5 Best Phones for Street Photography in 2021 – Latest Guide

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Best Phones for Street Photography
Photo from a street in Bangkok

About a year ago, me and my girlfriend went traveling to Thailand. We both love exploring new cultures and visiting breathtaking sites, worth taking pictures of – like the great statues Buddha.

While site seeing was great, I want to point out that the city of Bangkok is equally intriguing. First of all, I was mesmerized by the liveliness and energy levels of the city. The whole setting is so different from what we are used to in the west. People are very kind and carefree. I just love the way Asian streets look, with all the flashy lights and small stores selling miscellaneous items. I did not take my trusted camera with me out to the streets every day, but this did not prevent me from taking pictures and capturing “decisive moments“. Thanks to my HUAWEI P30, I was still able to take high-quality street photos.

In this article, I would like to share my opinion on what are the best phones for street photography. The high light levels on Bangkok streets, definitely put my phone camera to the test.

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

Do you know who is Henri Cartier-Bresson?
He is the most famous French street photographer of all time (1908 – 2004). He is best known for his candid photography and capturing the “decisive moment“. The decisive moment is the precise moment of action. It is the split-second of time that encapsulates all of the story shown in the image. In his own words, the decisive moment is:

“…the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

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


BUDGET RECOMMENDED
Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Samsung Galaxy A52 Xiaomi Mi 10T Huawei P30

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Samsung Galaxy A52

Xiaomi Mi 10T

Huawei P30
Display 6.3 inches 6.4 inches 6.5 inches 6.67 inches 6.1 inches
Main camera 48 MP wide, 8 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 12 MP wide, 12 MP telephoto 64 MP wide, 12 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro, 5 MP depth 64 MP wide, 13 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro 40 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto, 16 MP ultrawide
Video max. 4K@30fps max. 4K@60fps, HDR max. 4K@30fps max. 8K@30fps max. 4K@30fps
Front camera 13 MP wide 8 MP + 2 MP 32 MP wide 20 MP wide 32 MP wide
Battery 4000 mAh, non-removable 4000 mAh, non-removable 4500 mAh, non-removable 5000 mAh, non-removable 3650 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 street photography?

XIAOMI Redmi Note 8

One of the best phone for street photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 48 MP wide, 8 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro and 2 MP depth Single 13 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 is a good mid-range phone that has some cool features and sells at a very low price. The phone has a really cool and modern design, a good battery, and a solid chipset. We really get our money worth with this phone. It is for sure quality at a low price. Therefore it makes our list of the best phones for street photography.

The phone features quad-camera setup, which is again a feature of good and premium phones. Here you will find one 48 MP main camera with PDAF, 8 MP ultrawide camera, 2 MP macro camera with autofocus, and a 2 MP depth sensor. This is the same camera setup that you will find on the newer Redmi Note 9. Anyway, photos taken during the day with the main camera are decent. However, the overall quality is a little behind the competition. Sharpness could be improved and there could be more detail. Therefore images appear a bit softer. Still, colours look pretty good. Using zoom reduces image quality even more. Photos have more noise and do not come out really sharp. Portraits look more or less good, but only in good light. Low light performance is surprisingly good. Photos have a wide dynamic range with nicely preserved highlights. However, the images are still soft.

Video recording is in fact better than what you will find on Redmi Note 9. Here you actually have an option for 4K video recording. You can also record up to 1080p. In general, videos are more or less decent, however, there is still room for improvement. Videos could be sharper and the dynamic range could be wider. Otherwise, it is okay and average users will not see these flaws as such a big problem.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Great price/performance ratio
  • Since it was released in the late 2019 its price has fallen quite a bit and is now very affordable
  • Hardware is still capable enough to run the latest games
  • Optimal screen size for most people
  • Nicely balanced video noise/detail in bright to moderate light
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Not the best camera for indoor
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy NOTE 9

One of the best phone for street photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Dual with 12 MP wide and 12 MP telephoto Dual with 8 MP wide and 2 MP dedicated iris scanner camera Up to 4K 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 used to be Samsung’s top flagship. It was released in 2018 so it seems a bit outdated right now. However, back then it was best of the best and it can still compete with today’s top phones, especially as it costs less. It is a great and affordable choice in the field of Note phones, which can deliver a great user experience. Therefore, we decided to put in on the list of the best phones for street photography.

