With the best budget camera phones, you can get a premium smartphone photography experience for a less-than-premium price. While we’re all familiar with the flagship phones and their high price tags, the truth is that you don’t need to spend a huge amount to get a respectable camera phone. Looking in the mid-range and budget ends of the market, you can find some real gems that still deliver top-notch image and video quality.
Looking at the specs of the phones we’ve listed here, one thing that might surprise you is how often you see features that seem to belong on the best camera phones. Multi-camera arrays, 200MP pixel counts, phase-detection autofocus – all these things can be found on phones that cost less than $500 / £500 – you just have to know where to look. As well as cheaper manufacturers like Honor and Xiaomi that specifically focus on the budget market, a good strategy is also to look at older versions of popular flagships. Go back a few generations in in the Samsung Galaxy S series, for example, and you’ll still get a great phone, often for much less than you would have paid when it was released.
For this guide, we’ve included both new budget and mid-range models and older flagships that represent a real bargain.
The phones on this list are all ones we’ve tested and reviewed, so you can be confident we’re only recommending you phones we have personally spent time with. one thing to note is that all the phones on this list are Android, not iPhone – this is simply a fact of life when you’re looking at the budget end of the scale. Check out our rundown of how to choose an Android or iOS phone if you’d like to know more about how the two formats compare when it comes to camera quality.
If you want to know more about camera phones and their key specs, you can scroll to the bottom of this page where we’ve put together a quick explainer on how to choose a camera phone. For now though, let’s take a look at the full list of phones we’ve picked out…
The best budget camera phones: our quick list
Here’s our quick run-down of budget and mid-range camera phones:
Continuing reading to find out more, along with sample photos from all the phones featured…
Best under $500 / £450: Google Pixel 7a
At a glance:
- 64MP wide-angle, f/1.9, 25mm equivalent, (83°), OIS, 4K 60p
- 13MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 14mm equivalent, (120°), 4K 30p
- 13MP selfie camera, f/2.2, 21mm equivalent, 4K 30p, face unlock
- Operating system and processor: Android 13, Titan M2 processor
- Size and weight: 152.4 x 72.9 x 9.0mm, 193g (IP67 rating)
- $499 or £449 sim-free
The Google Pixel 7a is Google’s latest entry-level smartphone, but comes with a significant update to the cameras on the phone. With a new 64MP wide-angle camera, a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera, plus an updated 13MP selfie camera, all three cameras are capable of recording 4K video. You’ll also find that the phone has even more photography features than the cheaper Pixel 6a, including Motion Blur, which is great for creative shots of light painting, light trails, and smooth waterfalls.
The Google Pixel 7a may not have a telephoto camera, but at this price point very few smartphones do. To make up for this the phone uses Super Resolution Zoom, which gives reasonably good 2x zoom photos. You can use up to 8x zoom, but the results aren’t as good. Another nice feature of the Pixel 7a is the fact that the main camera can actually give pretty good close-up performance, even though it doesn’t have a dedicated “macro” mode.
Read our full Google Pixel 7a review
- Excellent photo quality and colour
- Improved front and rear cameras
- 4K video from both front/rear cameras
- Adds motion photography modes
- Increased price compared to Pixel 6a
- Slow charging compared to others
Budget flagship: Samsung Galaxy S22 (2022)
At a glance:
- 50MP main wide-angle, f/1.8, OIS, 23mm equivalent
- 12MP ultra-wide-angle, f/2.2, 13mm equivalent
- 10MP telephoto, f/2.4, 3x/70mm equivalent, OIS
- 10MP selfie camera with AF, 25mm equivalent (and 4K video)
- 6.1inch screen, AMOLED, 120Hz, Gorilla Glass Victus+
- Android 12, upgrades to 13
- Around £465 / $458 (prices vary)
It’s a truism in tech that yesteryear’s flagship is this year’s bargain, and so it goes with the Samsung Galaxy S22. It was never a hugely expensive phone (by smartphone standards at least), originally retailing at £769 / $799, but given that it can now be picked up for about £449 / $449, that’s quite a substantial saving.
The Galaxy S22 was the entry-level model, not a million miles away in features from mid-range phones like the Galaxy A54, listed below. So it doesn’t get the headline-grabbing 108MP or 200MP main cameras of its flagship siblings like the S22 Ultra or S23 Ultra, but it still has a more-than-respectable 50MP main camera that benefits from optical stabilisation. This sits alongside a 12MP ultra-wide-angle, as well as a 10MP 3x telephoto camera that’s stabilised (and is a good deal more welcome than a rubbishy little macro camera).
