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2024-04-03 15:00:35| Engadget

I remember begging my parents to get me a phone with a camera when the earliest ones were launched. The idea of taking photos wherever I went was new and appealing, but its since become less of a novelty and more of a daily habit. Yes, Im one of those. I take pictures of everything from beautiful meals and funny signs to gorgeous landscapes and plumes of smoke billowing in the distance.If you grew up in the Nokia 3310 era like me, then you know how far weve come. Gone are the 2-megapixel embarrassments that we used to post to Friendster with glee. Now, many of us use the cameras on our phones to not only capture precious memories of our adventures and loved ones, but also to share our lives with the world.Im lucky enough that I have access to multiple phones thanks to my job, and at times would carry a second device with me on a day-trip just because I preferred its cameras. But most people dont have that luxury. Chances are, if youre reading this, a phones cameras may be of utmost importance to you. But youll still want to make sure the device you end up getting doesnt fall flat in other ways. At Engadget, we test and review dozens of smartphones every year; our top picks below represent not only the best phone cameras available right now, but also the most well-rounded options out there. What to look for when choosing a phone for its cameras Before scrutinizing a phones camera array, youll want to take stock of your needs what are you using it for? If your needs are fairly simple, like taking photos and videos of your new baby or pet, most modern smartphones will serve you well. Those who plan to shoot for audiences on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube should look for video-optimizing features like stabilization and high frame rate support (for slow-motion clips). Most smartphones today have at least two cameras on the rear and one up front. Those that cost more than $700 usually come with three, including wide-angle, telephoto or macro lenses. Weve also reached a point where the number of megapixels (MP) doesnt really matter anymore most flagship phones from Apple, Samsung and Google have sensors that are either 48MP or 50MP. Youll even come across some touting resolutions of 108MP or 200MP, in pro-level devices like the Galaxy S24 Ultra. Most people wont need anything that sharp, and in general, smartphone makers combine the pixels to deliver pictures that are the equivalent of 12MP anyway. The benefits of pixel-binning are fairly minor in phone cameras, though, and youll usually need to blow up an image to fit a 27-inch monitor before youll see the slightest improvements. In fact, smartphone cameras tend to be so limited in size that theres often little room for variation across devices. They typically use sensors from the same manufacturers and have similar aperture sizes, lens lengths and fields of view. So while it might be worth considering the impact of sensor size on things like DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, on a smartphone those differences are minimal. Sensor size and field of view If you still want a bit of guidance on what to look for, here are some quick tips: By and large, the bigger the sensor the better, as this will allow more light and data to be captured. Not many phone makers will list the sensor size in spec lists, so youll have to dig around for this info. A larger aperture (usually indicated by a smaller number with an f/ preceding a digit) is ideal for the same reason, and it also affects the level of depth of field (or background blur) thats not added via software. Since portrait modes are available on most phones these days, though, a big aperture isnt as necessary to achieve this effect. When looking for a specific field of view on a wide-angle camera, know that the most common offering from companies like Samsung and Google is about 120 degrees. Finally, most premium phones like the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S24 Ultra offer telephoto systems that go up to 5x optical zoom with software taking that to 20x or even 100x. Processing and extra features These features will likely perform at a similar quality across the board, and where you really see a difference is in the processing. Samsung traditionally renders pictures that are more saturated, while Googles Pixel phones take photos that are more neutral and evenly exposed. iPhones have historically produced pictures with color profiles that seem more accurate, though in comparison to images from the other two, they can come off yellowish. However, that was mostly resolved after Apple introduced a feature in the iPhone 13 called Photographic Styles that lets you set a profile with customizable contrast levels and color temperature that would apply to every picture taken via the native camera app. Pro users who want to manually edit their shots should see if the phone theyre considering can take images in RAW format. Those who want to shoot a lot of videos while on the move should look for stabilization features and a decent frame rate. Most of the phones weve tested at Engadget record at either 60 frames per second at 1080p or 30 fps at 4K. Its worth checking to see what the front camera shoots at, too, since theyre not usually on par with their counterparts on the rear. Finally, while the phones native editor is usually not a dealbreaker (since you can install a third-party app for better controls), its worth noting that the latest flagships from Samsung and Google all offer AI tools that make manipulating an image a lot easier. They also offer a lot of fun, useful extras, like erasing photobombers, moving objects around or making sure everyone in the shot has their eyes open. How we test smartphone cameras For the last few years, Ive reviewed flagships from Google, Samsung and Apple, and each time, I do the same set of tests. Im especially particular when testing their cameras, and usually take all the phones Im comparing out on a day or weekend photo-taking trip. Any time I see a photo- or video-worthy moment, I whip out all the devices and record what I can, doing my best to keep all factors identical and maintain the same angle and framing across the board. It isnt always easy to perfectly replicate the shooting conditions for each camera, even if I have them out immediately after I put the last one away. Of course, having them on some sort of multi-mount rack would be the most scientific way, but that makes framing shots a lot harder and is not representative of most peoples real-world use. Also, just imagine me holding up a three-prong camera rack running after the poor panicked wildlife Im trying to photograph. Its just not practical. For each device, I make sure to test all modes, like portrait, night and video, as well as all the lenses, including wide, telephoto and macro. When there are new or special features, I test them as well. Since different phone displays can affect how their pictures appear, I wanted to level the playing field: I upload all the material to Google Drive in full resolution so I can compare everything on the same large screen. Because the photos from todays phones are of mostly the same quality, I usually have to zoom in very closely to see the differences. I also frequently get a coworker whos a photo or video expert to look at the files and weigh in. This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-camera-phone-130035025.html?src=rss


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