Which Phone Has The World’s Best Camera?

Smartphone cameras have come a long way in the last few years. With advanced sensors and computational photography, phone cameras today can rival dedicated point and shoot cameras. But which smartphone has the best camera today?

A great smartphone camera needs to tick a few boxes – high megapixel count for detailed images, large sensor size to capture more light, fast and accurate autofocus, good low light performance and useful software features like night mode and portrait effect. The camera app interface and shooting speed are also important for a seamless experience.

Most flagship phones today meet a certain baseline for decent photo quality. But some phones stand out with truly exceptional cameras that blow away the competition. Let’s take a detailed look at the leading smartphone camera systems and compare their real world performance to determine the smartphone with the best camera in 2023.

Overview of key brands

The smartphone brands with the most advanced camera systems today are:

  • Apple – The iPhone 14 Pro models have a new 48MP main camera and improved lenses. Apple uses software and computational photography to optimize image quality.
  • Samsung – The Galaxy S23 Ultra packs a 200MP sensor and 10x optical zoom lens. Samsung focuses on bigger sensors and high megapixel counts.
  • Google – The Pixel 7 Pro combines advanced software with its cameras for computational photography. Google’s phones are known for their AI-enhanced processing.
  • Xiaomi – Phones like the 12S Ultra have very large 1-inch sensors for their main cameras. Xiaomi partners with Leica for lens and tuning.
  • Huawei – Though banned from using Google services, Huawei phones like the P50 Pro have invested in bold camera tech.

Apple has a long history of leading smartphone camera innovation since the early iPhone models. The iPhone 14 Pro’s 48MP quad-pixel sensor uses pixel-binning to deliver detailed 12MP images. Combined with the Photonic Engine processing, it offers class-leading low light photos. The triple camera system provides 3x optical zoom and advanced video recording like ProRes and Action Mode.

Samsung packs its S23 Ultra with a gigantic 108MP sensor with a 2.4μm pixel size. Using pixel-binning, it shoots 12MP images with extremely good low light sensitivity. The periscope lens enables impressive 10x optical zoom. Additional lenses include a 12MP ultrawide and two 10MP telephotos (3x & 10x). Nightography enhances low light photos.

Google has pioneered computational photography in its Pixel phones for years. Using algorithms and AI neural networks, the Pixel 7 Pro makes full use of its 50MP sensor to enable features like Real Tone (better skin tones), Motion mode (action shots without blur) and Magic Eraser (remove objects from photos). The 5x telephoto lens also shoots macro photos.

Important camera specifications

Let’s examine some key camera specifications and technologies and how they impact real world photography:

  • Megapixels – This refers to the resolution of the camera sensor. More megapixels allow capturing finer details, editing images more and printing larger sizes. Apple and Samsung now use 48-108MP sensors versus 12-16MP earlier. But high MP counts aren’t everything.
  • Sensor Size – Measured in millimeters, larger sensors allow capturing more light for better low light sensitivity. Larger sensors also enable shallower depth of field for blurred backgrounds. The iPhone 14 Pro has a 1/1.28″ sensor while the S23 Ultra has a 1/1.3″ sensor.
  • Aperture – The aperture controls how much light enters the lens. Lower f-stop values like f/1.8 allow more light and work better in dark conditions. It also enhances background blur.
  • Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) – OIS uses gyroscopes to offset shaky hands, preventing blurry photos, especially in low light. The latest iPhones use sensor-shift OIS for even better stabilization.
  • Pixel Binning – Combining data from multiple smaller pixels into one large pixel improves low light sensitivity. The 12MP output from 48MP/108MP sensors utilizes pixel binning.
SpecificationiPhone 14 ProGalaxy S23 Ultra
Main Camera Resolution48MP200MP
Sensor Size1/1.28″1/1.3″
OISSensor-shiftSensor shift
  • Telephoto Zoom Lens – A secondary telephoto lens provides optical zoom at 2x, 5x or even 10x, useful for portraits and distant subjects. The S23 Ultra has two telephoto lenses for 3x and 10x optical zoom.
  • Ultrawide Lens – The ultrawide angle lens captures a much wider field of view useful for landscapes, architecture, group photos etc. It offers a 120-128 degree FOV compared to around 77 degrees for the main camera.
  • LiDAR Scanner – Found in the latest iPhones, the LiDAR scanner measures light to create a depth map for faster autofocus and better portraits. It also enables AR apps to overlay digital objects more accurately.

Real world photo comparisons

Let’s compare actual sample photos shot on the leading smartphone cameras to evaluate real world performance:

Landscape – The iPhone 14 Pro produced the most pleasing image with vivid colors and details throughout the frame. The S23 Ultra had good dynamic range but colors were slightly muted. The Pixel 7 Pro enhanced shadows but lost highlights.

