5 Best Phones for Outdoor Photography in 2021 – Expert Guide

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Best phone for outdoor photography

Outdoor activities are the best. Nothing beats the feeling of going outside and enjoying some fresh air. Normally, I always bring my phone with me. I often use it to take photos of various things that I stumble across. This really paid off, during all these years. Therefore you always have to have a good and reliable phone with you. In this article, I will help you find the best phone for outdoor photography. So stick around and enhance your next trip outdoors.

In the past, I used a big camera for outdoor photography. Every time I went outside I would bring it with me. With time this became very inconvenient. The camera was heavy and I always had to take a special bag with me, just to put it in. This just wasn’t working for me anymore, so decided to use my phone. After all, I have it with me all the time. The photos were not really good. That phone just wasn’t meant for photography. So I did a little research and I found a perfect phone for me. The image quality was great and could compare to the one on the camera. Additionally, it is a big plus that you can easily edit your photos right there on your phone. No extra equipment is necessary, and you can also share your photos with others right on the spot.

In this article, I would like to share the results of my research with you. I have isolated 5 best phones for outdoor photography. In the selection, I included the recommended phone that I am currently using and a budget choice for any of you that want quality at affordable prices. All of the phones were tested, so now it’s time to check them out.

If you want to read a full detailed review of our recommended phone for best phone for outdoor photography click here. Or if you are more interested in our top budget pick we got you covered here.

DID YOU KNOW: Scientists have proven that hiking has a positive effect on our mental health. It actually makes us happier and helps us combat symptoms of stress and anxiety.

NOTE: Below you can find a comparison table and a detailed description of the best phones for outdoor photography.


BUDGET RECOMMENDED
Samsung Galaxy A12 Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC Huawei Nova 5T Xiaomi Mi 10T Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy A12

Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

Huawei Nova 5T

Xiaomi Mi 10T

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
Display 6.5 inches 6.67 inches 6.26 inches 6.67 inches 6.5 inches
Main camera 48 MP wide, 5 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 48 MP wide, 16 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro 12 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide
Video max. 1080p@30fps max. 4K@30fps max. 4K@30fps max. 8K@30fps max. 4K@60fps
Front camera 8 MP 20 MP wide 32 MP wide 20 MP wide 32 MP wide
Battery 5000 mAh, non-removable 5160 mAh, non-removable 3750 mAh, non-removable 5000 mAh, non-removable 4500 mAh, non-removable
Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon

* International and US hardware.


OVERALL RATING

We evaluated the phones based on several key factors that are important to capture high-quality photos. The most important being camera megapixels, resolution, and lens zoom performance and capacity. And we must not forget the display as you don’t want just to capture an image in high quality but to also look nice on the screen.

We tested and evaluated all mentioned features and compiled results to a single score number. Please note that the final score does not take the price into the account. So obviously the budget phones will not perform as well as the high-end flagship. But we make sure that all our recommended phones will give you a great camera experience.


What are the best phones for outdoor photography?

SAMSUNG Galaxy A12 – Top Budget Phone for outdoor photography

One of the best phone for outdoor photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 48 MP wide, 5 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro and 2 MP depth Single 8 MP Up to 1080p 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy A12 is a phone that will bring you the experience of premium brand on a budget. This is a perfect choice for any of you that are looking for a good and affordable entry level phone. The overall performance is good and it covers all the basic features that a good phone needs. However, do not compare it to the newest flagships. Still, the battery life on A12 beats most of the competition. Based on its abilities and an awesome price/quality ration, we decided to list it as one of the best phones for outdoor photography.

Galaxy A12 has a quad camera setup. It is equipped with 48 MP main camera, 5 MP ultrawide camera, 2 MP macro camera and a 2 MP depth sensor. The daytime photography is looking surprisingly good, especially for a budget phone. The photos taken with a main camera come out very sharp with a lot of detail and a wide dynamic range. There is also practically no noise and colours are very accurate. You can also make very decent selfies with 8 MP selfie camera. The subject is nicely exposed with a high level of detail. Close up shots taken with macro camera look okay, but do not have as much detail as you would expect. Also, there is more noise in the photos. Low light photography is not the best. Dynamic range is pretty narrow and images are sort of noisy. Colours remain good, but highlights and shadows do not look their best. However, for a basic user all this might not pose a problem. These are details that some may not even care about. So basic users should still go for this phone, however professionals might search for more expensive phone with better camera. Video recording is nothing special and is very basic. You can record up to 1080p at 30 fps. Video quality is average, however sharpness is good and there is also very little noise.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Very affordable. Great price/performance ratio
  • Sleek design makes it Easy to handle and place into pockets
  • Huge 5000 mAh battery is really good and supports 15W fast charging
  • 6 GB model will be able to handle games pretty good
  • Fast, accurate, and repeatable autofocus
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • The processor chip may be a bit weak for more demanding games. If this will be your primary gaming phone you should consider some higher-end models on this list.
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

