make claims about their smartphone cameras that seem confusing unless you understand what you're looking for.

Here are five things to look out for when choosing the right camera phone for you:

  1. Megapixels matter - but not as much as you might think. More megapixels will increase the quality of the picture, yet simply squeezing more pixels together doesn't always improve the quality. Some phones (like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra) have a larger sensor that splits each pixel using software to improve the detail of the shot.
  2. Aperture is an important element. Watch out for the f/ numbers listed in the tables above as a lower number means a lens is wider and lets more light into the shot. This improves the quality of shots in low-light.
  3. Special sensors can add depth. These can be explicitly called depth sensors or something more complicated, but they allow the phone to read the scene more effectively. Such sensors can improve the picture quality, especially on cheaper devices.
  4. Telephoto cameras are one of the selling points of higher-end handsets. They allow for more effective close-up photography without excess noise in the picture - choose higher optical zoom rather than digital zoom when given the choice.
  5. Some extra cameras can be useful, but they might not add much to the overall experience. It's become fashionable to create quad cameras (in the same way that triple cameras were a new frontier a few years ago), but adding a macro or monochrome lens may not dramatically improve the quality of the photography - it depends how important those features are to a user.

There's plenty to like about the cameras on the latest flagship handsets, but it's still possible to find a decent camera set-up on mid-range devices too.

Verdict: which camera phone is the best for 2022?

The most expensive smartphones on the market come with the best cameras and, crucially, the hardware and software to make the photography experience better for the user.

Our top choice for a camera phone in 2022 is the Apple iPhone 13 Pro. Thanks to a combination of excellent hardware and software, it's difficult to beat.

Even so, the flagship devices from Samsung and Google are also excellent, proving to be quality camera phones for those looking at Android smartphones, while the OnePlus 9 Pro and the Sony Xperia 1 III are other quality options to consider.

Learn more about the best smartphones for gaming in 2022 or read more about the best waterproof smartphones on the market.

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