As befitting a flagship phone, the Galaxy S22 also feels premium in the hand, and has all the quality-of-life features you’d expect from such a device. Wireless charging, an in-screen fingerprint reader –Samsung even chucks in IP68 waterproofing, meaning it can even survive being submerged in water (though, as ever, we’re not recommending you test this too enthusiastically).
Imaging performance from the Galaxy S22 is consistently impressive, delivering punchy colours and good consistency between the difference camera modules. There’s no dedicated macro mode as the ultra-wide-angle camera is fixed focus (you’ll have to pay for an Ultra model for that kind of luxury), but telephoto performance is generally very good as long as there’s sufficient light. You can even record 8K video at 24p if that’s something you’re interested in; though in truth, most people will probably be just fine with the excellent 4K, which is also available on the selfie camera.
- Price has tumbled
- Not too large, but feels premium
- Excellent, consistent image quality
- No dedicated Macro mode
- Battery life not as good as others
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review.
Best budget phone for selfies: Infinix Zero 30 5G
At a glance:
- 108MP wide-angle camera, f/1.65, OIS, PDAF (1/1.67inch sensor)
- 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera, f/2.2, AF, 120°
- 50MP selfie camera, f/2.45, PDAF, outputs 12MP images
- 3x “Lossless” zoom from main camera
- Android 13
- Around $339
You may well not have come across the Infinix Zero 30 5G before, but it’s a super-cheap phone with a pretty impressive camera setup – especially if you like taking selfies. The front-facing camera is a 50MP module with an f/2.45 aperture and even phase-detection autofocus (PDAF). It puts out glorious 12MP images, though you can use the full 50MP resolution if you want, and offers a useful LED flash if you need a touch more light. It can also be used to capture 4K 60p video.
On the other side, things are also impressive. The main module is a 108MP wide-angle that uses 9-in-1 pixel binning to produce 11.8MP images. One thing we particularly like here is that one of the lens elements is glass rather than plastic, improving quality and light-gathering ability, also helped by a generous aperture of f/1.65. Here once again there is PDAF, and you can also crop in significantly with the 3x lossless zoom to simulate telephoto reach.
Alongside it is a 13MP ultra-wide-angle camera, with autofocus – this powers the macro mode. There’s also a 2.4MP “depth” camera to help with portrait mode.
The Infinix Zero 30 5G really is impressive for its price, but the catch is that it’s only available in certain territories. If you can get it, the phone is definitely worth considering – we came away pretty impressed following our review, with the camera(s) capturing natural-looking results in a wide variety of shooting situations.
- Effective AF on selfie, wide and ultra cameras
- Handy LED flash for selfies
- Lots of appealing colour options
- Not available in all territories
- Pointless 2MP depth camera
Read our full Infinix Zero 30 5G review
Best mid-range budget phone: Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
At a glance:
- 50MP f/1.8 main camera with PDAF, OIS
- 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera without AF
- 5MP f/2.4 macro camera without AF
- 32MP f/2.2 selfie-camera, fixed focus
- Android 13, microSDXC slot
- IP67 rating weatherproofing
- $449 / £449
While Samsung is most famous for its Galaxy S line of flagship, high-end smartphones designed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with iPhones, the Korean manufacturer also sells quite a few mid-range and cheap phones. After all, only the most committed (and not to mention wealthy) of tech geeks are going to be buying £/$1,000+ phones with anything approaching frequency. The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G costs about half of what something like the Galaxy S23 Ultra would cost, and still packs a pretty well-featured camera setup.
The A54 manages to find room for a triple camera array. The star of the show is the 50MP f/1.8 camera, with a Quad Bayer sensor, which offers both phase-detection autofocus and optical image stabilisation. It uses pixel binning to create 12.5MP images. Jostling for space with it are a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera and a 5MP macro camera, both with fixed focus. They all stick out a little, meaning they collect dust like nobody’s business, but the image quality is sound. The selfie camera, meanwhile, is a 32MP affair with fixed focus, which also uses pixel binning to produce 8MP pictures.
