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Back in February 2023, we evaluated the best smartphones for their ultimate camera performance, right after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the star of the show.

Since then, I attended MWC where more flagship phones launched, including the Xiaomi 13 Pro and the Honor Magic5 Pro. More recently, Oppo announced the Find X6 Pro with a massive 1-inch-type sensor, similar to the one found in the Xiaomi 13 Pro.

Here is our selection of the 5 Best Camera Smartphones for Q1 2023, and we may update that list once we fully review other phones in June.

The prices of the 5 smartphones go from $1,199.99 to $699. To select the best devices for mobile photography, we use multiple criteria. We check in priority the camera prowess, and by order or importance, the display quality, the system’s speed, the industrial design, and the battery life.

We evaluated the camera potential using our proprietary Ubergizmo CAMERA HW score*, and for this comparative review, we shot photos with each lens of each smartphone’s main camera system. You can learn more by going to the benchmark page.

Our current selection includes smartphones that we had time to play with and review, however, new mobile phones with great photography capabilities are constantly being released, and we will update this selection in the coming months. We are currently evaluating the Xiaomi 13 Pro, the Honor Magic5 Pro, and the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, they may make the list for Q2 (or not).

*Our CAMERA HW score only includes the main rear camera system and does not consider the front selfie camera. It is generated by algorithms, based on the technical specifications of the camera hardware

1/ Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Ubergizmo Camera HW score: 201

High

  • Main camera system with 4 lenses, including 200 MP sensor in the primary module
  • Two high quality telephoto modules, one is a un 10X optical zoom
  • Beautiful design
  • Excellent SoC performance
  • Excellent large display with the S-Pen

Low

  • Expensive
  • “Fast” charger (45W) is not provided, costs about $50
  • At that price the charging speed could have been faster

Announced on February 1st, 2023, available since February 17th, 2023 -launch price $1,199.99.

Camera specifications highlights:

  • Wide angle (principal) 24 mm, 200 MP, f/1.7, OIS,
  • Ultrawide angle 13 mm, 12 MP, f/2.2, OIS
  • Telephoto 69 mm, 10 MP, f/2.4, OIS, optical zoom 3X,
  • Telephoto 230 mm, 10 MP, f/4.9, OIS, optical zoom 10X
  • Selfie Front Camera 26 mm, 12 MP, f/2.2

The successor of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is a technology marvel and currently the best Android smartphone on the market in Q1. Equipped with Qualcomm’s latest System-on-Chip (SoC), the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, it offers excellent performance specifically for gaming (check the performance comparison graphic at the end of the article).

The 6.8” 1440p AMOLED display with an adaptive refresh rate 1-120 Hz delivers an impressive image quality and offers 1750 NITs theoretical peak brightness that we measured at 1045 NITs.

Samsung pushed the industrial design envelope and offers a unique user experience thanks to the integrated S-pen that allows users to take notes, to create artwork or remote-control photo shoots and presentations.

"SAMSUNG PUSHED THE INDUSTRIAL DESIGN ENVELOPE AND OFFERS A UNIQUE USER EXPERIENCE"

The sound quality delivered by the stereo speakers is also one of the best on the mobile market alongside the audio quality of the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

What sets the S23 Galaxy Ultra apart is the outstanding quality of its back camera module that combines 4 cameras, including a main 200 MP sensor and two telephoto lenses that deliver 3X and 10X optical zooms. We appreciate the effort because currently, most OEMs tend to reduce the power of their telephoto cameras to cut costs. The trade-off allows them to offer more affordable flagship phones while maintaining top-notch performance for the most used wide angle and ultrawide cameras.

The S23 Ultra camera is well balanced and delivers excellent image quality for its wide, ultrawide, and telephoto shooters (optical and digital zoom). Samsung also pushed the envelope above and beyond with its 100 X digital zoom (Super Resolution Zoom).

We love the availability of the 200 MP shooting mode directly from the automatic mode, in the aspect ratio selection menu. Other smartphones offering high-resolution shooting modes (50 MP, 108 MP or 200 MP) make users drill down several menus and sub-menus to access the feature.

