Question: Does any smartphone camera come close to a normal compact camera? Four phones that would be in my budget range are the Samsung S8, S8+, Huawei P20 and P20 Pro. The camera I'm looking at is the (Panasonic Lumix) TZ100 which is now down to about €400 (from over €700). I suppose the one thing a smartphone has in its favour is that it's always with you. I'd love to hear your view.
The short answer is that the TZ100 will definitely beat it on zoom and marginally on quality for close-up photos (with one exception, which I'll elaborate on below). If you're seeing a price of €400, that's also considerably cheaper than any of the flagship phones that might come close to it from a photography point of view.
But you're right - you're unlikely to have it with you all the time.
Of the four phones you mention - all of which I have tested or owned in recent years - the P20 Pro is by far the best for photography. In fact, it's arguably the best value cameraphone right now, given its relatively affordable price (€450). It has a remarkably good zoom and a superb range of capabilities.
That's the short answer.
However, I said that there is one exception to the camera's general superiority. It's an important one. The phone's brain is bigger than the camera's brain. Where this matters is when you're taking a photo with harsh differences in light. For example, on a bright or sunny day, you may notice that when you try and take a photo of someone with a bright light (the sky, the sun or something else), the camera will show you either the person or the background - but not both. Typically, the person becomes very dark to make sure that the background scenery is properly exposed.
Modern cameraphones do a much, much better job of adjusting the photo contrasts to show you both. Basically, they understand that you're trying to take a photo of a person and of the background scenery. They don't leave it up to your manual control skill, or post-processing dexterity, to correct the lighting imbalances. This is usually known as high dynamic range (HDR). Some cameras do a reasonable job of it, but they're generally not as good as cameraphones.
The same goes for shots in cities or towns, where there are lots of shadows. Usually, you want those to be minimised. A cameraphone will almost always do a better job than a camera for snapshots.
And most new decent smartphones now also have a 'night mode'. This can't be underestimated in dim situations. Some of the best cityscape photos I've taken in the last 18 months have been with the 'night modes' on a Huawei, Google Pixel or Samsung. (Apple's newer iPhones also have it, but it's not quite as good.)
For pure resolution, the camera will still give you better optical quality in at least half your typical situations. This means that if you blow the photo up or want to edit it, it will be sharper, retain more detail and show less 'noise'. But the phone is simply smarter at compensating within a photo, even where this is artificially boosting parts of the image or darkening other parts.
So if this is the deal, which do you prefer? Ultimately, most people want something immediate and usable. Few want to be messing around with pre-shot settings or post-processing.
My approach to this is not an especially helpful one if you're looking to definitively choose between them. That's because I almost always bring both. If I'm going away for a weekend, I'll typically pack a camera with a good zoom (which is brilliant for sunsets or views you can't really get on smartphones) and a good smartphone for the HDR, night mode and ultrawide lens (which only the latest smartphones have - unfortunately none of the four on your list above).
The other weekend I brought Samsung's industry-leading new cameraphone, the S20 Ultra, to coastal Mayo. I also brought a camera (Fujifilm's X-T3 with a long zoom.) There was a storm. I shot video clips of a lighthouse being battered by giant waves with both devices at their longest zooms (around 20x). While the phone did really well (good enough for a social media post that gained thousands of responses), the camera's video clip ended up being shared around the world on global television stations, as well as getting even more thousands of social media shares. The reason was the extra quality and resolution. You could simply see more of the devastating detail when the waves crashed against the lighthouse island's hapless huts.
Is this the acid test when thinking about whether to invest in a camera? Maybe not. In reality, a decent cameraphone like the P20 Pro will give you a heck of a snapper. The camera is really for the extra yards you'll sometimes appreciate.
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Instax Mini 11
€80 from retailers
Fujifilm has spruced up its entry-level instant photo device with better automatic exposure and a new selfie mode. It's also a little thinner than the Instax Mini 10 and comes in a choice of five different colours. The instant prints are small, at 2.4 by 1.8 inches. Replacement film costs €25 for 20 shots or €45 for 50 shots.
Huawei Mate 30 Pro
From €800, Amazon.co.uk
Huawei's most recently-launched non-folding flagship phone can be bought for around €200 less than equivalents from rival manufacturers. The main issue you'll have is that it doesn't have Google's Play Store, meaning you'll have to get Facebook and WhatsApp in other ways. Technically, though, it's a beast.