Phone cameras are so good nowadays that it often doesn’t occur to us that they could be even better. The quality of the stock camera apps that come with Android phones varies depending on the manufacturer and age of the device. Some are much better than others, but there are lots of excellent downloadable camera apps available on the Play Store.
Note that because Android hardware varies so widely, it’s incredibly difficult for developers to make camera apps that are fully compatible with every phone out there.
None of these camera apps will work perfectly with every device, so be sure to try the demo versions of paid apps before committing to a purchase. Also, make sure you check out our guide on outstanding Android phones, or if you want the absolute best, some excellent Samsung smartphones.
#1 Z Camera (Free, or $60/year)
If you primarily take photos of people and are willing to pay premium prices for premium content, Z Camera might be for you.
- Lots of filters
- Powerful real-time editor
- Built-in gallery with optional encryption
- Huge suite of photo editing tools
- Excellent photo quality
- Intrusive ads
- $60 price tag for premium features
Broadly speaking, third-party Android camera apps seem to be divided into two main categories: those designed for people who mostly take selfies, and those designed for people who want their phone camera to emulate professional photography equipment as closely as possible. Z Camera fits squarely into the former category.
The app takes crystal-clear photos, and there are a dizzying number of high-quality filters and editing tools available, but they don’t come cheap. In fact, you have to enter your credit card information just to start a 3-day free trial, and you’ll be billed $60 for a 1-year subscription if you don’t cancel before it’s over.
Both of our major complaints about Z Camera relate to its pricing structure. If you elect not to subscribe, you can use the free version, which has limited functionality and is loaded with intrusive ads. If you’re willing to spend $5 a month on a selfie app that you intend to use all the time, then Z Camera is a solid bet, but you may want to steer clear of the free version.
#2 Snap Camera HDR ($1.99)
Snap Camera HDR hasn’t been updated since January 2018, but at least for the time being, it still works fine on many phones, and it’s great for light-sensitive amateur photography projects.
- Burst mode
- Image stabilization technology
- Time lapse support
- Great-looking HDR photos
- Tons of extra professional-grade options
- Likely not fully compatible with older phones
Of the five apps on this list, Snap Camera HDR wins our vote for the most value-packed Android camera app. For a measly $1.99, it’s insanely better than any stock camera app. Obviously, no phone camera will ever truly compare to expensive professional photography gear, but this is about as close as current technology will allow.
The app supports several different shutter speeds, time-lapse photos, instant snapshots, and much more. One of its best features—enhanced HDR— is right in the name. HDR (high dynamic range) is a sophisticated feature that lightens the darkest areas of a photo and darkens spots that are too bright, resulting in a more evenly colored, more aesthetically pleasing image.
Most newer Android phones have HDR support in their stock camera apps, but Snap Camera HDR simply does it better—way better, in many cases. If your phone’s camera is high-quality in terms of hardware, you can take some truly incredible photos by pairing it with this powerful app. It’s more than worth its $1.99 price tag.
#3 Camera MX (Free)
Many third-party Android camera apps are either super-heavy or super-light on features, but Camera MX is a hybrid app for amateur smartphone photographers who want more than their stock camera can offer without committing to a steep learning curve.
- Live Shot takes high-res photos and records video simultaneously
- Real-time video editing
- Customizable image quality
- Very user-friendly
- Live Shot feature is surprisingly useful
- Lots of extra effects and filters
- Cluttered UI
If you want extra features in your phone camera, but don’t want to spend hours learning how to use them, Camera MX is the app for you. Snap Camera HDR and some other high-end apps offer powerful tools that aren’t always easy for laymen to use. Camera MX is almost as simple and intuitive as the Android operating system you’ve been using for years; you’ll be taking significantly better photos in no time at all.
While it’s pretty easy to learn how to use most of the app’s features, finding them can be challenging at times. Some of the menus are confusingly laid out, especially once you get two or three layers in. The problem isn’t figuring out what the various buttons do, only figuring out where they are.
Camera MX’s “Live Shot” feature is also pretty neat. Essentially, it captures a photo and a short video at the same time, and stores them as a single file that can act as one or the other. By default, it will appear in your gallery as a single high-res image, but the video will play when it’s tapped.
Some social media platforms fully support Live Shot photos (we know Facebook does), but many services don’t yet, so it’s still something of a novelty. All in all, Camera MX is one of the best free third-party Android camera apps out there, provided you’re willing to spend some time learning your way around the wonky UI.