Without surprise, this back camera module gets one of the best current Ubergizmo Camera HW scores of our Top 5 selection, at 201. Its predecessor, the S22 Ultra gained a slightly higher score of 202 because we suspect that the main sensor of the S23 Ultra, despite being a bit larger than the one in the S22 Ultra, cannot deliver its full potential due to the super thin chassis. Please note that for now, our CAMERA HW score only take into account the most powerful telephoto, so the S23 Ultra is even better than the score indicates. We will update our algorithm later on to reflect this type of configuration.

2/ iPhone 14 Pro Max

Ubergizmo CAMERA HW score: 200

High

  • High-quality camera sensors and lenses
  • Excellent SoC performance
  • Beautiful display

Low

  • Expensive
  • Slow charging (30W)
  • Charger not included

Announced September 14, 2022, available since September 24, 2022– launch price $1,099.

Camera features highlights**

  • Wide angle (principal) 24 mm, 48 MP, f/1.78, OIS,
  • Ultrawide 13 mm, 12 MP, f/2.2,
  • Telephoto 77 mm, 12 MP, f/2.8, 3X optical zoom,
  • Selfie 23 mm, 12 MP, f/1.9

Among all the smartphones we selected here, the iPhone 14 Pro Max possess the weakest technical specifications, except for its camera system.

The Apple device display delivers the lowest pixel density, its battery has the smallest battery capacity (4352 mAh vs 5000 mAh for the others) alongside the slowest charging speed.

On the graphics performance side, the iPhone 14 Po Max is not as good in the common benchmarks (which reflect most of the current games) as its Android peers with a similar size and equipped with the best Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. With more recent benchmarks, it does a very good job. However, it delivers the best CPU performance of all the devices we selected. (See graphics performance charts at the end of this article).

That said, the 6.7” OLED display is excellent et the sound quality the the stereo speakers deliver is one of the best, just behind the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

"THE IPHONE 14 PRO MAX OFFERS THE BEST PRIMARY WIDE-ANGLE CAMERA"

The iPhone 14 Pro Max offers the best primary wide-angle camera of our top 2023 camera smartphones selection, and its telephoto with 3X optical zoom delivers the best quality for portrait shots. However, the S23 Ultra’s 10 X optical zoom is way more performant for long distances.

We chose to review the iPhone 14 Pro Max for this selection, despite the fact that the iPhone 14 Pro features the same camera at a lower price point ($999). One of the main differences is its smaller screen size, at 6.1”. On one hand, we prefer large displays, and on the other hand, it was logical to consider an iOS smartphone with a similar size to the rest of our list.

3/ Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Score Ubergizmo Camera HW: 202

High

  • Same qualities as the S23 Ultra except for the previous generation SoC (2022)
  • Camera of equivalent quality as the S23 Ultra except for the 200 MP shooting mode found in the S23 Ultra
  • OIS only available for the wide-angle shooter in the S22 Ultra

Low

  • Weaker performance of the Soc compared to the S23 Ultra
  • Charging speed slightly slower than the S23 Ultra (45W vs. 50W peak)
  • Charger not included

Camera features highlights**

  • Wide angle (principal) 24 mm, 108 MP, f/1.8, OIS
  • Ultrawide 13 mm, 12.2 MP, f/2.2
  • Telephoto 69 mm, 10 MP, f/2.4, 3X optical zoom
  • Telephoto 230 mm, 10 MP, f/4.9, 10X optical zoom
  • Selfie 26 mm, 40 MP, f/2.2

Announced on February 9th, 2022, available since February 25th, 2022 – launch price $1,199.

We had elected the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra best smartphone of the year 2022 and it is coming back in our best camera smartphones of Q1 2023, for the excellent quality of its objectives and the images they capture.

