The best phone for video recording has never been a more relevant category to people looking to buy or upgrade to a new phone. That’s because we live in a world where social media is dominated by video content.
Most smartphone reviews focus on photography, so we felt it was right to focus on video recording capabilities in this round-up. You may be surprised to learn this, but having a good camera doesn't automatically guarantee that a phone will be great at capturing videos. This is because smartphone camera systems rely heavily on computational power and image signal processing to produce photos and videos.
The fact is, phone makers differ in their skill at producing a smartphone camera that can produce good pictures and video. While some simply prioritize one over the other. For many years, Apple has led the way in delivering devices with cutting edge, high-quality video recording capabilities. But more recently Samsung, Oppo and others have placed more emphasis on video, closing the gap significantly.
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Since the launch of the iPhone 5S, Apple’s flagship phones have been a consistently popular choice for filmmakers. Each generation has built on the success of the last and with 4K/60 10-bit HDR video capture and optical image stabilization, the Apple iPhone 13-series is truly the best yet. Apple has prioritized the capture of neutral, faithful colors for photography and video, which is appealing to people who prefer content with more natural tones.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is capable of recording videos in professional video codec Apple ProRes, which maximizes image quality in an efficient file size for easy editing. And when it comes to editing, iPhones benefit from the inclusion of iMovie, a built-in video editing app. iMovie is a powerful tool for putting together slick-looking videos and exporting them for social media. Best of all? It’s free. This is one of the major advantages of using an iPhone for video as there is no equivalent standardized film creation app for Android.
Another critical benefit of choosing an iPhone is that 3rd party manufacturers prioritize making accessories specifically for them. For example, when the iPhone 13-series launched, photo and video accessory pioneers PeakDesign launched a full range of mounts and other accessories to help creators film and take pictures with their devices. Because iPhones come in three standardized sizes and a single operating system, it makes it easy for other companies to support them with other products and apps. This leads onto our final reason for recommending the iPhone 13 Pro Max as the best smartphone for video. Because iOS is a single platform, apps, like Instagram and TikTok are optimized primarily for iPhone, which generally leads to fewer issues with compression ruining the quality of the content you upload.
In a world where many phones just seem to be slightly re-designed facsimiles of each other, the Sony Xperia Pro-I goes its own way. It has a boxy form factor, with a 6.5-inch 21:9 4K HDR OLED display, one of the sharpest available on any smartphone right now. It also has a dedicated button for opening the camera app and another right beside it for opening one of its three video recording modes.
In other departures, the Xperia Pro-I has a 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable memory via microSDXC support up to 1TB; two things no other major flagship offers right now. When it’s time to record video, the Sony Xperia Pro-I offers full manual controls, optical image stabilization, subject tracking and eye autofocus and a physical aperture that switches the lens from f2 to f4. Videography Pro mode allows you to control every aspect of exposure and focusing, even allowing you to make cinematic manual focus pulls.
Sony says it designed this smartphone’s video UI around the same menus and functions it deploys in its pro camera bodies, so it will feel familiar to Sony shooters in particular. However, that also means that the wealth of settings, cinema picture profiles and controls may feel daunting to the uninitiated. Sony has also produced some interesting accessories for this device that allow you to add a vlogging monitor via USB-C and a bluetooth remote grip with physical controls. This combo allows you to plug in a microphone and use the main rear camera for vlogging. And if you have a Sony mirrorless camera, you can also use the Xperia Pro-I as an external 4K HDR monitor.
If you want a smartphone that doesn’t rely on point-and-shoot computational photography and video performance, the Xperia Pro-I puts you in the director’s chair. It’s a device that rewards people who are willing to take the time to make the most of its plethora of shooting functions.
Google’s Pixel 6 Pro is built around its proprietary Tensor chipset, with powerful AI being deployed to deliver a significant bump in image and video quality produced by its cameras. Pixel devices have been among the most innovative when it comes to computational imaging and the Pixel 6 Pro is the company’s best execution yet. The Pixel 6 Pro is the first Google phone to feature a triple camera array. The primary camera has a 50MP 1/1.31-inch sensor, partnered with a 24mm equivalent f/1.85 lens. The other two cameras are a 12.5MP camera with an ultra-wide 16mm equivalent lens, and a 48MP telephoto camera offering 4x optical zoom, equivalent to 104mm focal length.
Thanks to its advanced algorithms, including the newly developed “HDRnet”, the Pixel 6 Pro is adept at “seeing” and representing what’s in the scenes that you direct it at. The result means that its auto exposures are consistently pleasing, accurately capturing colors and details in most lighting scenarios when using the main camera. The Pixel 6 Pro also handles noise smartly and delivers impressive dynamic range performance that rivals the iPhone 13 Pro.
As it seems to be the case with most devices these days, the quality doesn’t hold across the other available cameras. There’s a slightly cooler color shift when using the ultra-wide camera, although it appears a touch more saturated, which some people may prefer. When recording 4K video, 2x zoom is available. However, it doesn’t look great and it would only be recommended when shooting for a Full HD output. Overall, the Pixel 6 Pro makes shooting video on an Android phone a joy, due to its consistency and ease of use.
