Best Camera Phone under 500 dollars. Smartphone Photography on a Budget

The quality of the camera is on top of most people’s lists when choosing a new smartphone. That is why manufacturers spend a lot of time developing lenses and sensors. High-end smartphone cameras can even rival DSLRs nowadays. But you do not have to pay more than $500 or $600 to get a good smartphone with an excellent camera. We have put together a top 5 with smartphones that offer a reliable camera without breaking the bank.

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What are the best budget camera phones in 2021?

There are many good camera smartphones available in 2021. Here is the top 5 for smartphone photographers: 

  1. Huawei P30 Pro
  2. Google Pixel 3a
  3. Samsung Galaxy A50
  4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T
  5. Motorola Moto G7 Plus

We expect new models in the coming months. Depending on the situation in the world, it might take a bit longer before manufacturers announce release dates.

Huawei P30 Pro Budget Camera Phone

1. Huawei P30 Pro

Powerhouse Camera for an affordable price
This phone keeps coming back in our top lists for smartphone photography. It is a fantastic phone with an excellent camera for a very reasonable price. Here is why the P30 Pro is on our budget camera phone list:

The camera setup of the P30 Pro

Triple camera set-up, with a 40MP primary camera, 20MP ultra-wide, and 8MP periscope zoom camera. It also comes with a time-of-flight sensor at the back, which is used to determine depth information (to create softer and better bokeh and shallow depth-of-field). 

The Huawei night mode has improved with a new way of interpreting light. The ultra-wide-angle lens will capture way more than other lenses on the market. You can also use this wide-angle camera for macro photography to get up-close and personal with your surroundings. 

The telephoto zoom is a fascinating camera on the P30 Pro. Although it might look a bit funny with a square lens instead of the usual round ones, you can get your subject pretty close by using the 5x optical zoom, 10x hybrid zoom, and up to 50x digital zoom. Combined with a built-in stabilizer, you can take very sharp pictures. Together with better AI, super portrait mode, and a 32MP selfie camera on the front of the phone, you are good to go. 

Ultra wide-angle: 20MP, 16mm, f/2.2
Primary sensor: 40MP, 27mm, f/1.6, OIS
Telephoto: 8MP, 125mm, f/3.4, OIS
Time-of-flight: camera for depth detection
Selfie camera: 32MP with Super HDR Shot & Super Low Light Shot

P30 Pro General specifications

Shooting videos is a pleasure as well. The Huawei Dual-View Video shoots video with two cameras simultaneously, creating a close-up and overview at the same time. 

You can unlock the P30 Pro quickly and safely with the fingerprint scanner, which is located within the 6.47″ full HD+ screen. The camera phone comes with a massive 4200 mAh battery that can last a long time. And even when it is almost empty, you can be back on the road in 30 minutes. It will charge up to 70% in half an hour, with Huawei Supercharge. The 8GB of RAM and the powerful Kirin 980 processor will handle the most demanding tasks. 

Pros and Cons of the Huawei P30 Pro

We are very enthusiastic about the P30 Pro for the reasons mentioned above. But there are also a few things to consider:

  • Superb low-light quality
  • Amazing zoom abilities
  • Great RAM and processor
  • Triple camera set-up
  • Huawei Supercharge for fast charging
  • Good manual control
  • Higher price
  • Big phone
  • No micro SD memory card slot, only Huawei Nano
  • No headphone jack

Is Huawei p30 Pro still worth buying in 2021?

You will still get value for money with the Huawei P30 Pro. At around $600, it is at the top of the price limit, but you cannot go wrong with this camera phone. 

>> It is getting a bit difficult to buy a Huawei phone in the US, but you can still pick the P30 Pro here.

Google Pixel 3a Budget Camera Phone under 500 dollars

2. Google Pixel 3a

Best budget camera phone
The Pixel 3a from Google is the little brother from Pixel 3. It has a compact screen, a decent size battery of 3000 mAh, and an active edge (pressure-sensitive sides). With a good quality camera, the Pixel 3a is one of the best budget Android phones. Let’s see what kind of budget camera phone you get for just under $400.

Camera setup

It has an excellent primary and front camera that are better than many others in a similar price range. The photos are very detailed and have tons of dynamic range and excellent color. It has the same camera as the Google Pixel 3, which many people considered the best (non-flagship) camera in 2019. 

