Which Cell Phone Has The Best Camera Right Now – There are plenty of phones out there with ultrawide cameras, but the best of the bunch have more than just a wide field of view. Of course, ultrawide viewing is only part of the equation when it comes to delivering a great wide-angle experience.
So, what are you looking for if you want a phone with a good ultrawide camera? Our tech guide has you covered.
Which Cell Phone Has The Best Camera Right Now
Today’s rear cameras on smartphones are called wide-angle cameras. They offer a wider field of view than traditional digital cameras. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S22 has a 50MP main camera with a field of view (FoV) of about 85 degrees. Meanwhile, ultrawide cameras are even wider than that, with the S22’s ultrawide sensor offering a 120-degree FoV.
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This wider field of view allows you to fill in your picture and enjoy what your eyes see. See the difference between the main Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (left) and the ultrawide images below.
One of the drawbacks of ultrawide cameras is that most of them suffer from fisheye distortion. Those with very wide vision (~120 degrees or higher) are more likely to report this condition. For example, straight lines at the edges of a photo may appear distorted, and people on the side may appear crooked or oddly shaped. However, some people like it because it looks like a GoPro.
See an example of distortion below, with the left side of the door looking like it’s sliding. This photo was taken with the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro in 2019, with calibration turned off.
It is difficult to make ultrawide lenses that avoid this distortion. Light is bent by the lens near the edges to take up as much space as possible. Many manufacturers try to fix it with a software algorithm, or simply by cutting the crooked edges from the final image, which is activated by switching the camera app.
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Some companies like Google, Huawei, Oppo, and LG only choose a narrow field of view at first (110 degrees and below). This way, you still have a sensor capable of capturing more than a typical phone camera, but is less compact than a traditional ultrawide sensor. Of course, teleporting things further away leaves you with an ultrawide shot that doesn’t look too different from the main camera.
Another solution we saw last year is the so-called zero-less lens that uses a symmetrical design compared to other camera lenses. This ultrawide camera lens is found in the OnePlus 9 series, and the company compares it to progressive lenses used in viewfinders.
Now that we know what an ultrawide camera is and how the field-of-view works, let’s take a closer look at the components you need for an ultrawide shooter.
Megapixels are not the main factor in determining the quality of an ultrawide image, but they are still important. This is especially important if you plan to wear ultrawide prints, or if you want a shirt in an ultrawide style.
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We often see the best ultrawide cameras on the market opting for no less than 8MP for the best results. We’ve also seen ultrawide 5MP sensors on older low-end phones work well in good conditions. However, it often lacks detail and the ability to distinguish between bright and dark scenes. The 5MP ultrawide camera means you’re limited to 1080p for ultrawide video recording from 4K recording and 8MP or higher.
We’re seeing a trend towards packing more megapixels into an ultrawide camera, with some phones reaching 50MP. Those megapixels create small photo frames, which are used to capture light. However, low-light exposures mean less light is captured, meaning low-light ultrawide shots are poor. Fortunately, OEMs often use a technique called pixel scaling to get smaller, but clearer images, especially at night.
Another important factor in a good ultrawide camera experience is smooth consistency in terms of color reproduction (and dynamic range) between the main camera and the ultrawide lens. Many budget phones and some flagship models lack color uniformity between the two cameras, resulting in images that satisfy the ultrawide shooter but are washed out with the primary camera. See the example above for color images that don’t quite match.
The main reason for this difference is the difference in focus, aperture, sensor size, etc. All of these differences affect each camera’s ability to collect light and capture color. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to image processing is not ideal. OEMs have to do a lot to ensure consistency between the two cameras. Unfortunately, some brands don’t have the resources, time, and/or desire to do the work.
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One of the features I look for in ultrawide mobile cameras is autofocus. You’d be surprised how many brands don’t include this feature. Even wide-screen pioneer LG doesn’t include it in its models, and the Pixel 6 series doesn’t have this feature either. Fortunately, it is becoming more and more popular in flagship phones these days.
The main reason you want autofocus on your ultrawide camera is to open the door for macro photography without a dedicated macro camera. This way, you can take close-up photos without relying on the tiny 2MP macro sensor.
Macro photos with an ultrawide camera have a higher resolution than your macro lens, allowing you to compress more. The shot above was taken using the ultrawide screen of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro using macro mode. It is cut from a larger shape. Not so bad, right?
Auto-focus on an ultrawide camera makes it a simpler camera than most. You can use the ultrawide lens like a regular camera, focusing on the foreground or background as you wish. Want to take a photo of some flowers with a mountain in the background? Or is it different? You get both if you have autofocus on your wide-angle sensor, like the examples above.
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Autofocus has become common in flagship phones with ultrawide cameras, but some brands have yet to embrace this feature.
Phones with ultrawide cameras don’t have the benefit of tapping to focus anywhere. Clicking usually just adjusts the display. However, your phone can only focus on distant objects/subjects, landscapes and other backgrounds.
Having autofocus can also produce better ultrawide images, as the camera can focus exactly where it needs to instead of taking a cross-focus shot that can look plain.
Smartphone cameras have come a long way in recent years, but the wide rear camera hasn’t been extended in the same way. However, it’s still common to see a big difference in quality between prime and ultrawide cameras when the sun goes down. This is mostly because mainstream or flagship smartphone cameras tend to offer wider apertures, larger sensors, larger pixels, and/or pixel density to better handle low light. We have seen improvements in this regard, but generally it is a quality issue.
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Another tool used by OEMs today is the popular night mode. The likes of Huawei, Samsung, Vivo, and others offer night mode on ultrawide cameras for two generations now. The combination of the night mode and the ultrawide camera can struggle in dark environments, but it makes a difference when the scene is very dark. Check out the LG V60’s night mode ultrawide camera above, with the standard shot on the left and the night mode snap on the right.
Ultrawide cameras can also record video. The wide field of view means you won’t always see the judge with the main camera or telephoto lens.
We also see the likes of Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, and others that offer Super Steady or Steady Cam mode, which is to show the video through the ultrawide camera but grow it. It acts as a form of electronic image stabilization. We’ve seen Samsung and others take this mode further by adding image stabilization to the mix for smoother video.
Meanwhile, Vivo has adopted the so-called micro-gimbal camera system in the ultrawide camera of its new flagships, combining this device with a smartphone to provide better video than the Super models. In fact, most Vivo flagships feature the so-called Horizon Line stabilization mode that can keep the horizon level even when the phone is tilted at 45 degrees or more.
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We’ve also seen some older phones do video-related things with ultrawide cameras. The 2020 Huawei P40 Pro phones boast 16-in-one pixel-binning on their wide-angle 40MP cameras to capture brilliant video in low-light conditions. The Motorola One Action is also available
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