5 Best Phones for Star Photography in 2021 – Expert Guide

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Today’s topic is which are the best phones for star photography. If this is the question that has been going through your mind lately then this is the article for you.

Picture of stars taken with S21 Ultra

When it comes to the camera, phones nowadays have improved a lot. Most phones, even budget ones, will do a great job when taking pictures during the day when the lighting conditions are not demanding. But taking a good shot of the night sky with stars. Now that is a whole different story. Most great pictures of the stars that you can find on the web are taken with a good DSLR or mirrorless camera. Of course, no phone can compete with a dedicated camera with its small sensor size. But some phones come pretty darn close and achieve great results.

Our mission was to find what camera specification are important for star photography and which phones really excel in this area. Some passed our tests with flying colors.

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

DID YOU KNOW: Every star you can see on the night sky is both bigger and brighter than our sun 😮. Remember this next time you will be shooting stars with your new phone.

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


BUDGET RECOMMENDED
Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC Samsung Galaxy S10+ Samsung Galaxy S20 Apple iPhone 12 Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Xiaomi Poco X3 NFC

Samsung Galaxy S10+

Samsung Galaxy S20

Apple iPhone 12

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Display 6.67 inches 6.4 inches 6.2 inches 6.1 inches 6.8 inches
Main camera 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 12 MP wide, 12 MP telephoto, 16 MP ultrawide 12 MP wide, 64 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide 12 MP wide, 12 MP ultrawide 108 MP wide, 10 MP periscope telephoto, 10 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide
Video max. 4K@30fps max. 4K@60fps, HDR10+ max. 8K@24fps, HDR10+ max. 4K@60fps max. 8K@24fps, HDR10+
Front camera 20 MP wide 10 MP wide and 8 MP wide 10 MP wide 12 MP wide 40 MP wide
Battery 5160 mAh, non-removable 4100 mAh, non-removable 4000 mAh, non-removable 2815 mAh, non-removable 5000 mAh, non-removable
Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon Buy on Amazon

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 star photography?

XIAOMI Poco X3 NFC – Top Budget Phone for star photography

One of the best phone for star 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 star 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

SAMSUNG Galaxy S10+

One of the best phone for star photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 12 MP telephoto and 16 MP ultrawide Dual with 10 MP and 8 MP wide Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S10+ is a more premium version of regular S10. This phone is bigger and carries some new additions. However, most of the features, especially design, remain the same. The phone is a bit older and is definitely not the newest flagship out there, but it can still perform really well and can carry out many difficult tasks. Therefore, we decided to put this phone on the list of the best phones for star photography.

On the field of cameras, the major difference is that the S10+ has a dual selfie camera, which regular S10 doesn’t. That improves depth sensing and gives better results when taking selfies. Otherwise the camera setup on the back remains the same. The phone features 12 MP main camera, 16 MP ultrawide camera and 12 MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. You get fantastic results during the day. The photos are very sharp with a lot of detail. The dynamic range is great and the overall quality of the photos is superb. Using zoom does not affect quality in a major way and photos remain sharp. Night time photography is on a high level. The output is surprisingly good and you get a high quality shots with a lot of detail. However, when it’s too dark the quality will decrease. The videos taken during the day look fantastic. You can make 4K footages at 30 fps or 60 fps. Both options give you outstanding results. However, videos taken with telephoto camera at 60 fps can have reduced quality.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Performance is excellent thanks to Snapdragon 855 and lots of RAM. This phone will handle any task you throw at it.
  • Dual selfie camera improves depth sensing and gives better results when taking selfies
  • Eventhough the battery is not the biggest on the market the phone will last surprisingly good. Even if you are gaming or watching videos.
  • Very wide dynamic range and excellent highlight protection
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • If you are not an advanced user, you might not benefit from this version and should probably stick to regular S10, otherwise you are just overpaying for your phone.
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy S20

One of the best phone for star photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 12 MP wide, 64 MP telephoto and 12 MP ultrawide Single 10 MP wide Up to 8K 24 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S20 is a powerful phone with an appealing design. Although, we have to say there are better versions out there, such as S20 Ultra. However, they usually cost more. In terms of performance, S20 works really well and it’s also very user-friendly. It’s not the newest Galaxy S flagship, but regardless, it still is a high-end phone. It is capable of delivering astonishing results in every field. Therefore, it makes our list of best phones for star photography.

Now let’s move to camera capabilities. Samsung Galaxy S20 has three cameras: a 12 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultra-wide camera, and a 64 MP telephoto camera with 3x hybrid optical zoom. Photos made during day hours look excellent. The camera captures a lot of detail and photos are generally very sharp and high quality. However, with zooming the quality will decrease, so we recommend you not to zoom too deep into the frame as you will capture more noise. Still, a telephoto camera without zoom can produce even better photos than the main camera. It will capture more detail, less noise and photos will be sharper and in general, look more attractive. Nighttime photos are surprisingly good and so are low light photos, which are simply excellent. However, it may interest you that there is no night mode.

