Cameras in smartphones have come a long way over the last few years, with a number of features that have greatly improved the quality of images produced by smartphones, including optical image stabilisation (OIS), larger sensors, bright lenses, and even optical zoom making them even better for photography. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good camera on your smartphone, here we look at the best camera phonesavailable for under £300/$450 sim-free.
You’ll also find more in-depth comments on each of the smartphones featured in our list over in reviews, plus, take a look at our technique and feature sections where you’ll find a range of articles, including our 8 DIY smartphone photography tricks you must try feature and our food photography basics, that’ll have you snapping top smartphones shots in no-time.
1. Moto X Play
The Moto X Play is positioned between the Moto G and Moto X Style as a mid-range model in Motorola’s current smartphone range. The X Play has a 21Mp rear f/2.0 camera and 5Mp front-facing camera and is fronted by a large 5.5-inch display. Images from the X Play’s 21Mp sensor are vibrant, well-exposed and have plenty of dynamic range. If the camera detects a high contrast scene, the automatic HDR mode makes a noticeable difference to highlight and shadow intensity, whilst also boosting colour vibrancy. The effect is very noticeable, although in some instances it can look a little too intense. Things are less impressive in low light, where noise becomes more obvious as the camera requires higher ISO sensitivities to compensate for the lack of image stabilisation, and the lack of control over ISO settings disappoints. Storage can be expanded with the MicroSD card slot. Available for around £260/$390.
Camera features at a glance: 21mp, f/2.0 lens, 27mm equivalent, FullHD video recording, MicroSD slot.
2. Moto G (3rd Generation)
The third generation of the Moto G features a 13Mp 1/3-inch back-illuminated image sensor, 28mm-equivalent lens, f/2.0 with 4x digital zoom and a 5.0-inch IPS LCD screen. The fixed focal length, 28mm equivalent lens produces distortion-free images, while corner sharpness is almost a match for the centre of frame, although there are limited controls with the built-in camera app. The front-facing selfie camera generates good enough image quality for social media sharing or 6×4 prints, but when viewed any larger, the lack of fine detail is clear to see. Panoramas are a little disappointing but video, captured at 1920×1080, is well detailed, vibrant and well exposed. The Moto G is one of the cheapest waterproof smartphones available, and storage can be expanded with a MicroSD card. Available for around £150/$225.
Camera features at a glance: 13mp, f/2.0 lens, 28mm equivalent, FullHD video recording, MicroSD slot.
3. Moto G4 Plus
The Moto G4 Plus features a 16 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, FullHD video recording, a fairly bright f/2.0 lens. There’s a 5.5inch FullHD screen. The front camera is a 5-megapixel camera. Detail and colour reproduction in shots is good, and we were impressed by the colour performance of the dual-tone flash. The ISO range is from ISO64 to ISO3200. There is a MicroSD card slot, so you can add additional storage when needed. Available for around £210/$315.
Camera features at a glance: 16mp, f/2.0 lens, FullHD video recording, MicroSD slot.
4. Huawei P8
The Huawei P8 features a slim metal body, large 5.2inch fullHD screen and a 13-megapixel camera with a bright f/2.0 lens. The phone also has a number of advanced photography features including a light painting mode and optical image stabilisation. Image quality is reasonably good, but not as sharp or as detailed as competitor phones but for those who don’t want to spend as much money, but still want a premium smartphone camera, then P8 is well suited. The camera has a Sony sensor designed for better low light performance, and an ISO range from ISO64 to ISO1600, and the storage can be expanded with a MicroSD card. Available for around £270/$405.
Camera features at a glance: 13mp, f/2.0 lens, 28mm equivalent, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), FullHD video, MicroSD slot.
5. Samsung Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5 will shoot at an impressive six frames-per-second for a 30-second burst and it’s got enough oomph to record 4K, Ultra HD video. The S5 is also certified dustproof as well as waterproof to a 1-meter depth and is available with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with a MicroSD card. As for its picture-taking capabilities, the S5 sports a fixed, 31mm-equivalent f/2.2 lens and features digital image stabilisation. The Galaxy S5 captures good levels of detail from both close range and distant subjects at ISO400 and below, with the maximum ISO speed ISO800. It also maintains impressively low levels of detail smoothing and image noise at higher sensitivities. Colour reproduction is accurate and matrix metering reliably produces well-exposed shots with decent dynamic range. Available for around £250/$375.
Camera features at a glance: 16mp, f/2.2 lens, 31mm equivalent, 4K video recording, MicroSD slot.
6. BQ Aquaris X5
The BQ Aquaris X5 features a 13-megapixel camera, an f/2.0 lens, twin LED flash, along with a selfie LED flash for the 5mp front camera. The smartphone has an aluminium frame, 2900mAh battery, and MicroSD card slot. HDR shooting is built-in, and the camera records FullHD video. Available with a 5-year warranty. Available for around £180/$270.
Others to look at include the following smartphones:
- OnePlus 2 – 13mp, OIS, £249/$373
- Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016) – 13mp, OIS, £260/$390
- Blackberry DTEK50 – 13mp, £249/$373
- Asus Zenfone Zoom, 13mp, 3x optical zoom, OIS, £279/$418 (if available in your area)
- LG G4 – 16mp, OIS, available second-hand from £160/$240.