We rank it in third position despite its highest Ubergizmo Camera HW score (202), because it does not have a 200 MP shooting mode unlike its successor the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and its SoC performance is weaker than the one delivered by the S23 Ultra and the iPhone 14 Pro Max. (See performance charts at the end of this article)

"FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED HIGH-END PHOTOGRAPHY PERFORMANCE WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK"

Despite lower optical stabilization of some of its lenses, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivers similar camera features as the Galaxy S23 Ultra. The most significant difference is the 200 MP shooting mode only available in the S23 Ultra.

Except for the previous-gen Qualcomm SoC, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, most of the other technical specifications of the S22 Ultra are similar to the ones found in the S23 Ultra, including the 6.8-inch AMOLED 3080×1440 display, the S-Pen and the 5000 mAh battery (charging time is slightly different).

The S22 Ultra’s system performance is inferior to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, due to its older processor. This is the most significant difference that justifies a lower price. (See performance charts at the end of this article).

For people who need high-end photography performance without breaking the bank, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is an excellent choice.

4/ Google Pixel 7 Pro

Score Ubergizmo Camera HW: 191

High

  • Excellent camera for the price
  • Optical Zoom 5X
  • 12GB RAM
  • Good SoC performance
  • Great display

Low

  • Phone is very slippery
  • Battery autonomy could be better
  • Charger not included

Announced October 6, 2022, available since October 28, 2022 – launch price $899.

Camera features highlights**

  • Wide-angle (principal) 24 mm, 50 MP, f/1.85, OIS
  • Ultrawide 13 mm, 12 MP, f/2.2,
  • Telephoto 117 mm, 48 MP, f/3.5, OIS, 5X optical zoom
  • Selfie 21 mm, 10.8 MP, f/2.2

The Google Pixel 7 Pro (we tested the AT&T version) features an excellent quality 6.7-inch OLED display with a 3120×1440 resolution and a 512 PPI density (pixel per inch), which makes it the best defined screen of our selection. Its pixel density is slightly higher than the S23 Ultra and the S22 Ultra (500 PPP), and a lot better than the iPhone 14 Pro Max (460 PPP).

Its LTPO technology enables a variable refresh rate of 10 Hz to 120 Hz, a feature that allows the  phone to automatically optimize battery usage according to the current task. The theorical peak brightness is 1400 NITs, and we measured it at 1040 NITs, which is largely sufficient for reading the screen in direct sunlight.

The Google Pixel 7 Pro is equipped with Google’s proprietary SoC, the Tensor G2, and with 12 GB RAM LPDDR 5.  This large memory capacity allows the phone deliver a fluid user experience even when tons of applications are open simultaneously.

On the performance side, it ranks way lower that the first two and the fifth smartphones of our selection, and is also slightly under the Samsung Galaxy S22, which features a previous-gen chip.

However, it is important to note that its performance par dollar for the CPU is alot higher than the S23 Ultra, and its ratio of camera performance for the price excellent. (See charts at the end of this article)

On the back, the iconic horizontal bar is Google signature design for its Pixel smartphones lineup.  For the Pixel 7 Pro, the bar is made of aluminum and, on top of giving it a premium look, its form factor allows for housing a larger camera module.

The bar is an astute design tool which allows Google’s hardware team to have the required space for high-performance camera modules at the rear of the phone. This means larger sensors, optics and longer zoom ranges. If you remember, we pointed out in our Pixel 5 camera review that Pixel phones required a dramatic camera hardware change, because software updates alone were not enough.

With our CAMERA HW benchmark, we have often demonstrated that the performance of camera hardware selected by the OEMs for their phones has a direct consequence on the image quality. We proved it by looking over 10 years of hardware data evolution of Huawei and Samsung camera systems.

The Pixel 7 Pro camera system is comparable to the one found in his predecessor, the Pixel 6 Pro and the wide-angle principal camera is the same. 

However, there are some differences.

Google has equipped the new Pixel 7 Pro with a  a slightly better 117 mm telephoto than the 104mm of the Pixel 6 Pro. The 48 MP telephoto with a 5X optical zoom of the 7 Pro  is an important specification because it is one the most powerful zooms of our selection, after the ones found in the two Samsung phones (10x).