Google’s Single-camera

Google still chooses to manufacture smartphones with a single camera at the back. The Pixel 3a has a 12.2MP sensor, combined with smart software; you will create very sharp and colorful images. The selfie camera on the front of the mobile phone has an 8MP sensor. Even the shallow depth and bokeh effects look better (done with one lens and software) than what Samsung and LG could with similar phones. 

Night mode

Like its big brother, the 3A comes with Night Sight. It works on both front and back cameras, and it makes low-light photography much more fun. Night Sight relies on AI and machine learning to get the result you usually would not achieve without a tripod and a high-end smartphone. The technology is very similar to what Huawei uses; it combines multiple shots into one. 

Primary sensor: 12.2MP Dual-Pixel Sony IMX363, Optical + electronic image stabilization, f/1.8 aperture, 76° field of view, 1.4μm pixel width.
Selfie camera: 8MP, f/2.0 aperture, 84° field of view, 1.12μm pixel width.

General specifications

The Pixel 3a has opposed to other new phones, a headphone jack, which comes in very handy when you want to use your headphones as a remote shutter. The battery capacity is not as good as the Huawei P30 Pro, but still more significant than the more expensive Pixel 3. Unfortunately, Google has to give up some features to make a cheaper phone. It is not water-resistant, has no wireless charging, no wide-angle front-facing camera, and has a less powerful Snapdragon 670 chipset.  

Pros and Cons of the Google Pixel 3a

  • Price!
  • Great cameras
  • Good low-light quality for front and rear cameras
  • OLED-display
  • Superfast charging (70% in 15 minutes)
  • Headphone jack
  • Favorable size
  • Made of plastic
  • Lack of wireless charging
  • Screen quality in bright light
  • 4 GB RAM
  • No memory slot
  • Not water resistant

Value for money

You will get a pretty decent phone and an excellent camera for just under $300 here. Look at the Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 as well (not under $500, but a very decent smartphone). 

Samsung Galaxy A50 Budget Camera Phone

3. Samsung Galaxy A50

Cheap budget option
The A50 is one of Samsungs budget camera phones with a full HD sAMOLED 6,4″ display, a fingerprint scanner in the screen, a long-lasting battery life, a headphone jack, and four camera lenses. The smartphone is available in different colors. >> Chech out its younger brother the Galaxy A51 as well!

Camera setup

The Galaxy A50 phone has a triple camera set-up at the rear of the phone and one front-facing camera for taking selfies. The primary camera shoots 25MP images, the ultra-wide lens 8MP (123-degree field of vision), and the depth sensor 5MP. And if that is not amazing enough, the front-facing camera takes incredible selfies with a 25 MP lens. 

In daylight, the A50 creates good contrast and sharp details from all lenses. Scene Optimizer enhances your images with artificial intelligence. It will optimize the levels of brightness and saturation. That said, for outstanding low-light performance, you are better off with the Huawei P30 Pro or the Google Pixel 3A. 

Ultra wide-angle: 8MP, f/2.2 
Primary sensor: 25MP, f/1.7
Depth of Field lens: 5MP, f/2.2
Selfie camera: 25MP, f/2.0
Extra: Live Focus & Enhanced Sensors

Samsung Galaxy A50 Smartphone under 500 dollars

General specifications

The Samsung Galaxy A50 has 64 GB of integrated yet expandable storage (nano-sim up-to 512GB), 4000 mAh battery. Unfortunately, this camera phone is not water-resistant or waterproof.

Things to consider

  • Price!
  • Excellent camera set-up
  • Best display for the price
  • Headphone jack
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Boggy gaming performance
  • Tinny speaker quality
  • Not water resistant
  • No 4K videos

Value for money

The A50 is a solid budget camera phone choice when it comes to camera phones under $500. The camera works well in daylight and has a long-lasting battery for your photography adventures. Although the camera falls short of the Pixel 3a and P30 Pro, it is kinder to your wallet. You can buy the Galaxy A50 here.  

4. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T

The Redmi Note is a real budget phone with many good specs, but can it compete with the Galaxy A50? We have done some research and came to a verdict. 

Camera setup

The Redmin Note 8T comes with four cameras, a 48MP primary camera, 8MP wide-angle lens, a macro lens, and a depth sensor. The extra macro lens is excellent for extra creativity, but you will need a lot of light to get acceptable results. You should use the night mode for evening shots because you can expect noise and loss of detail with the standard camera mode. 

