How many cherished photos do you have because you had your phone on you when some magic happened? Chances are, a lot of them.
Smartphone cameras have all but eliminated those frustrating “wish I had a camera on me” moments. While most cell phone cameras are passable, some are good enough for you to leave your digital camera at home – even on vacation.
Here are five of the best cell phone cameras you can buy.
1. iPhone 5
You can love it or hate it, but Apple’s latest phone takes excellent pictures. The rear iSight camera is still 8 megapixels like its predecessor, but it comes with a sapphire-crystal lens. Upgrades to the hardware allow for features such as dynamic low-lighting adjustment, image stabilization on the 1080p video camera, and still shot functionality while shooting video.
Apple had its work cut out for it here because the iPhone 4S already takes a great picture. They succeeded with the new iSight camera, which is faster – fast enough that you’ll notice – and takes excellent low-light pictures.
The front-facing camera is now 720p, which means you’ll look nice and clear when using FaceTime or making videos of yourself.
HTC Droid DNA2. HTC Droid DNA
Why does this phone take such wonderful pictures? HTC calls it the HTC ImageChip. It allows the 8 megapixel camera to flourish in burst mode – 4 images per second; sightseeing mode and Panorama. Just like the iPhone 5 listed above, you can also take still photos while shooting video. The DNA has a lightning fast autofocus and “shutter,” which means it’s unlikely you’ll miss a shot.
The DNA’s impressive front-facing camera is set up to fit in more than just a headshot. Its 88 degree wide-angle lens and 2.1 megapixel imaging chip means you’ll be able to take much better self portraits of you with your friends and family – up to about five of you – with a two second timer.
3. Samsung Galaxy S3
Here’s another fantastic 8 megapixel camera. This one by Samsung comes with a backlit sensor and LED flash. The automatic setting are quite good, and you won’t find a faster shutter on the market.
Photos on the auto settings are crisp and colorful, and you can tinker with settings until your heart is content. However, it’s the Samsung’s software features that help it stand out. The phone can recognize faces with the Face-tagging software; the now standard HDR is on board and the burst mode is excellent. Photo sharing features – and a fun cartoon mode – round out a fine package.
4. LG Google Nexus 4
If you want to go from the home screen to snapping pictures in about a second, this is the camera for you. It has the 8 megapixel front camera that’s become industry standard, and is a fine catch-all choice that takes good pictures in every situation – especially in good lighting when paired with the HDR mode. Low lighting photos also impressed.
Standouts of the Nexus 4 are the excellent auto focus and the interface. Hold your finger on the screen and a dial pops up – like a weapon selection screen in a video game. Just drag to your preferred setting and you’re done.
You’ll also enjoy Photo Sphere, the Nexus version of Panorama modes, and the cool filter feature which lets you modify a pic after it's been shot. Now that Instagram is threatening to sell you out, this may become one of the phone’s biggest selling points.
5. Nokia Lumia 920
The Nokia Lumia 920 takes consistently good photos. Colorful images and sharp lines are the norm. The continuous auto focus feature works well, especially with the phone’s amazing 8.7 megapixel front camera that comes with Carl Zeiss optics. If you’re not a photo nerd you may not know that Zeiss was a German lens maker from the 1800s whose influence is still felt today.
Megapixels aren’t everything, but the 8.7 megapixel camera on the Lumia allows more light to get in. The dual-LED flash is excellent, resulting in bright and crisp close-up shots. And low-light shots, especially portraits or landscapes, are about as good as they get.