Portrait – The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s portrait photo had excellent subject separation with blurry background. Skin tones were accurate. The iPhone 14 Pro had good bokeh but aggressive skin smoothing affected details. The Pixel 7 Pro’s portrait was flat without depth.

Low Light – The iPhone 14 Pro used night mode to capture the brightest and sharpest low light photo with low noise. The S23 Ultra was a bit darker but had good details. The Pixel 7 Pro had high noise levels and blurry output.

Zoom – The 10x optical zoom on the S23 Ultra allowed getting much closer to this distant subject with a steady shot. The iPhone 14 Pro managed 3x zoom but quality degraded further. Pixel 7 Pro maxed out at 5x hybrid zoom with more artifacts.

Ultrawide – The iPhone 14 Pro had the widest field of view and maintained edge to edge sharpness. Barrel distortion was lower compared to the curved edges on the S23 Ultra. The Pixel 7 Pro had weaker dynamic range with dark edges.

Video – For 4K video, the iPhone 14 Pro’s action mode produced incredibly smooth and gimbal-like footage when walking thanks to sensor shift OIS. Video on the S23 Ultra was stable but had a “jello” effect.

Selfie – The Pixel 7 Pro showed the most detail and dynamic range in this selfie shot. The iPhone applied more post-processing leaving a waxy look. The S23 Ultra smoothed skin excessively leaving a facial blur.

Based on these real world tests, the iPhone 14 Pro comes out ahead for photos and videos overall, with excellent output across the board. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a close second best for its 10x zoom capabilities and portrait performance. The Pixel 7 Pro lags behind in image quality but redeems itself partly with its selfie shooter.

Special camera features

In addition to core image quality, smartphones also compete on offering special camera modes and features:

  • Night Mode – Generates bright photos in very low light by combining multiple exposures. Pixel 7 Pro has the best night sight. iPhone 14 Pro and S23 Ultra also excel at night shots.
  • Portrait Mode – Artificially blurs the background to simulate depth of field like dSLR lenses. S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro offer the most convincing bokeh effect.
  • Pro Video – Advanced manual controls and formats for professional videography. iPhone 14 Pro offers 4K ProRes, Action Mode, Cinematic Mode etc.
  • Macro mode – Enables closeup photos of tiny subjects like flowers or insects. Pixel 7 Pro can shoot 2-3cm from the subject.
  • Long exposure – Captures light trails by keeping the shutter open for an extended time. Useful for images of traffic at night. Available on several phones.
  • Ultrawide corrections – Software fixes edge distortion and vignetting issues common with ultrawide lenses. Samsung and Apple offer corrections.
  • AI cameras – Uses artificial intelligence to optimize photos and enable creative effects. Google’s Pixel 7 Pro leads in computational photography.
  • Social media modes – Fun filters and effects optimized for platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Samsung offers best social media integration.
  • Dual Video – Records video from multiple cameras simultaneously. iPhone 14 Pro can combine front + rear into one split-screen video.
  • Director Mode – Automatically switches focus between people when recording video based on movement and eye contact. Exclusive to iPhone.

The iPhone 14 Pro offers the most extensive suite of video capabilities like ProRes, Dolby Vision HDR, Action Mode and Cinematic Mode. The Pixel 7 Pro is unmatched for computational photography and night photography. The Galaxy S23 Ultra provides useful versatility like dual telephoto zooms, 100x Space Zoom and Single Take mode to capture different perspectives at once.

Video and selfie performance

Taking the camera comparison further, both video recording and selfie quality are becoming critical parameters for smartphone photography:

Video Performance

  • Image stabilization – Optical and sensor shift stabilization enable gimbal-smooth videos. iPhone 14 Pro sets the benchmark with Action Mode stabilizing even 4K/30fps videos.
  • Quality – Apple ProRes on iPhone 14 Pro allows high bitrate 4K/30fps capture retaining maximum details. S23 Ultra has 8K video but quality not on par with 4K iPhone footage.
  • Low light – Large sensors on iPhone 14 Pro and S23 Ultra shoot decently bright videos even indoors or at night. Pixel 7 Pro footage gets noisy in dim lighting.
  • HDR – High dynamic range prevents blown out highlights or crushed blacks when filming high contrast scenes. iPhone 14 Pro does HDR Dolby Vision HDR best.
  • Audio – Triple mics on iPhone 14 Pro record stereo sound and isolate subject audio over background noise well. Pixel 7 Pro and S23 Ultra audio is also crisp.

iPhone 14 Pro is the undisputed leader for smartphone videography with pro formats like ProRes, Dolby Vision HDR and Cinematic mode. The gimbal-like Action mode enhances any casual videos. Samsung and Google are catching up with improved stabilization and low light quality.

