Top 5 best camera phones

ByKim Staples
Samsung phone camera

Salman Rushdie once said, ‘A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second.’ Today most of us make the moral decision to take pictures of our cats - and for that, we like to use our smartphones.

The invention of the camera phone was a wonderful thing. Now we have a camera on our person all the time - ready for the very second when Mittens starts jumping in and out of boxes again - and we can share our pics instantly with our friends. But which smartphones can snap the highest quality feline portraits? Read on and we'll take you through our top five favourite camera phones - and how to find the best contract deal for them.

5. Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Since it's basically a phone and a quality compact camera smushed into a single gadget, you can expect the Galaxy K Zoom to take some impressive snaps. The clunky 20.7MP lens on the back has 10x optical zoom, along with LED flash and a dedicated shutter button. Get under the surface and there are a wealth of manual settings to fiddle around with too, as well as specific modes like macro, silhouette, and waterfall.

It's let down a little, however, by the lower resolution 720p screen that doesn't have the greatest colour range - making it a bit difficult to really see what photos you're taking. In fact, Samsung kept the K Zoom affordable by compromising quite a bit on the smartphone specs… but if you're buying it primarily for the camera anyway, perhaps that's not too bothersome.

And, weirdly, it doesn't have as many controls or improved tech over some of the other phones on this list. So while youdoget a fantastic camera with the K Zoom, we'd only recommend it if you really know what you're doing and will actually use that optical zoom.

Check out our full review of the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

4. Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3

The specs of the Xperia Z3 camera are near-identical to the Galaxy K Zoom's - it's rocking a 20.7MP, 1/2.3-inch sensor - only without the optical zoom. Sony's expertise with digital cameras shines through on the Z3, with the inclusion of things like the Bionz image processor and a high level ISO mode that does wonders in low light conditions. Fiddling around with the settings can get some stunning photos, though it's not necessarily the best camera for a quick point-and-shoot.

Add to that, some of the settings are unintuitive, often hidden under layers of menus, and most can only be applied to 8MP shots. So while youcanget some very good pics, it's not always easy.

Still, this is a camera you can have fun with. Whether you want to film 4K video, take photos underwater, or put some dinosaurs in your shots, it's all possible with the Xperia Z3.

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3. iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

It may sound disappointingly low-res at 8MP, but the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus makes good use of every single one of those pixels. 'Focus pixels' are bigger than most, and gather a lot more information about what the camera is looking at, meaning faster focus and better shots. There's also dual LED flash, HDR mode, and optical image stabilisation (OIS). The 6 Plus is the first iPhone to offer OIS, in fact, which gives its camera a bit of an edge over the standard iPhone 6.

Whatever Apple is doing with its camera technology, it's clearly working. Thanks to focus pixels and HDR, pics are full of detail and lit well, even in low light. Photos snapped with an iPhone 6 really can be stunning - though budding David Baileys may get irritated with the limited settings and lack of manual control.

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2. LG G4

LG G4

LG has done something quite special with the camera on the G4: it gives you full manual control over things like focus, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance, making smartphone photography feel more like using a DSLR. The 16MP cam boasts an impressively fast laser autofocus and colour sensors, which combine to produce crisp, detailed shots.

As well as features for the photographically-minded, like the option to output in a less compressed RAW format, there's plenty for amateurs to play around with too. Gesture control means you can trigger the selfie camera by making a fist then opening it, and other modes make the phone automatically snap a picture when it detects a smile or hears the word 'cheese.'

Those two are particularly useful considering it's not always easy to take a photo with a phone this shape. With no side buttons, you can only snap a pic by either tapping the screen or reaching around to press the lower volume button on the back - neither of which are easy or intuitive when you want to quickly capture the moment.

Read our full review of the LG G4

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1. Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6

Narrowly passing the G4 into first place, however, is Samsung's Galaxy S6, rocking a 16MP Sony Exmor sensor. And boy does it work. Optical image stabilisation keeps the camera steady, HDR mode is impressive, and the ultra-wide angle f/1.9 lens lets in plenty of light. The effect is professional-looking shots that are brimming with detail. The software is pretty good too, letting you launch the camera and take a picture in as little as 0.7 seconds, and giving you full manual controls over things like the focus and sensor's sensitivity.

It's even good for selfies: the 5MP cam on the front features a wide-angle lens too, so you can cram all your mates into one shot, as well as 'beauty mode' to smooth out your faces.

The Galaxy S6 is a pretty fantastic phone overall, topping our list of the best smartphones of the year, but bear in mind there's no SD card slot - not ideal for photography enthusiasts.

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