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Best phones for photography

Taking good quality photos isn’t reserved for professional photographers and this is why when choosing a new smartphone, the camera characteristics can be a decisive factor. However, this can be complicated because different companies use different technologies, which translates into a variety of approaches to photography. In addition to this, there are the user’s personal preferences and needs. This is why in the present article, we present some of the overall best phones for photography, so if you want to find out some of the best models in 2021, then read on.

Why do new phones need so many cameras?

As technology progresses quickly, we are no longer surprised by phones with multiple cameras. However, do we really need them and why are they there? Adding cameras to a device allows the manufacturer to integrate different lenses with different purposes. For example, wide lenses are used for getting more area into your photo, whereas telephoto cameras are there for optical zoom.

Sometimes, cameras can also work together to give you an optimal experience.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has four rear cameras (one 108MP f/1.8 wide-angle camera, one 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera, and two 10MP f/2.4 and f/4.9 telephoto cameras) and one 40MP selfie camera. Samsung’s latest HM3 sensor is used in the main camera and compared to older models, it features an improved performance when it comes to HDR, low light, and autofocus. It also comes with a Low noise mode.

The default settings are enough to make good-quality photos. The white balance and color rendering are very accurate and can be adjusted manually if they appear over-sharpened. The noise level is pretty much non-existent. Regarding the night shots, in particular, the Night mode is quite helpful, as it decreases the noise and allows good detail levels and color saturation, among others. The camera app has a Portrait mode and Director’s view that shows live images from all four cameras at once, so you can choose the best one.

A disadvantage of this model is that the ultra-wide camera often results in overprocessed photos. In addition to that, Samsung Galaxy S21 5G is quite expensive.

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G

Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G comes with three rear cameras (one 108MP wide-angle camera, one 12MP ultra-wide camera, one 12MP telephoto camera, and a laser AF sensor) and one 10MP selfie camera.

Regarding daylight photos, both wide-angle and ultra-wide cameras offer vivid and accurate colors that may seem somehow overprocessed and oversharpened but not as much as previous models. The photos feature good details.

Nighttime photos are also great with a wide dynamic range, amazing color saturation, and details. The Night mode improves the dark areas while containing that blurry halo around light sources at the same time.

The biggest advantage of this model is the telephoto camera that makes photos very sharp with vivid colors and offers good noise processing.

Users can also enjoy the 4x setting in the viewfinder for a composite image. It uses a combination of the telephoto camera for the center of the picture and the main camera for the periphery.

On the downside, this model is also quite expensive.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

As most phones, iPhone 12 Pro Max has three rear cameras (one 12 MP, f/1.6 wide-angle camera, one 12 MP, f/2.2 telephoto camera, one 12 MP, f/2.4 ultra wide-angle camera, and a TOF 3D LiDAR scanner) and one 12 MP, f/2.2 selfie camera.

Thanks to the new A14 chip, the image processing features a Smart HDR 3 (improved HDR), Night Mode (including Night Portraits but not for the telephoto), and Deep Fusion. The last feature uses several frames and selects automatically the best ones to create a high-quality HDR photo. The overall result for the wide camera is high contrast and low noise, as well as exact white balance and accurate colors. When it comes to the ultra-wide camera, the overall result is excellent, with great distortion correction and very fine details. The contrast is great, and this is also the case of the white balance and color presentation. The telephoto camera offers great details, contrast, white balance, and colors.

As for low light photos, the wide-angle camera provides some amazing results, such as color preservation, low noise pictures, balanced exposure, and very well-handled highlights.

As you can probably tell, the biggest inconvenience here is the iPhone 12 Pro Max price - you can actually get a professional-type camera for the same money.

iPhone 12 Pro

Just like iPhone 12 Pro Max, this model has three rear cameras (one 12 MP, f/1.6 wide-angle camera, one 12 MP, f/2.0 telephoto camera, one 12 MP, f/2.4 ultrawide-angle camera, and a TOF 3D LiDAR scanner) and one 12 MP, f/2.2 selfie camera.

Like 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro has Smart HDR 3, Night Mode (main and ultra-wide camera), and Deep Fusion.