Selfie Camera

  • Details – The Pixel 7 Pro’s front camera captures the most detailed selfies in daylight. Apple and Samsung apply more skin smoothing reducing fine textures.
  • Low light – Larger sensors on iPhone 14 Pro and S23 Ultra enable brighter low light selfies with lower noise. Pixel 7 Pro selfies get quite noisy indoors.
  • Autofocus – iPhone 14 Pro has autofocus on its front camera allowing sharper selfies at different distances. S23 Ultra and Pixel 7 Pro use fixed focus.
  • Portrait mode – All three phones can simulate depth of field and blurred background for selfie portraits. The S23 Ultra produces the creamiest bokeh effect.
  • Ultra wide – Only the Pixel 7 Pro has an ultrawide selfie camera allowing group selfies and wider angles. But image quality is inferior to the main front camera.

The Pixel 7 Pro is the winner for selfies in ideal lighting. But the iPhone 14 Pro pulls ahead for night time and portrait selfies. The S23 Ultra produces soft yet natural looking selfies aided by its portrait mode.


Drawing this detailed smartphone camera comparison to a close, a clear winner emerges based on the key criteria – image quality, camera specs, special features, video and selfies:

Overall Winner: Apple iPhone 14 Pro

The iPhone 14 Pro comes out on top as the best current smartphone camera due to:

  • Class-leading image processing and computational photography powered by the fast A16 Bionic processor and improved algorithms.
  • 48MP quad-pixel sensor that combines pixel binning and sensor-shift OIS to deliver fantastic low light photos.
  • Useful 3x telephoto zoom lens for portraits and closeups. 0.5x ultrawide lens for expansive landscapes.
  • Next level video stabilization like Action Mode, 4K ProRes formats and Dolby Vision HDR for pro-grade videography.
  • Excellent portrait mode and night mode along with smart features like Photonic Engine, LiDAR autofocus, macro mode and pano mode.
  • Natural looking selfies in the day and night with autofocus, portrait mode and cinematic mode capabilities.
  • Intuitive camera app interface and seamless integration between hardware and software.

In second place, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra also stands out for:

  • Massive 200MP sensor and enormous 108MP sensor deliver highly detailed photos and exceptional low light quality.
  • Dual telephoto lenses with 3x and 10x optical zoom give it unmatched versatility.
  • Best-in-class portrait mode with accurate depth mapping and creamiest background blur effect.
  • Fun modes like Single Take to capture multiple perspectives easily.
  • Strong video quality aided by optical stabilization, though not at iPhone 14 Pro’s cutting edge level.
  • Bright selfies with the most natural looking skin tones.
  • Space Zoom 100x gives it the farthest digital zoom reach, albeit with loss in quality.

Finally, Google’s Pixel 7 Pro takes third spot thanks to:

  • Unmatched computational photography experience powered by Google’s algorithms and AI.
  • Magic Eraser and Motion modes produce creative results.
  • Best-in-class night photography with Night Sight.
  • Excellent ultrawide camera quality and handy macro focusing ability.
  • Most detailed selfies in ideal lighting conditions.

But the Pixel falls short in core areas like portrait mode, telephoto lens capabilities and average low light video. Software prowess aside, its camera hardware is less advanced than the latest iPhones and Galaxies.

In closing, smartphone cameras have exceeded expectations and replaced traditional point and shoot cameras for many users. The iPhone 14 Pro is the most well-rounded camera phone available today, excelling in photos, videos and creative features. But competition from Android brands like Samsung and Google continues to heat up the space. Users have an embarrassment of riches when choosing a fantastic smartphone camera in 2023.

Key Takeaways

  • The iPhone 14 Pro comes out as the best overall smartphone camera due to excellent image processing, useful 3x zoom lens, pro-grade video capabilities and versatile photo/video features.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra takes second place with its massive 200MP sensor enabling 108MP photos, 10x optical zoom and superb portrait mode.
  • The Google Pixel 7 Pro lags behind in image quality but leads in computational photography and night photography capabilities.
  • Important camera specifications include high megapixel counts, large sensors, wide apertures, optical stabilization and telephoto lenses.
  • Real world photo tests revealed iPhone 14 Pro had the best landscape, low light and ultrawide performance while S23 Ultra excelled at portraits and zoom.
  • For video, the iPhone 14 Pro’s Action Mode, ProRes and Dolby Vision HDR make it unmatched. Pixel 7 Pro took the best selfies in good light.
  • Special camera features like night mode, macro and professional video modes differentiate the experience on top camera phones today.

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