CNET Top 5: Best smartphone cameras
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CNET Top 5: Best smartphone cameras

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CNET ranks the best five smartphones for taking your Instagrams to the next level.

Technology scholars will probably define 2013 as year of the great console wars, or the unleashing of Google Glass. But for me, I think of 2013 as the battle of the smartphone cameras. The phone wars used to be waged in numbers of processors or screen size, but lately it?s all been about megapixels and designer lenses. I?m Donald Bell, and in this Top 5 I?ll be counting down the best smartphone cameras, ranked by CNET Senior Editor Jessica Dolcourt. Cameras so good, you?ll want to smudge them just a little just to keep your selfies from frightening people. Starting off at #5: the iPhone 5. Apple was one of the first companies to really put a lot of effort into photo quality. And they didn?t do it with a lot of BS about megapixels -- no, they let the photos do the talking. Before everyone else caught up to Apple?s image processing, you used to be able to pick out the photo taken on an iPhone just by looking at it. Now, the iPhone still has a great camera, but the phone itself is the oldest one on this list. They have some catching up to do, but if the rumors around the next iPhone are any indication, camera improvements are at the top of the list. At #4: the HTC One. One of my personal favorite phones of the year, and definitely a phone that puts its camera features up front. You want megapixels, how about Ultra Pixels? How about an image sensor that drinks up light like David Hasslehoff drinks cheeseburgers? Plus there are a bunch of extra shooting modes. You can stitch together action shots, shoot in a paparazzi burst mode, and even shoot video and photos simultaneously. Great phone, great camera, and one of the only reasons anyone is still talking about HTC. Next up at #3: the Samsung Galaxy S4. Now if we were just here talking about the best overall smartphones, the list would end here. This is our favorite phone of the moment, an Editor?s Choice, and an unqualified recommendation to anyone who just wants a great phone. But it also happens to have a beautiful 13-megapixel camera on board, along with a suite of photo features and modes that rival the HTC One. And let?s not forget the screen. One reason people like shooting on smartphones so much is because these big screens make it so easy to show off your pictures. The 5-inch HD AMOLED screen on the S4 can add pop to even the most boring brunch photo. So how do you improve on that? Well at #2: the Nokia Lumia 1020. Now here?s a camera that is truly reaching out to stab the point and shoot camera in the back. This beautiful freak has a giant sensor capable of shooting up to 41-megapixels. Now this isn?t just another meaningless battle of pixels. Nokia is smart. They take all those extra pixels and use that information to intelligently process it down to a more manageable 5- megapixel image that will knock your socks off. And did I mention that it?s a Windows Phone? Seriously, if you want something that?s as quirky as your Tumblr blog, the Lumia 1020 is your phone. But our #1 smartphone camera goes to the newest kid on the block: the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Not to be confused with the Galaxy S4 Mini or the Galaxy S4 Active, or the S4 Google Edition, the S4 Zoom slaps a real point and shoot camera system on the back of your phone with a 10x Optical Zoom. Is it skinny? No! But you?ve got a 16-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor on the back and the optics -- and settings -- of a real camera. The rest of it is an Android 4.2 love fest. You are looking at the successful mating of phone and camera. It?s not the prettiest thing, but good enough to keep it out of the freak show. So there you go, five smartphones that are spelling the end for the pocket camera. For more information on any of these phones, head over to phones.cnet.com. And for more Top 5 videos, including the Top 5 phones NOT to buy, check out Top5.CNET.com I?m Donald Bell, thanks for watching.
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