As any Samsung user will have come to expect, the cameras produce attractive images with punchy colours. There’s also automatic HDR, which helps bump up the dynamic range. The overall effect might be a little oversaturated for some, but in general, people prefer their phone cameras to be punchy and vibrant than washed-out and dour. You’ll probably like the look of your images.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy A54 is a nice package. It’s got a big, attractive screen, generous battery life and a decent camera setup that copes in most situations. The fact that the macro camera is 5MP rather than 2MP means it’s actually worth having, and the IP67 weatherproofing is a welcome addition.
- Dynamic images with popping colours
- Main camera is well-specced
- Good value for money
- Battery life does well
- No wireless charging
- Lots of fun filters, but few serious photography modes
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A54 5G review.
Best mid-range Honor phone: Honor 90
At a glance:
- 200MP wide camera, f/1.9 aperture, PDAF
- 12MP ultra wide and macro camera, f/2.2 aperture, AF
- 2MP depth camera, f/2.4 aperture
- Android 13
- 6.7-inch AMOLED Quad-curved floating display, 120Hz
- $349-450 / £449-£499
Even though this is a reasonably mid-priced phone, the Honor 90 still manages to pack in a 200MP main camera, with a 1/1.4 inch sensor that’s upgraded in size compared to the previous version. Elsewhere on the phone you’ve got an ultra-wide 12MP module with a 16mm equivalent lens, and a 2MP ‘depth’ camera that’s intended for creating images with a shallow depth of field (a.k.a. Portrait Mode). All this adds up to a pretty impressive package for a smartphone at this price – which varies depending on whether you want 256GB or 512GB of storage.
In our full review, we found the Honor 90 to be a pleasant and capable camera phone that was able to cope with a wide variety of shooting situations. It can’t shoot 8K video and 4K tops out at 30p, but it’s only a small percentage of users who are going to be bothered about that. Realistically, the bigger omission for most people is going to be the lack of a telephoto camera, reducing your options when shooting at distance. Most of the specialist modes are decent enough, though we found the close-up SuperMacro mode to be fairly lacklustre, resulting in an undesirable loss of image detail.
The display on the Honor 90 is gorgeous, and we came away pretty impressed by how long the battery was capable of holding up. It produces consistently attractive images too, especially when you stick with the main camera module. For this price, it’s an excellent phone all-around.
- Main camera consistently impresses
- Lovely high-quality display
- Battery lasts well
- No telephoto module
- Macro mode isn’t the best
Read our full Honor 90 review.
Budget 200MP phone: Xiaomi 12T Pro 5G
At a glance:
- 200MP main camera, f/1.69, AF, OIS, 1/1.22inch sensor
- 8MP ultra-wide, f/2.2 unspecified sensor size
- 2MP macro, f/2.2 unspecified sensor size
- Android 12
- 163.1×75.9×8.6mm, 205g
- $584 / £550
The Xiaomi 12T Pro’s 200MP resolution is not all it seems, since it uses pixel binning (combining the signals from several pixels) to produce a default resolution of just 12.5MP in most modes. There is a 50MP UltraHD mode which is usable in good light but the 200MP mode is very poor.
The ultra-wide camera is just 8MP, and the macro camera seems pretty pointless with just 2 megapixels. You do get a variety of ‘long exposure’ modes.
4K video can be recorded at 60fps or 30fps, with the option of 8K capture, and high-speed video at up to 1920fps at reduced resolution.
The case of the Xiaomi 12T Pro is quite slim but the camera array stands proud on the back and the main camera sticks out still further, so it wobbles a little when laid flat. It does charge extremely fast, though only via the supplied 120W charger and cable.
Image quality from the main camera is good, but the ultra-wide and macro cameras are less impressive. The 200MP sensor seems more of a marketing gimmick than a practical tool.
Read our full Xiaomi 12T Pro Review
- Flagship processor
- 256GB storage
- 120W charger provided
- Great screen
- 2MP macro camera is very poor
- No noticeable benefit from 200MP mode
- 8MP ultra-wide can be hit-and-miss
Cheapest 200MP phone: Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G
At a glance:
- 200MP main camera
- 8MP ultra-wide
- 2 MP macro camera
- Android 12
- 162.9 x 76 x 8.98mm, 210.5g
The Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro + 5G, at the top of the list for Xiaomi’s mid-range Redmi series is one of the cheapest smartphones with a 200MP camera, which gives the best results and while nowhere near what you’d get from a real camera with a high resolution sensor, as long as you treat the camera as a 12.5MP camera you should be pleased with the results. The 8MP ultra-wide camera is capable but image quality is poor, particularly towards the corners of the frame. The 2MP macro camera is quite frankly terrible.