Note 9 has a double camera setup on the back. It features one 12 MP main camera with dual pixel autofocus system and one 12 MP telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. Thanks to HDR you get a wider dynamic range. Daytime photos look great. The colours look decent and a pretty much accurate. Furthermore, the scene optimizer can make colours pop out a little more. You also get a lot of detail and the overall sharpness is good. Using zoom on telephoto camera won’t reduce quality of the photos. You still get a nice amount of detail with very little noise. Low light photography is okay. Dynamic range is good and there is very little noise. Night mode works really well for highlights and shadows, however, this time there will be more noise and the overall quality will decrease. Selfie camera offers a lot of detail and gives nice colours. Note 9 supports 4K video recording at 30 fps. They have nice 1080p resolution with a good overall quality. Videos are detailed with very little noise. The colour output is great, while dynamic range here is simply impressive. There are also no issues with focus.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • It is an older high-end flagships so the price has been reduced by more then 50%. But the specs are still better then some new upper mid-range phones. It is a bargain powerhouse
  • S-pen features and screen are amazing
  • Though not the newest the chipset will run any game without stuttering
  • Autofocus operation is fast and accurate indoors and out
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Not the newest device on the list
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy A52 – Top Budget Phone for street photography

One of the best phone for street photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Quad with 64 MP wide, 12 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro and 5 MP depth Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Samsung Galaxy A52 is a very good and capable mid-range phone. It brings a lot of upgrades over its predecessors. It has some cool new features and a brand new design. All of that comes at a reasonable price, which is appropriate for a phone on such a level. It has many qualities that make this phone truly great and worth every penny. Therefore, we decided to list it as one of the best phones for street photography.

There were some improvements on the field of cameras as well. Galaxy A52 feature a quad camera setup. Here we get 64 MP main camera with OIS, 12 MP ultrawide camera, 5 MP macro camera and a 5 MP depth sensor. Photos taken with main camera during the day are very sharp, have wide dynamic range a lot of detail. There is very little, almost zero noise and the colour are more or less accurate. Low light photography looks quite okay. Highlights and shadows look nice and noise is reduced to minimum. However, switching to ultrawide camera during night may reduce photo quality. So stick to the main camera. Samsung also added some extra features that you can have fun with. You will find a quick access to AR effects right in the camera app. As far as video recording goes, you are able to make 4K footages at 30 fps. You can also make videos at 1080p resolution which also look quite nice and the overall quality is very satisfying. Videos taken during the day have wide dynamic range, have a lot of detail and are very sharp.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Great price compared to high-end flagships
  • Snapdragon 720G performance was really better then we expected. This is also one of the main reasons this phone is listed here
  • For people with smaller hands this phone will be easy to handle and comfortable to hold even after longer usage.
  • Wide dynamic range in stills
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Camera video capabilities are still very basic.
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

XIAOMI Mi 10T

One of the best phone for street 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 street 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 street photography
CUSTOMER REVIEWS

KEY CAMERA FEATURES

MAIN CAMERA FRONT CAMERA VIDEO
Triple with 40 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto and 16 MP ultrawide Single 32 MP wide Up to 4K 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Huawei P30 is one of the brand’s really good mid-range phones. It features a beautiful design, a good camera setup, and awesome chipset performance. Now it lacks some of the features that a more premium version P30 Pro has. However, it is still a very good deal, especially as it is cheaper. Based on its capabilities, it makes one of the best phones for street photography.

Huawei P30 features a triple camera setup. Here you will find a 40 MP main camera with laser autofocus, a 16 MP ultrawide camera and an 8 MP telephoto camera with OIS and 3x optical zoom. However, there is no depth sensor, which Pro version has. Images taken during the day look great. The main camera captures a lot of detail, with a minimal amount of noise. The dynamic range is good and the colors are pleasing. Ultrawide camera produces punchier colors and the dynamic range is not as wide. However, photo quality is still pretty much okay. You do get an option for super macro mode, which is meant for close-up shots. Images in this mode are surprisingly good and high quality. Low light photography is also satisfying. Colors are nicely preserved with really good highlights and shadows. There is some loss of detail, but noise is pretty low. You also have a night mode that improves quality of night time shots.

As far as the video recording goes, P30 can make 4K footages at 30 fps. There is an option for electronic stabilization, which makes videos look smoother. Otherwise the amount of detail is satisfying, but videos could be sharper. Dynamic range is excellent and colors are true to life.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Above average battery life. A feature that is important for photography
  • Nice built quality. Gives a feeling of a top high-end flagship
  • An excellent screen
  • Very responsive performance even with 6 GB version
  • Good target exposure even in very low light
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • The phone lacks wireless charging capabilities
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 street photography – CONCLUSION

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

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