Who needs a dedicated camera, when your smartphone is equipped with everything you need for bright, true-to-life images? Our guide gives you the best options for smartphones with camera systems that are ideal for summer photography. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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If you’re not taking along a digital camera on your vacation, it doesn’t come as a surprise.

Today’s smartphones offer impressive camera systems, with high-resolution imagery and up to 10x zoom for incredibly detailed shots. Many of them now come with artificial intelligence (AI) powered editing tools, so you can create images exactly how you like them. Best of all, these devices fit right into your pocket, so you don’t have to lug around separate cameras, their different lens attachments and accessories.

We spoke with Virendra Saklani, chief visual journalist at Gulf News, who frequently uses his own smartphone for spur-of-the-moment shots. He shared advice on how to shoot summer photographs, take advantage of natural light, and make use of your phone’s features to enhance your pictures. Scroll down to read what he said.

Based on our expert’s recommendations, and highly rated products on Amazon, we’ve curated a list of the best smartphones for summer photography. Pick yours with Prime membership and have it delivered to you ahead of your next vacation.

1. Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra 


  • Excellent camera system
  • Features many AI tools
  • Fast, responsive device
  • Vibrant screen


  • New AI features add a delay

One of Saklani’s top recommendations, the latest Samsung flagship phone has one of the best camera systems of any smartphone, right now. He said: “The Galaxy 24 Ultra has five different lenses, from a 12MP selfie camera to 200MP AI-powered cameras, with the capability of shooting 8K videos. Its 5x optical zoom [with 100x hybrid zoom], low-light shooting and portrait modes are all superb, and can help you getting stunning shots.” The AI photo editing software on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is especially fascinating: it includes generative photo editing that can fill in gaps left in an image if you move a subject to a different part of the shot, and can also enlarge subjects. Because of the AI-heavy applications, however, some users do note that these new features add a delay.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh270.63 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh199, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh332, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh424.

2. Best for Apple Users: Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max 


  • New A17 Pro Bionic processor
  • Better optical zoom
  • Spacial video
  • Universal USB-C charging


  • Battery can be lower than stated 23 hours, with heavy use

For Apple users, there’s no better camera phone available right now than the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Its beautiful 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display is perfect for viewing and editing photographs. The camera system includes a whopping seven pro lenses. Saklani explains: “It features three visible lenses and four other field of view lenses, including a 24mm, 28mm and 35mm field of view shift from the main camera, along with the new 120mm.” Its 48MP ProRaw mode gives you more control, in terms of playing with a dynamic range of colours, and highlighting details. Moreover, the phone uses a six-axis stabiliser, so you can move in any direction and rest assured that the camera will remain steady when you’re shooting pictures and videos. An excellent portrait mode and impressive low-light shooting capabilities make it an ideal camera smartphone for every kind of shot. As of April this year, Apple’s iOS 17 has added spacial video to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, so you can now record videos with an added depth component, giving them a realistic, 3D look, when you view them through Apple’s new Vision Pro headset.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh325.75 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year accidental damage protection for Dh380, a one-year extended warranty for Dh227 and a two-year damage protection plus a one-year extended warranty for Dh484.

3. Best for Portraits: OnePlus 12 


  • Unique style and colour for portraits
  • Large, bright screen
  • Includes Master mode and RAW+ option
  • Good battery life