If you want a budget smartphone with a large 120Hz screen, 120W charging, and a headphone socket, and aren’t really too concerned about the camera features, then this is a phone that could be for you.
Read our full Redmi Note 12 Pro+ 5G Review.
- Good main camera
- Free case provided in the box
- 3.5mm headphone socket
- 120W charger included
- It’s a nice looking phone
- Poor 8MP ultra-wide camera
- Terrible 2MP macro camera
- 2x zoom gives you pixelated images
Waterproof IP68 rated: Google Pixel 7
At a glance:
- 50MP f/1.85 wide-angle camera with OIS, PDAF, 1x, 24mm equivalent
- 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, without AF, 0.7x 16mm equivalent
- Up to 8x “Super Res Zoom” (8x stills, 7x video)
- Android 13
- 155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7mm, 197g
- $600 / £599
With the Pixel 7, Google has wisely concentrated on a good 50MP main camera and a decent 12MP ultra-wide camera, and not tried to add in a third ‘macro’ camera. The cameras are mounted in the Pixel’s controversial (design-wise) ‘camera bar’. The Pixel 7 has a slightly smaller screen and body compared to the previous Pixel 6, together with an improved 10.8MP front-facing ‘selfie’ camera.
The Pixel 7 lacks the telephoto camera of the Pixel 7 Pro and has to make do with a ‘Digital Super Res’ zoom that offers up to 8x magnification but is best at the default setting of 2x.
The Pixel 7’s 6.3-inch OLED screen is great, and this phone has an IP68 rating which indicates it’s waterproof down to 1.5m depth for 30mins. This phone does feel very well made. The image quality from the main camera is good, as is the ultra-wide camera, though there is some distortion. The selfie camera is fixed-focus, however, and the lack of a macro mode on this phone could prove a drawback.
- Slightly improved design
- Great performance from all/both cameras
- Improved selfie camera
- Great value
- No Pro or manual mode
- HDR can’t be turned off unless you shoot raw
- Fixed focus selfie camera
- No macro mode
Read our full Google Pixel 7 Review
Best under $350 / £350: Google Pixel 6a
At a glance:
- 12MP main camera, f/1.7, with OIS, 27mm equivalent
- 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 17mm equivalent
- Android 12 (upgradable to 13)
- 128GB storage, 6GB RAM
- Size 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm, 178g
- $349 / £349
The Pixel 6a is a cut-down budget version of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones, but remains on sale now that these have been replaced by the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. The Pixel 6a is inexpensive to buy but still offers a two-camera array with an optically stabilised 12MP f/1.7 main camera and a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera.
There is some cost-cutting. The Pixel 6a does offer AI features such as a ‘magic eraser’ but lacks the ‘motion blur’ feature on more expensive models. The 6.1-inch screen is slightly smaller and the rear uses plastic rather than Gorilla Glass. It does come with an IP67 waterproof and dust proof rating. There’s no telephoto camera so you have to rely on digital zoom.
Picture quality from the main camera is very good with excellent exposure and dynamic range, though it’s not possible to disable the HDR mode. The wide-angle cameras is less good but typical of its type and quite adequate. You can shoot 4K video at up to 60fps, and there is a timelapse mode and 4x or 8x slow motion, though at reduced resolution, which is the norm.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a Review
- Flagship performance in many ways
- Value for money
- Computational photography features
- Compact size
- Missing more advanced features
- Selfie camera only 8MP
- Pixel 6 (or Pixel 7) not much more money
Most stylish budget phone: Nothing Phone 1
At a glance:
- 50MP f/1.9 wide-angle camera with OIS, 24mm equivalent, PDAF
- 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera, 0.6x, 14mm equivalent, with AF
- 16MP f/2.5 selfie camera without AF
- Android 12, upgradable to 13
- Size: 159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3 mm, 193.5g
- $424 (256GB version), £449 (256GB version)
The Nothing Phone 1 includes 2 rear cameras, along with hundreds of LED lights on the back that form “GLYPH” lights. These can be used for notifications, as well as more soft lighting when needed. The design is certainly unique, and it’s quite impressive what’s on offer for the price. There’s support for manual shooting, as well as raw images, and the usual portrait and night modes.
