Moto Z2 Force Review: Shatterproof, Modular Android

Moto Z2 Force Review: Camera & 360 Moto Mod

Dual cameras are the latest trend, and the Moto Z2 Force follows it, with its dual 12MP sensors. The camera setup features one color and one monochrome sensor for better low-light performance, depth-of-field trickery and true black and white photography. A pair of IMX386 sensors power the Moto Z2 Force camera setup, which is the sensor of choice in a variety of Meizu and Xiaomi phones, but most notably found in the Huawei Honor 6X in the US. The dual sensors are backed by F/2.0 aperture lenses, which doesn’t let in as much light as the F/1.7 lens found in the Samsung Galaxy S8, or the F/1.8 lenses in the LG G6 and iPhone 7. Motorola backs the Moto Z2 Force camera with phase detection auto focus (PDAF), laser auto focus, a dual LED flash and 4K video recording. Optical image stabilization doesn’t make the feature list, which is disappointing because it’d really help video recording stability.

Motorola’s camera app is basic but functional. The full auto mode has three settings – HDR, flash, and timer. Swiping from left to right brings up the camera settings that let you select the storage location, quality and other miscellaneous settings. There’s five shooting modes – auto, panorama, depth enabled, true black and white, and professional. The volume buttons function as a shutter release, too.

Moto Z2 Force Depth Auto Moto Z2 Force Depth Enabled Moto Z2 Force Depth BW Moto Z2 Force Depth Pro

We spent a lot of time using the auto mode and found the Moto Z2 Force camera adequate. It won’t blow your mind in terms of quality, but it produces pleasant results for day-to-day use. I used the camera to photograph my kids playing and the shutter, laser and phase detection auto focus couldn’t keep up, resulting in blurry faces and movements, but static objects like cars and posed images turn out clear and focused.

Bright colored objects like red flowers cause problems with the camera sensor, resulting in over saturation and loss of details, as demonstrated with these images of flowers at Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma, Wash.

Moto Z2 Force Purple Flowers Moto Z2 Force Red Flowers Moto Z2 Force White Flowers HDR Moto Z2 Force Yellow Flowers HDR

Moto Z2 Force Starion HDR Moto Z2 Force Truck HDR Moto Z2 Force FC Moto Z2 Force Alto HDR

Moto Z2 Force Art DEPTH Moto Z2 Force Dad Moto Z2 Force Durango HDR Moto Z2 Force Kate

Depth-enabled mode uses both cameras and image processing to produce bokeh with the tiny image sensors. You select the focus object and blur out the background before or after the shot. Motorola lets you alter the level of background blur in the Google Photos-integrated image editor. There’s post-processing options that let you increase or reduce blur while select black and white, and replace background functions are beta features. I personally didn’t use the depth-enabled mode too much as I use my mirrorless camera when I want bokeh.

Professional mode provides manual controls for focus, white balance, shutter (1/6000 to 1/4), ISO (100-3200) and exposure compensation (+/-2). We didn’t use professional mode very much during testing as the auto mode produced acceptable results.

Recording video with the Moto Z2 Force requires manually switching to video mode and pressing record instead of automatically recording video when the video button is pressed. Nevertheless, the Moto Z2 Force records video at resolutions up to 4K (30 fps) and slow-motion 1080p (120 fps) and 720p (240 fps) modes. The lack of optical image stabilization requires steady hands when shooting video, though. You can check out the video sample of my daughter eating pho to take a look for yourself. 

Moto Z2 Force Selfie Moto Z2 Force Selfie2

A double flick of the wrist quickly switches the camera app to the front-facing one. The front camera is a lower 5MP sensor with a wide-angle F/2.2 lens. There’s even a flash and night mode for those low-light selfie situations. A beautification option is present for the selfie mode, but it simply softens your skin and doesn’t have live-effects to add blush and alter facial features like ASUS employs in its ZenFone series. Regardless, it’s an average front-facing camera that’s perfectly fine for video calls and selfies.

Moto 360 Moto Mod

Motorola debuted an all-new 360 camera Moto Mod with the Z2 Force. The Moto Mod attaches to the Z2 Force using the Moto Mod connector with magnets to keep it secure, and packs dual 13MP sensors for 4K 360 video at 24 fps. The lenses have an extremely wide 1.12mm focal length for 150-degree field of view per camera with a F/2.0 aperture. The kicker is ambisonic 3D sound recorded using four microphones. The 360 camera Moto Mod also includes a physical shutter release button that’s ergonomically perfect for your index finger – one press snaps a pic and a long press switches between video and photo mode.

Moto Z2 Force 360 top

Since it is a Moto Mod, the 360 camera must be attached to a supported phone to function. There isn’t a threaded tripod mount or ability to use the camera away from the phone, like with the Samsung Gear 360 (2017), unfortunately. The 360-camera app is the same as the regular camera app and lets you switch between the 360 and integrated cameras easily. There are three different viewfinder layouts to use with the 360 Moto Mod – immersive, split screen and mini map. The modes provide a fish-eye view, separate front and back displays, and a focus view with panorama, respectively. We found ourselves preferring the mini map view during our testing as it provided focus for our selfies.

Moto Z2 Force 360 cap Moto Z2 Force 360 cap2 Moto Z2 Force 360 cap 3

Image and video quality of the 360 Moto Mod is quite good and much better than some standalone cameras, like the Nikon Keymission 360. There’s plenty of detail in photos and videos, plus it looks almost as good as a flat photo from the built-in camera. Check out our video sample of me riding shotgun in Dio Ortiz II’s Nissan S13 240SX drift car with a supercharged VQ35DE for an example.

However, despite the good image quality, the 360 Moto Mod is clunky to use. Since your hand is between the stitching zones of the two cameras, you’ll always see a clear stitching line with part of your fingers cut off. With no option to remotely trigger the camera or set it on a tripod, the 360 Moto Mod is essentially a $300 360 selfie camera and there’s no easy way around it. It’s a cool and functional Moto Mod, but the Moto Mod aspect of it also limits its practicality and usage.

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