The best budget camera phones can represent a chance to have a capable camera in your pocket at all times without having to spend a fortune. Cheap phones used to have a reputation as being a prime example of false economy, but these days manufacturers have done a great job of filling out the cheaper ends of their offering with affordable but capable handsets. And then there’s also the option of buying an older phone, forgoing the latest tech in favour of a much more reasonable price tag.
In fact, there are so many wonderful low-cost camera phones on the market right now, that picking just 10 for this list was very hard. Lots of the following phones have impressive hardware, smart AI software, or extra camera modes that improves the photography experience.
Best Budget Camera Phone 2021
1. Google Pixel 5a
Google’s Pixel A-series has set an industry standard on what a budget phone should be. These devices are very light on the wallet, yet offer most casual users a more than satisfactory experience. The build quality, while mainly composed of plastic, is solid enough. Performance may not be top-notch, but you won’t notice any real slowdowns unless you start using some heavy games or apps. To top things off, these are still some of the best budget camera phones around.
This is due mainly to the fact that Pixel phone cameras are so great, not precisely because of advanced hardware, but because of Google’s advancements in computational photography. The Pixel 5a is no exception. It takes fantastic photos while keeping your wallet healthy.
Aside from the excellent camera system, you’ll find plenty of improvements on the Pixel 5a. It comes with 5G support, has an improved Snapdragon 765G, and comes with a good amount of RAM (6GB). You also get a 4,680mAh battery, which is suitable for a budget device. And there’s even a 6.34-inch OLED display in there.
2. Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro
There really is no phone quite like the Redmi Note 10 Pro. For starters, you’ve got that camera with its huge megapixel count. 108MP (one hundred and eight megapixels!) is a huge number, let alone at this phone’s starting price. More than just empty specs, the Note 10 Pro takes fantastic photos with a shallow depth of field, grabs stacks of detail, and shoots video at up to 4K resolution.
Believe it or not, the imaging credentials of the Redmi Note 10 Pro get better when you factor in the secondary cameras. There’s an 8MP ultra-wide camera for GoPro style, expansive photos, and there’s a telemacro camera, normally reserved for pricier phones. This 5MP sharpshooter might not pack the pixel-counts of the main or ultra-wide cameras, but for anyone who likes close-up photography, it’s a treat, capable of capturing glorious textures and macro photos inaccessible to most smartphones.
More than just a camera phone, the Note 10 Pro also matches excellent photography chops with a gorgeous AMOLED screen and sleek design. While it isn’t a powerhouse, and it doesn’t support 5G mobile data speeds, given everything it can do, those are two omissions from its spec sheet we’re okay with, especially if excellent photos on a budget is your number one goal when picking up your next smartphone.
3. Samsung Galaxy S10e
If you’re a keen smartphone photographer, but you don’t want to splash your cash on a handset with all the bells and whistles, then the Samsung Galaxy S10e might just be the perfect compromise for you.
Featuring a powerful dual rear camera with a wide angle 12MP f/1.5 lens and a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide lens, the Samsung Galaxy S10e is great for snapping pictures throughout the day. The only thing it’s really missing is a telephoto lens, but these tend to be used less than wide angle lenses anyway. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera is a respectable 10MP f/1.9 camera, which is perfect for talking selfies and chatting to your friends and family on video chat.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e features a Full HD+ screen with a 5.8 inch display. It also features wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, which is a great flagship feature in such an affordable handset. Advertisement
Meanwhile, this Samsung camera phone has a powerful 3,100mAh battery and uses either the Snapdragon 845 chipset or the Exynos 9810 chipset, depending on what region you’re in. Running Android 10 out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy S10e offers a heck of a lot of phone for not very much money.
4. OnePlus Nord 2
As OnePlus went from the “flagship killer” to true flagships in their own right, consumers were clamoring for a more affordable option from the company once again. And so the Nord series came to be. The OnePlus Nord 2 follows the family legacy, offering the most possible bang per buck.
It’s not as impressive as some of the other budget camera phones on this list, but you get a lot for what you pay, and the camera system is pretty good. The primary sensor is the same 50MP Sony IMC766 you’ll find on the OnePlus 9 series, which means the phone can output some lovely imagery.
The front comes with a powerful 32MP IMX615. The original Nord had two sensors upfront, but this one is much better than either of those.
You’ll also get excellent performance out of the OnePlus Nord 2. It comes with a Dimensity 1200, one of MediaTek’s best chipsets. You’ll also get a 6.43-inch AMOLED screen, up to 12GB of RAM, a 4,500mAh battery, and a couple of other cameras.