  • Not ideal for zoom or macro shots
  • No AI features

If you’re looking to take pictures of sprawling landscapes on your vacation, or portraits of loved ones outdoors, you’ll find it’s where the OnePlus 12 truly shines. There are three rear cameras here, including a 50MP main camera with a wide f1.6 aperture, a 48MP ultrawide camera and a 32MP telephoto camera. Reviewers say its photos offer a richness and natural feel that’s often lacking in other smartphones. It has a large 6.82-inch screen that’s big enough to view videos and even enjoy gaming; this expansive real estate also allows it to provide vibrant hi-res imagery. The phone also includes a new Master mode for its rear cameras, which is a pro mode that gives you control over saturation, contrast, sharpness and so on. Its RAW+ option integrates computational photography for truly impressive results – as long as you know how to work out the mechanics. However, the OnePlus 12 isn’t the best phone for telephoto shots or close-up macro photography – its longest lens only offers 3x magnification. You also won’t find AI features here, like our top two picks, but some reviewers mention that they don’t miss the lags and delays that come with such technology.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh204.08 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh142, a one-year accidental damage protection for Dh238, and a two-year damage protection plus a one-year extended warranty for Dh303.

4. Best Mode Variety: Xiaomi 14 Ultra 5G 


  • Fantastic camera system
  • Unique camera grip with Photography Kit
  • Fast performance
  • Vibrant display


  • Battery life could be better

Xiaomi’s 14 Ultra takes its camera system very seriously. It includes a Sony LYT-900 one-inch 50MP main camera that comes integrated with a Leica Summilux lens. There is also a 50MP telephoto camera, 50MP ultrawide camera, and a 50MP periscope zoom camera, so you have plenty of choices, no matter what kind of image you’d like to shoot. The phone uses Xiaomi’s new AISP imaging system, which takes advantage of AI in every aspect of your photography – from finetuning details to fixing the lighting and adding bokeh effects. Where this phone really shines, however, is in its photo modes. Its partnership with Leica has allowed it to include tones, filters and even a dedicated street photography mode. If you enjoy calling the shots, opt for the 16-bit UltraRAW photo mode, or edit video content with the MasterCinema mode for high-quality cinema-style productions. Reviewers especially love the grip that comes in its Photography Kit (not included) that transforms its appearance into an old-school camera. One thing’s clear: you won’t get bored experimenting with the Xiaomi 14 Ultra.

Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh337.42 for 12 months with select banks.

5. Best for Selfies: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 


  • Fantastic performance, with Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
  • Large 3.4-inch cover screen
  • Takes selfies using rear cameras
  • Fixed with a new, durable hinge


  • Crease is still visible

This next-gen flip phone by Samsung isn’t just fun to use, it has an excellent camera system. The phone includes a 12MP primary camera with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilisation, and a 12MP ultrawide camera with a 123-degree field of view. There’s also a 10MP selfie camera on the main display, with an improved aperture of f/2.2. But the best part is the fact that since the phone folds closed, the main camera becomes the selfie camera, so grainy shots are a thing of the past. The cover screen gives you easy access to shoot pictures, review them and even edit them without flipping open the phone. The phone also acts as a makeshift tripod when it’s half-open, so you can place it on any surface and click. These handy features are useful, especially when vacationing, according to solo travellers in the reviews.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh63.14 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh142, one-year accidental damage protection for Dh238, and two-year damage protection with one-year extended warranty for Dh303.

What to look for in a smartphone’s camera system

While every new-age smartphone has a camera, not all phone cameras are equal. Some have a better zoom, while others handle low-light photography better. It’s important to understand your priorities before choosing the right smartphone.

Saklani said: “If you are buying a phone for a good camera system, you can look for a few factors, like decent pixel size for low-light photos, and multiple lenses like wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto. Opt for Pro mode to have manual control in adverse lighting conditions, and take advantage of features like high dynamic range, image stabilisation, 4K recording, slow motion, and others.”

Tips for summer photography

Our expert shared a few considerations when taking photographs outdoors in the summer:

Timing: Try to take photos and videos during the mornings and evenings. But if you have to do it when the sun is overhead, at 90 degrees, you should avoid keeping your subject in direct sunlight, if possible.

Lighting: Use natural light to your advantage and avoid shooting against the light source. Gain control with manual or Pro shooting modes to reduce exposure when needed.

Stability: Try to be as still as possible while shooting, to avoid shaky images and videos. Using a mobile tripod would be handy.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.