5 Best Phones for Travel Photography in 2021 – All you need to know

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best phone for travel photography

Hi guys, today I would like to talk about my latest travels to New Zealand. As you all know, I love traveling and have been doing so for the last 10 years. I’m also very passionate about photography and I always make sure I bring with me my trusty camera. But this time around my camera broke down due to too much water exposure. Don’t worry the camera got fixed, but unfortunately at that time, I couldn’t take it with me to New Zealand.

Luckily I had my phone with me, so I was still able to capture some amazing moments. But I was not satisfied with the picture quality, as my phone wasn’t the best for taking pictures. That got me thinking, what would be an appropriate phone for taking high-quality photos.

I have decided to buy a new phone that would do the job, but initially, I was not well informed what phone has a good enough camera for travel photography. This led me down the path of doing extensive research on the topic, and in this article, I would like to share my thoughts on the topic. I and my boyfriend have compiled a list of the 5 best phones that will do a great job at taking photos.

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

Did you know in New Zealand sheep far outnumber people. There are about six sheep for every human in New Zealand. This is one of the highest ratios in the world.

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


BUDGET RECOMMENDED
Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 Huawei P Smart 2021 Samsung Galaxy A71 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE Samsung Galaxy Note20

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9

Huawei P Smart 2021

Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

Samsung Galaxy Note20
Display 6.53 inches 6.67 inches 6.7 inches 6.5 inches 6.7 inches
Main camera 48 MP wide, 8 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 48 MP wide, 8 MP ultrawide, 2 MP macro, 2 MP depth 64 MP wide, 12 MP ultrawide, 5 MP macro, 5 MP depth 12 MP wide, 8 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide 12 MP wide, 64 MP telephoto, 12 MP ultrawide
Video max. 1080p@30fps max. 1080p@30fps max. 4K@30fps max. 4K@60fps max. 8K@24fps, HDR10+
Front camera 13 MP 8 MP 32 MP wide 32 MP wide 10 MP wide
Battery 5020 mAh, non-removable 5000 mAh, non-removable 4500 mAh, non-removable 4500 mAh, non-removable 4300 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 travel photography?

XIAOMI Redmi Note 9

One of the best phone for travel 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 standard Up to 1080p 30 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 is one of the brand’s cool phones, which sells at a very low price. It has a decent chipset and an extremely good battery life. It also comes with an IR blaster, which a very cool and useful feature that allows you to control certain appliances, like a TV for example. This makes the phone good, despite the low price. After all, there is no need to pay a lot for quality. Therefore it makes our list of the best phones for travel photography.

The phone features a quad camera setup. 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. Daytime shots taken with the main camera are decent. However, the overall quality is behind the competition. Sharpness could be improved and there could be more detail. Therefore images appear a bit softer. Still, the colors 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 again not the best. There is no option for 4K videos and you can only record up to 1080p. This is really disappointing as most phones these days support 4K and some even 8K. Videos appear soft and the dynamic range is pretty narrow. There is still a lot of room for improvements in this area.

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
  • Even 4 GB model will be able to handle heavy processes pretty good
  • Fast and accurate autofocus in good light
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • The processor chip may be a bit weak for more demanding processes. If this will be your primary phone you should consider some higher-end models on this list.
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

HUAWEI P Smart 2021

One of the best phone for travel 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 8 MP wide Up to 1080p 60 fps

PHONE DESCRIPTION

Huawei P smart 2021 is an elegant mid-range phone. It has some really cool and useful features, and best of all, it comes at an affordable price. It is fairly similar to last year’s model P smart 2020, but it does bring some improvements over it, like better camera setup. Still the P smart line-up remains an affordable option of smartphone. So we decided to list it as one of the best phones for travel photography.

