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Best budget phones for music 2021: Great sounds and epic mobile gig photography that won't break the bank

Best budget phones for music 2021: Great sounds and epic mobile gig photography that won't break the bank
(Image credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns - Getty)

The live music scene has started to take its first steps out of what has been an incredibly tough time for the industry, and the thought of seeing our favourite bands and musicians once again has us all buzzing. And there's no doubt that we'll be itching to capture the experience in both video and photo form – and that’s where grabbing the best budget phones for music come in.

Nabbing a quick shot of the action has always been a fraught affair due to jostling crowds, but with Louder's hand-picked selection, you won't even have to forego the madness of the mosh pit to grab a high quality photo or video, as these best budget smartphones come with the mobile gig photography smarts to turn even low-light gig snaps into superb snippets of the set.

You might want to video the stage as the lead guitarist shreds through a solo, take a photo of the frontman diving for the crowd, or get a selfie to prove just how sweaty you can get in the pit. Budget phones can do it all, but to do it well you need to make sure you get the right handset for the job. You've come to the right place.

The best budget phones for music: The Louder Choice

From our testing of all the budget smartphones out there right now, the best gig photography-friendly handset has to be the Google Pixel 3A. For smooth 4K video to excellent night photography and superb balance, this has it all. This is, for those reasons, stretching what we would call affordable. 

In second place is the Honor 20 Pro which is able to command a decent low price while still offering a cutting-edge quad-lens rear camera and a massive battery for proper all day use.

The best budget phones for music: Product guide

Best budget phones for music: Google Pixel 3A

(Image credit: Google)

1. Google Pixel 3A

The best budget smartphone for point and shoot quality and simplicity

Rear camera: 12MP (wide + OIS) | Front camera: 8MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm | Battery: 3,000mAh

Great night mode
Superb photo balance
Easy to use quickly
No zoom on the lens

The Google Pixel 3A stands at the top pricing end of our budget selection here but that's because it offers a high-end phone setup for a lot less than the competition. In fact this camera is pretty much as good as the pricier Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. That means a high-quality camera that is also easy to use and ideal for quick point and shoot photography, making it superb for gigs.

Low light photography is a must for most gig situations and the Pixel 3A has a specific Night Sight feature built for the task. This will take a burst of photos which are then composited into one super snap that captures the most information from the scene. The result is that this is one of the best night shot cameras on a phone, even when compared to the high-end handsets that cost double the price. The 4K video at 30fps is also top-end quality and ideal for capturing that on-stage solo, even if far away, as you can always crop into that high quality video afterwards. 

It all looks good on the 5.6-inch OLED screen, doesn't limit you much on storage with 64GB onboard and unlimited Google Photos cloud storage. A real winner that manages to stay pocket-friendly on weight too.

Best budget phones for music: Honor 20 Pro

(Image credit: Honor)

2. Honor 20 Pro

Best budget smartphone with a quad-camera setup

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 16MP (ultra-wide) + 8MP (telephoto) + 2MP (macro) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 147g | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6 mm | Battery: 4,000mAh

Feature rich quad-camera
Huge battery
No expandable storage

The Honor 20 Pro somehow manages to stay a budget smartphone in price despite offering a top-end quad lens rear camera setup. That means a 48MP primary sensor found in flagship phones which is coupled with telephoto, ultra-wide and macro lenses to create a combination that can handle anything. From zoomed in shots of the stage at a gig to wide crowd snaps at a festival, this handles it all like a, ahem, pro.

The video manages 4K at 30fps and the selfie camera is a whopping 32MP despite being a punchole in that 6.3-inch LCD screen. You also get a quick-to-unlock side mounted fingerprint scanner and a stonking 4,000mAh battery which means it'll keep going even in a full on festival use scenario. Super fast charging is also a big plus if you plan to queue to charge this at a festival.

Best budget phones for music: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

3. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T

Simply the best camera for super value

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 13MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6 mm | Battery: 4,000mAh

Super rear quad camera
Gorilla Glass 5 strong screen
Large battery
No optical zoom

The Redmi Note 8T manages to offer a high-end quad-camera for an affordable price while also cramming in gig friendly features like a super tough Gorilla Glass 5 screen and all-day 4,000 mAh battery. 

That 48MP primary camera sensor captures lots of detail while the other three lenses help to add depth, colour and clarity to the picture. The end result is a seriously high-end pic with the option to go for ultra-wide angle shots for festivals. Or use the various shooting modes to have some fun and capture something really original, allowing you to be creative as you shoot. 

It should keep up all day and night too thanks to that massive battery, 64GB storage and microSD expansion option. How it does all that for the price is beyond us.

Best budget phones for music: Motorola G8 Power

(Image credit: Motorola)

4. Motorola G8 Power

The best budget camera phone for battery life

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 16MP (ultra-wide) + 8MP (telephoto) + 2MP (macro) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Video resolution: Full HD, 30fps | Weight: 197g | Dimensions: 156 x 75.8 x 9.6mm | Battery: 5,000mAh

Massive battery
Powerful cameras
Night mode could be better

The Motorola G8 Power is the phone that's built to go with you to a festival. This beast crams in a whopping 5,000mAh battery which should last you days on a single charge. It's also going to keep going even if the rain starts to fall thanks to a nano-coated splash-proof build that's super solid with a metal finish.

The cameras aren't second place to all that hardiness though thanks to an impressive triple lens setup on the rear that offers AI smarts for recognising a scene and f/1.7 aperture lens for low-light abilities. Despite this it's not the best for low light but with 2x optical zoom and a great wide angle option it certainly packs in some great strengths for the price. 

The 64GB of storage should help keep you snapping and video, especially at the limited Full HD quality, for a weekend festival and beyond.

