Camera quality has come to be one of the most important aspects of modern smartphones. Point-and-shoot cameras are dead, as most phones are simply good enough not to need one. But there are still a few areas where smartphones lag behind.
The gap in depth of field and low light performance has been ever-shortening, but optical zoom is still a long ways off. That’s not to say smartphone manufacturers haven’t tried to come up with unique solutions to these shortcomings, though. Even the idea of strapping a beefy camera to the back of your phone isn’t new, but Lenovo is trying something slightly different here with its Moto brand.
The Hasselblad True Zoom is a 12MP Hasselblad camera that magnetically connects to the back of any Moto Z device. Right off the bat, we can tell you this is both a good and a bad thing. But first, the technical specs:
- 12MP with 1080p 30fps video capture
- OIS and video EIS
- f3.5-6.5 aperature
- BSI CMOS 1/2.3-inch sensor
- 1.55 um pixel size
- 10x optical zoom
- 4.5-45 mm (25-250mm 35mm equivalent) focal length
- Xenon flash
- RAW compatible
With that out of the way, let’s start with the two bad things about the Hasselblad True Zoom before. First, it’s big and heavy. It’s powered by the battery in your phone, so that helps with weight, but it’s still 145 grams, which practically doubles the weight of your phone. It also makes the phone more than twice as thick, so it’s not very pocket-friendly.
The other bad thing also needs to be gotten out of the way up front: The Hasselblad True Zoom will not turn your Moto Z, Force or Play into a DSLR. Does it greatly improve camera quality? Absolutely. There’s just only so much you can do with so little space. Moto and Hasselblad do very well with the True Zoom, but again, don’t expect a miracle.
If you can live with those two things, you will love everything else about the True Zoom.
Design-wise, the True Zoom feels fantastic. Cool gray metal and soft, textured rubber give the True Zoom a premium, high-end feel when nestled in your palms. There really is nothing like holding a real camera to take photographs. The zoom switch and shutter button both offer a satisfying, tactile experience that makes us nostalgic for cameras like the Canon S95.
We don’t have any complaints about performance, either. Focus is fast enough, even at 10x optical zoom, and there isn’t much lag between pressing the shutter button and capturing a photo. It is slower than a normal phone camera, but not horribly so.
Moto has also included a handful of software enhancements to the default camera app that activates when the True Zoom is attached to your phone, including RAW support and different scene modes like portrait and landscape.
Enough about the hardware and software, though, because all that really matters is how all this translates into photographs. We’ll let the photos do the talking:
As you can see, quality is good. In many cases, it’s even great. Colors are beautiful and deep, images are sharp and the optical zoom works very well. Just like with any point-and-shoot camera, high ISO still equals high noise. But low-light performance is still improved over the average smartphone.
Between the improved camera quality, design quality and the fact that the True Zoom’s just plain fun to use, we think it’s worth they money if you can afford it. Just don’t put yourself out for one.
The Hasselblad True Zoom will be available September 15 for $249 and $299 from Verizon and Motorola, respectively.