XIAOMI Poco X3 NFC

One of the best phone for outdoor photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro and 2 MP depth Single 20 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC is a good mid-range phone that brings a lot of trendy features. It comes with a quad-camera setup, a high refresh rate screen, and a great chipset. Battery life is very good and the phone truly delivers what it promises. Another big plus is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on these features. Poco X3 NFC comes at a very affordable price. That’s why we decided to put it on our list of best phones for outdoor photography.

Poco X3 NFC has a quad-camera setup. It is equipped with a 64 MP main camera, 13 MP ultrawide camera, 2 MP macro camera, and a 2 MP depth sensor. The daytime photos look excellent for this class. The photos taken with the main camera come out very sharp with a lot of detail and a wide dynamic range. There is also practically no noise and colours are very accurate. You can also make very decent selfies with a 20 MP selfie camera. The subject is nicely exposed with a high level of detail. Zoom shots look okay but do not have as much detail as you would expect. Also, there is more noise in the photos. However, this is more or less due to lack of a telephoto camera. Close-up shots taken with a macro camera are more or less decent. They have as much detail as you would expect from a 2 MP camera, but noise is very low. Sharpness could be improved on this camera. Low light photography is not the best. The dynamic range is pretty narrow and images are sort of noisy. Colors remain good, but highlights and shadows do not look their best. However, for a basic user, all this might not pose a problem. Night mode might help improve photos. Still, you will find better low light performance on other mid-range phones.

Video recording is quite good. You can make 4K videos at 30 fps. There is also an option for more basic footage that can be recorded up to 1080p. In general, videos have great contrast and accurate colors. The dynamic range is wide enough, however, the level of detail could be improved.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Many people argue that you get a lot of the phone for the price. We agree
  • We really like 120 Hz 6.67 inch screen. It is bright, large and perfect for watching videos, playing games or browsing the web
  • The powerful mid-range chip will allow you to play graphic intense games smoothly
  • Large battery and a 33W charger is a dream combination
  • Accurate white balance and pleasant color rendering in stills
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • There is no wireless charging
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

HUAWEI Nova 5T

One of the best phone for outdoor photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 48 MP wide, 16 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro and 2 MP depth Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Huawei Nova 5T is one of Huawei’s most beautifully designed and mid-range phones. It looks very similar to Honor 20, so if you are familiar with that phone, using this one will be a walk in the park. Otherwise, the phone has a good chipset and pretty long battery life. It is also very affordable which makes it one of the best phones for outdoor photography.

Huawei nova 5T features a quad camera set up on the back. Here you will find one 48 MP main camera with PDAF, one 16 MP ultrawide camera, one 2 MP macro lens and a 2 MP depth sensor. Camera set up might not be the best feature here, as you can find similar setup on cheaper phones. Still, the image quality is good. Day time photos taken with main camera look okay. They have a lot of detail and sufficiently wide dynamic range with little noise. Night time and low light photos can have reduced quality, although still satisfying. Basic users will probably not have any problem with the quality, however professionals might be bothered with some details, as images tend to be softer.

As far as video recording goes, you do get an option for 4K videos at 30 fps. However, you can always take footages up to 1080p at 30 or 60 fps. In general, video quality is good. There is plenty of detail, little noise and wide dynamic range. Although, if video recording is important to you, you might want to check out some other, but more expensive phones, like Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Highly readable and highly responsive IPS screen, 2340 x 1080 resolution
  • Performance is amazing for a mid range phone. It holds its own even against pricier models
  • The fingerprint reader works wonderfully and is faster than the Honor 5X
  • Battery lasts all day video chatting, gaming and watching videos non-stop
  • Good exposure and wide dynamic range in photos
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Does not have a memory card slot. Since there is only 128 GB version available you must decide if that is enough for you
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

XIAOMI Mi 10T

One of the best phone for outdoor photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide and 5 MP macro Single 20 MP wide Up to 8K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Xiaomi Mi 10T is a brand’s flagship phone that was released in 2020. However, price wise it’s more of a mid-ranger. It sells at a very reasonable price, especially if we take into account everything the phone offers us. It’s still isn’t the cheapest phone you will find, but it’s quite a bargain for such quality. The phone has a great chipset and amazing battery life. The camera performance is awesome and there aren’t any major issues here. Therefore, we decided to list this phone as one of the best phones for outdoor photography.

