Camera Hardware

If you were hoping for an upgrade to a larger format sensor, you’ll be disappointed. The Hasselblad True Zoom Mod still uses a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor. This is a large sensor for a smartphone but a smartphone sensor nonetheless, with specifications similar to the HTC 10’s rear camera. Moving to a larger sensor would require increases in thickness and cost, so this is not necessarily a bad choice. Based on its size and features, the True Zoom’s main competition is point-and-shoot compact cameras like Canon’s PowerShot or Sony’s Cyber-shot lineups that also use 1/2.3” sensors in cameras that cost up to $450, which is the entry price for a camera with a larger 1” or APS-C format sensor, so it’s not like the True Zoom is at a disadvantage here.

The True Zoom’s 12MP backside-illuminated CMOS sensor uses 1.55µm pixels and captures images with a 4:3 aspect ratio at its native resolution. We cannot pin down the source for the sensor, however. Both Sony and OmniVision make sensors that fit this description and Motorola has sourced parts from both before.

Moto Z Rear Camera Details
  Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Z Play Droid Moto Z Droid Moto Z Force Droid
Resolution: Photo 12MP 16MP 13MP 21MP
Resolution: Video 1080p30 1080p30, 4K30 1080p60, 4K30 1080p60, 4K30
Sensor ?
(1.55µm, 1/2.3")
OmniVision OV16860
(1.3µm, 1/2.4")
Sony IMX214 Exmor RS
(1.12µm, 1/3.06")
Sony IMX338 Exmor RS
(1.12µm, 1/2.4")
Focal Length 4.50-45.00mm (25-250mm equivalent) 4.68mm (27mm equivalent) 3.68 (27mm equivalent) 4.51mm (26mm equivalent)
Zoom 10x optical
4x digital
8x digital 8x digital 8x digital
Aperture f/3.5-6.5 f/2.0 f/1.8 f/1.8
Image Stabilization OIS / EIS EIS OIS / EIS OIS / EIS
Autofocus PDAF/Contrast PDAF/Laser/Contrast Laser/Contrast PDAF/Laser/Contrast
Flash Xenon dual-color LED dual-color LED dual-color LED
Dimensions 152.3 x 72.9 x 9.00-15.10 mm
145 grams
156.4 x 76.4 x 6.99 mm
165 grams
153.3 x 75.3 x 5.19 mm
136 grams
155.9 x 75.8 x 6.99 mm
163 grams
Launch Price (No Contract) $250 (Verizon) / $300 (Moto) $408 $624 / $674 $720 / $770

The True Zoom includes optical image stabilization (OIS) for still photos and electronic image stabilization (EIS) for videos. It also uses a combination of phase detect autofocus (PDAF) and standard contrast autofocus. Laser autofocus is not included but the focus assist LED fills a similar role, improving focus performance in low-light conditions over short distances.

The 10x optical zoom lens has a variable 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-250mm with an aperture that varies from f/3.5-6.5. This gives the True Zoom an aperture area smaller than any smartphone camera we’ve tested at 1x zoom; the HTC 10, which also has a 1/2.3” sensor and 1.55µm pixels, has an aperture area that’s nearly 4x larger. This is a byproduct of using a variable aperture zoom lens, which tend to be slower than fixed aperture prime lenses, to reduce cost and weight. We’ll see what effect this has on low-light performance in the next section.

Video Quality

The True Zoom will record video, of course, but unless you specifically need to shoot video of something at a distance, you’re better off using the phone’s camera. For starters, it will not record 1080p60 video like the Moto Z or Moto Z Force nor will it record 4K video like all three Moto Zs can. It does record 1080p video at an average bit rate and using the high profile, but only at 24fps. I do not think I’ve reviewed a phone that could not do 1080p at 30fps, assuming it could record 1080p at all. I’m not sure if this is a bandwidth limitation from the Moto Mod connector or a cost saving measure, but the camera sensor is more than capable of recording up to 4K at 30fps.