Ultra wide-angle: 8MP, f/2.2 
Primary sensor: 48MP, f/1.7
Depth sensor: 2MP, f/2.4
Macro lens: 2MP, f/2.4
Selfie camera: 13MP, f/2.0

General specifications

The camera phone comes with a 4000 mAh battery, 4 GB RAM, a 6.3″ Full HD screen, 64 GB of memory (good for 15.000 images), and 4K video quality with 30fps (frames per second). 

Things to consider

  • Many cameras with good quality images
  • Low price
  • Sharp pictures
  • Quick charge
  • Headphone jack
  • Not suitable for demanding apps and games
  • Boggy gaming performance
  • Apps can be laggy

Value for money

The Note 8T is a great smartphone camera considering the price. It will not work miracles, but it does what it is designed for. The overall performance and quality of the images of the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy A51 are better than the Note 8T.

Motorola Moto G7 Plus Budget Camera Phone

5. Motorola Moto G7 Plus

Motorola phones generally have suitable hardware considering its price. The Moto G7 is no different. It is a complete smartphone with an excellent camera performance in daylight; the images are sharp and detailed. You can even shoot a 4K video when you are into filming.

Camera setup

The Moto G7 Plus comes with a dual-camera setup, a primary lens of 16MP with an f/1.7 aperture lens with OIS, and a depth sensor of 5MP for portrait mode. The low-light performance is, as in many budget phones, not too good. Subjects can be underexposed with highlight clipping, and shots tend to be undersaturated.
On the other hand, the photos have a lot of detail. The zoom is best in good lighting and when you are near the subject. The depth-sensing camera has a reasonably good depth estimation with some visible nonperfect effects on the edges of the items.

Primary sensor: 16MP, f/1.7
Depth sensor: 5MP, f/2.2 for portrait shots
Extras: Optical Image Stabilizer, Laser autofocus, and Phase detection autofocus
Selfie camera: 8MP, f/2.2

General specifications

The Motorola G7 Plus has 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage, which is expandable up to 512 GB with a micro SD card. Video is shot in full HD at 30 or 60fps and even in 4K at 30 fps. The G7 Plus comes with a Full HD (1080p) 6.2″LCD screen, 3000 mAh battery, quick charge, and a fingerprint sensor.

Things to consider

  • Price
  • Full HD+ screen
  • Optical stabilizer
  • Turbocharger
  • Waterproof
  • Headphone jack
  • Camera bulge on the back
  • Limited Dynamic Range
  • Undersaturated colors
  • Noise in low light conditions
  • LCD screen (lack of color)

Value for money

With a large LCD screen, high-end glass finish, and dual camera setup at a fraction of the cost of many flagship mobile phones, the Moto G7 Plus can be an exciting choice for a budget camera phone. But it has a lot of competition from phones in the same price range, like the Samsung Galaxy A50 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T. You can pick a Moto G7 Plus up here

Which budget smartphone has the best camera?

If we put all things like extra lenses, battery life, screen types aside, the Huawei P30 Pro has the best main camera performance in our top 5 list. It can compete with mid-range to high-end smartphones like the Galaxy S10+, Apple iPhone 11 Pro, and Google Pixel 4 XL. It does not suffer from the Google ban and has still access to all of the Google apps and will continue to get security updates. If you have a $500 budget, you will get a lot of phone and camera for its price.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 108MP

Do a high amount of megapixels make for a good budget camera phone?

The short answer is no. Although the amount of megapixels in smartphone cameras keeps getting higher, it does not always say something about the quality of the images. At this moment, the smartphone with the highest amount of pixels in a commercial phone is the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. They both come with a whopping 108MP. It means these cameras will take photographs with a 12032 x 9024-pixel resolution. To create amazing results, phones need a big sensor to process the number of pixels. If the sensor is not bigger than in a 20MP or 40MP phone, you won’t get better results.

You can read more about high pixel phones in the article ‘What Is The Highest Megapixel Camera? Is It Worth It?‘. We will explain what megapixels are and what you need to create stunning images. We will talk about the giants among giants in the megapixel world, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. You can also find good alternatives for this megapixel-colossus like the Samsung Galaxy S10, Google Pixel 4 XL, and Apple iPhone 11 Pro. Do not forget to bring a bigger budget for these high-end camera phones.

If you are looking for a budget camera phone with world-class low-light photography results, read our article ‘Concert Photography With Your Smartphone. A Beginner’s Guide‘. We will take a closer look at the Huawei P30 Pro, Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S10, and Apple iPhone 11 Pro.

The gear I used for writing this blog can be found on my favorite gear page.

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