#4 Open Camera (Free)
If you care less about having many different ways to edit your photos and would prefer to get great-looking shots effortlessly, Open Camera is one of the best free camera apps out there.
- Automatically levels photos
- Voice- and sound-activated shutter options
- Noise reduction and dynamic range optimization
- Simple and lightweight
- Customizable UI
- It’s been rather buggy lately
The first thing listed on Open Camera’s Play Store page (auto-leveling) is something more camera apps should implement and advertise. It can be surprisingly hard to take perfectly level photos on a phone, but Open Camera makes that a non-issue by automatically adjusting your photos so they’re perfectly parallel with the ground or horizon. (You can turn this off, of course.)
Open Camera is open-source and completely ad-free, but recent releases have been somewhat unstable. Some users complain of memory leaks and photos/videos not saving as of the most recent build, so if you decide to give the app a try, do some testing first to make sure it works well on your phone.
There’s one other especially nice feature found in no other Android camera app that we know of: a customizable UI. It’s not fully customizable—you can’t put any element of the interface anywhere you’d like—but there are many presets to choose from, and you’re sure to be comfortable with one of them.
Finally, we feel compelled to mention that you can set this app to take a photo when you say a certain command, or even when you make a certain sound, such as whistling. Its sound recognition capabilities are remarkably accurate, and this feature negates the need for expensive remotes. Simply put, Open Camera is one of the best and most functional lightweight Android camera apps on the market today.
#5 Cymera (Free, with in-app purchases from $0.99 to $3.49)
Cymera, another camera app designed primarily for taking and editing photos of people, is a great alternative to Z Camera.
- 150+ filters
- 7 lens effects
- Supports Bluetooth-enabled selfie sticks
- Wide variety of filters, effects, and stickers
- Presets for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram photos
- Paid content is reasonably priced
- Confusing UI
If Z Camera sounds appealing to you, but its price tag doesn’t consider the much less expensive Cymera. They’re essentially the same app, but Cymera charges less for a smaller amount of content and gives you more control over what you want to spend money on. Make no mistake, though, there’s still plenty to work with.
The current version of the app has more than 150 filters and at least that many AR stickers. The editing tools are comparable to those found in Z Camera, but the buttons and menus are rather unintuitive. Many of them aren’t labeled at all; in those cases, you’re left with obscure symbols to decipher, and their meanings certainly aren’t clear to everyone.
On the plus side, much of the content in Cymera is free. There is a large library of paid content, but unlike Z Camera’s all-or-nothing subscription model, you’re free to purchase Cymera tools and filters individually. Cymera does contain ads, but they aren’t as intrusive or frequent as they are in Z Camera.
Which of these two apps you’ll prefer mostly comes down to your preferences on ads and paid content, but they’re both good for taking and editing pictures of yourself or your friends.
Frequently Asked Questions
When people Google “best Android camera apps,” they often search these three other questions, too. Here are our answers to them.
What is the best camera app for Android phones 2020?
If we had to pick only one, we’d have to go with Camera MX. For one thing, it’s free, and it outperforms many paid camera apps to boot. It has a robust suite of features, yet still maintains accessibility and user-friendliness (except for the disorganized UI). It’s a huge upgrade over stock Android camera apps, but it’s not so complicated that people who aren’t professional photographers will feel totally lost.
How can I make my Android camera better?
When it comes to taking great smartphone photos, there are actually two separate things to consider: the camera app you’re using and the hardware of the camera itself. Once you’ve found a camera app that you love, taking a few extra minutes to check some basic things on the hardware side will help you capture the highest-quality pictures.
- Use a microfiber wipe or other soft cloth to periodically clean the lens
- Turn on photo grid lines for better framing (most camera apps have them)
- When taking photos, hold the phone as still as possible or use a tripod
- Don’t use the flash unless you have to
- Make sure your camera’s resolution is set as high as possible (the exact location of this setting on your phone varies by model and OS version)
What Android has the best camera?
That’s a hard question to answer, but we think that the Google Pixel 3 has the best camera of any Android phone in 2020. Speaking strictly in terms of camera hardware, there are some better phones out there, but the Pixel 3 has some amazing proprietary software that uses ultra-complicated math to make photos look incredible.
Photography experts who are willing to do a lot of fiddling can surely get even better results from other phones, but for most of us, the low-maintenance Pixel 3 camera is the clear winner.
Whether you’re a self-trained selfie expert or a professional photographer, there are amazing third-party Android camera apps out there to fit any set of skills and preferences. Now that you’ve found your camera app, maybe you’d like to know what are some of the best Android games.