Smartphones with most capable cameras this year

Bharat Bhushan - Oct 17, 2021, 5:02am CDT
Smartphones with most capable cameras this year

When choosing a premium camera-centric smartphone, the choice is not as simple as it seems. It purely depends on user preference such as point-and-shoot photography, clicking portraits, shooting self-obsessed selfies, the love for telescopic zoom or video shooting requirement.

From the endless options on the market that tout camera performance, there are only a few that come good in real-life scenarios. Users who are particular about their photography settle for nothing less than the best. So here we have rounded up the top five photography-oriented phones that’ll not let you down no matter which one you choose.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

The iPhone 13 series comprises by far one of the best (if not the best) camera photography-focused devices that one can buy. The iPhone 13 Pro Max being the big daddy of them all for its excellent still and video shooting capabilities. The flagship Apple device has a combo of 12MP (f/1.5) main sensor (1.9µm pixels), a 12MP ultra-wide (f/1.8), and a 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) lens with 3x optical zoom capability. The ultra-wide camera doubles as a macro lens and the performance is exceptional.

What We Like

– Accurate target exposure and dynamic range in videos
– Bokeh mode has perfect depth estimation
– On-point white balance and wide focus range

What We Don’t Like

– Slight noise in low light videography

Apple raised the bar high with the last year’s iPhone 12 series and now the iPhone 13 Pro Max takes it even higher. Bottom line – you’ll have nothing to complain about the sublime camera performance this Apple device delivers, thanks to its still low-light shooting capability, improved portrait mode, and computational photography software.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

While the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s camera performance couldn’t match the best, the Galaxy S21 Ultra rectifies it. The device beats any competitor on paper with a primary 108MP (f/1.8) snapper, 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide lens, and a pair of telephoto lenses both being 10MP. One of them has (f/2.4) aperture with 3x zoom levels while the other has (f/4.9) aperture for mega 10x optical zoom.

What We Like

– Wide dynamic range and good exposure levels
– Accurate autofocus
– Precise subject tracking in videos

What We Don’t Like

– Noise and underexposure in low light videos
– Sometimes there is exposure instability in HDR mode

Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with tons of camera modes like Director’s View for shooting videos with front and rear cameras enabled. In fact, the phone can shoot in 8K mode, ideal for content creators. The 40MP selfie camera is also one that social butterflies will cherish.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Xiaomi has risen to the competition this year with its Mi 11 Ultra smartphone. Not only does the phone pack a punch in terms of performance, but the device is also among the top three camera smartphones. The triple camera system comprises Samsung ISOCELL GN2 50MP wide-angle primary sensor with a massive 1/1.12-inch sensor (f/1.95), 48MP ultra-wide camera (f/2.2) that doubles as a macro shooter, and 48MP telephoto lens (f/4.1) with 5x optical zoom.

What We Like

– Telephoto lens shots have good detail
– Accurate autofocus in stills
– Video tracking is smooth

What We Don’t Like

– Limited low light dynamic range
– Artifacts in video shooting

There’s substance to the phone’s camera setup as it clicks natural shots that are crisp and low-light photography is also excellent. Bokeh effect due to the large sensor is simply mesmerizing and the depth-of-field on portrait shots is incredible. Since Mi 11 Ultra is a flagship device, it comes with 4K at 60fps and 8K video capabilities. The 20MP selfie camera is also well-tuned to deliver sharp shots.

Vivo X70 Pro Plus

The X70 Pro Plus might not be too much in the limelight but it is a reliable underdog that matches (at times even excels) competitors like the iPhone 13 Pro in terms of photography. The main 50MP (f/1.6) sensor comes with optical image stabilization that’s second to none. The 12MP optical zoom telephoto lens and the 8MP periscope lens with 5x zoom levels also feature OIS technology.

What We Like

– OIS on all lenses in the rear camera setup
– Excellent noise reduction in low light videos

What We Don’t Like

– Occasional ghosting and overexposure

The smartphone is an enticing alternative to Galaxy S21 Ultra if you want to go that way. Zoom levels of the device are commendable and maintain consistent colors and sharpness when compared to other devices on the list. Vivo has also done a great job with the software for natural color reproduction of the final images.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Those who love a seamless OS environment on their phone and demand an excellent camera performance have the OnePlus 9 Pro to their advantage. Stepping up the camera performance from the predecessors, the Android phone comes with expertise from Hasselblad. The post-processing of images is exceptional and low-light photography is decent.

What We Like

– Accurate target exposure and depth estimation
– Wide dynamic range and on-point white balance

What We Don’t Like

– Users may experience clipping in extreme backlighting
– Residual motion while video shooting

The phone has a 48MP (f/1.8) primary camera, an 8MP (f/2.4) telephoto lens with 3.3x optical zoom capability, a 50MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide shooter with freeform lens design, and a 2MP monochrome lens. OnePlus 9 Pro gets a very professional set of manual controls, perfect for point-and-shoot photography enthusiasts. The video recording goes up to 8K and the excellent 16MP front-facing shooter makes it a good choice for clicking pictures.

Wrap-up

While the abovementioned smartphones have cameras as their highlighting advantage, don’t count out the upcoming Pixel 6 Pro. The device is destined to raise the bar for photography, which the Pixel devices are already known for. A Pixel device is purposely left out of this list for now because the Pixel 6 will arrive with major camera improvements when it is released on October 19.

For those who can’t wait, going ahead with either of the listed smartphones is a wise choice. Not only are these honest with their photography advantage, but they also excel in other features to complete the package.


Must Read Bits & Bytes