The camera and imaging quality of any smartphone is perhaps one of the most important aspects of this handheld device. After all, from expressing our moments instantly on social media, to capturing the perfect family outing, imaging quality sets a phone apart from every other portable gadget; it's not easy to get right, and it requires high-quality components and advanced manipulation of software to make it accessible to everyday users. While most folks would likely beautify or process their shots before showcasing them online, it is still the onus of the smartphone camera to provide a good starting point. We have this category because there's simply so many of us that would judge a phone's value from its camera performance first.
To make the cut, the phone has to be released in the last 12 months (February 2020 to February 2021) and be the brand's flagship phone offering for imaging is concerned. It must also prove its imaging worth in our regular phone reviews to see a nomination. In the case where multiple flagships are available from the same brand, we picked the one best suited for the job.
Wondered why the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max won best premium flagship phone this round? That's partly because of its sophisticated imaging quality, which was also good enough to clinch best smartphone camera for this generation.
The iPhone is proof that having the most camera lenses doesn't necessitate an easy win. In many instances, a closer scrutinisation of imaging quality would have the Apple handset coming out on top. Also, we found it to be very consistent in its reproduction - the other worthy nominees can offer high-quality images when shooting under specific conditions, but the iPhone always deliver on par, or close enough to edge out the rest.
Where it fell markedly short on was its zoom quality, where just about every other nominee was able to beat its noise and grain control. The iPhone 12 Pro Max made up for this aspect through insane colour accuracy and better-than-usual contrast handling, not to mention its life-like handling of light sources.
This comes before the rest of its camera features. Even among its other Apple iPhone 12 peers, it has a bigger main camera sensor (47% larger), a larger pixel size than the Pro variant, a sensor-shift stabiliser similar to gimbal-based stabilisation (physical, not digital), Dolby Vision HDR video-recording at 4k60fps, and more recently, support for RAW files with Apple Pro RAW.
In short, it's a practical set of features for both casual and serious photographers, with flexible and foolproof control, and quality that surpasses digital processing at times.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Huawei P40 Pro+
|Oppo Find X2 Pro||
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro
*Note: Prices and ratings listed are accurate at the time of individual product evaluation.
For more information on how the nominees fared in detail and thus helping us pick our winner, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References below.