Hasselblad True Zoom Mod: Video Modes
Video Mode Video Audio
FHD 1080p 1920x1080, 17 Mb/s, H.264 High 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC
HD 720p 1280x720, 10 Mb/s, H.264 High 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC
VGA 480p 640x480, 6 Mb/s, H.264 Baseline 128 Kb/s, 48 KHz AAC

Between the lack of recording options and the choppy looking 24fps video, it’s best to pop off the True Zoom and use the phone’s camera if the subject of the video is reasonably close, which is not ideal. However, its optical zoom makes the inconvenience of carrying around the True Zoom and taking it on and off justifiable. It allows you to take videos of things that just are not feasible with a regular smartphone camera because they’re too far away.

Video quality is pretty good overall. White balance, exposure, and noise are similar to video taken with the Moto Zs. The less than fluid 24fps 1080p video (both the 720p and 480p modes record at 30fps) and lack of HDR are the biggest negatives. The True Zoom’s electronic image stabilization works wonderfully, though, completely eliminating hand shake. This is especially important for a zoom lens because the large distance between camera and subject can turn even the smallest movements at the camera into large shifts in the captured image. Even at 10x zoom, however, the True Zoom’s video remains steady, deftly soaking up small vibrations from your hands.

In the video sample above, motor noise while zooming is clearly audible. And by clearly audible, I mean it’s very loud. Another issue is that the zoom speed is not variable and not very precise. It’s more of an on/off button, so you will not be able to do any slow, cinematic zooms or zoom precisely to a specific point. For these reasons, it’s better to select the desired zoom level before recording or edit out the periods while zooming.

Introduction & Design Photo Quality & Final Words
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  • osxandwindows - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    I gess we're never seeing that review.
    O well.
  • shabby - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Hey i've got an idea, lets make a camera attachment that will have worse image and video quality than the camera it attaches to... but it'll have 10x zoom?
    Great lets do it!
  • WaitingForNehalem - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    lol you do have to wonder what they were thinking in the design phase
  • ddriver - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    I don't. They were thinking "people are idiots, let's sell them garbage by telling them how cool it is". Same old...
  • benzosaurus - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Actually, it really looks like they did a pretty good job with the hardware, it's just the RAW processing in software that cripples it.
  • BedfordTim - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    To me it sounds more like it is a cheap sensor that spoils it.

    I would also like to have seen a comparison with the compact cameras this is intended to replace.
  • MonkeyPaw - Saturday, September 10, 2016 - link

    Seems like a good idea that doesn't deliver. You can get a lot of camera for $300, so this "solution" needed to do much better than this, or it needs to cost a lot less. I can see an application for this type of product, like when going on trips where a zoom is needed, but it completely under delivers for the price. They would have been better off increasing bulk for better results. What this product ideally could do is eliminate the need for taking a secondary camera for those that would consider carting around a dedicated point and shoot. It would never replace a good camera, but this just costs too much for the results it gives.
  • Cliff34 - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    This is probably an issue with building a module phone. Sure things can be snap on but to produce the module is so pricy that is it not worth the extra feature it can offer.

    It is better to spend less than 300 to get a point and shoot camera. Or they integrated a very powerful zoomed lens into a phone.
  • LordOfTheBoired - Sunday, September 11, 2016 - link

    Can't really integrate a zoom lens into a phone. Not without making the phone much thicker. And thin is currently the ultimate master of all things phone.

    Tangentally, when Sony did it with the QX10 camera module, they connected over WiFi to any phone. It'd be interesting to see a shootout between the QX10 and the True Zoom, since they are pretty much the only two devices in their class.
  • mkozakewich - Monday, September 12, 2016 - link

    I got a Sony camera with an APS-C sensor for $400, but it's a little bulky. When I was doing research to find my preferred device, I was looking at the Panasonic Lumix CM1, which has a 1" sensor, but was $1000.

    I'm waiting for something like this with a 1".

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