The Best Smartphone Cameras

The smartphones listed below were culled from our cell phne Ratings because their camera performances were simply the best. They might not surpass the image quality of an SLR—or even the top point-and-shoots—but you can't beat them for portability and sharing options. And they're getting better all the time at taking photos.

These days, you can count on cell phones to have higher-resolution sensors (12 megapixels or more) to produce sharper cropped or enlarged prints, optical image stabilizers to help minimize the blurriness from a shaky hand, and video cameras that can capture spur-of-the-moment action with high-definition clarity, too.

7 Best Smartphone Cameras

When we took an up-close look at our Ratings, these phones rose to the top for camera performance:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
  2. Nexus 6
  3. Motorola Moto X Pure Edition
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  5. LG G4
  6. Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  7. Apple iPhone 6s

Stunning Still Images

The Nexus 6 aced our still-image-quality tests, which evaluate resolution, dynamic range, color accuracy, and visual noise, even without the higher resolution sensors of some rivals. But don’t just write the other phones off. In fact, the LG G4 and iPhone 6s Plus excelled at taking low-light shots.

Video Stars

All of these smartphones took videos good enough to upload to Youtube or Facebook. They can also record at a resolution (2160x3840) high enough to feed an Ultra HD TV. But the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 took slightly better HD video (1080p), the most common form, under daylight and indoor conditions. The Motorola Pure and iPhone 6s models had trouble focusing on subjects in low light.

Selfie 'Shticks'

Selfie-taking may be chided as an obnoxious habit, but it’s a habit many of us can’t seem to break. And these phones all have a feature or two that can help you make the most of . . . yourself.

The LG G4's 8-megapixel front-facing camera has the highest resolution in our batch, enough to capture almost every nook and cranny of your hopefully smiling face. The Samsungs, Motorola, and Apples have wide-angle selfie cameras, which can come in handy when trying to squeeze more people and scenery into your shots. And if vanity seizes you in the dark, the Motorola Pure’s front camera has its own LED flash. The Apples and LG have the next best thing: Their displays light up briefly to simulate a flash.

These models also make the act of taking a selfie more convenient. For instance, the LGs and Samsungs let you use hand gestures or voice commands like "say cheese" or "smile" to snap a photo. The Samsungs also have a mode that enables you to snap a selfie using the rear camera.

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