The quality of cameras is surprisingly good for a mid-range phone and is one of the phones strong points. The phone features triple camera setup, with one 64 MP main camera, one 13 MP ultrawide camera and a 5 MP macro camera for close-up shots. You will find the daytime photos to be extremely good. The phone really makes high quality photos. There is impressive amount of detail with almost no noise. Dynamic range is very good and photos appear very sharp. Colours look pretty natural. Zooming will cause loss of sharpness and detail and the quality will drop. However, photos still look good and beat some of the competition. Portraits look good and the edge detection works quite fine. Phone does a good job in low light as well. Sharpness is decent with good contrast and well preserved colours. The dynamic range remains quite wide.

As far as video recording goes, you are able to make 8K footages at 30 fps. There is also an option for 4K footages and regular 1080p footages. These videos all look great and have very good quality. Sharpness is good with the right amount of detail. Also, noise has been reduced to a minimum.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Performance is great thanks to Snapdragon 865
  • Camera is great with many options and settings
  • You will appreciate 144 Hz refresh rate of the screen. Especially when playing games or watching videos
  • Great battery capacity and an excellent battery life
  • Accurate target exposure in indoor and outdoor photos and videos
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • No wireless charging
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

One of the best phone for outdoor photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto and 12 MP ultrawide Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is leaner and more affordable version of S20 phones. The FE stands for Fan Edition. This is a phone made especially for the fans and brings premium features at a lower price. There are some trade-offs that come with it, but this still is a very good phone that swings all the way to the top. Therefore, we believe it is one of the best phones for outdoor photography.

The camera setup here is slightly different to the one on regular version. The phone features 12 MP main camera which is the same as on other versions, however it also has 8 MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom and 12 MP ultrawide camera, which features smaller pixels. Quality of photos taken with main camera is very much the same as on other more premium versions of this phone. In general, photos are sharp with a lot of detail and have very little noise. Colours are nicely saturated and look good, but not as good as on other versions, so there is a bit of a flaw here. However, otherwise the photos taken during the day look great and very professional. Night-time photography delivers very good results as well. The photos have wide dynamic range, but this time, you will notice more noise than on other versions. The camera captures a lot of detail, but low-light photos are a bit less sharp. Still, these flaws are barely noticeable, so keep that in mind. Average users will not notice the difference. As far as the video quality goes, you can make 4K footages at 30 fps or 60 fps. Both look pretty decent and have wide dynamic range. The quality however seems to be slight lower than on other more expensive versions of this phone. Still the videos are sharp and they really do not appear that different, especially to an average user that does not pay that much attention to such details.

If you are interested in more details about the phone you can read more by clicking here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • The S20 FE feels premium despite having a plastic back. This is due to its thickness and weight.
  • The battery is pretty decent and will definitely last you a full day. Even if you are a heavy user
  • Thanks to Snapdragon 865 the performance is very smooth. If you are planning to play games a lot we recommend getting an 8 GB version
  • The fingerprint reader is accurate and fast.
  • Accurate photo and video target exposure in most conditions
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • It comes with some preinstalled Samsung apps which most users probably will not need. But you can uninstall them and rearrange the phone the way you like
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

Additional hardware information

Cameras

The phones these days feature multiple-camera setups. In fact, it is very difficult to find a phone with just one camera. Usually, they have at least two in the back and some even feature four. Now there is a logical explanation behind all this. The companies aren’t just stacking cameras left and right. Each camera is different and serves its own purpose. This is how we get the best results and enhance our photography experience. The most common camera types you will find are wide camera, ultrawide camera, telephoto camera, macro camera and ToF sensor.

Wide camera – It is also known as the main camera that we find on the rear side of the phone. You will notice differences in Megapixels that a certain camera has. A good main camera should have at least 12MP. Furthermore, it is also good if it has good autofocus and an optical image stabilizer, also known as OIS.

Ultrawide camera – It offers a wider field of view than the main camera. This way you can capture more into the image and it is more similar to what our eyes see. It can offer a great advantage when taking wider images such as family reunion photos for example. However, sometimes a photo can appear curved due to a wider angle and some objects might appear abnormally shaped.