Best budget phones for music: Nokia 7.2

(Image credit: Nokia)

5. Nokia 7.2

The best smartphone for future-proof updates

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 5MP (depth) | Front camera: 20MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 180g | Dimensions: 159.9 x 75.2 x 8.3mm | Battery: 3,500mAh

Future-proof Android One
Super selfie snaps
No zoom
Ugly bezels

Nokia has come up with a phone that crams in the camera tech you'd want at a gig but also the Android One OS smarts to make sure you're future-proofed with guaranteed updates for the next two years with security updates for three. That's something that not all budget handsets can't attest to.

The triple lens camera setup is built to offer intelligent image capture in various situations meaning it makes light work of gigs, festivals and selfies with the bands or your buddies. In fact the selfie camera, at 20MP, is one of the best of the phones on this list thanks to a Zeiss lens. The rear offers a huge 48MP main lens, 8MP ultra-wide and 5MP depth options and all that also offers 4K video at 30fps and it's even HDR 10 smart. A very impressive setup for a smartphone at this price. 

Best budget phones for music: Oppo Reno 2

(Image credit: Oppo)

6. Oppo Reno 2

The best for good looks with a quad-camera

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 13MP (telephoto) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 160 x 74.3 x 9.5mm | Battery: 4,000mAh

Quality quad-camera
Large battery
Top design
No OIS

The Oppo Reno 2 is one of the best looking handsets on this list, punching well above its price for what it offers. You get a sleek finish with a truly all screen 6.5-inch AMOLED that uses a pop-up camera. This packs in a quad setup on the rear capable of 4K and 30fps video plus a 16MP selfie snapper.

The backing of 128GB of storage, microSD expansion and a whopping 4,00 mAh battery mean that this handset really doesn't compromise on anything, despite keeping the price low. Yes it's at the higher end of the budget range, but you can see why with these specs. There's even Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and back to keep it scratch and crack resistant making it tough enough even to brave gigs.

Best budget phones for music: Honor 9X

(Image credit: Honor)

7. Honor 9X

The best for big screen entertainment

Rear camera: 48MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) + 2MP (depth) | Front camera: 16MP (wide) | Video resolution: 1080p, 60fps | Weight: 200g | Dimensions: 161.1 x 75.4 x 8.6mm | Battery: 4,000mAh

Huge screen
Great camera
Big battery
Night mode could be better

If you want a huge screen to watch all that gig footage back on then the 6.59-inch LCD of the Honor 9X could be the best budget option for you. Since that screen has near no bezel at all and a punch hole selfie camera, you're getting a lot of display size while remaining as mobile and pocket-friendly as possible. 

The rear camera offers a high res 48MP primary camera backed by an 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP depth cameras for a triple setup that can handle most situations easily, all while adding bokeh effect for an even more dramatic finish. Even that punch hole selfie camera is 16MP for quality selfies. Sure you don't get NFC or a very stand-out night mode, but at this price and with a 4,000mAh battery, it's hard to complain.

Best budget phones for music: Motorola One Hyper

(Image credit: Motorola)

8. Motorola One Hyper

The best budget camera phone for pure pixels

Rear camera: 64MP (wide) + 8MP (ultra-wide) | Front camera: 32MP (wide) | Video resolution: 4K, 30fps | Weight: 210g | Dimensions: 161.8 x 76.6 x 8.9mm | Battery: 4,000mAh

Huge resolution camera
Large battery
On the heavier side
Plastic rear casing

For pure pixel power the Motorola One Hyper lives up to its name, packing in a whopping 64MP main sensor backed by an 8MP ultra-wide lens. Even the pop-up selfie camera is a flagship level 32MP sensor for lots of detail. And yes that pop-up means you get all the 6.5-inches of screen space dedicated to just that, keeping this pocket-friendly despite weighing a little more than the others on this list (by a few grams).

This is the camera to use if you want to crop into photos or blow them up for big prints, thanks to that resolution. It'll also offer bokeh background effects, bring out the colour in every shot and manage 4K resolution video recording too. The large 4,000mAh battery should keep going all day even with lots of festival based use. 

The gesture support is a nice feature that lets you twist your wrist to quickly fire up the camera – ideal for gig photography when you need to be quick. 

The best budget phones for music: Buying advice

A crowd of people holding up their phones during a gig

(Image credit: Mauricio Santana - Getty)

How many camera lenses do I need?

More lenses doesn't necessarily mean better results as our winning snapper on the Google Pixel 3A proves with its single lens. But that's thanks to a whole host of processing smarts that are backed by the might of Google. Where that's not available on other phones they make up for it with multiple lenses. A selection of lenses means a host of perspectives captured at once and stitched together for a final result that generally looks more impressive with more lenses. 

At this budget end, where processing might be more limited, it's a great plus if you can get more lenses for your money - resulting in the best possible end result for both pictures and videos. 

Are the megapixels important?

Yes megapixels are useful as the more you have the higher the resolution of the picture. This means you can zoom in after you've taken it without losing as much quality. It also means you can blow the picture up large and still have a decent result – making it great if you plan to print and frame your snaps. 

But the megapixel count isn't everything, so keep that in mind. The ability to handle low light, measured by that "f/" aperture number is also very important. 

Do I need a good selfie camera?

Many selfie cameras are as powerful as some front facing cameras these days. That's great if you like taking your shots with a screen to see what you're capturing while actually getting you and yours in shot. Manage to meet the frontman you idolise? You'll want a decent camera to capture the moment and not find that you've wasted the chance for a blurry mess.

Is 4K video essential?

A 4K video camera phone will future-proof you for some years to come. It'll mean you have a video that can be displayed on the latest high-resolution televisions while still looking great, even when made huge. The 4K resolution is also really useful if you plan to edit the video as you can cut in and even create a more stable finish if you have a high-quality video to work with.