The camera can make amazing 4K videos. You have the option of filming at 30 fps or 60 fps. Footages taken in either mode will look pretty decent and there really are no major problems with the video quality. S20 also has an awesome feature, which is 8K videos at 24 fps. Such videos are taken with a 64-megapixel camera and they look much nicer than 4K footages.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • The screen is clear and large with strong backlight and punchy colors
  • The phone sits in hand comfortably due to slim and nice design
  • If you get a 5G version you will also be getting 12 GB of RAM instead of standard 8 which makes this phone more future proof
  • Great image processing
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Some users have reported occasional freezes on some apps. It has not happened to us and we assume it is a minor issue that may be already solved by latest updates
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

APPLE iPhone 12

One of the best phone for star photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Dual with 12 MP wide and 12 MP ultrawide Single 12 MP wide Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Apple iPhone 12 brings quite a few changes over last year’s model. It is a high-end device, so don’t expect it to come cheap. Price aside, you get a lot of premium features that other phones are missing. There has been a significant improvement in the field of security, especially face recognition. The phone also comes with a very good chipset and GPU for the best experience. It is also very user-friendly, so you will have no problem adjusting to iOS, even if you never owned an Apple phone before. The quality of this phone speaks for itself, therefore we decided to list it as the best phones for star photography.

Apple iPhone 12 comes with dual camera setup. Here you will find 12 MP main camera dual picel PDAF and an OIS. You also get a 12 MP ultrawide camera. Daylight photos are very good. There is a nice amount of detail and very little noise. Sharpness is nicely balanced and colours are pretty much accurate. You also get a wide dynamic range. However, Apple started fall behind the competition. Other brands feature multiple camera setups and cameras have better sensors. When you zoom in too much, you will see that photos become softer on this phone. Still, images look great, but could be improved. On the other hand, portraits look pretty decent. They are sharp with a lot of detail and background can be blurred. When taking shots in lowlight, night mode will automatically kick in. These photos are truly amazing. They are surprisingly sharp with a lot of detail and no noise. Colours are nicely preserved and you get nice highlights and shadows. The contrast looks great and the exposure is true to life.

Video recording quality is one of the best you will see. You are able to make 4K footages at 24, 30 or 60 fps. Videos look great, with the right amount of detail and very little noise. Dynamic range is impressive and the colours look very good with a nice contrast. Lowlight videos give outstanding results and beat the competition by far. There is also electronic stabilization for super smooth videos.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • As any Apple product it is very responsive and the user experience is just amazing
  • Sizewise it hits the sweet spot for people with smaller to medium hands
  • Great camera setup
  • Solid photo performance and impressive video capabilities, especially for those who can take full advantage of the phone’s Dolby Vision HDR processing
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • A bit shorter battery life due to 2815 mAh battery. But it supports fast charging and recharges 50% of its capacity in just 30 min
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

One of the best phone for star photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 108 MP wide, 10 MP periscope telephoto, 10 MP telephoto and 12 MP ultrawide camera Single 40 MP wide camera Up to 8K 24 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is the brand’s showpiece and has some amazing new features. It is an upgrade from the regular S21 model, which is actually a cheaper version of this phone. The S21 Ultra is one of the best phones ever to be introduced to the market. This is a high-end and well-performing device that you would be proud to own. It is definitely one of the best phones for star photography.

As far as the camera abilities go, this phone is definitely a step forward. The S21 features a 108 MP main camera and a 12 MP ultrawide camera. It also has two 10 MP zoom lenses. One supports 3x digital zoom and the other one supports 10x digital zoom. All of the cameras and lenses have amazing autofocus that will allow you to take very sharp photos and will capture a lot of details. The images are high quality and have a wonderful resolution. The colors are amazing and you can even take some incredible low light photos. Additionally, the S21 Ultra features a 40 MP frontal camera that will allow you to take some awesome selfies. The frontal camera is a clear upgrade from other S21 models that have 10 MP frontal cameras.

About the video capabilities, the phone can make some awesome 4K recordings at 30 fps or 60fps. Your videos will be sharp and clear. You can also make 8K videos at 24 fps. For more details click here.

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Super fast and responsive performance thanks to Snapdragon 888
  • Great display that is perfect for everyday use
  • Amazing 5000 mAh battery with 25 W charging capabilities, wireless charging and wireless reverse charging
  • Lots of RAM that will allow any game to run smooth
  • The camera has tons of features and produces amazing results
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Because it is a Samsung product it comes with some preinstalled Samsung ‘bloatware’
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 star photography – CONCLUSION

As you have learned choosing the best phone for star 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 phones for star photography you are good and ready to go. Have fun taking photos.

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