The main camera (wide-angle) provides photos with low noise levels, good sharpness, as well as exact white balance. The colors are also very accurate and the contrast is high. The dynamic range is okay. Regarding the ultrawide angle camera, the photos come out with good contrast and realistic white balance and colors. However, they are less detailed compared to iPhone 12 Pro Max. The telephoto snapper, on the other hand, provides great details, good contrast, a balanced dynamic range with a well-controlled HDR. In addition, the colors and white balance are very accurate.

For the shots in low-light environments, iPhone 12 Pro offers outstanding performance, as the exposure is perfectly balanced, the noise is low, and the images are sharp and rich in detail.

Although this model is cheaper than the 12 Pro Max version, it is still quite expensive.

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Keeping the tradition, Huawei Mate 40 Pro comes with three rear cameras (50 MP, f/1.9 wide-angle camera, one 12 MP, f/3.4 periscope telephoto camera, and one 20 MP, f/1.8 ultrawide camera) and one 13 MP, f/2.4 ultrawide selfie camera.

There’s a Pro mode for photos (but not videos) that allows users to manually adjust the settings. In addition, there are also Portrait and Aperture modes - the first one gives users the possibility to enable or disable the background blur, whereas with the latter they can choose the simulated aperture from f/0.95 to f/16.

Both wide-angle and telephoto cameras give amazing results with warmed-up and vivid colors, low noise, and great dynamic range. The rendering of the textures is also very accurate. When it comes to the ultrawide-angle camera, it gives sharp images with fine details. The colors are accurate and the noise levels are basically non-existent.

In the same order, nighttime shots are great as well: the colors are vivid and preserved, the highlights and shadows are well-balanced, and there is no blurry halo around the light sources. Once again, the photos are noise-free. The Night mode doesn’t offer much but it still helps.

On the downside, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro price is not what we would have loved - but it is less expensive than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro has four rear cameras (one 48 MP, f/1.8 wide-angle camera, one 8 MP, f/2.4 telephoto camera, one 50 MP, f/2.2 ultrawide-angle camera, and one 2 MP, f/2.4 monochrome camera) and one 16 MP, f/2.4 wide-angle selfie camera.

This model is based on the partnership with the Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad and can be seen right from the moment you open the camera app - the shutter button is now orange, just like on Hasselblad cameras. Other than the design, on a more technical level, the Swedish company has worked on the color calibration.

The main OpenPlus 9 Pro camera has a wide focal length and vibrant rendering of the blue and green colors. The contrast is also very high and the processor performs very well compared to older models in low-light environments. The ultrawide-angle camera is impressive and perspective distortion is corrected by the freeform lens before the image touches the sensor. The telephoto snapper is also good and the photos turn out very detailed. The monochrome camera isn’t a camera by itself - its function is to assist the main camera for monochrome pictures.

Low-light photos are also amazing, with fine details and great colors. Enabling the Nightscape mode improves this performance even further!

If the camera is the only feature that matters to you when choosing a phone, then we recommend having a look at the OnePlus 8 Pro - although an older model, it has a better camera performance regarding details precision, noise level, and white balance accuracy.

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 is the only model on the list that comes with two rear cameras (one 12.2 MP, f/1.7 wide-angle camera and one 16 MP, f/2.2 ultrawide) and one 8 MP, f/2.0 selfie camera.

The main camera offers some very good quality photos with great details, contrast, and dynamic range. Another good thing about the wide-angle camera is the sharpness, as well as the low noise levels. The ultra wide-angle camera has the same quality performance that results in accurate colors and great sharpness. Despite the lack of a telephoto camera, Google’s HDR+ algorithm allows taking outstanding shots. In addition, the phone uses the main camera for the Portrait mode to create the famous bokeh effect. This results in vibrant colors, good contrast, and accurate white balance.

The main camera performs better than the ultrawide for photos in low-light conditions and the Night Sight mode helps by reducing the noise levels.

Although the Google Pixel 5 price makes the phone rather affordable (compared to the most models on the list), it seems that the biggest disadvantage are the nighttime photos.
Image: Samsung/Huawei/OnePlus/Google/Unsplash: @sarandywestfall_photo, @thoduc, @theregisti, @zan_ilm


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