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Hands-on: The Hasselblad True Zoom adds 10x optical zoom to your Moto Z

Jason Cross | Sept. 1, 2016
It'll give your Moto Z phone true 10x optical zoom, but it doesn't compete with standalone cameras.

As good as smartphone cameras have become, they still can’t compete with most traditional standalone cameras. There’s just no substitute for a larger sensor, and of course, true optical zoom.

But now Motorola is addressing some of its phones’ photography deficits with its Hasselblad-branded Moto Mod. If you’ve got a version of the Moto Z smartphone (and that includes the Moto Z, Moto Z Force and Moto Z Play), you can slap this puppy on the back and get a more camera-like experience. The True Zoom Moto Mod offers a bit of a camera grip, a real shutter button, and true 10x optical zoom. But it also costs $249, similar to a lot of dedicated point-and-shoot cameras.

Replacing your phone’s camera

We’ve seen plenty of snap-on lenses for phones. This isn’t one of those. This is a snap-on camera, complete with its own sensor: a 1/2.3-inch, 12-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS sensor with 1.55 micron pixels. In lay terms, it’s about what you’d expect to find in a low-cost point-and-shoot, but leagues short of the latest compact mirrorless cameras, let alone DSLRs.

The lens (not removable) has an aperture of f/3.5 at its widest, and f/6.5 when zoomed in all the way. Again, this is typical of low-end point-and-shoot cameras. And it zooms from 4.5mm to 45mm, which, with a sensor this size, is the equivalent of a 25-250mm zoom on a 35mm camera. You’ll also find a xenon flash that’s much brighter than what you get on a phone. 

Taking it for a spin

Using the True Zoom is easy enough. Just snap it on the back of your Moto Z, and it’s ready to go (only the Moto Z Play is currently supported, but a software update will add support for the other Moto Z phones very soon). Once connected, you’ll use the mod every time you invoke the rear camera. It physically covers the whole back of the phone, including the built-in camera, so what choice do you have?

The True Zoom’s main purpose—providing real optical zoom—works as advertised. It can be a little tough to hold the camera steady when zoomed in, and the lack of a tripod mount doesn’t help. But there’s optical image stabilization, at least.

hasselblad zoom 01

A photo shot from the same spot, zoomed out then zoomed in. (What, you don’t have a purple disco ball in your drought-striken backyard?)

But the story isn’t as good indoors. In low indoor light, I got slightly better results from the built-in camera on the Moto Z Play, and much better results from the Galaxy Note 7. The True Zoom’s photos were a bit dull in low light, and quite grainy. Here’s a crop to illustrate the difference.

 

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