There has been significant improvement on the field of cameras. This phone outranks it’s last year’s version by far. P smart 2021 comes with a quad camera setup, rather than dual camera setup that we have seen on P smart 2020.You get a 48 MP main camera with PDAF, 8 MP ultrawide camera, 2 MP macro camera and a 2 MP depth sensor. There is no OIS though. Daytime photos taken with main camera look very good. You can really see the progress that Huawei made with this phone. Dynamic range is okay, but colours are not completely accurate. The amount of detail is pretty decent and noise has been reduced to minimum. There is also support for HDR which improves dynamic range and the overall quality of images. The AI mode will automatically adjust settings for the most optimal use, based on the current conditions of the day. Low light performance is not the best. The amount of noise is much higher and images are softer, although colours are nicely preserved. Using night mode will help you improve photos.

Videos can be recorded in up to 1080p at 30 or 60 fps. The amount of detail is good and the colors also appear okay. However, shadows might be an area of the problem. There is also no electronic stabilization, so moving shots will not really look their best.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • Very affordable and one of the best price/performance ratios for a budget phone
  • Great battery capacity and battery life paired with fast charging feature
  • A 6.67 inch 1080p display looks really nice
  • Very responsive and smooth performance for a phone at this price point
  • Good detail and low noise levels in ultra-wide camera shots
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Some of the apps from Google Play Store not available due to recent Huawei ban from Google
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy A71 – Top Budget Phone for travel photography

One of the best phone for travel 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 A71 is another Samsung mid-range phone. Unlike flagships, this one comes at an affordable price, which is certainly a benefit for your wallet. Furthermore, the phone doesn’t lack anything and is pretty competitive. It has a good-looking design and an excellent mid-range chipset. Based on its quality, we decided to put it on our list of the best phones for travel photography.

The cameras you will find here do a pretty good job a well. Galaxy A71 features a quad camera setup, which has an interesting L shape. Here we get a 64 MP main camera with PDAF, 12 MP ultrawide camera, 5 MP macro camera, and a 5 MP depth sensor. Photos taken with the main camera during the day are very sharp, have a wide dynamic range a lot of detail. There is very little, almost zero noise and the colours are more or less accurate. Low light photography looks quite okay. Highlights and shadows look nice and noise is reduced to a minimum. However, switching to an ultrawide camera during the night may reduce photo quality. Macro shots could be improved as well. Many shots come out blurry, because of fixed focus and that could be a little annoying.

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 looks quite nice and the overall quality is very satisfying. Videos taken during the day have a 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
  • Performance is smooth thanks to an excellent mid-range chipset
  • The price of this device is very attractive
  • Great and large screen
  • Good camera set for the price point
  • Accurate exposure with wide dynamic range
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • No wireless charging or reverse charging
LEARN MORE OR CHECK PRICE

SAMSUNG Galaxy S20 FE

One of the best phone for travel 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 travel 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.
  • 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

One of the best phone for travel 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 Note 20 is a well designed phone with a lot to offer. In terms of performance and other features it definitely one of the top phones to buy. It is a bit smaller than Note 20 Ultra and is also less expensive. It has different camera set up and a slightly smaller battery. However, we still need to treat Note 20 as a high end phone; after all, it still is one of the top choices out there. So without any hesitation, we list Galaxy Note 20 as one of the best phones for travel photography.

The camera setup on this phone is fairly similar to the one on Galaxy S20, rather than the one on Note 20 Ultra. Here you get a 12 MP main camera with Dual Pixel PDAF. You also get a 12 MP ultra-wide camera and 64 MP telephoto camera with 3x hybrid zoom. In general, photos taken from the main camera look pretty good. Daytime photos look excellent. The camera captures a lot of detail with almost no noise, so shots are really sharp.

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

WHAT WE LIKED
  • We really like the fingerprint reader on the screen. It’s super fast and accurate
  • Multitasking is smooth so it never freezes or slows down.
  • Great and large screen. Perfect for watching videos or scrolling social media or web pages
  • Design wise, that phone looks really good. It feels bad putting any covers on it so we recommend only a thin transparent case.
  • Excellent ultra-wide and close-range zoom shots
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
  • Under heavy load the battery may get drained quicker then some other phones on this list.
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 travel photography – CONCLUSION

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

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