Moto Z Play Review: 8-Cores And Insane Battery Life

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Moto Z Play: Camera & Hasselblad Mod

We already discussed the Moto Mods in depth in our previous review of the Moto Z and Moto Z Force. As a quick overview, we love their implementation. Modules are magnetically attached very snugly but are not difficult to remove either. Mods can be snapped on and off at will with no reboot and no real initialization time. The only real modular competitor - the LG G5 - is not nearly as nimble.

A new Moto Mod was introduced alongside the Moto Z Play - the Hasselblad 4116 True Zoom. Hasselblad’s mod brings 10x optical zoom to your Moto Z phone on demand with its own sensor to boot. This is essentially strapping a point-and-shoot camera to your smartphone.
moto z play camera bump closeup
The Moto Z Play’s internal camera is a 16MP F/2.0 shooter with phase-detection and laser autofocus, though it lacks optical image stabilization. It is also capable of shooting 4K and 1080p video at 30 frames per second and dropping down to 720p enables 120fps slow-motion capture. Overall quality is respectable with well-exposed lighting and good color reproduction. Details are well preserved with this camera. However, it is susceptible to camera shake in low light scenarios due to a lack of optical image stabilization.
moto z play hasselblad mod close up

The Hasselblad True Zoom shakes up the specifications a bit. Its sensor has a resolution 12MP with focal length ranging from 4.5 to 45mm and a F/3.5-6.5 aperture. As mentioned, the Hasselblad True Zoom also uses its own larger 1/2.3-inch sensor. This still is not in the ballpark of a DSLR, but it is well ahead of the 1/3-inch sensor many smartphones employ.
moto z play hasselblad zoom out
moto z play hasselblad zoom in

The Hasselblad True Zoom also shores up a couple features the Moto Z Play lacks - namely optical image stabilization and RAW capture. The former is mostly useful for stabilizing video but can help reduce the blur of photos especially when zoomed in while the latter allows for some extra wiggle room in post-production.
moto z play stand clamshell with hasselblad mod
The picture quality of the Hasselblad is more of a mixed bag than we would have hoped. Certainly the optical zoom has been a massive boon to capturing shots we would have otherwise missed. Unfortunately, colors are not conveyed particularly well with many shots appearing overexposed and washed out.

Let's look at some comparison shots and then we will discuss where we think the Hasselblad True Zoom can fit in to your photography arsenal. Right off, let's demonstrate just what optical zoom gets you and why digital zoom should be avoided at all costs.

moto z play camera rear ladder digizoom
Moto Z Play Rear Camera - 8x Digital Zoom

moto z play camera hasselblad ladder optizoom
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom - 10x Optical Zoom

We feel the difference here speaks for itself, but feel free to click to enlarge any of these pictures if you wish to examine them more closely.

Now that we have a sense of the difference optical zoom can make for us, let's put it to use. The following pictures are both shot with the Hasselblad True Zoom from the same position at 1x and 10x optical zoom.

moto z play camera hasselblad squirrel 1x
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom - 1x Optical Zoom

moto z play camera hasselblad squirrel 10x
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom - 10x Optical Zoom

There is no cropping or other processing going on here (beyond resizing). You may notice some noise in the expanded image, this was an obviously shaded area and I will take a bit of noise in exchange for bringing the wildlife closer to me. Also notice the telescopic effect leads to a progressive blurring of background leaves which could be further emphasized in post-production as desired.

In another example, we have my Saint Bernard Freckles enjoying one of her favorite spots by the lake.

moto z play camera hasselblad freckles 1x
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom - 1x Optical Zoom

moto z play camera hasselblad freckles 10x
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom - 10x Optical Zoom

I was too far here to capture the moment in a meaningful way with a typical smartphone field of view. Fortunately, a quick zoom in was able to capture a very detailed shot - revealing this was not her first splash in the lake.

Here we have another comparison between the regular rear camera and the Hasselblad True Zoom.

moto z play camera rear sunset
Moto Z Play Rear Camera

moto z play camera hasselblad sunset
Moto Z Play Hasselblad True Zoom

Colors are well produced by the standard rear camera, but oddly the sunset picked up with a lot of yellow hues on the Hasselblad True Zoom. This could be a quirk of shooting near directly at the sun, we are not certain.

Gauging the value of the Hasselblad True Zoom is tricky business. It's photo quality is not the best, and quite frankly is not why you should be considering this. Likewise, the optical zoom - as handy as it is - doesn't fully save this Mod either. We wish this Mod included a 1/4" screw mount for tripods more than anything.

Point and shoot cameras of comparable quality can be found for less than the $250 asking price. It's easy to dismiss this Mod in light of that. However, point-and-shoot cameras have fallen in popularity for a reason. For starters, a point-and-shoot camera becomes an extra device you need to keep charged and spend some extra time transferring photos from it to a computer.

moto z play stand next to hasselblad mod

The Hasselblad True Zoom, however, does not have its own batteries to require charging and sharing photos from it is identical to sharing photos from a smartphone because you are sharing photos from a smartphone. This is a module you can keep tucked in your car or other handy location to pull out at an event or other photo op with zero pre-planning. Not to mention, the process of taking pictures with it is very enjoyable.

There's another angle to the Hasselblad True Zoom as well - livestreaming. Periscope and Facebook Live streams are becoming an increasingly popular way to interact but are largely limited to a face-cam. Events happening at a distance are difficult to pick up on a smartphone camera. However, the Hasselblad True Zoom works flawlessly with both of these platforms which makes this an excellent way of streaming your kid's soccer game for family or perhaps your wedding for guests who cannot otherwise attend in a surprisingly professional manner.

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