Best overall: Google Pixel 2

See at Verizon

For the second year in a row, Google's Pixel series has the best camera out there. Not only is the 12MP sensor improved over its predecessor's, but the addition of optical image stabilization makes for some incredibly stable 4K video.

The Pixel 2 also adds an excellent portrait mode from both the front and back cameras, which is a lot of fun to play with, along with Motion Photos, which capture a bit of movement before and after the shutter is taken.

At the end of the day, though, the simple fact that you can rely on the Pixel 2's camera to take a great photo in almost any lighting condtion makes it the best camera around.

Bottom line: For the best possible photos from every type of situation, the Pixel 2 is your best choice.

One more thing: The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL share the exact same camera hardware, so they produce the same quality of photos.

Why the Google Pixel 2 is the best

Back when Google released the Pixels in 2016, no one expected them to have the best cameras in the Android ecosystem. In 2017, the legacy was already established, and no one had any doubt: the Pixel 2 series has an amazing camera. Whether you go with the diminutive Pixel 2 or the larger 2 XL, the same fundamentals are true: incredible photo quality in any lighting condition; bullet-fast shutter speeds; amazing video stabilization; and fun features, like Portrait Mode and Motion Photos.

The Pixel 2's camera app doesn't have the same breadth of features as many of its competitors — there's no manual mode at all — but much of the magic happens behind the scenes. Google has also added a new piece of hardware to the mix, the Pixel Visual Core, to allow third party apps to access the machine learning prowess of the Pixel 2's camera.

Best runner-up: Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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The Galaxy Note 8 shares the same fundamentals as its S8 counterparts, but includes a secondary telephoto lens that adds a portrait mode called Live Focus.

The Note S8 takes excellent photos in just about every situation, leaning on those bigger 1.4 micron pixels and bright lens to make the most of dark scenes. Samsung's new processing is a bit less saturated and more balanced than the GS7, but still steps away from "neutral" and leans toward "pleasing to the eye" instead — that's not an issue, but simply a characteristic of Samsung's cameras. The GS8's edge detail and sharpening are much improved all around from last year.

The camera app is still blazingly fast to open and consistent, adding in a whole bunch of shooting modes and a few neat features that enhance the experience.

While the second sensor and lens combo isn't essential, the dual OIS and portrait mode combo makes it one of the most potent out there, and a great alternative to the Pixel 2.

Bottom line: The Note 8 is a joy to shoot with, especially since it has such a great manual mode.

One more thing: Samsung's front-facing camera also offers auto focus, which is a nice-to-have feature you don't get everywhere.

Best for tweaking: LG G6

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LG has taken the dual camera setup from the V20 and vastly improved it with the G6. Both sensors are identical 12MP units, leading to increased quality of the wide-angle shots and more similar shots overall between the two. This makes the dual camera setup more valuable, as you can lean on the 125-degree wide-angle lens in the same way as the standard 71-degree one.

Despite having relatively small 1.12-micron pixels, the main camera takes amazing photos paired with its f/1.8 lens. During the day it's quite neutral and true to life, while at night it does well to recreate the scene without adding light that isn't actually there.

LG's camera app can still be a little slow and isn't as fast as Samsung's or simple as Google's, but gets the job done. And as a trade off it also offers a whole heap of manual controls so you can tweak anything you want.

Bottom line: With a main camera that can challenge the competition and an extra wide-angle shooter, the G6 offers many great options for photos.

One more thing: The LG G6 is also the cheapest phone in this lineup, offering perhaps the best value for your money when looking at the cameras.

Best balanced: Huawei Mate 10 Pro

See at Amazon (Mate 10)

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro (which isn't officially available in the U.S. yet), has one of the best dual camera systems out there today. Sharp, detailed photos from come from the main 12MP color sensor, while the 20MP secondary monochrome sensor helps pull in a tremendous amount of light for darker shots.

Huawei has always made phones with decent cameras, but the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro take things to another level entirely. The camera app is still a bit wonky — you have to manually activate HDR, for instance — but there is an excellent, full-featured Pro mode and plenty of ways to tweak a photo after the fact.

Bottom line: The Mate 10 Pro contains Huawei's finest camera yet, and it's a joy to use.

One more thing: The Mate 10 Pro is coming to the U.S. in the new year.

Conclusion

Google still has the best camera when it comes to photo quality, but it's followed closely by three other phones that all have their own perks. The Galaxy Note 8 is fast and feature-packed, the LG G6 has its dual cameras and the Mate 10 Pro has incredible low light performance.

Best overall: Google Pixel 2

See at Verizon

For the second year in a row, Google's Pixel series has the best camera out there. Not only is the 12MP sensor improved over its predecessor's, but the addition of optical image stabilization makes for some incredibly stable 4K video.

The Pixel 2 also adds an excellent portrait mode from both the front and back cameras, which is a lot of fun to play with, along with Motion Photos, which capture a bit of movement before and after the shutter is taken.

At the end of the day, though, the simple fact that you can rely on the Pixel 2's camera to take a great photo in almost any lighting condtion makes it the best camera around.

Bottom line: For the best possible photos from every type of situation, the Pixel 2 is your best choice.

One more thing: The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL share the exact same camera hardware, so they produce the same quality of photos.

Update, November 2017: The Google Pixel 2 is now our top camera, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Huawei Mate 10 Pro. The LG G6 remains on our list for its awesome photo quality and wide-angle prowess.