Image quality from the main camera is, as expected, the best from the two rear cameras, with OIS, and an f/1.9 aperture. The ultra-wide-angle camera doesn’t quite perform as well, but considering the budget price, it’s nice to see that both the standard and the ultra-wide cameras are 50MP units, and both offer auto-focus. This helps with macro photography, and the GLYPH lights mean you don’t always have to use the harsh LED flash when extra lighting is needed.
Available in white (as shown above) or black, the phone certainly stands out from the crowd. This makes it especially appealing to those looking for something different to the usual smartphones from Apple and Samsung. It has an RRP that is around $469/£400 for the 128GB version, but you might be able to find it on offer for similar prices for the 256GB version.
Read our full Nothing Phone 1 review
- Good performance from the main camera
- Both 50MP cameras feature AF and close-focus
- Glyph lights can be used for gentle illumination
- Some high-end features (fingerprint sensor, wireless charging)
- Unique design style makes it stand out
- Chunky phone may not to be everyone’s tastes
- Average ultra-wide-angle performance
- Average selfie camera
Fast charging: OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G
At a glance:
- 50MP main camera
- 8MP ultra-wide
- 2MP macro camera
- Android 12
- 161.2 x 74.2 x 7.3mm, 183g
- $540 / £399
The OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G lies in the middle of the Oppo range and includes a three-camera array and the the MariSilicon X neural processing unit (NPU), inherited from the Find X5 Pro. Oppo is pitching this smartphone strongly at photographers, including both Night and Portrait modes, though no optical stabilization. We have a guide to how to photograph the night sky for astrophotography fans.
The image quality from the main camera is very good, but the ultra-wide camera is pretty poor by comparison, with dull colors and much less detail from the 8MP sensor. The 2MP macro camera is worse still and captures very little detail. The front camera, however has a 32MP sensor. The OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G can capture good quality 4K video, but only up to 30fps.
Build quality is good, with a with a 6.7in, 20:9 screen and Gorilla Glass front and back. This does make the Oppo very slippery, however, and best held with both hands or put in a case. It has an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, so it should survive being accidentally splashed but not immersion in water. The 4500 mAh battery can be charged to 50% in just 10 minutes with the supplied 80W charger.
Read our full OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G review
- Very good main camera
- Night and portrait modes etc. work very well
- Sleek, attractively designed device
- Snappy performance and big battery
- Weak ultra-wide camera
- Macro camera is useless
- No optical stabilisation
- No DNG raw recording
What should you look for in the best budget camera phones?
We’ll concentrate on the photography features, and these centre around the phone’s camera array. These days, even budget camera phones come with more than one camera, each with its own sensor.
Typically, the main camera will have the best sensor and widest-aperture lens, but you can also expect to get an ultra-wide camera too. These typically have a lower resolution, however, and don’t usually match the main camera for quality, though they will be fine for most users. You may also get a ‘macro’ camera for ultra-close-ups, though in this price range they sometimes have very low resolution and are not necessarily worth having. If you’re keen on close-ups, take a look at our Top Macro Photography Tips.
What you tend not to get even in the best budget and mid-range camera phones is a telephoto camera. Instead, you have to rely on a digital zoom, which will be effective but won’t provide the same quality.
It’s also worth checking out the front ‘selfie’ camera. The specs vary, and if you film or photograph yourself a lot, a front camera with a good sensor and autofocus (not all have autofocus) is definitely worth having.
Don’t be too swayed by the camera resolution. The best budget camera phones may have ‘resolutions’ of 50MP, 108MP or 200MP, but this doesn’t mean the same as it would in a regular camera. These resolutions are ‘pixel-binned’ down to around 12 megapixels for actual shooting, and while there are modes that use the full resolution, the quality can be quite disappointing.
Otherwise, look out for the general features like the size of the screen, whether the phone uses toughened ‘Gorilla Glass’ or plastic, and how much memory and/or storage comes with the phone.
Lastly, camera phones will often come with an IP rating that tells you how resistant it is to dust and moisture. IP64, for example, means the phone is resistant to splashes, while IP68 means the phone can withstand full immersion in water for a limited time.
Article: Rod Lawton, with contributions from Joshua Waller and Jon Stapley.