For the ultrawide, Google went with a 13 mm lens, a larger angle than the 16 mm ultrawide lens of the Pixel 6 Pro. That choice results in a lower definition for the image captured, which is a typical trade off, because the larger the angle, the lower the image quality when the sensor remain the same type and size.

The ultrawide camera is the least powerful of our selection, since Google prioritized the telephoto and the wide-angle cameras in the system. The wide-angle camera is ranked in fourth position in our selection in terms of quality, and better than the one of the OnePlus 11.

Overall, all the five smartphones selected for this article deliver a very good photo quality, the best on the current mobile market, and this is also the case for the Pixel 7 Pro. For that device, the excellence lies in its ability to deliver such a good camera performance at quite an affordable price for this segment.

5/ OnePlus 11

Score Ubergizmo Camera HW : 178

High

  • Excellent smartphone for the price
  • Good camera system with a very good ultrawide camera
  • Excellent SoC performance
  • Gorgeous display
  • 80W SUPERVOOC charger provided (value about $40)
  • Ultra-fast charging – 80% in 19 minutes

Low

  • Only IP64, splash resistant
  • The other smartphones in this selection are IP68
  • Telephoto with only 2X optical zoom

Camera features highlights**

  • Wide-angle (principal) 24 mm, 50 MP, f/1.78, OIS
  • Ultrawide 16 mm, 48 MP, f/2.2,
  • Telephoto 46mm, 32 MP, f/2
  • Selfie 25 mm, 16 MP, f/2.45

Announced February 7, 2023, available since February 16, 2023 – launch price $699.

The OnePlus 11 got noticed for its high-end technical specifications at an uber-affordable price. In our list, it is the one that delivers the best ratio performance for the price (performance per dollar, check our chart down below).

We highly appreciate the 80W adapter provided ultrafast charging (80W for the U.S., 100W for the international version), because all the competitors in this list are so slow to charge in comparison!

We have tested with our 80W U.S. model, and we got 63% charged in 15 minutes, 80% charged in 19 minutes, and a complete charge in 26 minutes (from 0). It is highly probable that the charging speed might be even faster with the international 100W unit. Knowing that intense photoshoot sessions tend to drain the battery fast, amateur photographers would certainly love this fast-charging adapter.

The OnePlus 11 and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra are the only devices from this list to feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2***, thus their excellent graphic performance and their very good CPU performance are comparable. One is $500 less expensive than the other (at launch, prices are constantly changing).

One the display side, the OnePlus 11 boasts a high-quality 6.7-inch AMOLED screen with a 3216×1440 resolution featuring the LTPO 3.0 technology that delivers 1-120 Hz variable refresh rate. To benefits form the Aways On screen, you need to activate it in the settings.

OnePlus has renewed its partnership with Hasselblad for the color tuning and calibration of the sensors, OnePlus claims that they “have been working closely with Hasselblad to refine the identification of natural colors and the reproduction of these colors in mobile photography”.

The wide main camera is the one that is the weakest among its competitors on this list but delivers good image quality with colors a little more saturated than what the Pixel 7 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max do.

On the other hand, the ultrawide shooter is the best of our selection, and we can even see it even on the night shots. The OnePlus 11’s night photos deliver a better rendering of the textures and details than the other ultra-wide objectives.

The telephoto lens is a little disappointing as it only offers a 2X optical zoom that is mainly ised to produce a better bokeh effect for the portrait mode.

It is important to note that a part of image processing is equivalent to filters we can apply in Instagram

Additional data

Here’s additional data that you can compare if you’re interested by performance and value-proposition. Geekbench and GFXBench shows the respective speed for CPU and Graphics (GFX) and are strightforward to read. We’ve also included the speed / price charts that shows the value for the price, as it’s also a very valid criteria to look at. Finally, the battery charge speed can be found at the bottom of the page.

 

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