A high-quality camera in a phone is more important than ever as casual photography peaks and mobiles pack snappers almost comparable to dedicated point-and-shoots.
Winner - Samsung Galaxy S II
A fantastic camera phone with by far the crispest image on the phone's own display. A large screen and a sharp colour palate add to its all round excellent functionality. Although it lacks a physical button to capture images, this works to its advantage due to its lightweight design, helping to reduce shake when the shutter is released. It manages to process images quickly, giving it an advantage when it comes to shooting from the hip.
Quality - 4 / 5 stars
The Samsung Galaxy S II works excellently in daylight, providing crisp, sharp images with wonderfully rich colours.
Zoom - 4 / 5 stars
The Galaxy SII can zoom closer than others, but this ultimately leads to pixilation. However, at half length it works well, getting close to the clarity of image it produces at zero zoom with little noise or pixilation.
Low light with flash - 4 / 5 stars
One of the stronger models tested with flash. The colours could use a little more saturation if anything, but the flash is powerful enough to use from a few feet back. It also succeeds in that it doesn't bleach images, leaving enough detail in close ups.
Low light without flash - 3 / 5 stars
The Galaxy S II's weakest point is in low light. It suffers from noise in particularly dingy settings, yet recovers somewhat in medium artificial light. Whilst disappointing in low light, colours show up reasonably well despite quite high levels of noise.
Action - 3 / 5 stars
A fast shutter is slightly let down by the camera icon being tucked away in the menus. However, once available the phone's power more than compensates for this, and pictures can be reeled off with speed. The sharpness of images holds up well.
Runner up - Nokia N8
Despite the fact it's now getting on a bit, the Nokia N8 still stands up admirably for budding snappers. However, its biggest falling point is that the phone itself hasn't aged well and is starting to feel clunky and dated. Despite this, the image quality is high and its Xenon flash is still the best of the bunch.
Quality - 3 / 5 starsDigital noise is low, and the images are fairly clear. This is the best camera for photographing in terms of a solid, physical build, but it's let down by an average screen and what seems like an age for the camera to boot up once the side button is pressed. Despite this, pictures are clear and colours are rich.
Whilst it may not have the longest zoom, it does display the best textures on colour with minimal fuzziness.
Low light with flash - 4 / 5 stars
Sometimes it struggles to focus quickly enough, but when on form it produces the best images available out of the four contenders. Very little bleaching close up and powerful enough to capture subjects a few meters away.
Colours come out well in medium light, but suffers in lower light where images can appear muddy and bland.
Action - 2 / 5 stars
The Nokia N8's biggest let down. The awful response time from hitting the camera button to the time it boots up will mean opportunities are lost. The shutter response is also a downer, saved only by the overall quality of the lens.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc
Decent quality images with a side shutter button give the Xperia Arc an advantage when it comes to a quick point and shoot. Quick touch focusing and great colour saturation stand it in good stead, with a strong sensor and an ability to capture moving images well.
Quality - 3 / 5 starsEasy to use and well built to quickly capture images, although it does have a annoyingly stiff button on the side of the camera to capture images. Suffers from noise only in low light.
Little pixilation occurs, and its relatively sturdy build makes it stand out for steady shots off the cuff.
Low light with flash - 3 / 5 stars
Up close it performs well - colours look rich and well balanced. It starts to fail beyond anything more than a couple of feet. The strength of the flash is relatively weak.
On the plus side, the pictures are relatively sharp with little shake without too much noise. Despite this, the colours come out flat and underwhelming.
Although the pictures came out reasonably sharp, the most frustrating aspect of the Xperia Arc is its overly tough shutter release button, resulting in additional camera shake to all but the steadiest of hands. An occasional minor delay to focus does not help matters either.
The iPhone 4's popularity and longevity might appeal to many, but it falls somewhat short as a camera. Sure, the multitude of photographic apps appeal, but it's fairly basic merely as a camera phone. Its simple touch focusing is a bonus, but suffers badly from noise in low light without flash and when zoomed in.
Quality - 3 / 5 stars
Noise is visible in anything other than clearest daylight, especially once blown up on a home computer away, away from the ultra-crisp Retina display. Although touch focusing is straightforward, it quickly forgets its setting for multiple exposures on the trot.
Zoom - 2 / 5 stars
Shaky in anything other than clear daylight, the pixilation and noise are problematic, the former happening even when conditions are clear.
Low Light with flash - 3 / 5 stars
The phone's power means pictures can be taken quickly, but pictures are unflattering and the colours are too saturated.
Low light without flash - 2 / 5 stars
Noisy and dull. The pictures are not sharp, while colours are bland and murky.
A fast shutter is its best quality, but smudgy edges to the pictures let it down.