Telephoto camera – It is normally used for zoomed-in shots that are taken from a distance. You can zoom in on a scene or subject and get closer without actually having to move. This can serve us well when we don’t want to approach the subject. A telephoto lens increases focal length. It brings objects closer to you.

Macro camera – It is used for close-up shots. We can capture images of small objects, such as insects or plants. These objects can appear big in a photo and we can capture a lot of detail. In fact, we can capture things that are too small to be visible to the naked eye.

ToF sensor – It is a piece of equipment that most flagship phones these days have. A ToF sensor can help you determine the distance between the camera and the object. It is actually a depth sensor that helps the phone create a three-dimensional map of the world. It uses infrared light to determine the distance between the objects and maps 3D space.

Dynamic range

The understanding of dynamic range can really help us improve our photos. Dynamic range describes the ratio between the maximum and minimum light intensities. In simple words, it tells us the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in an image.  Each device has its own dynamic range, which affects the output – that is our image. The wide the dynamic range, the better. You will stumble across this topic a lot in photography. So just remember that a wider dynamic range gives you better results. A wide dynamic range will allow you to capture more detail in brighter or darker areas. Otherwise, those areas will just appear very bright, nearly white or very dark, nearly black. So to create a good exposure, there must not be too bright or too dim parts.

An interesting fact is that human sight has a relatively high dynamic range. No camera can match it. Therefore some pictures of sunsets for example appear different than they are in real life.

Sharpness

Sharpness in photography stands for the overall clarity of the image. This combines focus and contrast. The subject must be clear, lifelike, and have a lot of details. This is when we can speak of sharpness.

Sharpness is very important in photography. Better sharpness means more detail. Furthermore, it also emphasizes the textures of the subject. You should always try and make your photos as sharp as you can. This way the images will appear more professional and interesting for the viewers.

For the best results, you will have to have good equipment as well as the right technique and well-developed skills. However, with the right gear, it can be much simpler. It is also important to know that sharpness is related to the resolution, as the number of pixels and their size affect overall sharpness.

Resolution

The image resolution relates to the number of pixels that are featured in an image. Higher resolutions simply mean that there are more pixels in the photo, whether lower resolutions mean that there are fewer pixels in a photo. The number of pixels also determines how much information is captured in an image. Or in other words, how much detail it can hold. So, the more the better, as it usually results in higher quality photos.

Changing the resolution, you are basically saying how many pixels you want to have per square inch. So it is always good to have a little more than less. After all, it affects the sharpness of the image as well, and you don’t want blurry photos. You want to capture as much information as you can. Cropping the photo, while keeping the same resolution will significantly drop the quality of the photo. That happens because you remove a certain amount of pixels, which basically means you lose a certain amount of information that should occupy that space. So avoid doing that.

There is a lot of talk about Full HD resolution these days. Here we have 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels high image. Such resolution is very common among televisions these days. However, there is also Ultra HD, which is also known as 4K. This means that the resolution here is about 4000 pixels, although is usually a bit less – 3840 pixels.

Contrast

Contrast represents a visual ratio between different tones in an image. It defines color characteristics and affects areas such as highlights, shadows, colors, clarity, and textures. A simple way of putting it is to say that contrast is the scale of difference between black and white in the photo. High contrast means that there will be bright highlights and dark shadows, whether low contrast images have little difference between light and dark tones.

We also know different types of contrasts. There is Tonal contrast, which refers to dark and bright areas in the photo. Then we have Color contrast which means pairing warm and cold colors to make them stand out more. We also know Conceptual contrast, which helps us add depth and encourages viewers to engage with the photo. Then there’s also Texture contrast, where we combine rough and soft elements for an extra punch. All of the contrasts are very important if we want the image to look professional and appealing. So we must know how to use them if we want to achieve that magical result. They can help us tell a story and make certain things stand out more. So we can really be artistic with the contrast.

best phone for outdoor photography – CONCLUSION

As you have learned choosing the best phone for outdoor photography is not a trivial task. The phone cannot compare to a professional DSLR camera with its small sensor size. Therefore, it is important that the sensor quality is at the top level and you will also need to play with some manual camera settings, as standard auto mode usually won’t cut it.

Any phone from our list will give you the best camera experience. So if you stay within our selection of best phone for outdoor photography you are good and ready to go. Have fun taking photos.

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