5. Realme 9 Pro Plus
The Realme 9 Pro Plus is fantastic for low-light photography, thanks to its 50MP main camera which has a large sensor, and purely on that merit it makes its way onto this list. Of course, it’s also great for other types of pictures, taking vibrant and bright snaps.
That’s not all there is to like about this phone, though, because it has a few novel features: its rear changes color in sunlight, and it has a heart rate monitor built into the fingerprint scanner.
Beyond that it’s also a top low-cost phone with a good-looking screen, powerful processor and super tempting price.
This is a top all-around Android smartphone, and its great camera is just one weapon in its arsenal.
6. ZTE Blade X1
The ZTE Blade X1 has a lot of competition, and its availability is limited to Verizon’s Visible service, but it’s still one of the best budget camera phones out there. In fact, we praised its primary camera performance in our full review. It also has a pretty good processor and ample RAM for the price.
This unit comes with a Snapdragon 765G chipset and 6GB of RAM. Also rare is that it has a versatile array of cameras, a rare find on budget phones. These include a 48MP primary sensor, an 8MP ultrawide, a 2MP macro shooter, and a 2MP depth sensor.
It’s also a uniquely designed phone, with a back that shines against the sun. It’s plenty large at 6.5 inches, and the 4,000mAh battery is nothing to scoff at.
7. Moto G200
Members of Moto’s affordable G series of smartphones haven’t always deserved a place on lists with ‘best camera phone’ in the title, but in 2021, that started to change, and the Moto G200 is the best example of this.
The phone has three rear cameras including a super-high-res main snapper, but its real power comes from the AI scene optimization, as Motorola’s software has been coming on leaps and bounds in that department. Low-light photography is good for a budget phone, and selfies look vibrant too.
Some may find the phone too big to be comfortable to use, and that’s a valid criticism, but if you’re on a budget, this is the best Moto mobile for you.
8. Motorola Moto G8 Power
The Moto G range has been the easiest set of budget phones to recommend for the best part of a decade. They don’t use ultra-low-end tech, their software is tasteful and update support isn’t dropped from the day of release, as happens with some budget brands.Advertisement
Our pick of the bunch is the Moto G8 Power. And the “Power” part refers to the battery, not the processor. This phone has a 5,000mAh battery, which outlasts most £1,000 phones when left to deal with a day of hard use.
The Moto G8 Power’s cameras are versatile, too, in a budget context at least. Very few phones this cheap have a zoom and an ultra-wide camera. Most use cheap filler sensors to bulk up the spec list, but this phone offers 2x shots with appreciably better detail than a crop of a shot captured with the primary 16-megapixel camera.
Its zoom and ultra-wide use unremarkable 8-megapixel sensors, but that sense of having a better set of tools to work with still enhances the experience here. Elsewhere, the Moto G8 Power has a good 6.4-inch 1080p screen with punch hole, Snapdragon 665 CPU and a plastic shell.
However, the G8 Power does not have the dedicated night mode of the Motorola Moto G8 Plus. Consider the upgrade if low-light image quality matters more than a zoom lens and superior battery life. The Plus has a 48-megapixel main camera, 16MP ultra-wide and 5MP depth assist.
9. Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge
Before we start, we need to point out a significant downside to the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge; it is an India-exclusive handset. If you live in India or can manage to get it imported, though, it truly deserves its spot in this list of the best budget camera phones.
That camera setup looks impressive, right? The system is pretty good, considering the price. In our review, we mentioned it has a decent camera, and while we didn’t like its HDR and camera software, it still holds value if you want a nice primary sensor with some versatility. The device has a 108MP main sensor, which it uses pixel binning with to produce great 12MP photos. It also comes with ultrawide and macro shooters.
Other features make the Xiaomi 11i HyperCharge unique. For starters, it comes with a 120Hz display, which is a rare feature to see in budget handsets. Charging is also stunningly fast, thanks to 120W support. We managed to go from zero to 100% in just 18 minutes! It also helps that the design is really nice.
10. Honor 50
Honor’s latest smartphone technically comes just under the price limit – as long as you get the 128GB version – and has a 108MP main camera as well as an 8MP ultra-wide and two 2MP auxiliary cams.
The real star of the show, though, is the 32MP selfie camera, as self-portraits look bright and colorful.
Beyond that this is your standard mid-range Android phone with a medium-power processor, long-lasting battery and good-looking display – if you need a 108MP camera phone on a budget, it’s a good choice, but the Redmi Note 10 Pro is better value for money.