Challenger brand Realme has climbed the ranks quickly to become one of the best kept secrets in the Android phone world. By selecting some top hardware for its camera unit and maximizing the benefits of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, Realme has ensured that the GT 2 Pro is one of the most competitive smartphones for photography and video currently on the market.
The Sony IMX766 sensor at the heart of the Realme GT 2 Pro is a proven winner, it’s the same unit in the Oppo Find X5 Pro. This device also shares the same impressive 150° ultra-wide camera as the OnePlus 10 Pro. With quality hardware at its disposal, the Realme GT 2 Pro can produce excellent video in good light. Although, relying on its infant AI scene enhancement mode, it has a slight tendency to over saturate and occasionally, wildly over or underexpose whenever it’s unsure what the subject of a scene is. These types of errors can be corrected via updates, so we hope this is something that will be improved.
The Realme GT 2 Pro has a dedicated Movie mode, that features a horizontal UI and allows you to take control of manual settings, which will negate deficiencies in its auto exposure performance. It also gives you the choice to shoot in its own version of a flat log profile or in an HDR mode that increases vibrancy and dynamic range automatically. When recording in Movie mode, the Realme GT 2 Pro outputs a 4K file in a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio. You can also record 720p video using the device’s unique - some may say - gimmicky microscope camera, with audio. It might have very limited use cases, but it’s a fun addition.
Samsung’s Galaxy S-series phones have received a significant bump in video-recording capabilities since the launch of the Galaxy S9 Plus. Since that benchmark release, Samsung has consistently delivered year-on-year improvements to both photography and video recording, making Samsung flagship devices a go-to choice for content creators.
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has some eye-catching headline specs, including 8K video-recording at up to 30fps, 10x zoom and 480fps Full HD slow-motion capture. It also has a quirky mode called “Director’s View”, which is only available when you use the dedicated Samsung Galaxy camera app. Director’s view is aimed at vloggers and YouTubers, and it enables you to record video from all of the device’s cameras at once. It’s not a tool that will appeal to everyone, but it could be great for filming something taking place, while capturing your reactions and commentary.
Video from the S22 Ultra is punchy, crisp and stable, thanks to its optical image stabilisation system. It also has a large battery, which is ideal for those of us who want to stay connected and enjoy heavy camera use. But that being said, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra seems to be able to squeeze just under an hour more out of its 5,000 mAh battery. It also still holds its own when it comes to video and camera performance. If you’re on a budget, maybe Samsung’s previous flagship is worth considering too.
The Oppo Find X5 Pro’s camera is built around the 50MP Sony IMX766 camera and its proprietary MariSilicon X chip, which is designed to deliver greater levels of picture detail, color depth and low noise.
The main camera is capable of recording up to 4K/60p video and FullHD video at an impressive 240fps, for those of you who are interested in capturing slow motion content. Its front-facing, or selfie camera is limited to only FullHD/30p. Oppo has identified night time video recording as one area where most smartphones typically let people down. With that in focus, Oppo has created an advanced noise reduction algorithm to eliminate grainy footage. It works by using artificial intelligence to scan each frame for and reduce image noise in low-light videos, pixel by pixel. The advantage of taking this approach is that the phone cleverly manages to deliver cleaner 4K footage in low light, without heavily destroying details and compromising color accuracy.
The autofocusing and auto-exposure of the Oppo Find X5 Pro is another area where its neural processing unit performs well. The Find X5 Pro detects subjects, including faces quickly and adjusts the exposure to deliver a pleasing look, depending on what it thinks you’re filming. The only major set back here is the device’s humble telephoto capability, which taps out at limiting 2x optical zoom.
Sporting a triple 50MP camera setup, the Xiaomi 12 Pro’s main camera is built around the Sony IMX707 sensor. While it’s not the largest sensor in the camera world, measuring 1/1.28-inches, it’s one of the biggest. It even has more light-gathering surface area than the ever popular Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s main camera.
Both its main and telephoto cameras use f/1.9 lenses, paired with its relatively large sensor, this helps the Xiaomi 12 Pro to produce rich footage in daylight and natural, detailed footage in low light. Although the detail falls apart when not using the main camera in low light. Its ultra-wide camera offers a 115° field of view, suitable for cityscape style vistas. But again, the quality doesn’t keep up with its main camera, even in good light.
There are some decent movie-making modes within the 12 Pro’s camera app, including VLOG. This shooting mode gives users a selection of vlogging templates. Selecting one allows you to create quick and easy landscape videos from captured clips in a range of styles, with edits, effects and transitions built-into a precomposed timeline.
All things considered, the Xiaomi 12 Pro does a brilliant job with video, particularly in good light. It’s one of only a handful of phones to make use of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset’s 8K-video capabilities. It also churns out attractive 4K/60p footage and has effective image stabilization for smooth shots when filming handheld or steady walking.
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