Best camera phones for all budgets (March 2017)

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Our phones are no longer just devices of communication. The smartphone has become that one device that has become crucial to our day-to-day functioning. The smartphone has replaced music players, cameras, diaries, planners and even calendars. Of all the essentials that have been assimilated into this one device, the camera is probably the most important feature everyone considers when buying a phone.

Smartphone cameras have pretty much eaten through the market share of point-and-shoot cameras, attesting to not just how good they are, but also to the fact that people would much rather use a smartphone to take photos than carry an additional device. Everyone wants a good camera on their phone these days, so we’ve got a list of smartphones with great cameras you can rely on without having to worry too much.

Premium segment (Rs 50,000+)
If money is no object for you, then you’re better off choosing a phone from the flagship segment of smartphones. No point in being cheap if you can afford the best now is there? For those of you want the absolutely best and are willing to shell out the bucks, here are our two recommendations.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus made the headlines by letting go of the 3.5mm headphone jack. But in terms of imaging, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus is best known for making the dual-camera setup famous. The Cupertino manufacturer made a lot of noise about the Apple iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode, which makes use of the two lenses (and sensors) to create a bokeh effect. Apart from that, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus makes use of the two lenses for 2x optical zoom, and you also get video goodies in form of time-lapse shooting and slow-motion video. We spent a lot of time with the Apple iPhone 7 Plus’s cameras, and we have it all here.

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Google Pixel XL

The Google Pixel XL is not just an alternative for someone who doesn’t want an iPhone but a premium phone nonetheless; it is also a great phone for someone who wants camera performance and image quality which is as good as (or even better than) the iPhone 7 Plus. The Google Pixel XL does not come with a dual-camera setup; rather, it goes about doing its primary shooting with a 12.3 megapixel sensor, which is aided by laser-assisted-PDAF and some serious image stabilization. The Google Pixel XL also offers slow-motion video modes. Our detailed review on the Google Pixel XL’s imaging abilities, including low-light performance and how well it takes selfies, can be found here.

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Upper Mid-range (Rs 20,000 Rs 35,000)

This particular price segment is one that has seen and will continue to see most amount of action. This is the segment where premium flagship-killing devices dwell, with not just drool-worthy performance specifications, but also some serious camera tech. For most users, the products in the price range offer the most value for their money, and we have picked out the two best from this segment.

OnePlus 3T

The OnePlus 3T is the one phone that can give many premium smartphones a run for their money. It is packed to the brim with a Snapdragon 821 processor and a 6GB RAM. But more importantly, it carries a 16 megapixel sensor on the front, and a 16 megapixel sensor on the front. The primary camera also comes with laser-assisted PDAF, Optical Image Stabilization, 4K video recording and slow-motion video. The OnePlus 3T also offers RAW shooting, which when coupled with a great manual mode becomes very handy for mobile photography enthusiasts. Even the front-facing camera on the OnePlus 3T is quipped with Electronic Image Stabilisation. The OnePlus 3T fared well in all of our camera tests, of which we have a detailed review here.

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Nubia Z11

The Nubia Z11 has a remarkable bezel-less design, which makes it something of a looker and an attention seeker. However, the design, as well as the heavily packed specifications are not just the only show-stopping features on the phone. The Nubia Z11 comes filled up to the brim with some heavy-weight camera technology. The basics include a 16 megapixel camera with PDAF, OIS & EIS, and a dual-tone, dual-LED flash. The camera also benefits from RAW shooting and manual mode, and some very heavy-sounding jargon such as DTI (Deep Trench Isolation) pixel isolation, LTM (Local Tone Mapping), and 3D Noise Reduction technology. Exactly how all of these come together in terms of performance, you can read in our review.

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Lower Mid-range (Rs 10,000 Rs 20,000)

Not everyone wants to spend a lot of money on a smartphone, and we get that. Every user has a different set of expectations from a smartphone. The lower mid-range smartphones are the ones that do not deliver blazing gaming or graphic performance, but are very reliable for every-day smartphone usage. If you’re not willing to spend much on a smartphone but still do not want to compromise on image quality, don’t worry – we’ve got two options for you right here.

Moto G5 Plus

The Moto G series is one of the most popular products since it first launched some four years ago. The Moto G5 Plus, the latest generation of this mid-range product comes with some heavily reworked camera technology over its predecessors. The primary shooter on the Moto G5 Plus is a 12 megapixel unit, which comes with a dual-LED flash. It is interesting to note that in this price bracket, it is one of the few phones that come with Optical Image Stabilisation. The Moto G5 Plus also comes with something called dual-pixel AF technology, a feature that is seen on phones that are priced much higher, such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. The Moto G5 Plus has been put through a rigorous camera test by us, and you can read the review here.

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Asus ZenFone 3 Max

The Asus ZenFone 3 Max is a phone that offers a very large battery and mid-range specifications to be a potential workhorse for the price conscious buyer. However, the phone also offers a good camera, which is a 16 megapixel shooter which comes with a dual-tone LED flash, and Electronic Image Stabilisation. Asus has thrown in 3 layers of autofocus tech, which include the standard phase detect autofocus, which is laser-assisted, and continuous autofocus. The Asus ZenFone 3 Max also offers a handy HDR mode and a Super Resolution Mode which takes a large, composite picture of 64 Megapixels. We’ve found in our tests that it can be a handy camera-phone for travelers. You can read exactly how in our review.

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Budget (under Rs 10,000)

The budget segment is one which offers all the basic communication technologies, which are essential for day-to-day smartphone usage, and are meant to deliver reliability on a budget. While these phones do not pack high-end technical specifications, there’s no need for the devices to skimp on image quality. We have two phones for you that can take good pictures for you.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 4

The Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi’s latest budget smartphone has a large 5.5 inch screen, and for imaging it comes with a 13-megapixel primary camera, which is complemented by phase-detect auto-focus (PDAF) and a dual-LED flash unit. It also features an f/2.0 aperture, 77-degree wide-angle lens and shoots 1080p videos at 30fps. Even though it is a budget phone, the camera software offers manual exposure settings and an HDR mode. The camera app also comes with a lot of popular preset features that include Tilt-shift, Panorama, Beautify etc. The Redmi Note 4 also features a 5 megapixel front-facing camera, which can also shoot 720p videos at 120fps. You can read more about the Redmi Note 4 in our detailed review here.

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Lenovo K6 Power

The Lenovo K6 Power is marketed as a battery-oriented phone, with a large 4000mAh battery that claims to deliver a longer run-time. It has a budget-level processor and memory, but on the imaging front, the K6 Power packs in a 13-megapixel primary camera, which is actually a Sony IMX258 sensor. The camera is also equipped with phase-detect auto-focus and a single LED flash. The camera software offers a Pro mode, which is actually a manual mode where one can play around with shutter speed, focus, ISO and white balance manually. Apart from that, the camera app also offers ‘art nightscape’ and ‘artistic HDR’ modes. The Lenovo K6 Power’s camera can 1080p videos at 30fps and Slow-Motion and Fast Motion option. It has a 5 megapixel front camera, and you can read about both primary and secondary camera reviews here.

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